market day

Greetings from my first Saturday off since third year began! It’s a beautiful, hot, and sunshiney summer day here—one that lent itself perfectly to spending the morning at the 61st Street Farmers Market.

This wonderful farmers market is a short walk from home and boasts a bounty of ripe fruits and vegetables from Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as delectable homemade pastries, breads, jams, and more. I hadn’t been able to go the market since the beginning of June, and it was just incredible to see how the slim pickings of early summer have given way to a plethora of berries, zucchini, peaches, apricots, and cherries.

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Today, I came to the market as more than an eager shopper. I had the great opportunity to be the chef behind the market’s weekly cooking demo. In May, while working on my project about healthy cooking in the community, I learned about the chef demos at the farmers market and thought it would be a neat way to build further connections with community members through cooking. I was unsure whether they’d allow an amateur chef like myself to lead a demo, but I was always taught that it never hurts to ask, and lo and behold, they gave me a slot.

IMG_2014I thought long and hard about what the ideal recipe for the demo would be. I anticipated that by mid-July the weather would be sweltering, people (including myself) would want as little to do with a hot stove or oven as possible, and most importantly, that peaches would just be beginning to ripen. With that in mind, I settled on making Peach and Black Bean Salsa, a take on my family’s beloved mango salsa recipe that embraces the sweet peaches that grace the Midwest in the summer.

photo (2)I had an absolute blast cooking for an audience of people, young and old, expert cooks and cooking novices, who each brought great conversation, energy, and most importantly, willing palates to the demo tent. After spending my last few weekends in the hospital, it was a refreshing change of pace to be out in the community, cooking for people and with people, and celebrating health and wellness in a delicious way.

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Peach and Black Bean Salsa

4 peaches, diced

2 tomatoes, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

½ medium red onion, finely diced

2 scallions, finely sliced (green parts only)

1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced

1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

½ cup cilantro, chopped

Juice of 4 limes

2 tbsp olive oil

¼ tsp ground cumin

Salt to taste (about 1-2 tsp)

Mix all ingredients together. Allow salsa to sit covered in the fridge for at least an hour before serving to allow flavors to meld.

It’s great served alongside grilled chicken or fish, or scooped up with vegetable sticks or chips.

thaimmus

I have a new creation to share, and I’m pretty excited about it. It was born out of an experiment to create a budget-friendly hummus for my cookbook project. I had read some success stories in swapping out the more pricey tahini for peanut butter, and so I gave it a whir, pairing it with the traditional lemon, garlic, cumin, and olive oil. The result was a really tasty dip, pretty similar to the traditional tahini version, but with a deep roasted peanut undertone that you would probably only be able to identify if you knew there was peanut butter in it.

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Although the original intent of this experiment was to make peanut butter a mere background ingredient, I decided that I really liked the distinct flavor it imparted. And then the wheels in my brain started turning… Why not set out to make a peanut flavored hummus? Better yet, why not make a Thai-inspired peanut hummus? Best yet, why not call it Thaimmus (rhyming with thymus—after all, this is a med students’ blog, and I’m a sucker for corny names)?

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The next day, I got to work. I laid out all of the ingredients I use to make peanut sauce: fresh ginger, lime juice, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, sriracha, and garlic, and whirred it together with a can of chickpeas, two big spoonfuls of peanut butter, a handful of scallions, and some olive oil.

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It was love at first bite. All the sweet and spicy joys of peanut sauce + the substantialness and relative healthfulness of hummus = what might be one of my new favorite foods. Those I’ve shared it with have given it a thumbs up as well, a happy relief when creating something a bit out of the ordinary. Thus far I’ve eaten it on rice crackers, cucumbers, carrots, apple slices, straight from a spoon, and today for lunch on toast with avocado, grated carrot and cucumber (<– front-runner for the best rendition). There’s not much remaining, but I’m already looking forward to finding a new way to enjoy the last bits tomorrow.

I hope you enjoy this Thai twist on hummus!

Thaimmus (aka Thai Peanut Hummus)

1 15 oz can chickpeas

1 tsp sriracha

2 tsp minced ginger

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tbsp scallions

2 tbsp peanut butter

3 tbsp olive oil

2 limes, juiced

1 ½ tsp rice wine vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

Blend ingredients in a food processor until smooth, adding extra lime juice or olive oil until it reaches your desired texture (the measurements above make a pretty thick dip). Serve with crackers, cucumber slices, carrots, or whatever your heart desires. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

a treat from my mom

I received a picture text from my mom a couple of weeks ago with the following image:

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I theorize that she was trying to simultaneously 1) impress me with her Pic Stitch-ing skills, 2) make me jealous that I wasn’t home to enjoy her cooking, and 3) subtly hint that these should be featured on the blog. Well, mom, you succeeded on all three of these measures!

My mom has been making these rosemary roasted cashews for the past few weeks for her and my dad using fresh rosemary from our garden. I had the good fortune of being home last weekend for my cousin’s wedding, and while I was there, I was able to snag the remains of a batch of these cashews. It’s probably a good thing that there weren’t too many left, because I could have easily eaten many cupfuls of these addictive, salty, sweet, and spicy nuts if given the opportunity. Thanks Mom for this great recipe and for raising me to believe that constantly reading about, talking about, and taking pictures of my food was perfectly normal.

My Mom’s Rosemary Roasted Cashews

She says:

I’m glad that you like them!  We do, too.  It’s kind of a typical me-recipe, a bit of this and that.  Based loosely upon the Barefoot Contessa roasted cashews with rosemary recipe, except–I use a little olive oil in place of butter,and a smaller amount of brown sugar.  I put a couple of cups of raw cashews on pan, bake at 375 about 10 minutes, stirring often (they brown quickly)  While they are toasting, I chop about 2 tbsp of fresh rosemary, add to small bowl with a little bit of ground red pepper, a teaspoon or so of brown sugar and a teaspoon or more of kosher salt. Stir in a little olive oil, a teaspoon or so. When nuts come out of the oven, toss immediately into seasoning, stir well to coat and then spread out on a cool plate or tray to cool and crisp. Add extra salt as needed, I always add extra salt! Enjoy! 

the first ever sugar cured guest post

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To no one’s surprise, we here at sugar cured do our best at all times to surround ourselves with people who love good food. Many of my dearest friendships began over common culinary interest, and as a matter of fact this blog might never have existed if Joanna and I hadn’t bonded when she recognized the recipe for the leftover soba noodles with eggplant and mango that I brought for lunch one day last August.   So it was just a matter of time before we featured the culinary talents of one of those food-loving friends in the form of a guest post.

A couple of weeks ago, the sugar cured girls had the good fortune of sous chef-ing on the creation of these delicious meat/spinach pies with our good friend Rahad Gondoli (who has chosen to write under a pseudonym in order to keep the origins of the top-secret family recipe shrouded in mystery). Mr. Gondoli writes:

This is an old family recipe.  And like almost all old family recipes over the generations it’s been slightly amended and meticulously perfected again and again. The recipe originates from the Levant, and like many dishes from the region different peoples claim its ownership.

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I’ve only known it from my dad, and him from his mom, and so on. One of my earliest food memories is my dad rolling out thawed dough balls next to mounds of flour on our wood block table. He’d juice the lemons with an orange plastic lemon squeezer and stand back from the table to sharpen his knives with a thin steel rod.

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It’s always a special occasion to have meat and spinach pies, and when we make them we make a lot, to share with others. I hope you enjoy them.

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Lebanese Meat and Spinach Pies

For the meat filling:

2 lbs ground round
3 medium white onions, chopped fine
3 tablespoon corn oil
Fry onions in oil. When brown, add meat and salt and pepper to taste. Brown meat. Once meat is done cooking, drain grease and oil and add juice of 3 lemons or to taste.
Let thaw rhode’s frozen dinner rolls. It will take about 1-1.5 hours. Place frozen rolls on wax paper, overlay with wax paper, and put a towel over the rolls and wax paper sheets.
For the spinach filling:
2 10 oz. bags of fresh spinach, chop fine
3 large white onions, chop fine
1/2 cup corn oil
juice of 1 lemon or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Combine above ingredients like a salad and mix.
Make the thawed dinner rolls as flat as you can with your fingers, then add a little flour and flatten with a rolling pin. You want a roughly 5-6 inch diameter flat dough pad. Place either spinach or meat mixture off center, and fold dough up into a triangular pie formation. Leave a little bit of the pie open, do not seal completely.
Spray cooking sheet with Pam or rub butter on it. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and cook pies until they are browned.

home is where the mango is

For two full weeks, I am home.

yep, that’s a dolphin!

That means lots of basking in the sun, catching up with family and friends, and of course, enjoying the vibrant flavors that Miami has to offer.

There is perhaps no food that screams summer in Miami to me like mangoes. When I was in middle school, my aunt’s family moved into a to a house ten minutes from mine with a mango tree in the backyard (not an uncommon occurrence here). Every June, the tree burst with bright orange fruits. In their ripened state, they plopped to the ground in such rapid succession that they had to collect fruits every morning, noon, and night. In its most prolific year, the tree produced over 300 mangoes in the span of a few weeks! Despite my aunt’s quest to make endless batches of mango salsa, bake loaves of mango bread, and freeze Ziploc bags full of fruit for future mango margaritas, I still received daily phone calls from her begging me to come take mangoes off her hands. For the whole month of June, our kitchen was laced with the intoxicating sweet perfume of ripe mangoes and my cuticles were stained yellow-orange. I ate mangoes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snack. And when the tree had finally exhausted its supply, I had filled my stomach with its mango quota for the year.


Having spent this June in Chicago, I regrettably missed Miami’s mango season (although I hear it was an unfortunately paltry one—maybe it was trying to not make me too jealous). Upon returning home this week, I had a hankering to fill my summer-long mango void with mango salsa, the most popular use for mangoes among our family. This salsa comes together with just a few fresh ingredients and is delicious on anything from tortilla chips, to seafood, to straight off a spoon. We enjoyed it on Sunday night with grilled jerk chicken skewers and my Abuela’s black beans (two more amazing dishes that deserve their own post another time!)

It’s good to be home.

Mango Salsa

2 large mangoes, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
Juice of 4 limes
Salt to taste (about 2 tsp)
Optional additions for a heartier version: 1 can drained black beans, 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

Mix all ingredients together. Allow salsa to sit covered in fridge for at least an hour before serving to allow flavors to meld.

summer bounty bruschetta

There’s only two things that money can’t buy/

And that’s true love and home-grown tomatoes

That line from an old John Denver song popped into my head the other day while I was talking to my mom about the abundance of tomatoes she had just harvested from her garden. I have a super strong memory of hearing those lyrics on my brand new Sony Discman as we drove through the Rocky Mountains on a family road trip when I was 8 or 9. The words struck me as deeply true back then, and though my affinity for John Denver has since gone by the wayside, my undying love and appreciation for home-grown tomatoes has remained strong.

Growing up, a bushel basket of ripe tomatoes was constantly present on our front porch from 4th of July to mid-September. If it was a good year, we would have to race to eat or can the ripe ones before the supply was replenished by the next harvest.

And thus what shrimp was to Bubba from Forrest Gump, tomatoes became to me: I was constantly scheming new uses for this bounty. That’s how my twist on bruschetta was born. Way back when I invented this recipe, I had only a vague notion of what bruschetta was supposed to be and didn’t realize that the tomato topping isn’t usually heated. Even though I’ve since tried the more typical raw tomato kind, I prefer my original “mistake”- it just makes for bruschetta that tastes a little more like pizza, and that can’t be a bad thing.

I used day-old olive ciabatta bread for this batch of bruschetta, but have used baguette and even multigrain sandwich bread in the past. Bread is second fiddle to tomato/basil/cheese no matter how you slice it, so anything that tastes nice toasted and is capable of sopping up juice will do.

About 15 medium-sized slices bread

2 T olive oil

5 ripe medium sized tomatoes (the best you can find, the riper the better)

2 T olive oil

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed or grated

salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 c shredded basil

6 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While it heats, prepare the topping. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces, about 1/4 inch cubes. Drain off most of the excess juice (it’s ok to leave a little, but you don’t want it too soupy). Add the 2 T olive oil, vinegar, onion, garlic, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Brush the bread lightly with olive oil on both sides. Arrange on a baking sheet and toast in hot over for about 5 minutes, until the tops begin to turn golden. Flip over each piece and bake another 2-3 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and divide tomato topping evenly among the bread. Top with cheese and return to the oven until the cheese is thoroughly melted (3-6 minutes). Serve hot.

Baba ghanoush(y)

I take a strange measure of satisfaction in recipes that allow me to burn things on purpose. I’m the kind of weirdo who leaves her popcorn in the microwave for an extra 15 seconds so the bottom pieces will get brown and toasts my bread twice to get it dark enough. I chalk up this quirk partly to the fact that, as a vegetarian, I mostly miss out on the smoky-flavored goodness of barbecue and have to seek out that charred flavor in other ways.

One of my favorite burnt food fixes is baba ghanoush, a roasted eggplant dip with tahini and lemon. With it’s one of a kind flavor, it is possibly the most crave-able food on the planet. If you haven’t tried it, you should find a Lebanese restaurant that will deliver to your home and order it right this minute. But if you get addicted, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This adaptation of burnt eggplant dip comes from the utterly fantastic cookbook Plenty by British chef Yotam Ottolenghi. My dear friend Marlene bough the book for me last weekend. She said it was a gift to celebrate my surviving the first year of med school, but I’m pretty sure she bought it for me so she will no longer have to wait for me while I drool over this book for 20 minutes every time we go into a book store. I’m entertaining ideas of cooking my way through every recipe in the whole darned book, Julie and Julia style. Stay tuned. But for now, here is the eggplant. It’s not baba ghanoush per se, more like baba’s hip British cousin, so I call it ghanoush-y dip.

Even I, the pyro chef herself, was skeptical of leaving the eggplant under the broiler for a whole entire hour. High on the list of things I don’t enjoy setting on fire: my apartment building. I checked it every few minutes in the beginning and quickly realized that I just needed to put my trust in Mr. Ottolenghi. If you’re lucky enough to have a gas range, you should probably opt for the stovetop options of roasting. Just please don’t burn yourself. I am only one quarter of a doctor and I will not be available to heal your wounds for another three years.

1 large eggplant

1/3 c tahini

1/4 c water

2 TBSP pomegranate molasses (you can find this at a Middle Eastern grocery or health foods store)

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 c chopped parsley

salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 of a large cucumber, chopped

3/4 c cherry tomatoes, halved

First, burn the eggplant. If using a gas stovetop, line the area around the burner with foil to protect against drip. Put the eggplant directly on a moderate flame and roast for 12-15 minutes, rotating frequently with tongs. It is done when the flesh is soft to the point that the whole thing looks deflated and the skin is charred. If using the broiler method, pierce the eggplant with a sharp knife, place on a foil-lined tray, and put directly under a hot broiler for one hour, turning a few times. The eggplant is done when deflated and charred all over. When cool enough to handle, split in half and scoop out the pulp into a colander, avoiding the burnt skin. Let drain for at least 30 minutes or your dip will be soggy!

Chop the eggplant roughly and transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients except cucumber and tomato and mix well with a whisk. Taste and adjust seasonings (I found it needed more lemon and salt). Stir in the veggies. Top with pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of olive oil if you’re feeling fancy. Pita wedges and carrot sticks are good for dipping.