striper in the springs

February 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

I’m spending the weekend in Springs with my mom.  We took off from Washington Heights mid-day yesterday after a morning of clinical research.  I’m working with a team at Columbia-NYP on uterine smooth muscle function.   In a labor and delivery OR, I processed a sample to be delivered to a basic science lab.  This means I divided an arc of tissue from a stranger’s uterus, post-cesarean section, into 4 morsels to be further processed/plated/mechanically tested. The delivery felt like a satire of hospital obstetrics.  As baby is being surgically delivered there is truly zero sense in the room of the moment’s sanctity– nurses are chatting about their weekend plans; an attending pediatrician is grumbling about a new resident; as his son’s head starts to push through the incision, dad peeks over the curtain to get a first look at his first-born child, only to be waved back into his seat by the anesthesiologist, “don’t worry, we’ll show him to you when he’s here.”  I’m the unknown med student in the corner of a room in a bunny suit.  Waiting with a tray of instruments and containers to perform my sterile tasks.

Winter morning, 2016. Springs, NY.

Winter morning, 2016. Springs, NY.

I’m tired on the drive from a restless night.  As the last drop of wine burned off at 3:30 AM, I shrugged off a druggy sleep.  For several hours I was alert in bed with steak and dessert on the brain, sifting, compiling, and repeating component prep lists for the Valentine’s Day dinner I’ll spend too much time on this Sunday.  Now I’m pushing through 495 with Leonard Lopate, slowing on Montauk Highway to Hannibal Burress on The Joe Rogan Experience, loosening to Holy Ghost! as we turn into East Hampton village.  Not a lot of conversation as I ready for more time with mom.

It’s getting easier in some ways.  I’m getting used to shopping, cooking, and eating with her after years of struggle.  She rejects most oil, salt, sugar, dairy, grains, legumes.  Even though I love veg, fruit, and animal protein, I used to ignore her when cooking for the family.  Studding my salads with cheese, drowning sides in evoo, taking generous seasoning pinches to every piece of meat.  It didn’t feel like a rebellion so much as, “this is real food, mom, take it or leave it.” But I’m learning to better harness the powers of dry and aqueous heat in cooking, to rely less on salt, more on alliums and chiles, seeds and herbs, citrus and vinegars.  At least when she’s around.

She’s also the ultimate comparison shopper.  I remember Sunday afternoons driving slowly north through Manhattan, from Chinatown to Morningside Heights, double parking half a dozen times along the way for a 10-item shopping list of kitchen basics.  I’m talking carrots and bananas, spaghetti and peanut butter. Throw in a few extra stops along the way for Tasti D-Lite samples, her guilty frozen dessert pleasure in a world of blueberries, shredded cabbage, and baked squash.

After years working other people’s kitchens, sharing fridge shelves with housemates, shopping for groups, I’ve also become more systematic and bargain-seeking in my grocery lists, more flexible in the pantries I’ll navigate.  We found a decent looking bunch of sale-item turnip greens at the local Stop and Shop, saved $4/lb on shipped-in striped bass over the local black bass, and made use of some creminis rescued from our E. Harlem fridge before their inevitable weekend decay.

Unilateral med-high heat on a nonstick until I could slide a spatula between skin and flesh, leaving the skin behind to crisp in it’s own fishy fat. Lowered thick coins of the partly-cooked filet into a steaming brown rice stock.  Poured over turnip greens seasoned in fish sauce and rice vinegar. Ginger poached mushrooms and turnip root floating in the murky sea broth.  (Clarifying egg raft next time?) Finished with grey salt (my portion), aleppo, *drops* of sesame oil, scallion.

Striped bass in broth.

Striped bass in broth.

This was the best part of my day.  This is 2016, the year I’m home from Durham to complete a research year for Duke SoM.  The year I realize with every passing week that I still don’t know what I want to do with the MD I’m hurtling towards.  Feeling my body asking me to jump- to leave it behind and start playing with food and fire again.

Hard Cider, Round One

January 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

Hard Cider, Round One

Cote des Blancs and Dry Ale Yeasts

Omega 3: A Celebration

July 31, 2012 § 1 Comment

Focus really, really hard and you may notice a recurring theme here. Dinner was served at the European hour of 12:30am.

Modelo-battered anchovies

Grilled sardines with salsa verde and olives

Caramelized melon with mint and feta

Grilled branzino, grilled oranges and thyme

Toast with corn butter and heirloom tomato

Simple salad of sucrine lettuces

Peach blueberry pie/cobbler

sf supper club: 06.30.12

July 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Only took a year and a half, but Contra’s first SF supper club finally went down a few weeks ago. Menu and pics below:

Cucumber, avocado, radish, borage

Squid, purple potatoes, preserved lemon, piment d’espelette

Grilled salmon collars, salsa verde, za’atar flatbread

Buttermilk panna cotta, boysenberries, granola


Such a hipster

First course

Squid in a hot pan

Collars with the king of beers before the grill

Main event

back in the kitchen

June 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

i’ve had some time away from the kitchen over the past couple of months. new jobs, new schedules, and an extended cooking hangover from my last large dinner event. but a combination of devouring gabrielle hamilton’s amazing memoir (see negroni in upper right), the delicious branzini i had at market table last night (see… well, it’s obvious), and my recently perusal of the long acclaimed ottolenghi cookbook plenty (see bowl of malaysian goodness), inspired me to get back in there tonight and have a family style meal with the sibs.

thanks for remembering to take a picture, sis

the most exciting new thing for all of us was the sambal which i adapted from plenty. tangy, spicy, shalloty- i can see this thing going far in lots of applications. i plan to try a lot more chili/tamarind combinations with different kinds of chilis, different oils, different acids and sweeteners. also made a quick dry rub of coriander, star anise, grey salt, black and szechuan pepper for the fish stuffed with fennel fronds, garlic, and lemon- which wasn’t bad.

Pineapple Vinegar

May 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

1 quart of water, 1/4 cup of sugar, some star anise, the chopped peel of 1 pineapple, and 1 month of lazing around in my cabinet.

This is my first time making pineapple vinegar – or any vinegar for that matter – and I’m not using a mother so fingers crossed this first experiment works out. I’ve heard it’s really acidic so I’m hoping it will go well with some fat-boy carnitas this summer for a new play on al pastor. Adapted from Sandor Ellix Katz’s Wild Fermentation.

Kitchen Island

April 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Best ten dollars I ever spent. That’s what I though after picking up this cheapo Ikea kitchen island the other day on Craigslist. It might be made of balsa wood and bubble gum, but who cares. Counter space is counter space, right??


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