Monday, August 29, 2011

Haute Cuisine 1.07

Alas I was unable to salvage the root vegetables, but I was able to save the cucumber bits at least and make a decent fruit salad that I have made before.  It consists of jicama, red bell peppers, cucumber bits, and grapefruit chunks - diced, add some lemon juice, and top with a little artificial sugar and grated almonds.  The other stuff is just rice, with some furikake seasoning, and some mushroom gravy.  It worked out okay, but I think the gravy needs a little something extra.  Here it is - not sure what my next dishes will be, but I may hang onto the fruit salad, considering it is yummy and healthy.

Gothic Inclinations 5.01

Last night I finally indulged in one of my fantasies - going to a goth club all decked out in the proper garb.  It was indeed a lot of fun.  Went into San Francisco to the Batcave Society SF - it was a nice small room in the back with a bar and a dance floor.  The best thing about it was it played music that I liked which I never hear on the radio, and when people danced it was not in a massive sweaty hoard, but rather individuals dancing however they pleased, maybe interacting with one or two other people, but beyond that, it was very individualistic.  

Some of the new songs that I will have to check out include:
Love Like Blood - Killing Joke
Somewhere in the Night - Stereo
Prigkipesa - Collection
The Blue Hour - Christian Death
Last Day on Earth - Pink Turns Blue

The two friends who I convinced to go with me actually enjoyed themselves a lot - it is definitely a different scene than most night clubs.  So, they enthusiastically agreed we should go back again on next Sunday, when it is a holiday weekend.  Another one of my friends may come along then as well!  It'll be really fun.  On an odd note - the first person we talked to at the club (besides the bartender and the cover collectors) was this guy who turned out to be a 4th year medical student at UCSF - I mean, what are the odds that I go to a goth club in San Francisco, and of the maybe 15 people who attended that night, one of them was also a medical student?  We talked a bit and that was fun - he had some advice for my friend (also a medical student), since both of them are interested in the same specialty.  Hopefully next week will be even better - it probably will be since a holiday weekend will allow for more people to come out.

Great Books 4.02

Last week I finished Kafka's Metamorphosis - an interesting book, I must say.  It was kind of bleak and depressing, but I do not mind that sort of topic.  The next book I listened to was the Epic of Gilgamesh - which had to have been the biggest bromance I have ever read.  Inkidu and Gilgamesh... so many homoerotic overtones.  I also listened to Thomas Paine's Common Sense.  I think next on the list is something by Descartes.  

I am enjoying these books a lot, I am still doing the German Pimsleur lessons in the car.  I am also trying to get ahead in my medschool readings, but there is no such thing, really - I'm trying to read chapters out of Harrison's but by the end of the day I am so exhausted it is hard to do anything.  Hopefully tomorrow I will have some energy.  I may need to start drinking energy drinks at night in order to stay awake a few hours for studying...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Haute Cuisine 1.06

Sometimes...foods are failures.  The cucumber soup - rather blecky.  The root vegetables - not my best.  My boyfriend made a recipe with them once before that he wasn't too fond of but which I enjoyed a lot and I tried to recreate it but to no avail.  I am going to try blending them tomorrow a la mashed potatoes and adding some nutmeg, some cinnamon, and making a mushroom gravy to pair with it.  Hopefully that will make for a tolerable lunch menu - maybe my boyfriend will even like it.  

As for the cucumber soup...I'm going to just have to salvage the cucumber bits in there and mix those with other chopped semi-fruits like bell peppers, citrus, pear, cherry tomatoes, something like that and make a fruit salad.  I'll add some almond shavings, maybe feta if I am so inclined, and some lemon juice to keep it fresh.  I've made something similar before and it should taste fine, it's just a hassle to have to re-engineer both these dishes.  I guess that's what you get when you are experimenting.  Hopefully soon I can go to a proper bookstore and look through cook books.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Haute Cuisine 1.05

I found an amazing looking set of cooking books, my boyfriend agrees it would be awesome to have, unfortunately the set costs about $650, and for that I could afford that beautiful handgun I've been wanting.  Again, that goes in another entry.  However, this set of books is really neato - great photography, great use of science and chemistry.  One day...perhaps we shall get these volumes of books.

My food menu for this week is Cucumber Soup and Honey-Glazed Root Vegetables.

Cucumber Soup
3 Cucumbers (2 blended, 1 chopped for garnish)
1 1/3 cups low fat yogurt
1 1/3 cups low fat milk
2 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp chopped mint
2 tbsp dill 
Splash of lemon juice

Honey-Glazed Root Veggies
3 rutabega
1 turnip
3 carrots
3 parsnips
1 yuca root
Chopped and put in a large pan, drizzled with honey, roasted at 425 degrees F for about an hour.  Yeah, not the most haute-style cuisine, but I need to go to a bookstore and search for a good haute cuisine book - I don't really like the vegetable options available in the Chez Panisse book - that book has some good meat dishes, but the veggie dishes use too much green garlic and various other stuff.  Funny story - the girls at the store had no clue what rutabegas, parnsips, or yuca roots were...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bloodlust 2.02

As far as the Halloween costume goes, a lot of progress has been made in a very short amount of time.  I have these kickass knee-high black multi-strap boots (think Johnny the Homicidal Maniac) and have ordered a sexy red and black samurai kimono plus a prop katana.  At first I was considering getting a katana with blood stains already on the blade, but it makes more sense for me to do that myself, that way I can clean it off and still have a pretty katana prop.  So here are the two things I came up with:

Correction - that is a fake site and is now just taking people's money.  I ended up buying from Amazon.

Notice that the scabbard of the katana matches the sexy samurai costume.  Combined with gothy boots, blood splatter paint, and scar/blood stuff on my skin and shoulder, perhaps some tattering of one sleeve or cutting one side of my skirt, it'll be one damn awesome Halloween costume.  One of my favorite holidays of the year, but unfortunately I don't really have anywhere specific in mind to go this year - the last two years a person in my medschool class would throw a big Halloween party, but in our third year we are all dispersed and I am not on particularly good terms with her anymore so new arrangements shall have to be made.  Perhaps another winery Halloween party if I can afford it, or going to a club, or going somewhere with friends who have connections.  Either way, I am going to have a kick ass time this year.

Great Books 4.01

I have a love of languages and literature - you'd be surprised how well-rounded most physician-to-be's are.  At any rate, I am a big fan of literature.  At the moment, my drive to my rotations takes about an hour each way, so I have been listening to audio books for one leg of the trip and Pimsleur German audio lessons for the other leg of the trip.  The current book I am going through is Kafka's Metamorphosis - mostly because I wanted to start with something short, so I could see how I liked listening to a book in the narrated audio form.  I very much enjoy it and plan to continue it.  The books on my list are derived from this website, which I think gives a pretty well-rounded approach to classic books.

I mostly like this website's list because they do not stick to the Eurocentric Anglo-Saxon value system - they include a lot of Asian writers as well.  Check it out if you are interested - I will update you on my progress - currently I am at 7.6% completion of the full Great Books list of that website.  Kafka's Metamorphosis is not on the list, but considering my entomological interests and the fact that everyone refers to Kafka I thought I should read it.  Next on the list will be the epic of Gilgamesh, of which I know the general story but have not truly read through it.  I have the audio book.  As for written words, the books I am currently working through besides my medical textbooks include The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Tale of Genji, and The Nibelungenlied (Norse Saga).  

For the record, Kindle is FREE on Android OS - so that is where I am reading Nibelungenlied - that is also how I read Heart of Darkness.  To be fair, I have read many valuable classic books, but not all of them make the lists on the Great Books website I chose, so it is definitely a work in progress, but it is a major goal.  I shall update with each book I finish.  

Piano 3.01

I used to play the piano - back in elementary school.  Apparently I was rather resistant - I screamed in my piano teacher's ear at some point.  At this point, I rather regret it - she was a well-meaning teenager or 20-something year old woman, just trying to teach some belligerent young girl to play an instrument.  However...there is this one piece of music that has inspired me to at least learn how to play it.  The only things I can remember from piano are one or two Bach minuets and the FACE/EGBDF and ACEG/GBDFA acronyms for knowing what the lines and spaces mean for the right and left hands respectively.  (FACE, Every Good Boy Does Fine) and (All Cows Eat Grass/Great Big Dogs Fight Animals).  So...with that in mind, one of my goals is to master this piece from the amazing video game Bioshock, loosely based on Ayn Rand's Capitalist utopia described in Atlas Shrugged (one of my favorite books)

Check it out - it is a beautiful song, reminding me of Schriabin, Rachmaninov and Danny Elfman.  I shall soon be able to play that song.  One of my many goals.  The following link is a clip on youtube of the song that I hope to master.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bloodlust 2.01

I play a lot of video games, watch a fair few animes, read my share of violent mangas and comic books, so it should be no surprise that there's a reason for that.  I also have some rather Gothic inclinations, which I shall go into more in a later post.  At the moment, something that has been on my mind a lot lately is...bloodlust.  A lot of us feel it at some point - that urge to cut through flesh, rip through something, feel that hot red spray on your face.  I'm going to stop you before you start thinking "obvious sexual fetish" because, while I have many, this is definitely not one of them.  It is that warrior samurai heat-of-the-battle urge that we ignore in civilized society which only rears its ugly but majestic head at times of dizzying adrenaline-fueled emotional highs or when you're walking alone at night in the bad part of town.  

Whatever the case, I've been thinking it would be a fun art project - maybe even a fantasy self-photography project.  I may even develop it into a Halloween costume - something like a Samurai princess costume, with a slashed kimono, a prop sword, blood red hair ribbons, elaborate makeup, a slash across my shoulder and face with blood, and of course splattered blood on my costume and skin.  More and more that is gaining momentum as a potential project in my mind...  more to come on that later.  On a quick cursory search about bloodlust, I quickly found what will likely become my prop sword for Halloween, and at only $35 - I don't see why not.  I will do an artist's concept later - I have a lot of time.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Haute Cuisine 1.04

More and more I am starting to look at the Chez Panisse book as more of a set of guidelines than actual Haute cuisine recipes - most of it does not seem particularly Haute Style, especially compared to the more traditional French Haute cuisine I had at La Folie.  Of the two restaurants, I already like La Folie more - they are comparable prices, but at least La Folie allows you to mix and match meals for your many course dinner, while Chez Panisse changes their menu every night and it is a fixed menu, removing all choice on your part.  At any rate, I created those two things from the book and they definitely produced quantities sufficient for my lunch for the next week at work.

Baked Eggplants and Tomatoes with Bread Crumbs and Basil (my altered variety) - 3.5 stars

- 3 globe eggplants (2 pounds)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 pounds tomatoes
- 2.5 cups bread crumbs
- Grated mozzarella cheese
- Yellow squash (spaceship variety is what I used) - about 2 pounds

Boil the tomatoes for about 15 seconds, then remove skin (loosened by boiling, it's pretty neat), then core, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.  Peel the eggplants, and cube into squares with sides about 1/2 to 1 inch long.  Set the eggplants in a large baking pan, glass preferably, about 9x13 inches at minimum size.  Put some water into the bottom so it rises up about 1/8 inch around the eggplants.  Cover and bake at 400 degrees F for 1 hour.  Then chop the squashes to make square pieces with 1/2 inch dimensions, and add to the baking pan.  Salt and pepper as desired, add the tomatoes now as well, and then sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top of the pan.  Then add the bread crumbs to make a fine layer on the mozzarella.  Put back into the oven uncovered at 350 degrees F for about 35-45 minutes.  

Chilled Tomato Soup with Peppers and Cucumbers (Modified from Chez Panisse Red and Yellow Tomato Soup with Peppers, Cucumbers, Onions, and Basil) - 3 stars

-3 pounds ripe tomatoes
-2 green bell peppers
-1 red bell pepper
-2 cucumbers
-Fig-Balsamic Vinegar
-White Zinfandel Wine
- Parsley (fresh or dried leaves)

Cut the red tomatoes into 8 pieces (in half, then each piece into four), cut the green bell peppers into squares about 1-inch wide, and cut one of the cucumbers into chunks, and place in a large pot of water on high heat.  Boil the vegetables until slightly soft.  Meanwhile, dice the last cucumber and cored red bell pepper to squares about 1/4-1/3 of an inch in size.  Set these aside.  When the vegetables are softened, drain the water and blend, either with a hand blender (what I did) or in a blender, until smooth.  Then add the white zinfandel (about 1 cup), and fig balsamic vinegar (about 1/2 cup) and then when cool, add the diced cucumber and red bell pepper.  Serve chilled.  Garnish with parsley.

Haute Cuisine 1.03

Last night we attempted two dishes from the Chez Panisse - which I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys hearing stories about cooking, as well as anecdotes and great recipes.  We made Grilled Salmon with Tomatoes and Basil Vinaigrette - though we had to chance it from grilled to baked because we don't have a proper grill.  We also made Grilled Eggplant with Shallots and Parsley - the variation we had to make was that we couldn't find any Japanese Eggplant, so we went with the big mexican aubergines.  

(Baked) Salmon with Tomatoes and Basil Vinaigrette - Rating 4 stars

2 shallots (2 ounces), finely diced
1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 ripe tomatoes (1 lb), peeled, seeded, diced
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh basil
Salt and Pepper
1 1/2 lb salmon filet

Combine shallots, vinegar, and olive oil in a small bowl.  Add the tomatoes and basil, spoon vinaigrette over tomatoes and mix well.  Salt and pepper to taste, and correct them for vinegar if needed.  Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.  Check for color, make sure it isn't still raw-pink in the middle - put the salmon on warm plates, spoon tomato vinaigrette over the filets and serve.

Grilled Eggplants with Shallots and Parsley - Rating 2 stars

12 medium-size Japanese eggplants (2 lb)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 of a large lemon
2 shallots (2 oz), finely diced
2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley

Cut and trim eggplants, cut lengthwise so they are about 5/8 inch thick, with two flat exposed surfaces.  Arrange on a baking sheet, use 2 tbsp of the olive oil, brush the eggplants with oil, add salt and pepper.  Turn slices and repeat.  Grill over a hot fire, turning them periodically with tongs.  Finished when browned.  Transfer to a warm platter and squeeze lemon juice over each, mix the shallots and parsley together and sprinkle on top.  Drizzle the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil over all the slices, serve while hot.

Now, the salmon got 4-stars, because we had to modify it and while it tasted great, we are still a little curious how it would have been if we had the capacity to grill it in those thin slices.  The eggplant got 2-stars because it was hard to cook that one properly, and the recipe of it with the shallots and parsley just wasn't the best tasting.  Also, it was kind of a shallot overload when you consider the two toppings each had raw shallots, and that ended up giving me a pretty restless uncomfortable sleep.  I think I am a little intolerant of raw onion-type vegetables, my mom is as well.  At any rate, it was mostly a very good meal.  Now I am going to make that tomato soup and baked eggplant/tomato stuff for my lunches at work. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Haute Cuisine 1.02

Inspired by a mini-salad I had at La Folie, I took the components I remembered (specifically sweet cherry tomato, a sweet but semi-creamy vinaigrette, and chopped hazelnuts) and fashioned a salad of my own.  Now, the first thing you need to know about me and salads is that essentially my entire life I have never eaten salad.  I hate it.  Absolutely hate any raw greens.  So, naturally, coming up with a sizeable equivalent to the tiny bite-sized salad I had at La Folie took some thinking.  Also, since I did not know what kind of vinaigrette they used, I had to make one myself, which was new as well. are the results.  

I have to say one thing right up front - the vinaigrette is f***ing AMAZING.  I have never liked the idea of using salad dressing, because in my mind, you're just eating sauce and covering up the disgusting taste of raw leafy greens.  Or raw other things that I don't like.  I also generally hate tomatoes, but in small bites, and if they are the tiny sweet ones, apparently I can tolerate, and even enjoy them.  So... here's the recipe I came up with, including the recipe for the vinaigrette.

Rachael's Sweet and Creamy Vinaigrette - 4 stars 
- 1/3 c white balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp honey
- Spritzing of lemon/lime juice (optional)
- 1/2 c sweet white/rose wine
- 1/2 tsp dried mint
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
- 1/2 tsp ginger powder
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tea spoons (utensil, not measuring) 2% greek yogurt

Directions: Heat wine over medium/medium-high, add the honey; when mixed well and reduced by ½, remove from heat and add to vinegar.  Then on medium-low, heat the oil and herbs.  After warmed, add to the vinegar/wine mixture, and lemon/lime juice and the greek yogurt.  Let sit for a few hours to let the oils absorb the herb essences.  Transfer to a holding container or a container with a water-tight lid, and shake vigorously until sufficiently mixed.  Take a taste, and be amazed.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Hazelnuts - 4 stars
- Cherry tomatoes (halved)
- Cucumbers (in sixths)
- Chopped hazelnuts
- Crumbled feta cheese
- Basil leaves
- Rachael's Sweet and Creamy Vinaigrette

You can alter the proportions however you want or add random things, but I added a sprinkling of the feta and the hazelnuts on top, cut the basil (minus a couple leaves for garnish) into small pieces, and lightly mixed.  Again, I hate salad, and kind of hate tomatoes, but this is actually good.

I gave each 4 stars is appropriate because while they are each very amazing, it was my first shot at both and I am sure I can make better things with time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Haute Cuisine 1.01

First on the list - Haute cuisine, or fine cuisine. For some it conjures up images of Ratatouille (the movie, not the food) or Mostly Martha. In a nutshell, Haute cuisine is elaborate small detailed dishes produced by a full kitchen, and is typically of the French school of cuisine, but there are many varieties of the cuisine.
Recently, my boyfriend and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary by going to La Folie, and had a full 5 course meal, and then some. It was elaborate and delicious and lovely. Since we both have a passion for fine cuisine, I have decided to open up our dusty Chez Panisse cookbook (another Haute cuisine restaurant) and try my hand at fancy meals. I am going to start with lunch meals that I can pack for when I go to my medical school rotations, starting next week when I start family medicine. We also have a friend coming to stay with us who adores fine cuisine, and he always pays for our groceries when he stays with us, so I think I will have him pick out some nice recipes from the book and I will try my hand at cooking and artistic presentation. Can't wait! I will post pictures of course.


I have started this personal blog as an outlet for my many and varied random obsessions and creative inspirations. My friends and I have noticed that I tend to go through spurts of excitement and fixation, and it is invigorating and fun, even if it takes up more time than it should. Sometimes these periods last. Sometimes not. Either way, I plan to document and share these periods of time and hopefully others will find these moments as interesting as I do - it certainly keeps life interesting.

I will label each entry with a first number for which obsession is being discussed and the next number will tell which entry it is (first, second, third) - e.g. Japanese Bamboo Painting 1.01 to denote the first entry of the first topic.