Monday, June 29, 2015

Braised Beef Ribs with Spicy Black Bean Sauce

Hello everyone, I'm back. Unfortunately, I've haven't taken my boards, so we can't quite celebrate yet.
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. - Anne Lamott

A lot's been going on with wedding planning, rotation scheduling, teaching classes, and notably a bad car accident where my tiny Corolla got hit by a monster truck. Thankfully, everyone was ok since it struck the car's back half, so it's more of an emotional shakeup. It could have been much worse, so I'm grateful.
With all that, I felt I wouldn't have given my 110% to my boards, so after much agony, I decided to move it back. Because of my rotation schedule, I had to sign up much later than I wanted - 2 months later. As much as I would love to get it all over with, when it comes to boards, I wanted no regrets.

Plus, I really needed to actually learn Ob-Gyn, my last rotation which I have yet to do.
I was a little frustrated by this detour, but using this extra time, I spontaneously decided to recharge by going home for a week. Instead of having to cram all of boards into a 2 week "summer," it was nice to step back from everything and enjoy family time as well as some good home cooking. I'm sharing mom's delicious braised beef rib recipe, done in a slow cooker. After all, everyone needs a break every once in a while, and I can't think of anything easier than letting the food cook on its own in a crockpot as you sleep.

So, to all my medical school readers (as well as the non-med school non-type A folks), even if things don't occur in the proper timing or plan, I guess things always somehow turn out ok. Life happens even in the most well planned schedules. Sometimes, a detour for a break is in order instead.

Braised Beef Ribs with Spicy Black Bean Sauce

4-5 lbs beef short ribs
1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp minced ginger
1-2 long red chili peppers, minced
3 tablespoons black bean sauce with garlic*
2 tablespoons sake or vodka
1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorn
1 orange, juiced and zested
chopped green onion, to garnish

*black bean sauce is a prepared sauce you can buy at Asian markets and groceries

Position broiler rack 6 inches from heat. Broil ribs on both sides until well browned (10 min per side). Drain on paper towels. Separate ribs and place in slow cooker.

In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients except green onion. Spoon over short ribs and toss to combine. Cover and cook on low to 10-12 hours or high for 5-6 hours until ribs are tender and falling off the bone. Sever hot with rice and garnish with green onions.

By the way, this is a great dish that can be made in large batches. Check out these tips on reheating your ribs so they remain delicious by Chew the World! #sponsored
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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Peach Raspberry Sunrise Smoothie

Hi everyone, OCD is going on a short break for a few weeks after this post for my medical boards (it's not deja vu, it's now Step 2!), so I can apply for residency. Thankfully, this will be the last big US medical licensing exam for a while. I'll be back shortly - wish me luck! 


B came down from Chicago to visit "the surface of the sun," ie Texas during the summer, and we took a road trip to Fredericksburg, a quaint German town in the Hill Country not far from San Antonio. We have a family tradition of peach picking in Fredericksburg every year - however, I've missed out the last 7 years due to college/medical school, so I was psyched to finally go. 
Peach Raspberry Smoothie fruit
Our last pick-your-own date ended with B getting some mild heat stroke from the Texas sun, but I assured him peaches were much easier. While B and my sister picked diligently, I munched diligently on the peaches. Pick one, eat one, pick one, eat one (x10).

Pretty much every tree is taller than me, but sitting on B's shoulders let me check out the fruit on top like a giraffe!
We almost couldn't come home with our box of peaches because B and I never ever carry cash, and this orchard was cash only (oops). Luckily, my sister saved the day - she had just enough cash, not a dollar more or less.

Since it's early in the season, we picked clingstone peaches (sorry, no pretty slices to photograph).

Peaches 101:
  • Peaches are categorized based on the relationship between the stone (endocarp) and the peach flesh (mesocarp). You can't tell a clingstone from a freestone by appearance, but you'll know by cutting and seeing whether it separates from the stone. Clingstones are great for snacking since they're softer and sweeter. Freestones are used for canning and baking. 
  • Yellow peaches are your traditional peach and great for baking and canning. White peaches originated in Asia and are less acidic than yellow peaches, making them sweeter.
  • Random types: doughnut (genetic mutation so it's flat), dwarf (< 6 ft), and nectarine (genetic mutation so no fuzz). Source, source, and source.
I made this Peach Raspberry Sunrise Smoothie, since I had so many peaches I needed to use up. This colorful smoothie makes me so happy because it's so artistic. The colors started mixing as I was photographing ... ah, diffusion (sorry too much basic science)!

PS. This is my last post as a 3rd year medical student - one year left! Thanks for all the reading, shares, and comments. It is your support, my friends, that keeps me excited to share my culinary and medical adventures with you. Ok, y'all, now it's time to study!

Peach Raspberry Sunrise Smoothie

1 1/4 cup sliced peaches
1/3 cup frozen passionfruit
1/2 cup raspberries
peach or pomegranate juice (depending on the color), as needed
1-1/2 cups crushed ice cubes

Combine 3/4 cup of the peaches and passionfruit with ice cubes in the blender. Blend until smooth (add juice depending on how thick you want your smoothie). Pour into your glass so that it fills halfway.

Combine 1/2 cup of remaining peaches with the raspberries with ice cubes in the blender. Blend until smooth (again, add juice if desired). Pour slowly and carefully on top the of peach portion. Enjoy the sunrise smoothie all stirred up or drink them in parts!

Note: if you really want to keep the colors separate, partially freeze the peach passionfruit portion before adding the raspberry peach on top. 
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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Molten Bittersweet Chocolate Lava Cake

B, being the ultimate romantic, rewrote the lyrics to Maroon 5's Sugar - my new favorite song.

 "Your sugaaaar / Yes, please / Won't you come and put it down on me? 
I'm right here, 'cause I need / A little love, a little sympathy" ♫ 

B: I know what my Natticakes likes even more than sugar. She loves her dark chocolate so horribly bitter it makes your mouth pucker. So I improved the lyrics: 
♪ "Your biiiitttterrrr / Yes, please / Won't you come and put it down on me?" ♬

It's true. I'm a dark chocolate snob - nothing less than 72% cacao for me!
During a date night in, we watched the movie Chef - in short, about a top chef in a restaurant forced to cook "for the masses," disgusted by his rut of "safe" fancy food - specifically molten chocolate lava cake (in fact, he squashes a diner's lava cake with his bare hands in rage, hence getting fired).

I was like, Hey! I like lava cake. In fact, it's probably my favorite cake. And I don't care if "the masses" like it too. That just means we all have good taste.

My prior Molten Lava Cake recipe was sweeter and had different ratio of eggs and butter. This version adapted from NY Times Cooking used darker chocolate and is more bitter. Molten Lava cake is actually a recent invention and, like many great things in life, a happy accident. In 1987, Master chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten accidentally removed a chocolate cake out of the oven before it was done and discovered a pudding like molten center. Bam, genius.
Cake structure 101 (from Fine Cooking)
  • Cake ratio: Flour and eggs are the major structure-builders - essentially what holds the cake together. Fat and sugar do the opposite; they actually wreck / soften the cake's structure, providing tenderness and moisture.
  • Eggs have two parts: whites (which dry out baked goods) and yolks (make textures smooth and velvety). To get a smoother cake and balance the eggs with the fat, just add extra yolks. 

Molten Bittersweet Chocolate Lava Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons flour
Strawberry, sliced and confectioner's sugar, to garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Butter and lightly flour 3 ramekins or tin molds, tapping out any excess flour.

Cut and melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped chocolate to the hot butter and stir until melted. Beat the eggs and egg yolks with the sugar in a large bowl until light and thick, about 1 minute. Combine the egg mixture, 2 teaspoons flour, and melted chocolate; beat for another few minutes. Pour batter into prepared molds.

Put the molds on a baking sheet and bake until the cakes have puffed up, the tops are barely set and the centers jiggle slightly when shaken, 7-8 minutes (don't let it overbake). Remove and let sit for 1 minute.

Run a knife along the edges. Put a plate on top of the ramekin and (with a potholder to protect your hand) carefully invert the cake onto the plate. Tap on the ramekin bottom to make the cake come out, then lift up the ramekin. For me, the top was prettier than the bottom, so I re-inverted it back upright carefully (don't let the cake burst!). Serve immediately, garnished with powdered sugar and strawberries.

Notes: You can prepare the batter ahead of time by refrigerating or even freezing it; just bring to room temperature prior to baking.
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