Friday, November 18, 2011

Chicken and sausage jambalaya

I love where I work. Sharing hallways with some of the world's best and brightest, it's hard to not feel inspired, especially when you stumble upon stuff like this.

Hell of a lot cooler than a Jeter or Kardashian sighting, if you ask me.

There's world-changing work happening in every corner, but it's not all blood, sweat and tears; you need a sense of humor to go into science. For every positive result, there are a thousand that you absolutely work your ass off for but ultimately don't pan out. Just this week we figured something out and got some great data, the first in a long time. My boss and I just kind of stared at it... then at each other... until I finally said what we were both thinking: "Huh... I'm not really sure what to do with good news." That Science paper may look simple and elegant, but it took 10 sleepless years to design, generate reliable data, write, and get accepted by the journal, not to mention the shitload of heartache someone endured from every little failure along the way. In the face of constant rejection and frustration ("I've done this protocol a thousand times and it's always worked, and the science is correct and I'm using the same lots of buffer and yes I adjusted the pH everything and my PI double checked my calculations so WHY ISN'T IT WORKING? IT MAKES NO SENSE!), a sense of humor is critical to survival. And that's why you also come across stuff like this.

It's a wonderful community, and I'm proud to be a teensy little star-struck part of it (until I transition to full-time farmerhood). Anyway, on to the food: the ole saying goes, when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. When the world's foremost pediatric hematologist hands you the last peppers of the season from his garden, you make jambalaya.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Salmon cakes with lemon yogurt sauce with roasted asparagus and arugula salad

I've been making this dish for a few years, since I came across it in Gourmet in 2008. It has that "everyday special" vibe that I love, but is pulled together really quickly and only contains ingredients I usually have around the kitchen anyway. For some reason, eating foods in fried cake form is just plain fun (like the black bean cakes from this summer). Here I've formed them into large cakes for a main course, but you could easily make teeny little cakes for appetizers.

I love these salmon cakes in particular because you start from whole salmon fillets and hack them down to the texture you like. Definitely don't use the food processor, you want some nice big chunks of fish as well as some that has been finely minced (which helps hold them together with the bread crumbs and egg white). 
The yogurt sauce is the perfect accompaniment; creamy and tangy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Udon noodle and miso soup with avocado and peanut salad in ginger dressing

I've tried (in vain) to ignore the reports of crippling snowfall in other parts of the country but deep in the heart of Texas, the weather has finally turned as well... this displeases me. I'm one of those people that become miserable when temps dip below 80 degrees, so the threat of an overnight freeze is particularly shitty news. Winter. I hate it so. But I do like toasty fires and have a darling collection of cozy hats... so there's that.

The real silver lining on this looming prolonged torture cloud is a change in cuisine, a chance to bring back all those lovely hot soups and stews I couldn't imagine cooking a couple of months ago. This is another great staple from the Bible, How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. There are a couple of potentially unfamiliar ingredients, but nothing you wouldn't be able to find at any Asian market (and probably at most upscale grocers).

I suspect most of us have had miso soup at some point, likely a steamy little bowl with soft cubes of tofu and some scallions at a sushi bar. Miso is most commonly prepared by fermenting soybean paste but the internets tell me you can make rice or barley miso as well. Any will work in this recipe. Dashi is a stock made of bonito flakes (dried tuna flakes) and kombu (dried kelp, which brings the umami. You want this. Umami is good). Udon are thick wheat Japanese noodles that are traditional to the dish, but if you couldn't find them you could certainly substitute any noodle you like. And of course, you can add any meat you like or none at all; here I've just used a few shrimp.