On Backyard Trees and Dan Dan Noodles (担担面)

We recently returned from a prolonged trek back home to California. My family has been living in the same house for over two decades. While the Bay Area, city, neighborhood, and even my childhood home have undergone major and minor changes, one of the things that remains constant is an old tree in the backyard that has stayed steadfast and sturdy.

We have to trim the branches of this tree at least once every year. This trimming tends to fall during the holidays and usually is a family affair. My dad and I take turns scaling the tree and sawing/snipping at the branches. My mom and siblings drag the long branches out to the street, organizing them into large piles for collection. At the end, we squint skyward at the thinned-out tree and newly exposed sun.

The part that fascinates and inspires me about this particular tree is its growth pattern. If you look carefully at the main branches, they resemble bulbous, gnarled knobs surrounded by circumferential new shoots. Every year when we trim off the small branches, the tree can no longer send off a branch from the same location yet, every year, the tree finds a different path and way to survive. Truly a testament of perseverance and spirit of survival.

Of course every family gathering is not complete without a wide array of food. It is not uncommon for my parents to pick me up from the airport and immediately take me out to eat at a restaurant before even thinking about going home to drop off luggage. Even when I am away, our text conversations and emails are always peppered with a smorgasbord of food pictures. Hundreds of miles apart, food connects us.

When it comes to Chinese recipes, my mom is my go-to person for questions (although apparently my dad sometimes steals her culinary tips and tricks and tries to pass them off as his own when he talks to my sister).  One night I stumbled upon a recipe by Kenji Lopez-Alt for Dan Dan Noodles. I had seen the dish on many menus but could not recall ever having ordered it. Wondering where the recipe and name originated, I reached out to my mom.

The dish itself came from Sichuan cuisine, renowned for its strong flavors and the numbing spice of Sichuan peppercorns in particular. While it is hard to say what the authentic recipe is as it has gone through many iterations, the name comes from how it was carried and sold, via “bian dan” (扁担) or carrying pole.

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Picture my mom helpfully sent me

The sellers carried briquettes and a pot with boiling water on one end and the rest of the ingredients and noodle on the other. They wandered the streets yelling, “好吃的担担面!” or “Delicious dan dan noodles.” It is a flavorful and warming recipe that is perfect for a chilly day.

Dan Dan Mian (担担面)

Ingredients:

  • Thick Noodles (fresher noodles tend to give you much better texture)
  • *Ground pork (at least 20% fat)                      1/2 lb
  • Garlic                                                                  3 cloves, minced
  • Ginger                                                                 1 in segment, minced
  • Onion                                                                  1 medium, diced
  • Sichuan peppercorns                                       2 tsp, ground
  • Preserved mustard root (Zhai Cai)                4 T, chopped
  • Soy sauce                                                             1 T (per serving)
  • Black vinegar                                                      1 T (per serving)
  • Chili oil                                                                 2 T (per serving)
  • Scallions
  • Chinese greens/bok choy                                  blanched

Start by heating a pan/wok on high heat. Add 1 T of cooking oil and coat the pan. Add the ground pork and sichuan peppercorns and cook until lightly browned. Add garlic, ginger, onion, and zhai cai. Cook in pan for another minute or so until the garlic, ginger, and onions release their aroma. Set aside mixture in a separate bowl. In the meantime, boil a pot of water for noodles. Cook noodles until al-dente. Reserve some of the water used to cook the noodles. In each individual serving bowl, add 1 T soy sauce, 1 T black vinegar, 2 T chili oil and serving of noodles. Add pork mixture and top with diced scallions and blanched greens. Add 1/2 cup of hot noodle water and mix well to serve.

There is no wrong way to garnish this dish. Other variations include adding a peanut/sesame paste to the base sauce, adding roasted peanuts, adding bean sprouts, etc. Do your own take.

*If you don’t eat/like pork, it is easy to substitute another ground meat or even diced Shitake mushroom for a vegetarian option

-D

 

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Family dinner

Back when I lived in Boston, I was friends with a group of people who lived together in a big, old, 5-bedroom house in Brookline. Every Sunday they held ‘family dinner’ and cooked a huge feast for themselves and whoever else dropped by, rotating the head chef responsibilities on a weekly basis. The only rules were that dinner always had to be home-made, and that guests outside the ‘chef’ rotation had to bring plenty of wine and stay to help clean. While some of the house-mates defaulted to simple staples like large batches of pasta with homemade sauce, the more experienced cooks often took their week as a chance to show off a bit and stretch their culinary horizons. To encourage themselves to discover new dishes, two of the guys developed a unique system using a random number generator and the world almanac. First, they would use the random number generator to pick two numbers, then they would turn to the page of the almanac containing the index of lists; the first number would be used to select the ‘list’ (i.e. countries in the world sorted by life expectancy), the second would be used to identify a country (i.e. 35 – Greece). The country produced by this system then became the inspiration for the menu that week. One week the almanac sent them to the Asian grocer for hot-pot ingredients, another found them pounding cassava root to produce fufu. While many weeks yielded memorable meals, the dish I have most consistently reproduced came from the week that the number generator landed on Morocco and someone made lamb tagine.

The word ‘tagine’ refers to the dish in which the stew is cooked and there are many variations of the stew itself. While you can make the stew with practically any type of meat or vegetables, I find that lamb provides a particularly nice foil to all of the aromatic spices.

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Lamb Tagine

  • ~2 lbs lamb shoulder, cut into ~1 in cubes
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 T peeled, chopped ginger
  • 1 1/2 t ground coriander
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t paprika
  • 1/2 t cardamom
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/8 t ground cloves
  • 1 12oz can diced tomatoes with juices
  • 1 12oz can chickpeas
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into small pieces
  • couscous or quinoa, cooked
  • cilantro or parsley

Heat a large dutch oven or other lidded pot on the stove over high heat. When hot, add the lamb, and cook over high heat until cubes are seared on all sides, working in batches if necessary. Move cooked lamb to a separate plate, retaining juices in the dutch oven.

Add the vegetable oil to the lamb drippings and, once the oil is heated evenly, add the onion. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the onions are just beginning to caramelize. Once the onions have just started to take on some color, add the ginger, garlic, and all spices. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes, until the spices are fragrant. Add tomatoes with their juices, reduce heat to low. Use a wooded spoon to scrape up all stuck-on bits of onion and spices. Add the lamb back to the dutch oven and add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil then reduce heat the keep the mixture at a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

After ~1 hour, add the drained chickpeas to the mixture. If the liquid in the pot is nearly gone at this point, add additional chicken stock or water as needed. Continue to cook for about 30 additional minutes, until lamb is tender. Once lamb is tender, add apricots and cook an additional 5 minutes. At this point, you can remove the lid from the pot and allow the stew to reduce.

Serve stew over cooked couscous. Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro.

S

 

 

 

A cure for what ails you

I spent the summer after my first year of medical school living in the Mission District on San Francisco, doing orthopedic research, and living in a rented room in a kind soul’s home. Living in someone else’s space severely limited my ability to do much cooking. So I was forced to survive on a steady diet of Cliff bars, mission burritos, and salmon and kale. Salmon and kale? Sounds like a pretty rough life.

I’d constantly ping pong between the super fancy cappuccino machine, my desk, and the operating room during the day. Then I would book it to the gym in Hayes Valley after work to get in a few hours of training. By the time I made it back to the apartment, it would be pitch black. So dinner would consist of a handful of raw kale and a few slivers of Costco cured salmon.

Even though I’m an avowed brunch hater (more on that another day) cured salmon has got to be one of my favorite brunch items. There’s something magical about the combination of lox, capers, red onion, tomato, and cream cheese on an everything bagel. When Sarah and I lived in New Orleans, our place of choice was Stein’s. Now that we’ve moved to DC, we frequent a cheekily named place, So’s Your Mom to get our fix. Sometimes though, when we’re feeling fancy (or when we want more lox than the 2-3 slices delis often drape over a bagel), we make our own.

Curing is a method of preserving food prior to refrigeration. There are a lot of ways to cure using smoke, fermentation, pickling, salt, sugar. Personally, I like to use a mixture of salt and sugar curing for salmon. The salt draws out the moisture from both the salmon and any micro-organisms living on the salmon via osmosis. In the process, it slows down or kills the growth of bad micro-organisms. The sugar serves a two-fold purpose – it balances out the flavor of the salt and is an energy source for good microbes like Lactobacillus which drops the pH and also inhibits growth of bad microbes. In the process of curing, the salmon will shrink in size as the moisture content decreases, but what it loses in size it gains in additional flavors of the cure. I also love seeing the color of the salmon change to a darker, richer hue of orange after curing.

Simple Cured Salmon

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Ingredients:

  • Fresh Salmon                 1/4-1/2 lb cut
  • Salt (not iodized)           1/4 cup
  • Brown Sugar                   1/4 cup
  • Grapefruit/Lemon          1

The combo of salt, sugar, and some form of citrus is a classic combo for curing. You can riff off of this as you like with more herbs and seasoning to create more layers of flavor. Start by drying off your piece of raw salmon with paper towel. In a bowl, combine equal parts salt and brown sugar. Be careful not to use iodized salt as it can impart a bitter flavor. Zest your citrus of choice into the bowl. Mix sugar, salt, citrus zest with your hands to make uniform. Lay salmon on a piece of plastic wrap. Cover salmon with a light layer of curing mixture and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place it on a plate in your refrigerator to catch any juices that collect. Leave for 2-3 days in refrigerator.

Unwrap from plastic wrap and gently rinse off the curing mixture and pat dry salmon with paper towels. Slice thinly and enjoy!

-D

Dinner and daydreams

Sometimes, when we are particularly tired of our current jobs, or when we have thrown a particularly successful dinner party, we daydream about what it would be like to open a restaurant or food truck. While we always agree that we would want the establishment to be tiny, the type of cuisine we would feature or what meals we would serve vary. I usually fantasize about a little bakery loosely modeled on a place we fell in love with when vacationing in Austin years ago. I would serve granola and a tightly curated list of pastries in the mornings, pie and large pretzels in the afternoon. I joke that I would name it after our hypothetical future cat, Mr Snuggles, and ideally bring said hypothetical cat to work with me to help entertain patrons (health code laws have no place in daydreams). Dennis usually dreams about a dumpling place, but with a multicultural twist. Occasionally, though, we dream about a joint venture, a homemade noodle place in either nearby Adams Morgan or along 14th Street that we would name ‘Noods, Noods, Noods.’

For those who don’t live here, Adams Morgan is a mix of a neighboorhood – filled with quiet brick rowhouses on one street and bars that cater to the fresh-from-college set next to jumbo-slice pizza places on the next. We envision our noodle bar in the middle of it all, catering to young families looking for a quick dinner in the early evening and partiers looking for something to soak up the booze by night. We would advertise with a giant neon sign featuring our name and a huge arrow, beckoning toward the door. If you have ever been around Adams Morgan or 14th Street past 10PM the brilliance of this concept will be clear. In a nod to Dennis’ vision we would feature noodles from several culinary backgrounds – we would have someone pulling traditional Chinese noodles by hand in a large glass front window, below the sign, but would also feature traditional Italian pastas. We would rotate toppings with the seasons, featuring fresh primavera styles in the spring and summer, heartier sauces in the fall and winter.

Given the detail of this fantasy, you may think that we regularly churn out bowls of silky homemade noodles. Alas, we do not. Though we both love homemade pasta, it is simply too much mess, time, carbs for an average weekday. Homemade sauce though, I always make time for.

Red sauce

  • 1 large can whole tomatoes (28 oz, I believe)
  • 1 large yellow onion, julienned or diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ~3T red wine
  • 1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
  • Fresh thyme, oregano, rosemary, to taste

Add ~2T of canola oil or butter to a medium pot. When pot and oil/butter are heated thoroughly, add the onion. Cook until onion is lightly caramelized. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for 1-2 minutes while stirring frequently. Add the red wine to deglaze the pan, loosening all browned bits. Add the tomatoes and their juices, crushing the whole tomatoes with your hands or a potato masher (warning about using the potato masher – they will shoot juice all over the kitchen if you don’t use a gentle hand). Add fresh herbs. Bring mixture to a simmer and let cook until thoroughly heated and until somewhat thickened (aim for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to fully meld). Remove from heat, add salt to taste. Serve over pasta, or just eat straight from the pan with a spoon (not that I’ve ever done that…).

A mixture of several things in no particular order

When I reminisce about my time in New Orleans, one of the things I miss the most is having impromptu cook outs in the backyard with friends. One of our friends, Thomas, had the perfect backyard for such occasions. His house was actually raised one story up in the air. His backyard contained a menagerie of chickens, ducks, dogs, and a guinea fowl (which we ended up eating, but that’s a story for later). He also had an enviable garden brimming with assorted herbs and vegetables. A few banana trees ringed the perimeter whose leaves we harvested to protect delicate foods from the heat of the grill. To top it all off, underneath his raised house was an area that served as a clubhouse of sorts and was the perfect hideaway during tropical thunderstorms. It was walled off with wooden screens, and he had strung lights all around the inside. It had a beat-up couch and, of course, a custom table used for games of the alcoholic variety.

I have to thank Thomas for introducing me to this particular recipe as I had never heard of it prior to him having me chop copious amounts of garlic and parsley to create the magic that is chimichurri. Chimichurri has got to be one of my top 5 favorite sauces. It is so ridiculously versatile – Sarah and I put it on beef (the original usage), chicken, eggs, fish, sweet potatoes, etc. When I cooked for my resident class during our beach retreat, I made a large bowl of chimichurri to serve along with some grilled chicken kabobs. It adds a perfect amount of freshness and heat to almost anything. Chimichurri originally comes from Argentina, and the name is believed to be derived from the Basque tximitxurri , meaning “a mixture of several things in no particular order.” I’ve since riffed on Thomas’ recipe and made my own version that I thinks bears homage to the spirit of the name.

Flank Steak with Chimichurri

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Ingredients:

  • Flank steak                                1 lb
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chipotle chili powder

For the chimichurri :

  • Parsley                                       1 cup, chopped
  • Cilantro                                      1 cup, chopped
  • Garlic                                          3 cloves, minced
  • Jalapeno (optional)                   1-2, seeded and chopped
  • Lime                                            2, juiced
  • Olive oil                                       1/4 cup
  • Water                                           3 T
  • Vinegar                                        1 T
  • Sugar                                            1.5 T
  • Salt                                                To taste
  • Pepper                                          To taste

Let’s start with the chimichurri. If you want to take the easy way, you can always just put everything into the food processor and run it. I happen to like the end texture that comes with chopping everything yourself. Chop your parsley, cilantro, and jalapeno. Mince your garlic. Add everything into a bowl. Add lime juice, olive oil, water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Mix well and really try to incorporate everything into one big slurry. Set mixture in refrigerator to cool.

In the meantime, allow your flank steak to come to room temperature. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chipotle chili. Heat up a large grill/grill pan on high. Lay your seasoned flank steak on it and cook for 2 minutes on one side. You may press down lightly on a few sections of the flank steak with your tongs to get those nice grill marks. Immediately flip and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side. It is important to only cook the flank steak for 4 minutes total. If you over-cook it, it turns incredibly rough and chewy. Remove from grill/grill pan and gently score the top of the flank steak with a small knife. Spoon over some chimichurri and let the flavor incorporate into the meat. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Enjoy and use the leftover chimichurri on everything else.

-D

Accidental housewife

Several months ago I made the difficult decision to leave my surgical residency program. For many reasons, the program, and the profession itself, no longer seemed like the best fit for me in the long term and, after 7 months on the job, I committed to leaving at the end of the year. While I talked about this decision to essentially everyone who would listen, the realities of my choice didn’t really hit me until last week, the first in my adult life without a job. There are perks, of course, like eating something for breakfast that isn’t a Clif bar and eating that something sitting down, or drinking two tall glasses of water in quick succession without worrying that I will need to pee while scrubbed. But there are downsides too – namely long stretches of time spent by myself, haunted by the fear of not finding something productive to do or, worse, leaping into something that ends up being an equally bad fit. It’s enough to drive a person crazy, and it’s only been one week.

To keep my nerves in check I’m slowly rekindling old hobbies, doing things that I’ve had little time for in the past year. We’re having more people over and accepting more invitations, I’m settling back into a regular exercise routine, discovering how shockingly inflexible I’ve become, and spending more time outside. Perhaps more relevant to this space, I’m also spending more time tinkering in the kitchen and have taken back the dinner reins from Dennis. Last week I attacked a project I’ve been back-burnering for ages and tried making my own sourdough starter. I spent the better part of the week dutifully feeding my starter once, then twice a day, sniffing carefully each time for the development of that distinctive sourdough tang. I tried baking my first loaves with the starter last Thursday and it was a total flop – no rise. While things smelled right and the flavor profile was there I ended up with two dense dough bricks. Alas. After torturing my brother and his girlfriend with the results of the attempt (it was technically edible… perhaps the soup masked the shortcomings?) I scrapped the rest of the batch. On to attempt #2. To compensate for making Dennis my baking test subject, I have also been cooking some classic favorites, like curried lentils with spinach. This recipe comes together in under an hour and is a great way to incorporate a good amount of spinach into a meal (or to plow through the remainder of a giant Costco bag of spinach just this side of spoiling). This is also one of those wonderful stews that gets more rich and flavorful with time, so plan to make a giant batch so that you have increasingly delicious lunches to look forward to over the course of the week.

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Curried Lentils with Spinach

  • 1 medium yellow onion, julienned
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 T grated ginger
  • 2 T cumin
  • 1 t turmeric
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t coriander
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 – 1/2 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 C red lentils
  • 1 can coconut milk (full fat)
  • 2 large handfuls spinach, chopped
  • Additional salt, to taste

Heat about 1T oil in a dutch oven or other heavy sauce-pan. When oil is hot, add onions. Cook onions until they begin to turn translucent, then add garlic and ginger. Stir frequently to prevent burning. When the onions are starting to turn golden-brown, add all spices. Stir for about 1 minute to allow the spices to toast. When the mixture smells nicely aromatic, add the can of coconut milk. Refill the empty coconut milk can with water and add the can of water as well, stirring to incorporate. Add the lentils. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are cooked through and tender. Pay attention to how dry the mixture looks – you may need to add additional water to prevent burning or sticking. When the lentils have nearly cooked through, incorporate the spinach.

 

“Clam”oring for more Part 2

Assuming you and your guests have not depleted the sumptuous broth left over from our previous steamed clams recipe, you are in luck! Because we are cross utilizing it for today’s treat.

After Sarah and I first made the steamed clams recipe,  we were completely enamored with the flavor-packed broth that was leftover and decided that we could not just simply dispose of it. Somehow, I settled on the idea of risotto.

Risotto is an Italian dish which is essentially rice with broth cooked to a creamy consistency. It is really important to use a starchy rice, classically arborio, for the best texture.

Clam Risotto

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Ingredients:

  • Arborio rice                                 2 cups
  • Onion                                            1 medium, diced
  • Clam broth                                   3-4 cups
  • Butter                                            2 T
  • Spinach*                                       2 cups, chopped

Prior to starting, put your leftover broth through a cheese cloth or sieve to get rid of any sediment. In a large pan, melt butter over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add rice and a small pinch and salt and saute for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add broth one cup at a time and stir constantly. If you run out of broth, it is okay to add some water as well. Unlike conventional rice, stirring is important to help release all the starches from the rice grain to obtain that classic risotto consistency. When you have obtained your desired texture. stir in the spinach and serve.

*I’ve substituted bok choy in this dish with great results as well.

-D

“Clam”oring for more

Back when I was a kid, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of eating mollusks. There was just something about the idea of eating organisms who spent their life filtering gunk from the ocean that was not terribly appealing. Then there was also the slightly chewy texture that made them difficult to stomach.

But as I’ve grown older, I forced myself to retry some of the things that once turned me away. When Sarah and I were back in New Orleans, I remember spotting a bag of clams and deciding that I would try to make something from them. New Orleans also happens to be home to Pesche, James Beard winner for best new restaurant in 2014. Sarah and I had a very tasty curried mussels recipe that I drew upon for some inspiration for this next dish.

My favorite part about this dish is how simple and easy it is despite seeming much fancier. It takes very little work and tastes amazing.

Garlic Steamed Clams with Herbs 

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Ingredients:

  • Clams                    5 lb, cleaned and rinsed
  • Garlic                    2 cloves, minced
  • Onion                    medium, diced
  • Rosemary             2 sprigs
  • Thyme                   2 sprigs
  • Sage                       2 sprigs
  • White wine          1.5 cups
  • Butter                    2 T
  • Lemon                   1
  • Black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes

In a large pot, melt butter on medium high heat. Add diced onions and garlic. Cook until onions translucent. Add rosemary, thyme, sage, and clams. Add white wine and turn to high heat. Put top over pot and let steam for 5-7 minutes. Afterwards, remove from heat. All the clams should have opened. Squeeze juice of 1 lemon over pot. Crack some black pepper and sprinkle on some red pepper flakes to taste. Serve in bowl with some of leftover clam/wine broth and fresh bread for dipping.

*Save your leftover broth and stay tuned for the next recipe!*

-D

Comforting Chicken Curry

“Comfort food.”

Whenever I hear those words, I always think about the scene in Ratatouille where food critic Anton Ego tastes Remy’s dish and is immediately transported back to his childhood. Comfort food to me has to satisfy 3 major criteria.

  1. Invoke major nostalgia
  2. Transports you home
  3. Homemade

Smells, above all else, seem to trigger the strongest memories. Like many of you, I think there is no chef in the world quite like mom. My mom has made a ton of different dishes that I always associate with home. I’m also proud that in the last few years, she has also really expanded her repertoire to include cuisines outside of Chinese. If you do happen to visit my mom, don’t be surprised if she consistently asks you if you want some of her homemade tiramisu for dessert or a snack. She also makes her own duck confit.

In honor of a belated mother’s day, I want to share a recipe for chicken curry that my mom made for me growing up. This recipe is one of my many favorites. It also has additional meaning for me because it is one of the first recipes I learned from her. It also inspired the first and only episode of “Ren Can Cook” – a Martin Yan inspired video project for a high school Mandarin class.

Chicken Curry

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Ingredients:

  • bell peppers                           4, julienned
  • onion                                       2, sliced thinly
  • ginger                                      2 cm, minced
  • garlic                                        3 cloves, minced
  • chicken thighs                        6, diced
  • potatoes                                   6 small, diced
  • curry cubes                             4
  • green onion                             sliced for garnish
  • water                                        1.5-2 cups

Heat up 1/2 tablespoon of oil in large wok/saucepan on high heat. Add sliced bell peppers and onions. Add a pinch of salt and saute until lightly browned and set aside. In same wok/pan, add diced potatoes. Add a pinch of salt and saute until outside is light browned and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil to wok/pan.Add diced chicken, minced garlic and ginger. Saute diced chicken until outside is nicely seared. Add curry cubes and water. Stir until curry cubes are dissolved. Add in bell peppers, onions, potatoes. Bring entire mixture to a boil then let simmer for 20-30 minutes. As the water evaporates, you will be left with a nice curry sauce. Garnish with green onions and serve over rice.

I love you mom!

-D

Lassi but not least

I still remember one night, back when I lived in Boston, when I ran into a friend heading home from the gym at an hour when most people were venturing out to bars. He was working for some big bank or consulting firm at the time, the kind of place where the 9-5 grind is more like 8-7 or so, if you’re lucky. I commented that I was impressed by his dedication, devoting his little free time to staying in shape, when it would be so easy to let that sort of thing fall by the wayside. He smiled a little and then said, ‘the way I see it, if I get out of shape on top of everything else, they’ll have won – my job will have officially taken over my life. As long as I stay fit, I’m still winning.’ I’ve thought about that comment a lot over the years, pretty much anytime I’ve started to slip a little, succumbing to the ‘busy-ness’ that pervades medical school and now residency. It’s so easy to just melt into the couch when I get home, grabbing my computer and mindlessly clicking though facebook and the news and design blogs as I left my brain wind down. Over the course of the year I slowly started to succumb to that temptation more often than not, and it had definitely started to feel like the scorecard was heavily on the side of residency. Surgery and pediatrics – 1; Sarah and Dennis – 0. So we’re fighting back, little by little, sometimes just in 10- minute mini-runs. Tempting post-workout snacks definitely help soften the blow. A few weeks ago we brought a box of 18 mangos back from the market, and I became obsessed with the idea of turning some of them into a lassi. I had never made a lassi before, and haven’t consumed all that many of them, but it sounded like a refreshing use of our rapidly ripening haul of fruit. What follows is perhaps not an entirely authentic lassi and is perhaps better classified as a yogurt-heavy smoothie, but it was delicious nonetheless.

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Mango Lassi

  • 2 ripe mangos
  • 1 C plain yogurt*
  • 1/2 C cold water
  • Ice
  • 1-2 T honey (adjust based on sweetness of your fruit)
  • 1/4 t cardamom

Add mangos, yogurt, water, honey, and cardamom to a blender. Pulse until smooth. Add ice until the lassi reaches the desired consistency (we used ~2 handfuls). Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired.

*Note – we used greek yogurt for this recipe as it was what we had on hand. This resulted in a rather tangy lassi, which we enjoyed. If  you want a sweeter drink, plain yogurt will give you less zip.

-S