Collard country

Growing up, we always stuck with the staples on Thanksgiving – a turkey roasted in the oven, diligently basted until the skin turned a crackly golden brown, sweet potatoes with a brown sugar and oat crumble topping, stuffing made from bagged bread cubes and copious amounts of dried sage, cranberry sauce, gravy, and pecan pie. The menu and guest list varied little over the years. Despite only cooking to feed 4-8 people (nuclear family plus various permutations of grandparents), we always looked for a 20lb+ bird so that we could count on days of sandwiches and easy dinners. For 24 years, this was the annual feast I looked forward to and, when I moved from Colorado to Connecticut for college then Boston for work, the feast I travelled home for.

Four years ago, when I moved to Louisiana for medical school, the trek home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas started to seem unnecessarily expensive and hectic and I embraced a new tradition – Friendsgiving as actual Thanksgiving. My brother Jake, by then also in college away from home, decided it would be more fun to join me than the parents and the two of us accepted the invitation of a friend of mine to join a bunch of Thanksgiving orphans for a pot-luck feast. Away from our family traditions I decided to try out some new recipes, so we showed up with bacon-roasted brussels sprouts and a pear-cranberry galette (a galette made out of necessity as I didn’t own a pie pan). The potluck turned out to be an amalgamation of cross-cultural Thanksgiving traditions – wild rice casserole shared the table with marshmallow topped sweet potatoes and macaroni and cheese. The star of the show was the turkey, roasted in a mole-like sauce made by a friend originally from El Salvador. For me, that eclectic bunch of foods mixing different family customs was far more interesting than the traditional meal I was used to. From then on I was hooked on the Friendsgiving pot-luck concept.

Four years after that first Friendsgiving, the friend who hosted my brother and I is now my husband and, earlier this year, we left Louisiana for residency positions in DC. We weren’t ready to give up our beloved tradition though, so, when time came to put in vacation requests, we both made sure to ask for a week around Thanksgiving so that we could fly back to visit some friends who remained in New Orleans. In the spirit of our return, I decided to make a huge batch of collard greens for one of our vegetable courses. We made collards fairly often while living in Louisiana, so I never really thought of them as a holiday food. Apparently I was wrong, as finding collard greens the day before Thanksgiving turned into an epic, multi-store trek. On the big day, we enjoyed them smashed together with mashed sweet potatoes, turkey, and stuffing, but they are equally delicious on their own, spooned over rice, or (more traditionally) paired with red beans.

-S

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Friendsgiving Collard Greens

  • 4 slices thick cut bacon
  • 2 large hatch chiles or Anaheim chili peppers, seeded, diced
  • 1 small or medium onion, diced
  • 1 bunch collards, stems removed, julienned
  • 1-2 C. chicken stock
  • Salt, to taste
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste

Cut bacon into 1/4″ wide pieces. Heat a large skillet over high heat, add bacon, and saute until cooked through. Remove bacon from skillet. Drain off grease, reserving 2-3T. Add onions and peppers to the hot bacon fat. Cook onion and peppers until lightly browned but not quite caramelized. Add collards and toss thoroughly. Cook until collards are beginning to wilt, then turn down heat to medium-low. At this point, add about 1C chicken broth, about 1/4 – 1/2 t cayenne pepper, depending on your heat tolerance, and the pre-cooked bacon. Put a lid on the skillet. Cook until greens are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir every 5-10 minutes and add more chicken broth as needed so that the pan is never dry. By the end of the cooking time, most of the broth should have evaporated. If greens are still in a pool of broth at the end of the cooking time, simply remove lid, turn up the heat on the pan and continue cooking until remaining liquid boils off. Add a pinch or two of sea salt, to taste.

Note – collards can be rather tough and bitter – julienning them quite finely helps them to break down more quickly and thoroughly.

 

In Gourd We Trust

Finally on vacation!!! After working for so long, I’m sad to admit that I still feel like I don’t really know what to do with all this unstructured free time. Fortunately, there’s been a lot of recipes and cooking projects that I’ve been putting off.

Yesterday I found myself at Dupont Farmer’s Market seeking inspiration for a good fall recipe. I found myself waiting in line for a giant blueberry pancake that Sarah and I have lovingly named, “face pancakes” because they are larger than my face. Their inordinant fluffy texture also means that these pancakes are not easily sated by the embarrassing amount of maple syrup that I drown them in.

On a side note, sometimes farmer’s markets feel like a big game of Settlers of Catan. Definitely overheard vendors bartering with one another, “Two chocolate milks for a pancake?” Sounded like a mutually beneficial trade.

Off to a grand start, I started wandering the stalls and noticing all the various edible and decorative gourds. It’s hard to think of fall and not think of squashes or the unforgettable aromas of its spices. I ended up picking up some acorn squash and some delicious lion’s mane mushrooms from North Cove Mushrooms for this recipe.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

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Ingredients:

  • Acorn squash                                                         2, halved with seeds out
  • Rice                                                                           2 cups
  • Broth
  • Onion                                                                       medium, diced
  • Mushrooms                                                            1 cup, chopped
  • Walnuts                                                                   1/2 cup, chopped
  • Raisins                                                                     1/2 cup
  • Spinach                                                                    1 cup
  • Star anise                                                                         3
  • Cloves                                                                       1/2 T
  • Cinnamon sticks                                                    2
  • Nutmeg                                                                     1/2 T
  • Olive oil                                                                     2 T
  • Parmesan                                                                  shredded
  • Black pepper
  • Salt

Rice: Depending on the kind of rice you use, the proportions of broth may differ. Add your anise, cloves, and cinnamon to the rice to infuse some of those nice flavors and aromas. Remove the anise, cloves, and cinnamon sticks from the rice after it is done.

Squash: Cut the acorn squash into halves and remove the seeds. Lightly coat the insides of the squash with 1 T of olive oil (total for 4 halves). Season with salt and pepper and place in the oven with cut sides facing down on 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes. You want the inside texture to be soft enough that you can pass a fork through fairly easily.

Stuffing: Toast chopped walnuts in a small pan. In a separate pan, heat up 1 T of olive oil on high heat. Add diced onions and cook until translucent. Add mushrooms and spinach. Cook until spinach cooks down. Add rice, walnuts, and raisins. Incorporate all the components well. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Assembly: Fill your squash halves with the stuffing. Sprinkle some Parmesan on top and stick it back in the oven for about 5-10 minutes until the cheese melts. Remove from oven and serve.

D

On Politics and Pizza

A physician’s job can be ethically challenging at times. Our centuries old Hippocratic oath obliges us to heal the sick. Which means we treat man, woman, child, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Democrat, Republican, Independent, gay, straight, transgender, rapist, drunk driver, child molester exactly the same; to the best of our ability and with the utmost dignity and respect that we can muster.

With the election now behind us, regardless of which side you happen to be on, we’ve been bombarded with the notion that our country is divided: red vs blue; whites vs minorities; urban vs country; baby boomers vs millennials.

I had the privilege of going to a talk by the Dalai Lama when I was in New Orleans. He exuded an incredible sense of harmony and caring. With a mischievous grin and twinkle in his eye, he delivered a simple message like it was the most carefully guarded secret in the world:

There is no they.

I will heed this in the time to come. But whether it’s politics or the practice of medicine, there is no room or tolerance for sexism, racism, xenophobia, or bigotry.

So let’s come together and share a meal instead.

All-Inclusive Flatbreads

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Ingredients:

  • Canned whole tomatoes                                  28 oz
  • Rosemary                                                              2 sprigs
  • Oregano                                                                 1 T
  • Chorizo                                                                  1/4 lb
  • Red bell pepper                                                   2, julienned
  • Onion                                                                      1 large, julienned
  • Cauliflower greens                                             1 cup
  • Mozzarella                                                            Shredded
  • Salt                                                                          To taste
  • Dough                                                                    (Trader Joe’s has pre-made pesto dough)

I’m choosing to call this recipe flat bread rather than pizza because for some reason flatbread sounds healthier than pizza, and it makes me feel better about myself. If you prep the dough beforehand, this is an crowd pleaser for parties or a super fast meal option for a busy day. Obviously the toppings can vary based on whatever your preference tends to be. But I will vouch for the combination I’ve posted above. Sarah and I really wanted to re-purpose the greens from the giant cauliflower we bought rather than throw them away. We both love the slight bitterness of greens on pizza…err flatbread.

Turn on your oven to broil. Start off by putting your canned tomatoes with the juice included into a food processor and running it to a consistency of your choosing. I like having some small chunks of tomato. Pour it into a small pot and add rosemary, oregano, salt. Bring to simmer and let reduce as you prep your other ingredients. In a separate pan, add chorizo and cook until outside is golden brown. Remove chorizo from pan and put on plate. In same pan, add bell peppers, onions, and cauliflower greens. Saute until onions caramelized. Roll out your dough to the thickness you desire. Add a small amount of the tomato sauce and spread it across the dough (I can’t emphasize the small amount enough. You don’t want it drowning in sauce otherwise your final product tastes soggy). Add desired amount of chorizo, cauliflower greens, onions, bell peppers. Sprinkle top with shredded Mozzarella. Put final product in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until edges start to brown. Remove from oven, slice, and enjoy.

D

Frankensteined Chicken and Leeks

We’re into November! I’m still cranking away on the GI service and haven’t seen Sarah since the beginning of the week since she started working the night shift on trauma. Halloween at a children’s hospital is a blast.

halloween

Yip yip

I spent a lot of the day strolling around the hospital in my costume yipping at passersby. Don’t worry. Patients were still cared for. Unfortunately, I don’t really think you could say the same for the trauma surgery service though…But I guess if you were getting rolled into the ER after being shot or stabbed, you wouldn’t want to see a pink colored monster racing towards you.

Today’s Halloween inspired recipe pays homage to a classic monster, Frankenstein, who was created via stitching together various scavenged body parts. So I am exhuming parts of the potato leek soup, leftover leek tops, and chicken broth from the previous posts.

Braised Chicken and Leeks with Potato Puree

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Ingredients:

  • Chicken drumsticks and thighs                                       1 lb
  • Leeks (green tops)                                                                1 cup, chopped
  • Chicken broth                                                                        1.5 cups
  • Butter                                                                                       2 T
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper. In large pan with lid, begin heating up butter. Once the pan is hot, add chicken pieces skin side down and let cook until skin begins to crisp and brown. Turn once and cook until chicken begins to brown on the outside. Remove chicken from pan and set aside on plate. Add leeks to pan and cook until soft. Add in chicken pieces. Add chicken broth and cover with lid. Let simmer for 30-40 minutes. Blend the potato and leek mixture from the soup on high until achieving a puree consistency. Spread on plate with a spoon. Plate chicken pieces with leeks on top. Sprinkle with some red pepper flakes. Serve with a side of vegetables.

It’s alive!!!!

D