Casarecce for Fortitude and Fortune

Fortitude is the guard and support of the other virtues, read the fortune cookie I opened in December of last year, right after finishing a grueling ICU rotation. And something like a stuck prayer, what do I find in the bottom of my call-night chucks after nine months, just before I lace them up to head back to the hospital? None other than Fortitude, stuck to me like a stubborn label, to borrow Annie Dillard’s perfect line from “Living Like Weasels” (this essay my personal literary pep rally).


This is the first time a fortune cookie has repackaged and re-fortuned itself to me. This bears certain significance as I face ICU yet again on Friday, and after a season of jet-lagged nights which have already rent asunder my immune system. Caffeine almost has no power to confer well-being to me anymore. Goodness is going to have to be endogenous henceforth, methinks. Good food, good exercise, the real stuff, etc.


I thought I was getting the flu or suffering myalgias from some disturbance of my diurnal cortisol flow, when in fact I had just forgotten about the several 15-30 minute speed yoga sessions I’ve done at home with OnlineGym4Me –thank you, sleep deprivation (and thank you, OnlineGym4Me for the membership treat–very convenient indeed, so convenient that I’ve even forgotten that I worked out!). Apparently I’m doing yoga in my sleep while Izzy shevasanas on my mat. That is, really, the only pose bulldogs will do. That and child’s pose.

online-gym-and-izzy happy-baby-izzy

To all those with burning rotator cuffs and tender lats—fortitude, my friends. And good for you for getting on the mat. Literally or figuratively. May you carry good fortune with you, even if you stand upon it unknowing.


Casarecce with Sausage, Pickled Cherries and Pistachios

Adapted from Food and Wine

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup unsalted pistachios

Kosher salt

Black pepper

1 pound casarecce pasta

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

3/4 cup pitted and chopped Pickled Cherries

Shredded Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving

In a small skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Add the pistachios and toast over moderate heat, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and let cool, then coarsely chop.

In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil.

In the same saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the sausage and cook over moderate heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the thyme, garlic and Aleppo pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the pasta and reserved cooking water and cook, stirring, until the pasta is hot and coated in a light sauce, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pickled cherries and toasted pistachios and season with salt and black pepper. Transfer to shallow bowls, top with cheese and serve.

Eat, and then get thee to the mat to tuck that pasta into the places it should be, ahem.


Marcona Blondies and Cheese Straw Crackers

Blondies are a sometimes food. For me, sometimes means once a year. When I really need a baked good pick-me-up for morale, I make these. Or, each time I see Marcona Almonds at the grocery store, which seems to be about once an autumn. This time it was the double whammy of seeing Marcona almonds, and then one step further, Bob’s Red Mill almond flour. I stood there in a cramped corner of Whole Foods in a sort of sugar reverie, fantasizing an image of this special treat:


Now that they are out of the oven and filling my house with the aroma of brown butter, I am at a sugar stand still again. Bake this day, indeed.

Marcona Almond Blondies

Adapted from Food and Wine


2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for brushing

3 1/2 cups light brown sugar

5 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup roasted almond butter

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill superfine almond flour*

2 cups marcona almonds, chopped (9 ounces)

1 3/4 cups chocolate chips (11 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 325º. Lightly brush a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with butter.

In a medium saucepan, cook the 2 1/2 sticks of butter over moderate heat until golden brown, 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature, 30 minutes.


Add the sugar, eggs, almond butter, vanilla, salt and cinnamon to the butter and whisk until smooth. Stir in the flour, then fold in 1 1/2 cups of the almonds and 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly with an offset or a nonstick spatula. Scatter the remaining 1/2 cup of almonds and 1/4 cup of chocolate chips over the top. Bake for about 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the blondies cool completely before cutting.

*If you wanted these to be gluten free, all you’d have to do is make it three cups of almond flour, instead of two.


And then for more snacking over a Sunday afternoon football game—

Cheese Straw Crackers

Adapted from Penzeys Spices

3/4 Cup flour

1/4 tsp. mustard powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

4 TB. butter, cold, cut in small chunks

1/2 Cup fine shredded cheddar cheese

1 egg yolk

1 TB. cold water

1/4 tsp. salt, paprika to sprinkle on top, optional


Preheat oven to 450°. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, mustard powder, salt and pepper. Add the butter and mix with forks or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the cheese and toss/mix well. Add the egg yolk and water and mix with a large fork until a soft dough forms. You can make them to this point, then pat into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a bit if you don’t want to do it all at once. Also makes rolling easier, just remove from fridge 20 minutes before rolling and baking.

Roll out gently, on a flour-dusted surface, to 1/4 inch thick and cut into 3/4-inch wide by 2-inch long portions for crackers, longer and thinner for straws. Sprinkle with salt or seasoning if desired, place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets and bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until golden and a bit puffy.

Herbed Butternut Squash Pizza with a side of Jane Bowles


What I especially love in food and drink, that which is complex and pleasurable on many levels, is also what draws me to the writing of Jane Bowles—her style might as well be the umami of the literary world. Reading Two Serious Ladies would be an archaeological dig to a psychoanalyst. What I loved about this novel was the sense of fullness one has in following the strange maneuvers of her characters—unpredictable, weighty moves—one has the sense there is moral churning, but without the usual indigestion from an obviously righteous-leaning text. What is it lurking under the surface here? I could never quite trace the shape of it, and the search drove me mad and wild for two hundred pages, and then I realized that must be that same lure that drove the two serious lady protagonists onto ships, leaving ports time and again, sailing past relationships never fully realized, and looking up at stars without a sextant.

“In order to go ahead, you must leave things behind, which most people are unwilling to do. Your first pain, you carry it around with you like a lodestone in your breast because all tenderness will come from there. You must carry it with you through your whole life but you must not circle around it. You must give up the search for those symbols which only serve to hide its face from you….For God’s sake, a ship leaving port is still a wonderful thing to see.”                                         -Jane Bowles


I read most of this novel from my call room when things were dull and then from this cozy perch on the couch next to one very Serious Lady indeed. That makes Two Serious Ladies. The autumn is a delicious time in the kitchen. I’m hoarding gourds as they dump into the grocery stores from the north, though they don’t last as long here in the tropics as they did in the breakfast nook in Minnesota. We’ve got good eggplants around town, but the squash blossoms wither in the heat.

butternut-squash-pizza butternut-pizza-yum

Herbed Butternut Squash Pizza

Adapted from Penzeys

dough for pizza crust (I have many recipes you can search for pizza dough if you want to make your own)

2 Cups 3/4-inch cubes butternut squash or pumpkin

4 tsp. olive oil, divided

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 TB. Tuscan Sunset or Frozen Pizza Seasoning

2 TB. basil pesto

4 oz. goat cheese

1/4 medium red onion, halved and very thinly sliced in half rounds

1/2 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 Cup young chard, cut into very fine strips

1/4 tsp.  crushed red pepper flakes, optional

Preheat oven to 400°. In a 1-gallon zip-top bag, combine the squash, half of the olive oil, salt, pepper and the Tuscan Sunset or other Pizza Seasoning. Toss to coat. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400° until soft and lightly browned, about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.

butternut-squash-dough-with-pesto butternut-pizza

Be careful not to break up the cubes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Increase the oven temperature to 500°. Sprinkle a clean surface with flour. Pat out your pizza dough to make a nice round. Brush the rest of the olive oil onto your cooking pan (you can also cook the pizza right on the oven rack, though things will fall off sometimes). Spread the pesto in a thin layer over the crust. Top with the squash, goat cheese, onion, mozzarella, chard, remaining salt and pepper and crushed red pepper flakes if using). Bake at 500° until crispy and the cheese melts, 10-12 minutes. Serve immediately.

Chicken Parmigiana with Sneakers

Now that day has exhausted me I give myself over, a tired child to the night, and to my old friends the stars —  my watchful guardians, quiet and mild.

-Hermann Hesse

I read this verse last night while enjoying several idle hours on night float call. Usually I have the happy curse of running around like this chicken


—scuffing my Nikes, near headless, running between the ED the wards floors—but last night, quiet, blissful night, I got paid to sleep a few hours. The stars, the pager, both quiet and mild.

This morning, now home, I find my chickens padding about barefoot among the vines and brush, no running shorts, no water bottles, no Nikes


—it’s just a Saturday morning, all is chill, all is light. I’ll keep my scrubs on.



Chicken Parmigiana with Sneakers

Adapted from Penzeys Spices

6 split, boneless chicken breasts, pounded flat for even thickness
1 24-28-oz. jar of your favorite marinara sauce with 1-2 tsp. Tuscan Sunset seasoning
1/4-1/3 Cup olive oil
1 Cup flour
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
2 eggs
1/2 Cup milk
2 Cups Italian-style bread crumbs
6 slices Muenster cheese
1/4 Cup grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 350°. Coat the bottom of a 9×13-inch glass baking dish with 2/3 of the marinara sauce. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. In a wide, shallow bowl (pie plates work well), combine the flour, salt and pepper. In a second wide, shallow bowl, beat the eggs with the milk. In a third wide, shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs and seasoning (ooh ooh Tuscan Sunset!) of choice.

Dip each chicken breast in the flour mix, then in the egg mix and finally in the bread crumbs, making sure to coat thoroughly. Repeat until all of the chicken is coated.


Place in the hot skillet 2-3 at a time and brown the chicken on each side, 2-3 minutes per side.


Place in the baking dish. While still hot, cover each breast with a slice of cheese. Top each breast with a spoonful or two of the reserved marinara. Sprinkle with the grated cheese. Bake at 350° for about 40-45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked, the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melty/browned.


Trout with Olive and Sundried Tomato Tapenade and Love, Love, Love

So there is this thing called unconditional love. Like when your dog runs wild around a muddy yard and rubs her face in the chickens’ poop and promptly returns to smear the side of your new white and black striped Beetlejuice Hammer pants with mudpoop du jour. And then you wipe the poop off her face, your pants, sit by her side, and take this photo. Best of friends; poop already forgotten. Unconditional love, I think, is that. How many opportunities we have to practice this in this world, oh this world.


As for what to eat next, how about tapenade? Hmm, that’s strange. I always thought the word was Tamponade, but that’s because I’m a doctor. It’s Tapenade, like someone tap dancing on your taste buds. Enjoy this little snack with Fantasy Football. And large, feckless bulldogs.

Trout with Olive and Sundried Tomato Tapenade

Adapted from Penzeys Spices

2 rainbow trout fillets (or one giant one from Costco, hehe)

1 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning


2 TB. sundried tomatoes in oil

2 tsp. capers

1/2 Cup fresh basil

1/3 cup kalamata olives

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/4-1/2 tsp. salt, to taste

1/4-1/2 tsp. pepper, to taste

1-3 TB. olive oil

For the tapenade, combine the sundried tomatoes, capers, basil, olives, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a blender. Pulse. Add a bit of oil as you go until the tapenade is your desired consistency. Let stand for 15 minutes or so.

Preheat the oven to 400° and brush the trout on both sides with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes.

To serve, spread a thin layer of tapenade over the fish and serve. You will probably have leftover tapenade. It’s great with French bread or crackers

Mini Cheese Balls

I see that football is back on television. That is basically the only coherent sentence I can muster on this, the eve of my last day before a three day weekend. I see that football is back on television. I give you cheese balls. And a Happy Labor Day to all, and to all, a good night.

 cheese balls assorted

Mini Cheese Balls

Adapted from a Philadelphia Cream Cheese Ad

12 oz cream cheese

2 TB toasted sesame seeds

1 tsp poppy seeds

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 TB finely chopped parsley

2 tsp chopped thyme

1 tsp chopped rosemary

¼ cup chopped dried cranberries

2 TB chopped pecans

Cut cream cheese into 6 pieces; roll each into a ball.

Combine sesame seed, poppy seed and half the garlic in small bowl. Mix herbs and remaining garlic in separate small bowl. Combine cranberries and nuts in third bowl.

Roll 2 cheese balls in sesame seed mixture, 2 cheese balls in herb mixture and remaining cheese balls in nut mixture.

In other news, I figured out how to do a triple fancy braid. My on-call hair do borderlines on ballroom. triple braid


Spiral-cut Brats with Fancy Relish

Spiral-cut Brats with Fancy Relish

Genius, I should have been doing this for years.

hot dog and izzy

Take your hot dog or brat, stick a long skewer through,

hot dog spiral cut

cut around in a spiral with a knife,

hot dog spiral pre-broil

then grill (or broil in the oven if it is raining like it was for me today), and voila, your hot dog extends surface area with nice little relish pockets to tuck more flavor into that hot dog and bun! Keep this in mind for Labor Day.

hot dog apricot mostarda

Apricot Mostarda

Adapted from Food and Wine

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 cup diced dried apricots (6 ounces)

2 tablespoons sugar

1 shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard


In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, apricots, sugar, shallot and garlic and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the apricots are soft and coated in a light syrup, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in both mustards and season with salt. Let cool completely. Stir in tablespoons of water before serving if the mostarda is too thick.

hot dog pickled pepper slaw

Pickled Pepper Slaw

Adapted from Food and Wine

1 cup sliced mixed green pickled peppers

1/2 cup shredded romaine lettuce

1/4 cup chopped parsley (1 TB if you use jar spice)

1/4 cup chopped dill (1 TB jar spice if you don’t have fresh)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, toss all of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Serve.

hot dog close up