31 August, 2011

return to italy

I took my first combined neuroscience & pharmacology exam of the year on Monday. Tuesday it was right back to classes from 7:30 am - 1:30 pm, followed, of course, by more studying. I feel like I'm still recovering, but at the same time I'm already worried about getting behind on this next chunk of material. Ahh, medical school. I know, this is what I signed up for. I just need to get over it and stop feeling sorry for myself.

One good thing about an exam is that it gives you a reason to celebrate. I celebrated by bringing a bit of Italy to my kitchen. Right now, the best part of Italy to revisit in my mind is Sora Margherita in the Jewish ghetto of Rhome. I have definitely added this to my list of favorite eating experiences. We ate lunch there on a hot, sunny day. I was very excited to try this restaurant, described as a hole-in-the-wall joint that officially registered as a "club" rather than a restaurant in order to avoid stricter regulations. We knew not to bother looking for a sign and spotted the red curtains across the square. In front was a woman feeding pigeons and a few wooden chairs for waiting customers. We waited on those chairs in the brilliant sun for a good thirty minutes before there was space for us inside.

We walked to the back of a warm, cramped restaurant, past white paper table cloths and full, satisfied faces. In the back corner of the restaurant we started by ordering much-needed cold beers. The waitress didn't speak much English but we managed to understand each other well enough to agree to her suggestion that she bring us the day's specials. This sounded like fun to me, and I would have approximately forty-seven questions about the menu if left to decide for myself. We started with some kind of frittata and an amazing artichoke that had been fried until the leaves were crisp as chips. This was followed by several more plates: a meat ravioli with fresh ricotta and lots of black pepper, giant meatballs with sweet green peas and gravy that happen to be the best meatballs I have ever tasted, a lasagna with red sauce, and I don't remember what else. We joined the ranks of full, satisfied faces.

While Ian and I were in Italy this summer we saw and ate zucchini flowers everywhere. Of course, I had heard of them before but don't think I had ever eaten a zucchini flower or seen one in a grocery store before then. This past weekend Ian spotted some at the Oak Park farmer's market and snatched them up. Perfect timing.  I read about many ways to enjoy these treats - raw, torn into a salad, made into pesto, cooked with a soup, roasted... We went for the traditional (decadent) version: stuffed with cheese fried. Yum! It was actually very easy and after glancing at a few different recipes we were able to make them without any direct instruction in front of us. If you have a plant of your own or see them at the market, I would definitely give them a try!

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers Recipe:
12 zucchini flowers
1 egg, whisked
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (whole wheat)
fontina cheese
fresh herbs, chopped (like oregano, parsley, and basil)
salt and pepper
olive oil

Wash the flowers as well as possible and remove the inner pistil.
Fill each with a pinch of cheese and herbs.
Add some salt and pepper to the flour in a shallow bowl.
Dip flowers in egg and then flour so that they have a light coating.
Heat olive oil in a large pan. Cook over medium-high heat until flowers begin to look a bit crispy.

25 August, 2011

the dew of little things

Some things I'm loving right now:

walking barefoot through cool dew-y grass in the morning

hot black tea with lots of milk on the back patio in the morning

big green fields with long tree  shadows

afternoon cat naps

candlelit evenings outside

my pet caterpillar-chrysallis-butterfly

 doughnuts from the farmer's market

 postcards, from people I love and from strangers

these bracelets that mean so much to me

For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.  - Kahlil Gibran

16 August, 2011

one year later

Last year, I often ended up parking on the top of a six-level parking garage, which was fantastic really. Six flights of stairs was sometimes the only exercise I got in a day, and I had a great view of the Chicago skyline. One night I happened to have my camera and decided to snap a photo. From then on I tried to get a picture every so often. Now, one year later, I have a nice progression of the seasons.







Are you getting tired of bare trees and gray skies yet? The play of light in different times of day might help to make it more interesting. Here's one in the morning... 

...and in the evening

 It can be pretty windy up there.



 Finally! some color!




Today: 8/16/11  

09 August, 2011

could scarcely fill a cup

My friends and family in Texas are suffering from drought and heat that is far worse than any summer I can remember and is setting all kinds of records. Meanwhile, I'm dreading the coming of winter. Already. And it's only August. I have never ever wanted summer to drag out as long as possible, but I definitely do now. 

I have also really enjoyed finding ways to adapt to the warmer weather.  It's been fun to make smoothies and drink really cold ice water or tea. My cat also has a new love for ice cubes. He comes running every time he hears the freezer door open. I like the sound of the fan whirring beside my bed at night, and the feel of cold water at the end of a lukewarm shower, and avoiding turning the stove on, and farmers markets, and waking up early when the sun has already risen and it stays out late, too. I'm really soaking up the sun and warmth and just being outside as much as possible.

I want to share these thoughts with you because I wrote so much of the previous seasons here in Chicago: the vibrant colors of autumn, the joy of snow in the winter, the unending gray, the glorious blooming bursting forth of spring. The cycling of seasons has inspired so much art and poetry, I believe, because it is a great metaphor for life. Actually, I suppose because it is life. No metaphor about it. We live and die, things end and begin, we move from one stage to the next and we change but somehow are still the same being with the same core. I recently had a lecture on aging and the elderly that presented approaching death in such a beautiful light. Here is a quote that was shared by Fredrick Buechner: “What is lost is nothing to what is found. And all the death there ever was set next to life, could scarcely fill a cup!” Of course, death can be a terrifying thing to think about. It can also be lovely and exciting, but we need some things to remind us of that - family and friends, feeling loved and loving, mostly faith. Also the changing of seasons.

I do have a recipe to share with you as well. It's one that I make pretty often and am even willing to use the stove top when it's hot outside for this one. It's simple and delicious. This is one I think you'll enjoy any time of year. I can't really give you amounts because anything works, just adjust it for how much you think you will eat/how much you want leftovers.

Mushrooms and Greens with an Egg on Top:
olive oil
mushrooms, sliced
greens like kale, beet, collard, etc. roughly chopped or torn
red wine
salt and pepper
cheese - Parmesan or Swiss
bread (optional)

Begin by heating the olive oil (not too hot - if it smokes you're converting those good fats into bad fats) and adding the mushrooms to the pan.

Toss occasionally, put the lid on if they're getting drier than you like. When they start to get dark around the edges add a splash of red wine to de-glaze the pan.

Add in your greens and toss.

Put the lid on so they basically just steam from the moisture left on the greens from washing. (You did wash them, right?)

Remove the lid, salt and pepper to taste, let them cook longer if they need to dry out at all. I like my mushrooms to be a bit crispy and my greens just on the edge of over-cooked.

In the meantime, fry an egg or two. Or poach them.

Serve with grated Parmesan or torn Swiss cheese on top, salt and pepper to taste. It's also good served on top of a slice of bread, especially if you have some extra moisture or really runny yolks to make the bread a bit mushy.

post script: and on an almost totally unrelated note, I just fell in love with this.

06 August, 2011

summer immersion

Loyola created a blog for students to write reflections about their experiences in the summer immersion programs (this is why I was in Bolivia). You can read mine, and my classmates, here.
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