Friday, May 14, 2010

And we're back!

To quote one of my all-time favorite racers on The Amazing Race: "Oh, my gravy."

That's pretty much the MCAT in a nutshell. I was prepared, pumped (if blasting "Eye of the Tiger" doesn't get one going, I don't know what will), and promptly ran into some time-management issues with the first section. Never had time-management issues on any of the practice tests and found myself scrambling to finish that section. Finished in time, but sheesh. I recovered to calmly finish the following sections in a much more timely manner.

Thank you for the well wishes! Everyone's kind words certainly helped with the confidence level that morning.

Now I wait. The score's coming out around the end of May.

The application is out, I'm embarrassed by my GPA, and I'm convinced the admissions committees may just send me a video of themselves laughing really, really hard instead of a rejection letter. It ain't over until the rejection letters sing, so I'm forging ahead with my best foot forward. Until then, let's talk about food, shall we?

My first free weekend after the MCAT, D. and I ran errands and cooked. I haven't cooked or baked at all in the last four months, so it felt good to stretch out the ol' muscles. D.'s been the domestic heavy-lifter... cooking, cleaning, making sure I don't hyperventilate too often. Being the cheeky bastard that I am, I would crave something, find a recipe for it, and sweetly show it to D. He would patiently get the hint and make said recipe.

I've said it before and I'll say it again... he's a keeper, folks.

One of those recipes was for chicken marsala. D. knocked that one out of the park. In fact, we both liked the recipe so much that he decided to make it again.

Woodsy from the mushrooms, sweet from the wine, savory from the chicken... there are so many good things to this sauce. Served with a side of capellini dressed simply with butter and a little sprinkle of green-canned Parmesan. Hey, D. likes the stuff and he's cooking, so I can't object much. The green-canned Parm can be a little horrifying, but with a light sprinkle, it brings a nice saltiness to the pasta and keeps it from being a bland hunk of carbohydrate.

I decided to try one of Gina DePalma's recipes from Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen. Her Zucchini Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze (page 94) is absolutely worth trying. Zucchini from our Be Wise Ranch CSA box, olive oil from Pasolivo, and Meyer lemons from a coworker.

The olive oil and zucchini give it a fantastic texture and the overall effect is a cake that's outrageously moist and not too sweet. For the cake, I used 3/4 cup of Pasolivo's extra virgin olive oil, plus 1/4 cup of their Meyer lemon oil. The glaze has both confectioners' and granulated sugar, with the latter providing the "crunch". The recipe calls for glazing the cake while it's still warm, so I would glaze, let the glaze run off, then scoop up the glaze and drizzle it back over the cake. I repeated that 5-6 times to form a nice crunchy shell.

Straining Meyer lemon juice for the glaze. Here's proof that some of the most useful kitchen tools need not come from specialty stores... I found this little strainer at Big Lots for a dollar. It's never rusted and has come in handy countless times.

Bear, celebrating my return to the kitchen by laying right in the middle of it the entire time I was prepping the cake.

Definitely check out Dolce Italiano, which has all sorts of interesting recipes. I'm going to be plugging away on medical school applications, but I'll take some time to try more recipes from this book. Meanwhile, here's the Chicken Marsala recipe.

D.'s pasta is pretty straightforward: boil pasta in heavily salted water until al dente, drain, then transfer to a skillet with several tablespoons of butter (about 1 tbsp. per cup of pasta) and toss until pasta is reheated and separated. Transfer to plates and sprinkle with green can Parmesan.

Chicken Marsala
(from Paul Grimes via

1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 oz mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (2 lb total)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry Marsala wine
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 200°F. 

Bring broth to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan over high heat, then boil, uncovered, until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 20 minutes. 

Cook shallot in 3 tablespoons butter in an 8- to 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until shallot begins to turn golden, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms, 1 teaspoon sage, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat. 

Put flour in a wide shallow bowl. Gently pound chicken to 1/4 inch thick between 2 sheets of plastic wrap using the flat side of a meat pounder or a rolling pin. 

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour, 1 piece at a time, shaking off excess. Transfer to sheets of wax paper, arranging chicken in 1 layer. 

Heat 1 tablespoon each of oil and butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté half of chicken, turning over once, until golden and just cooked through, about 4 minutes total. Transfer cooked chicken to a large heatproof platter, arranging in 1 layer, then put platter in oven to keep warm. Wipe out skillet with paper towels and cook remaining chicken in same manner, then transfer to oven, arranging in 1 layer. 

Add 1/2 cup wine to skillet and boil over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, about 30 seconds. Add reduced broth, cream, and mushrooms, then simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons wine and 1/2 teaspoon sage. 

Serve chicken with sauce and pasta.