Creamy Curried Shrimp Salad (aka, Jamie Oliver’s Guilt Trip)

Being a physician tends to put a kibosh on any of my culinary adventures.  When I get home, I’m usually exhausted and want to exert as little energy as possible to put food in my belly. Over the years I have mastered the art of the cereal for dinner, perfected the 10 minute spaghetti and learned to love Lean Cuisine. The beep-beep of the microwave has become a comforting sound after a long day in the OR.

She looks very happy using the microwave. Almost TOO happy...

I do feel a little guilty though. Not to brag, but I am a pretty talented chef. Over the years I have taken a few classes and honed my skills throwing dinner parties for my limited group of friends. Whenever I begin to punch the backlit keys on the microwave, I hear Jamie Oliver in the back of my mind saying, “What are you doing? You have at least 45 minutes and I can put an entire meal together in 30! Why can’t you?!”

"Look at all of this! I made this in my SLEEP! What did you do today?!"

So today, I pulled out Mr. Oliver’s book and flipped through the barely worn pages. It’s a beautiful cookbook. Page after page of fresh, homemade menus and gorgeous photographs that detail the instructions. It’s food porn really. Delicious, intoxicating food porn…

I see you drooling. Don't try to hide it.

As I was flipping through, I kept reminding myself that I was also cooking for a very finicky pregnant woman. The dishes that looked delicious to me, I knew she might turn her nose up at. Since I had craved Indian food all week, I decided on something curried. I used the recipe for curry sauce in the cookbook, but instead of using Patak’s jalfrezi paste, I substituted the weird off brand that the Indian market close to me carries. I say “off-brand,” because the labels on the jar are written in a language I can not understand. The woman that runs the market, however, loves me and she recommended this paste.

"Eat this yellow paste in this jar. I promise it's good for your health!"

The dish is insanely easy to make. You mix the jalfrezi paste with some coconut milk, heat it until it gets thick and then pour it over your shrimp in a bowl. You can either choose to sauté the already cooked shrimp after or, if you’re like me, you can just eat it without sautéing it.

At this time, you should know that I have gone totally off the cookbook. I used Jamie Oliver’s curry sauce recipe to make the shrimp marinade, and then decided to just do my thing for the rest of the meal*.

Alright, back to the food.

After you have coated the shrimp with the curry mixture, add some yogurt to the bowl. I used pre-made raita, to which I added some celery, arugula, and jicama. Toss all of this together and set aside.

Yummy, yum, yum.

Next, I started putting together my side dishes. I wanted to make a bodega style menu, so I used bags of “Magic Masala” potato chips. Since I try to eat healthy, I put together a massive bowl of greens topped with chunks of paneer, canned chickpeas, tomatoes and some jicama. I also chopped up a cucumber and pepper that really needed to be used and mixed them with the left over raita.

The last touch to the meal was the bowl of fruit for dessert. Strawberries, blueberries and blackberries all covered with lemon juice. There was a mango as well, but Ev’s doesn’t like mango at the moment (pregnancy, I assume) so I will just eat it for lunch tomorrow.

Ripe for the eating.

When all the sides were completed (20-30 min), I sliced the hoagie rolls and laid red-tipped leaf lettuce inside each one. Then I filled the rolls with the curried shrimp mixture, topped it with a little curry powder and voilà!

Everyone had a nice helping of salad and we enjoyed the cucumber/pepper/raita mixture with our chips. The fresh fruit was the perfect finishing touch for the meal. I received accolades from my cousin’s boyfriend and he even asked if we could have this again.

Beautiful AND tasty!

Even though the thought of cooking after 10 hours seemed daunting, I’m glad that I sucked it up. It was really nice to have a sit-down dinner with everyone and the food was delicious. This entire meal really made me think about how much I love cooking. As happy as I am in the kitchen, I shouldn’t be content with a microwave meal every night. I am already looking through my other cookbooks, trying to decide meals for the next few weeks. I think I might try the “Spinach & Feta Filo Pie” from Jamie Oliver’s book next!

*I will put the entire recipe and the step-by-step instructions under the “Eats” section of the blog.

Question(s): How often do you prepare an entire meal? What 30 min (preferably vegetarian) meals do you suggest?

Onward and Upward

A few days ago I was discussing with a friend our futures. Would we ever get married? Be parents? Where would we be living in 10 years? It was a little disconcerting, considering my preference for planning my life in advance, that I didn’t exactly know what my future had in store for me.

I asked my much more laid-back friend, “Would you want to know exactly how your future is going to unfold?”

“Nahhh, I kind of like surprises,” was his response.

This threw me for a loop, because I would want to have a detailed itinerary emailed  to me every week. Knowing the minute details of my daily life would be something of a thrill for me. Being able to plan well in advance for situations would be a life saver! The orange juice commercials, where the consumer is sitting at the table with all of their “problems” for the day, is an obsessive compulsive planners fantasy.

I wondered if my friend was in the majority. Do most people want to keep an element of surprise in their day-to-day routine? How many people would choose to gaze into their future, if they found out the exact circumstances of their death? Perhaps that is the kicker, death. If you know when and how you’re going to die, you might live your life differently. I would assume that being privy to that sort of information might drastically change your personality and the way you interacted with people. This sort of information could be the reason that certain people would choose not to have their future unfolded before them.

As a planner, worrier and obsessive compulsive, however, I am practically frothing at the mouth for a chance to look into tea leaves and divine my future. I would ultimately hope the tea leaves showed something positive and in-line with how I anticipate my future will be. If everything goes according to plan, I would end up divining a future like:

2-3 years: married to the love of my life, work towards a 4 day work week, discussing adoption
4 years: completion of contracted work in California, quick sell of my current home, purchase a vacation home on Catalina Island, move back to NYC or Toronto,  begin renovation on the West Village building in NYC, begin the adoption process
5-6 years:  adopt a child/children (hopefully male twins), work towards a 2-3 day work week
7-8 years: complete the renovation on the West Village building, spend a year living abroad with my family, begin the transition to open my bakery (test recipes, research supply companies etc..)
9-10 years: begin consulting for hospitals 1-2 days a week, finally open my bakery, enjoy being a mother/wife/small business owner

An idyllic plan that will hopefully be put into action within the coming years!

Question(s): What about you? Would you choose to view your entire future if given the chance? Is there anything you wouldn’t want to know?

I Bought Into It…

Hunger Games mania, that is. I read the trilogy. Bought the “I Shop at the Hob” tote bag and “Team Finnick” t-shirt. I’m so trendy and lame. The excitement that has surrounded this first movie is unbearable. All day at work, my staff was talking about going to see the movie (these are adult, healthcare professionals, mind you). I bought tickets online days ago, just so I knew I would be able to see it Friday night.

Its bad, I know...

Something really amazing did come from all of the movie hype though. The pediatric oncology wing of the hospital where I work, held a Hunger Games Competition and Party. The patients were able to participate in a variety of activities and I had asked if I could make cupcakes. I made 75 mini cupcakes. Some had little chocolate dipped arrows w/ coconut fletching. Others had different symbols pertaining to the Hunger Games.

I did make these the night before....

You can see in the pictures that some of the icing was beginning to melt. When I brought them to the event room at work, they told me they wouldn’t fit in the refrigerator. So I had to leave the majority of my 75 cupcakes sitting out . I wasn’t pleased.

Regardless of the state of the icing, the kids loved them.

The icing is orange cream (homemade, which is probably why it melted) and I piped it over dark chocolate mini cupcakes. The “sprinkles” are actually flavoured sugars that I learned how to make! The red is pomegranate, the orange is orange, and the yellow is just yellow sugar.

The kids seemed to have a blast. The majority of the cupcakes were gone halfway through the program. The ceiling had been decorated with silver parachutes that each held a take home bag of candy. They had signs that said “Mellark Bakery,” “The Hob,” and my favourite saying in the book.

I donated some Hersey’s kisses, that I adorned with the same Hunger Games decorations as the cupcakes. The kids ate those up! They loved the little details, which really made the party fun.

I loved these. Though I hated making them.

We also had water bottles that were wrapped in Hunger Games labels. The kids loved them so much, they said they were going to take them home and reuse them for the movie premiere later on.

Oh so chic.

The party was a big hit and I definitely got my Hunger Games appetite sated. Seeing all of the kids enjoying themselves so much was a really wonderful experience!

I am planning on seeing the movie Friday night. My cousin is going with me since she thought that being pregnant meant she couldn’t stay up until midnight for the premiere. Le sigh… The one time that I want to do something fun and it gets squashed!

Question(s): Did you read the series? Are you going to see the movie? Were you caught up in all the hype?

The Good Pasta

I recently purchased a pasta machine, after the Kitchen Aid attachment destroyed the last batch of pasta I tried to make. This particular machine worked flawlessly (though it was difficult to clean after).

I was super excited to make fresh pasta for dinner. I built up the pasta all day. I kept texting my cousin, telling her how amazing dinner was going to be. She humored me.

Venturing out to the grocery store to find Semolina flour was fairly uneventful, but disaster struck when there was not a bag to be found. I thought about going to Whole Foods, but decided to just make do with the flour the store had. It turned out to work just as well, though I want to try King Arthur “Perfect Pasta” blend next.

After I arrived home, I set to work prepping the work area.

The recipe that I followed for making the pasta dough was:

3/4 lb whole wheat flour
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
4 Tbsp warm water
1 tsp olive oil

I’m not sure where the recipe actually comes from, as it was the recipe that my mother had written in my recipe book. I don’t remember if it’s the recipe my mother used when making pasta and I know it’s not my babcia’s recipe.

I made a well in the center of the flour and started folding the eggs in one at a time. I made sure the eggs were at room temperature before I added them to the flour and then used a fork to make the base for the pasta. After 5-7 minutes of kneading, I had a wonderful dough ball.

I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator until 30 minutes before I was ready to cook it. Around 35 minutes before dinner was suppose to be ready, I divided the dough into four equal portions. Then, I rolled out each portion until they were small rectangles that would easily pass through the machine. When they were thin enough, I attached the fettuccine cutter and made my first long pasta pieces! I then used the pasta drying rack that came with the machine. The pieces hung to dry until I was ready to put them in the water to boil.

Now, there should be pictures of it cooking. There should also be pictures of it sauced on the plate. Guess what? There aren’t. Why? Because I forgot. I was so busy baking the bread for bruschetta, making the tomato topping, shelling peas, creaming herb butter and simmering the basil sauce for the pasta, that I forgot.

I will tell you that it was delicious. Everyone thought it was amazing and begged me to make pasta in the future. I think that my next pasta project will be herb-layered pasta sheets for ravioli. And I promise I will take more pictures!

Question(s): Have you tried making your own pasta? Willing to share some recipes?

BRB. It’s only three letters…

Pet peeve: a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to him or her, to a greater degree than others may find it.

Whilst having a conversation with a friend on Google chat the other day (we were discussing the abortion law recently passed in Virginia), I was confronted by my number one pet peeve: leaving in the middle of a conversation without telling the other person you have gone.

Now, this really only affects electronic communications as having someone walk away from you during a conversation is another problem altogether. When you are conversing with a friend over chat or having a conversation via text, I find it extremely rude to up and leave. A simple “brb” or “hold on” or even “I’m leaving,” will suffice. Letting the person on the other side of the conversation know that you no longer wish to continue the conversation is a courtesy that is somehow lost when you aren’t looking them in the eye.

Why didn't they just type "BRB"?????

The entire situation led to a discussion (with the same friend) regarding our pet peeves. I told him that he had just committed the one action that annoys me the most and then he asked what the rest of my “peeves” were.

So I told him.

1. Leaving in the middle of a conversation without telling the other person you have gone.

A quick message telling the person you are talking to, that you are leaving is all that is required. This will allow the person you are leaving to stop typing/texting, so that way they don’t type a well thought-out, lengthy response which is subsequently lost to the Internet
nether-void.

2. When a driver ahead of me refuses to turn right on a red light (it is legal in California).

No one is coming. No one is in front of you. You have a line of cars behind you. We aren’t in NYC. You aren’t breaking any laws by just turning right. More so than people who drive slow, straddle the median or use their turn signal miles in advance of their turn, I hate people who refuse to turn right on a red light.

3. Holding the door open for someone, who is far enough away that they feel the need to run so you don’t have to keep holding the door open for them.

I don’t understand why some people do this. It’s not that much of an inconvenience to open a door. I very much dislike the fact that I feel obligated to speed up my pace, because the person 50 feet in front of me wants to be chivalrous. It has gotten to the point that I no longer quicken my pace to meet the person holding the door. If they feel the need to open the door for me when I’m so far away I assume they don’t mind holding it open while I walk to the door.

4. Patients who miss their appointments, don’t call the day of the appointment, then call days later to reschedule.

This is a very physician centric peeve. When an appointment is made months in advance (and the majority of mine are), I assume that you free up your schedule and won’t schedule something that would conflict with the appointment. It always amazes me, however, when someone doesn’t show up for their appointment. Even after a call from my assistant, which is normally ignored, people still miss their appointment. Several days, or even weeks later, the patient will call and ask if they can reschedule for “later in the day” or “in a few hours.” While I understand that things come up, calling my office to let me know that the appointment is cancelled is common courtesy.

5. Waiters/servers that hover over your table while you’re eating.

On my first trip to any new restaurant, one of the first things I look for is a great waitstaff. One of the things I always look for is a servers timing. I hate it when a server checks on me every few minutes. I get that they need to turn tables in order to make more money, but I want to be able to enjoy my meal with my friends.

When I was younger I hated playing Manhunt with people who had outside dogs. I don’t know that it could be considered a “pet peeve,” but it was the absolute worst to find the best hiding place and then to have their dog bark at you until you were found. I would often put their dog inside, but even then it would run around the house barking at us as we ran around in their backyard.

People’s pet peeves have always been interesting to me. Some of them can be so specific and strange that I wonder how often they are actually encountered. A friend of mine hated summer because he despised flip-flops. He hated the sound flip-flops made and would actively avoid places where people may be wearing flip-flops. As his friends, we found his hilarious and would annoy him by wearing flip-flops while he was around. In retrospect, it was mean and I wouldn’t do it now!

I am curious about other pet peeves people have though…

Question(s):What are some of your pet peeves? What are some of the weirdest pet peeves you have encountered?

There is no word for Valentine in Dothraki…

I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Spend time with your sweetheart, eat lots of candy (as long as you save me some Gummy Hearts) and remember to tell the one you love, you love them.

Just Checking

I have lived with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for as long as I can remember. It started when I was younger, my mother noticed that I needed to touch everything. This included the leather boots of a friend of hers who came over to visit. As soon as the woman sat down, I immediately laid down next to her and “petted” the boots à la Gollum. Thankfully I was young and the woman was a good friend, so it seemed less creepy.

The need to touch everything continued and my mother started to worry that something was very wrong. She found me straightening the fringe on our oriental rugs, separating out colours compulsively and checking on random things obsessively. I became increasingly obsessed with our dogs getting out, so much so that I would check the locks on the doors in the middle of the night. I scared my mother to death walking around the house at all hours. Whenever she would catch me out of bed and ask me what I was doing up at such an hour, I would respond with, “Just checking.” Just checking the locks. Just checking the dogs. Just checking that the lights were off. Just checking that everything was where it was supposed to be.

Around the age of six, my mother had finally had enough. She dragged me to a therapist who wouldn’t allow me to touch anything or rearrange his desk. It was torture. He made me sit still for the entire two-hour session and would even tie my hands together so I couldn’t fidget with things. When my mother found out he practiced this way, she immediately found another therapist. I started to learn ways to control my compulsions. Playing with rubber bands, strings and even reading books. When I didn’t show enough progress, however, the second therapist put me on medication. It zombied me out completely and my mother had them take me off medication shortly after.

It was around this time that I left for Vienna and without any sort of therapy, my compulsions began to get worse. I would spend hours perfecting my ballet technique, to the detriment of my growing body. Even at such a young age, I began obsessing over my weight. I would weigh up to four times day, often sneaking into the weighing room in-between practices. I would go long periods without eating very much and was constantly in the clinic due to dehydration. Ballet gave my OCD an outlet. I could control every aspect of dance and it was an obsessive compulsive’s nirvana.

Everything here is perfect. You can control your surroundings.

When I left Vienna, my mother noticed how bad I had become right way. She put me back in therapy three days a week, but did not allow me to take any medications. Slowly I got better and eventually I was only attending 1-2 sessions a month. The last therapist I had in Poland was my favourite. She was kind, knowledgeable and would let me rearrange her desk. She realized that if she could teach me how to quiet my disorder and focus, I could motivate myself to excel at any task set before me. She pinpointed my worst obsessive compulsive meltdowns to periods of intense stress and she then tried to teach me different techniques to mediate stress. Leaving her behind when I moved to the States was difficult and I found it harder to control my disorder.

Throughout my years in school, I tried to hide my tics and compulsive behaviors from my peers. I was terrified that one of them would out me after seeing a tic or ask me questions about why I was constantly fidgeting with something. Thankfully I was never confronted about my disorder directly, though it did garner me some strange looks from lab partners. I managed to excel in high school, even though I had to deal with my obsessive compulsive behaviors. It did bother me when my friends would tease about having OCD. They would fix a spot on a poster and say something like, “Oh my G-d, I totally have OCD” or “She is so OCD about…” I never liked how OCD was treated so non-nonchalantly.

Not OCD

Throughout university, I began to extensively research how to deal with obsessive compulsive disorder and its subsequent tics. I spoke with my professors and physicians about treatments, attended weekend lecture series and spent a good chunk of my time learning to control my compulsions. By the end of medical school, I was well-versed in areas of OCD treatment and was able to deal with it.

All of my research led me to conclude that, while not curable, obsessive compulsive disorder can be controlled. I found that through a combination of medications, psychotherapy, physical activity and stress mediation, I could control the majority of my compulsions. I began focusing my energy on specific hobbies (which would often cause me to procrastinate in other areas) until I was an expert. By learning about how to treat OCD, I (ironically) felt more in control. This caused me to focus on “curing” my disorder and ultimately I was able to overcome a lot of my tics.

So what do I have to say to those who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder? Don’t give up. You can learn to live with OCD, even though it may be hard, you can persevere. Actively seek treatment, learn what sets you off, teach yourself how to mediate stressful situations (or avoid them all together). Find support groups, look to your support system that surrounds you and learn how to live with your tics. You shouldn’t be ashamed of having OCD and you shouldn’t have to stress about hiding it.

Question(s): Do you know someone with OCD? Do you suffer from OCD?

My Puppy

On January 31st at 4:00 p.m., we had to put our family dog of 12 years, to sleep. He was diagnosed with liver cancer and his quality of life had greatly diminished. He was hardly eating, extremely uncomfortable and I could tell he was experiencing some pain. We were worried about him over the last few weeks and I had flown home to be with him. Over the course of my lifetime, we have had many pets. I have had other dogs, cats, ferrets, rats and even reptiles, yet no other pet has affected my life the way Max has. The greatest emotional attachment I have had to any of my pets, I experienced with him. He has been the greatest gift anyone has ever given to me and to know that he is gone is heartbreaking.

I have never actually been present when a pet of mine has passed away. Most of the outside cats have just vanished, the smaller animals didn’t affected me as much (though I was still sad) and my three dogs all died peacefully in their sleep. We have put other animals down due to cancer or fatal injuries, but I have never been there for those. Most of the deaths of our pets occurred during my years at university and my residency in NYC. Getting a phone call that a pet has died is always hard, but I guess it actually softened the blow because I didn’t see them. With Max, however, I was with him at the end. I owed him that, but it was so hard. Seeing the light go out of his eyes and looking at his tiny body on his favourite pillow, so silent and still, was one of the most painful images I have ever seen.

Max was a different kind of pet. He had been given to me by my boyfriend, who then became my fiancé. Even though he and I are no longer together, we shared a common interest in the dog. He would call from time to time, just to check on the puppy and see how he was doing. I loved Max to pieces and I know he did as well. When when found out Max had liver cancer, I called him right away and he was devastated. He told me that whatever the dog needed, he would be glad to help. I know that he wanted to be with Max in his last days, but he respected that we aren’t together and let him be with us. I appreciated that.

Even though Maximus was my dog, he loved my mother the most. Since I was moving around so much, my mother offered to take him and look after him. The plan was for me to take him back when I settled, but I couldn’t take him away from my mother after she was so attached. It was hard, but I relented because I knew that they could take better care of him than even I could. And they did, they spoiled him rotten. Even though this experience has left me devastated, I know that it can not even hold a candle to the pain my mother is experiencing.

I have scoured the internet, look for words to help me describe what I feel right now. I’m not going to write a poem, I’m no poet. I have photographs of him, but I’m not a photographer. I could draw him, but I’m planning on painting a canvas for my mother. She was the one who was with him the longest and she is the one who he depended on the most. So how can I bring some closure to his death?

For me, the best way is to write to him.

My Max,

It was always you who greeted me, not so patiently at the door when I came home. Tail wagging, nose pressed up against the glass leaving marks to let me know you had been ever so vigilant. Your excitement to see me, even after I had just ventured out to get the mail, was so infectious that it made me happy to see myself.  Your loyalty was unfaltering, up the stairs and down the stairs, curled up at my feet or sitting quietly by my side. You were my little, courageous protector through all those nights I was alone. You made me feel safe,  you kept me warm and you made the house feel more like a home.

The personality that you contained in your small being, was greater than most people I know. You were such a lover, so playful and the smartest dog I have ever seen. You understood so much, probably even more than we gave you credit for. With every click-clicking of your nails on the floor, I was comforted to know that you were there. You brought me joy with every bark and howl, even at 3 in the morning.

Maximus, my puppy. I hope that you know that everyone loved you. You were the most amazing gift I have ever been given. No dog will ever live up to you and I will think about you constantly. You have given me some of my best memories, which will last me a lifetime. You have brought such an amazing amount of love into my heart, which is where you will always be.

I love you Max and I will miss you.

It’s Stressful

2012 has already been a stressful year and we are less than a month into it. Over the last several weeks I have had to try to learn to deal with the enormous amount of stress in my life. This stress comes from
the following:

1. My cousin/roommate, who was only supposed to be living with me temporarily, is pregnant. She finally told her mother, which is the only reason that I can even write this. This has caused a huge commotion in my family (not a good one) and I feel like they are blaming me for my cousin’s irresponsibility.

2. Results of a mammogram and FNA show that I have a fibroadenoma in my left breast. Benign, yes. Scary at first, definitely. Even though the stress of the initial results has worn off, I think that the shock, when combined with everything else, stressed me out completely.

3. Our family dog, Maximus, has been diagnosed with liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). I am now in Missouri with family, spending time with Max and with my mother. Understandably, my mother is devastated and she has sought my advice on treatment for our dog. It has put me in a very difficult situation of appeasing my mother while also making sure that Max isn’t suffering. He is now eating well, going for walks and has been less lethargic since we started him on medication (for pain management). Hopefully we continue to see some improvement in his disposition, but his prognosis is still poor.

Older picture of Max, Best Dog in the World. Sorry, for the yellow frame. It was the only picture of him I had on this laptop.

Those three stressors combined with everything else have really made me stop and thing about how I need to handle personal stress better. As a surgeon, I can handle the stress of work no problem. It is how I handle my stress outside of work that has negatively affected my life.

So far I have tried a few different things and the results have been extremely positive! I have increased how much I work out and by that I mean not just running 50 miles a week. I have done more yoga in the mornings and Pilates once a week. I have drastically changed my diet. While I am in Missouri, my cousin is cleaning out the cabinets. Absolutely no processed foods and I am going to try to buy seasonal fare. I have eaten multiple small meals throughout the day and shying away from the larger, sit-down meals that my family insists we have. Even with the diet and activity changes, I think that the best change I have made is taking time for myself.

One of my New Year’s goals is to learn to sew. I purchased several books on pattern-making, sewing basics and choosing fabrics. I have researched sewing machines and I’m very excited to buy a machine when I get back to California! I have taken time out of every day to read the sewing books and I think that focusing on something other than the stress has, obviously, helped.

In addition to setting aside time for this new hobby, I have also been writing more. I wasn’t able to write a blog post for a while. Every time I sat down at the computer to type, I was too overwhelmed to focus. Instead I tried writing short stories and worked on streamlining my book. Not having to worry about the content specifically helped clear the writer’s block enough that I begin to formulate this post in my head.

As always, I am open to suggestions to help me deal with the stress. Some of my friends have suggested meditation, but at the moment I can’t quiet my mind enough for that to work. If you have any tried and true stress busting remedies, do share!

Persian Nights

Even though I was feeling under-the-weather, thanks to Ewa and the sketchy burritos she brought home, I was invited to attend a small get together at a colleagues home. They were celebrating his wife’s first commissioned painting and invited me over for a night of amazingly delicious Persian food.

Even though I have had Persian food before, I have never actually had any made specifically for me. We have always gone to a restaurant or tried some at a friends party. This was the first time that I had dishes made especially for me! My co-worker’s wife started off with saffron tea (chia/chai) and shirini :

The tea was exceptional. It had a strong flavour with hints of saffron and his wife showed us the “Iranian way” to add sugar to the drink. Instead of placing the sugar cube directly in the tea, you put place the cube between your front teeth and bite down with just enough pressure to hold it. Then you take small sips and let the tea wash over the sugar cube, which then sweetens the tea as you drink it. The sugar she gave us wasn’t ordinary sugar either, she had all kinds of flavoured sugars (which I neglected to take a photo of!). I particularly liked the rosewater sugar, but she also had vanilla, saffron, cardamom, anise and lime. each of the sugars was pressed into a delicate little shape. The rosewater “cubes” looked like roses, the vanilla like little gold domes. The first one to go was the leaf-shaped lime flavored sugar, followed shortly by the vanilla. She gave me some of the cardamom sugar to take home and I look forward to using it in my daily tea.

The cookies that she had set out with the tea were amazing. Shirini (sweets) were surprising. She had made two flavors, coconut and walnut. I tried the walnut first and it was similar to meringue in consistency, but outrageously delicious. It was so light and flavourful and I complimented her on the ability to make something so tasty, but so delicate. The coconut one was just as wonderful and I actually liked it more. I so wanted to take a huge box of them home, but I also don’t want to detox again after overdosing on Persian sweets.

After the tea, she brought out torsu (pickled vegetables) and we sampled those until the main courses arrived. As a vegetarian, I was a little worried that I may have to eat some meat dishes since I didn’t want to offend anyone. When the main courses arrived, the non-vegetarians had joje kabob, ghorme sabzi, hummus, olives, barbari bread, grilled vegetables, zafrani pulao, and  salad-e shirazi.

The food smelled amazing and she had even put some food into to-go containers, so that way we could take it take to families (or in my case, back home for devouring later). As a vegetarian, however, I was presented with my own special dish:

The salad was kefir cheese, hummus, cucumbers, red/green pepper, onion, olives, feta cheese and chopped herbs. I also had some of the shirazi salad and barbari bread. The warm bread was a perfect compliment to the salad and my cousin let me try some of her ghorme sabzi after she had eaten all the lamb. I also had a small dish of rice, sprinkled with saffron and container of hummus topped with olives.

The entire meal was fantastic and I could not thank all of them enough. Everyone who was at the dinner (a bunch of rowdy Persians!) appeared to have a lot of fun and I felt bad that we had to kind of “eat and run” because I was not feeling well. It did piqué my interest in Persian cuisine, so I signed up for a Persian cooking class at the end of the month and a cheese-making class in mi-February (which I may end of missing).

It was a great evening and I can’t wait to have them over to my house for a Polish dinner! I am already planning the menu and getting excited!

Question(s): Have you ever taken a cooking class before? What was the course over? Do you still use the recipes/techniques that you learned?