T minus 4 days

I’ve been doing a lot of report-writing and speech-writing and summarizing for work lately, so I guess now is as good a time as any to let everyone know what I’ve been doing for the last 8 months in Nice besides cooking, tanning, making day trips to Italy, and eating ice cream 🙂

My research this year was in medical simulation, which involves using devices and mock scenarios to teach doctors how to do different medical procedures or how to deal with different situations.  My goal was to build a device to teach doctors how to manage a hernia in a baby because it’s actually a really common condition—hernias happen in 1-5% of newborns, most commonly in boys, and in up to 30% of premature babies!

I ended up building 2 models.  One of them is a surgical model that will hopefully be used down the road to allow residents to practice surgically repairing a hernia in a baby on the model before they do it in the OR.  The benefit is that they can get used to working in a smaller space and they can make mistakes when they practice on the model without hurting a patient.  The model is basically a Tupperware container covered in fake “skin” with fake “organs” inside.  The doctor has to dissect through the tissue and repair the hernia without cutting anything important.  It’s really cool to see the doctors actually using the model and we’ve gotten really good feedback so far.

Surgical model

Using the surgical model in Paris

Surgical model

Fake organs

The second model is a baby doll that’s been modified to have a “hernia”—basically a balloon with a sponge inside.  It will hopefully be used to teach parents of premature babies how to take care of a hernia if they notice their child has one before they bring them to the hospital.

Clinical model

A poor baby doll with a hernia

Two weeks ago, I presented my project at the 19th annual meeting for the Society in Europe for Simulation Applied to Medicine in Paris!  I was nervous, of course, because I’m not a great public speaker, but it ended up going really well.  The rest of the conference was really interesting and I got to see some good presentations about teamwork in simulation, current research projects, and how it’s possible to turn an MRI into a 3 dimensional image to guide surgery!  I also got to hang out with some of my old colleagues (and bosses) from Chicago, who were also attending the conference 🙂

Presenting my project

Presenting my project

After the conference, I got to do a little bit of traveling around France to test my model.  I visited 4 simulation centers/hospitals in France: Angers, Limoges, Paris, and Strasbourg.  I met lots of surgeons, pediatricians, emergency medicine docs, anesthesiologists, gynecologists, and students who helped me by using and evaluating my models.  We’re hoping to use the results from this testing to publish a few papers and present at a few more conferences… fingers crossed.

More on the travel part of the trip to come, but the testing and sim center visits were really interesting.  Going to school and working at the Center for Education in Medicine at Northwestern really spoiled me, and I’m sure going to med school at Ohio State is going to spoil me even more.  Both Northwestern and OSU have incredible resources and state-of-the-art simulation centers.  The medical school at the University of Nice and the hospital in Angers also have pretty large simulation centers, but nowhere near the amount of resources or technology.  The sim center in Limoges was really small—only 2 rooms with one computer to control the 2 life-sized mannekins.  It was really interesting to see the differences in simulation in medical education between France and the US.  At Northwestern, simulation is integrated into the curriculum now from the first year of medical school, whereas the University of Nice is just starting to implement a mandatory simulation component to the resident curriculum.  Simulation training isn’t mandatory at all in Limoges.

During my Fulbright project in France, I was also applying to medical schools back in the US and am happy to say I’ll be matriculating at OSU in August (GO BUCKS)! 🙂  But throughout the application process, I was flabbergasted by the cost of medical school.  Med students are graduating with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt and pretty soon it’s going to get to a point where we ask ourselves is the outcome worth the investment?  Contrast this to medical school in France, where students pay about 200 euros (or $260) per year to go to school.  Sure, French doctors make about 1/3 what their American counterparts make, but they’re also not paying back a quarter of a million dollars in loans and interest.  My “tour de France” put a lot of this into perspective.  Medical school costs a lot less in France, but French medical students also have far fewer opportunities than American medical students in, for example, simulation.  One of the residents I talked to in Limoges said that it’s basically up to you to go the extra mile.  I like to think I’ve had some solid experience with simulation and I’ve seen how helpful it can be within medical education.  It might be naïve of me to say, but I think I would pay the extra money (or at least some of it) to have these amazing opportunities.

Anyways, I’m pretty much wrapping up work here.  One more presentation tomorrow, this time in French, and flying to Africa on Tuesday! 🙂

 

French word for today:
bronzer (bron-ZAY)- to tan
Je bronze très facilement sous ce beau soleil méditerranéen !
I tan very easily under this nice Mediterranean sun!

Benvenuti in Italia!

Lately I’ve been neglecting my blog and I’ve been called out a bunch for it.  I only have about 4 weeks left in France, so I’ll try to get all my thoughts down (and a few recipes) before then!

One of the coolest parts about being in Nice is that Italy is so close, only about a 45 minute train ride to Ventimiglia!  Over the last couple months I’ve had a lot of Italian influence in my life and I’m definitely not complaining.  When Emily came to visit in March, we took a day trip to Ventimiglia and it started how I think every morning should start—with 2 Italian cappuccinos and a cannoli 🙂  I learned that the hard shell cannolis are actually from Sicily, but we had a cannoli with a soft pastry outside, which is more common in the north of Italy.

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Italian cappuccinos

Italian cannoli

Italian cannoli

After that we walked to the giant food market that had some of the best looking produce I’d ever seen.  We walked around looking at all the fruits and vegetables and flowers and then doubled back to buy some stuff for dinner: a couple artichokes, fresh tomatoes, some buffala mozzarella, and two kinds of ravioli.  I was really tempted to buy a kilo of strawberries but it was only March so Emily convinced me they wouldn’t be very good…

Flowers at the market

Flowers at the market

Mozzarella and tomato salad with our produce from the market

Mozzarella and tomato salad with our produce from the market

Ricotta ravioli and mushroom ravioli

Ricotta ravioli and mushroom ravioli for dinner

Then we wandered down to the flea market, where they literally sell everything.  There are vendors with cheap sunglasses next to huge stacks of kitchen pots and pans next to vendors selling bras and underwear and bathing suits next to tables of men’s and women’s shoes next to gourmet food stands with cheeses and sauces and dried meats.  It’s definitely a one-stop shop.  It’s also right next to the beach.  The view of the sea is nice, but the beaches on the Italian Riviera aren’t as nice as the beaches in Nice and it was really windy, so I think I’ll stick to the French Riviera for that.

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Flea market

And of course it wouldn’t be a trip to Italy without trying some gelato 🙂

YUMMM

YUMMM

 

Now fast-forward to this past weekend—Italy came to Nice!  Every year in June, there’s a big Italian food expo in Nice, right on the Promenade des Anglais, called L’Italie à table.  There are tons of vendors selling cheese, olive oil, meat, and more.  The weather was finally fairly decent so Isabelle and Tanya and I spent Saturday afternoon at the beach and then met Luc and Ursula for an aperitif at L’Italie à table.  It was SO good.  We each bought a glass of wine and just walked around visiting all the booths, most of which were giving out free samples.  Isabelle and Tanya both speak Italian, so they were chatting up the vendors a bit.  Throughout the course of the evening, I tried a LOT: pecorino cheese flavored with pear and one flavored with truffle, dried sausage, the best olive oil I’ve ever had in my life, porchette (a giant roast pork), hazelnut and chocolate spreads like Nutella but better, parmigiano reggiano, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, and the crunchy Italian snack food taralli flavored with fennel and red pepper.  We each bought an arancini, which are rice balls stuffed with meat and peas and coated in bread crumbs and deep fried, and yes, it is as delicious as it sounds.

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Arancini

And guys, we ate olives the size of golf balls!

All kinds of olives

All kinds of olives

At the end of the night, I had to indulge myself in a real Sicilian cannoli before we each bought a glass of Prosecco and sat on the beach to watch the sun set.  It was the perfect ending to the perfect evening 🙂

Sicilian cannoli

Sicilian cannoli

Prosecco and the sunset-- chin chin :)

Prosecco and the sunset– chin chin 🙂

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Luc, Ursula, me, and Tanya

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Tanya, me, Ursula, and Isabelle

 

Ok now rewind a little bit.  When I went to Ventimiglia with Emily, I bought a packet of squid ink pasta to save for another time, so this is where the Sunday Night Dinner recipe comes in.  Squid ink pasta is obviously flavored with squid ink, so it’s black and looks a little bit creepy, but it’s really good.  Two weeks ago, Isabelle and I (well mostly Isabelle) made squid ink pasta with fresh seiche (kind of like squid, but closer to cuttlefish).  So here’s this week’s SND with squid/seiche (from http://ricette.giallozafferano.it/Tagliolini-al-doppio-nero-di-seppia.html, but good luck reading it since it’s in Italian) 🙂

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Tagliolini al nero di sepia (Squid Ink Pasta)

Ingredients:
250 g squid
4 g squid ink
2 cloves garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
Pepper
½ glass white wine

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Instructions:

1. Wash and clean the squid – don’t forget to take out the bone inside if there is one.  Cut into thin strips.

Trying to get the ink out of the ink sack...

Trying to get the ink out of the ink sack…

2. In a medium sauce pan brown two whole cloves of garlic in four tablespoons of olive oil.

3. Remove the garlic from the pan and add the squid. Cook for a few minutes.

4. As soon as the squid has lost its moisture, add the white wine and cook for a few more minutes before adding ground pepper, the tomato paste, and the squid ink.

5. Cook until the squid is tender, which will change depending on what size squid you have used (max. 5-6 mins of cooking in total).

6. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, and add the squid ink pasta.  Cook until al dente.

7. Drain the pasta, but keep some of the cooking water, and add the pasta to the sauce and stir.  Add some of the cooking water if the sauce is too dry.

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8. Cook for 1-2 minutes more to combine the ingredients.

9. Serve with a generous garnish of chopped parsley.

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When I leave France, I’m definitely going to miss the warm baguettes, delicious cheese, and good wine, but there’s now a special place in my heart (and stomach) for Italian food 🙂

 

French word of the day:
fourrer (foo-RAY)– to stuff
J’espère que je peux fourrer tous mes vêtements dans ma valise quand je retourne aux États-Unis!
I hope I can stuff all my clothes in my suitcase when I return to the US!

Sunday Night Dinner: Mango

One of my favorite fruits is mango (la mangue).  Unfortunately, some knife work is required to get at the sweet, delicious, juicy flesh.  When I lived in Chicago, my roommate Manisha used to cut up and share a mango every so often, and when I finally learned how to cut one up myself, I saved the seed for her (if Emily didn’t get to it first) 🙂  I recently received an awesome care package of cookies and mint M&Ms from Manisha.  Between that and this week’s SND with mango, I found myself remembering some great times in 2A 🙂  This recipe is very easy, very healthy, and very summer-y!

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This week, I used that leftover salmon fillet from a few weeks ago and adapted a recipe from here.

Baked Salmon with Mango Salsa

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

2 salmon fillets
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/3 ripe mango, peeled, seeded, and diced small (about ½ cup)
1 tbsp red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tbsp onion, finely diced
1 tbsp cucumber, finely diced
1 tsp jalapeño,  finely diced
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of cayenne, optional
Salt to taste

Instructions:

1. If you’ve never cut up a mango before, here is a pretty good tutorial.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the mango, red bell pepper, onion, cucumber, jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro, vinegar, olive oil, and spices and set aside.  Let it sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

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Before

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After

 

3. Pre-heat oven to 450 F (230 C)

4. Place the salmon fillets skin-side down on a piece of foil on a baking sheet.

5. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

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6. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

7. Top salmon fillets with mango salsa and serve with wild rice and mixed greens.

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Serves 2, but can easily be doubled or tripled (to use the whole mango!)

 

French word for today:
nuageux (nwa-JHE)– cloudy
Le soleil brille encore un peu, mais le ciel devient nuageux.
The sun is still shining a little bit, but the sky is becoming cloudy.

13.1!

I ran my first half marathon today!  That’s 13.1 miles (or 21 kilometers) and that’s the longest I’ve ever run in my life, and I survived!  And I would do it again!

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I was feeling pretty nervous this morning, hoping I’d trained enough in the last few months and eaten enough carbs in the last few days to reach my goal of 2 hours and 25 minutes.  Rain had been forecasted for the 24 hours leading up to the start of the race and all through the morning, so I was crossing my fingers that it would stay dry.  Luckily it ended up being a beautiful day for running (cloudy and high 50s) and the rain held off until tonight.

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The race started from the Promenade des Anglais at 9:30, so I gathered all my gear, including my iPod with a 3.5 hour playlist (thanks to everyone who contributed!), and left my apartment around 8.  The London Marathon was also happening this morning and I read an article that runners were wearing black ribbons as a Boston tribute.  I didn’t have any black ribbon so I tied a piece of black yarn around my wrist as I was heading out.  There were over 3000 runners for the half marathon, plus all the runners that did the 5K or 10K, so it was a pretty big event for Nice.

Black ribbon for Boston

Black ribbon for Boston

After everyone was lined up but before the race started, we had a moment of silence for Boston, and then we were off!  I breezed through the first 8K or so, posting a few 6:30-ish kilometers.  I had a lot of energy and even though I didn’t have anyone in the crowd cheering for me, specifically, I pretended everyone was 🙂  I was thinking, hey this isn’t so bad, maybe I can try a full marathon soon!  (HA)  For the most part, the course was flat, with just a few tiny hills.  The view was, of course, gorgeous, with most of the race taking place along the sea, but also around the port and near the art museum.

After 10K, the 10K runners that had started with the half-marathon runners finished their race and we were left to run another 11K (to the airport and back).  I could feel myself slowing down a little, as blisters formed on the bottoms of my feet and my toes (from which I had lost 2 toenails in my training) started to hurt.  But I kept plugging along.  I managed to run the first 10 miles (16K) of the race without stopping at all (I was very proud of that!)  At 16K, I took a minute to shake out my muscles, down some Powerade and a piece of banana, and kept going.

The last 5K was really hard, but I managed to find a group of runners to follow.  One of the guys somehow still had a crazy amount of energy and was dancing with all the different bands that were stationed along the course.  It was awesome and inspiring to watch (and reminded me of something Sam would probably do :)).  By 19K, I couldn’t feel my legs, but I kept telling myself I had to keep going.  The best feeling was seeing that 20K sign and knowing I was almost there, and the worst feeling followed closely when I realized I still had another kilometer to go.  But I finished strong, powering across the finish line at 2:23:33, a solid minute and a half under my goal! 🙂

Go me! :)

Go me! 🙂

Tonight, my feet hurt, I think I’m going to lose another toenail, my legs are sore, I have blisters on blisters on blisters, and I definitely need some new running shoes, but I had a GREAT day today.  I felt so good when I crossed the finish line!  And tonight’s dinner is my reward: French toast, scrambled eggs, (real American/English) bacon, and a pint of Haagen-Dazs caramel cone explosion ice cream 🙂 🙂 🙂

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And as long as we’re talking about ice cream, here’s a little update on the ice cream flavors I’ve tried at Fenocchios recently (with help from Emily, Isabelle, Alexandra, and Gary, of course!)

Chocolate mint
Stracciatella
Rocher
Irish coffee
Peach
Avocado (really really good, actually!)
Milk chocolate bar
Rose
Rhubarb
Chocolate orange
Black currant
Cappuccino
Chocolate and hot pepper (not very hot pepper-y)

Today’s French word:

lèche-vitrine (lesh vi TREEN)– literally lick-window, it’s window-shopping!
La plupart de temps je préfère de faire du lèche-vitrine, mais j’ai reçu une autre bourse, donc je peux m’offrir une nouvelle robe!
Usually I prefer to window-shop, but I just received another grant so I can treat myself to a new dress!

Sunday Night Dinner: Salmon

This week’s Sunday Night Dinner is a double whammy!  Since I’m not going to be making a nice dinner this Sunday night (I’m running a half marathon, so I’ll be treating myself to breakfast for dinner on Sunday night instead!), this week will be a 2 for 1!

Every time I walk into the Old Town in Nice, I walk past a tiny square with about 5 or 6 stands set up selling fresh fish.  It always looks so good (and smells so fishy) and I’ve wanted to try some kind of fish from there for a while, so last week I picked up a really nice salmon fillet.  As I was paying, the man at the stand said “Il faut le manger cru!” meaning “The fish is so good you should eat it raw!” which is what I was planning on doing (at least part of it)…

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Last week was the first time I tried my hand at sushi.  I bought a kit at the store that included nori (the seaweed sheets), sushi rice, rice vinegar, a rolling mat, soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi paste.  All you have to add is the vegetables and/or fish.  After doing a lot of research here on how to make sushi and finding some good recipes, I decided to make 2 rolls: one with imitation crab, cucumber, avocado, and pineapple and one with salmon, cucumber, and cream cheese.

Fillings are ready!

Fillings are ready!

It was actually pretty easy.  You just lay down the nori and spread the rice on top…

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lay down your vegetables and fish…

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Salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber

Imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, and pineapple for the inside out roll

Imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, and pineapple for the inside out roll

and roll it up using the mat to distribute even pressure.

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These rolls were kind of massive so next time I would use less rice per roll than they suggest and I’d like to try a different nori because I wasn’t super impressed with this one.  The homemade sushi was good, and I’d definitely do it again, but I have to say going out to a nice (all you can eat) sushi place is still my favorite 🙂

The next day I used part of the remaining fillet in a brilliant recipe, suggested by Tanya, that involves no cleanup.  It’s literally a no-pot dinner!  I also love this recipe because I can make a single serving for myself, but you can get as many fillets as you want and make it for a family or a dinner party if you wanted.

Salmon and Potatoes en Papillote (in a parcel)

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 small potato
1 salmon fillet
2 tbsp sliced sundried tomatoes
¼ cup chopped broccoli florets (you can use frozen, but I used fresh)
Lemon juice
Herbes de Provence (or Italian seasoning)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 190C (375F)

2. Lay out a piece of foil, 12” x 12” should be good.

3. Slice the potato lengthwise and place the slices on the foil.

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4. Place the broccoli florets on top of the potatoes.

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5. Place the salmon fillet on top of the broccoli.

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6. Place the sliced sundried tomatoes on top of the salmon.

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7. Sprinkle with a little bit of lemon juice and seasoning.

8. Fold the foil over and scrunch to seal the parcel.  Place it on a baking sheet in the hot oven for 20 minutes or until all the ingredients are tender.

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You can turn the parcel onto a plate (or just eat it out of the foil, like I did!) and serve with a green salad.

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Today’s French word:
ampoule (a-POOL)– blister
Ce que j’ai au pied, c’est une ampoule!
I have a blister on my foot!

Sunday Night Dinner: Sun-dried Tomatoes

This week I decided to move away from the fresh produce I’ve been buying at the market to try one of the numerous other products sold there: sun-dried tomatoes.  Sun-dried tomatoes are actually pretty easy to make at home—just cut up a few tomatoes, remove the seeds, toss with salt, and bake the heck out of them!  If you prefer to dry them in the sun, though, it could take 4-10 days…

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I love sun-dried tomatoes, but I wanted to do something different than the typical pasta dish, so I found this delicious meatloaf recipe here—VERY flavorful and definitely a new favorite 🙂  The original recipe makes 2 loaf pans that each serve 6, but that’s way too much for me.  Instead, I halved the recipe and formed the meat into 6 mini-loaves.  I baked 2 and froze 4 to take out for dinner another time, so not only is the recipe tasty, it’s also convenient for me!  I also found the ketchup in France to be surprisingly good…

 Ingredients:
1 egg (lightly beaten)
½ medium onion, chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried basil (or 1 tbsp fresh basil leaves)
¼ cup sundried tomatoes, diced
½ cup ketchup plus extra for top
½ cup oatmeal (or seasoned breadcrumbs)
1 pound ground beef

Instructions:

1. Add all of the ingredients except the meat to a large bowl and thoroughly combine with a spoon.

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2. Combine ground beef with the mixture—I used my hands!

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3. Divide the mixture in whichever fashion you prefer—6 mini-loaves, 1 large loaf pan (sprayed lightly with cooking spray), or even meatballs.

Two to bake and four to freeze

Two to bake and four to freeze

4. Spread additional ketchup on top, if desired.

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5. Bake in a 350F (180C) oven—40 minutes for mini-loaves, 1 hour for a large loaf, less for meatballs.

To accompany my mini meatloaf, I made baked fries seasoned with oil, salt, pepper, and paprika (baked in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a 425F oven for about 20-25 minutes) and simple steamed green beans (also from the market) with butter.

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DELICIOUS

I froze my 4 remaining loaves by leaving them on a baking tray in the freezer overnight and then wrapping them in saran wrap and placing them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer.

 

French word for today:
tomber en panne (tom-BAY en PAHN)- to crash (in a computer sense)
Le système est encore tombé en panne. Il faut que je redémarre l’ordinateur.
Windows crashed again.  I have to reboot my computer.

Sunday Night Dinner: Asparagus

Spring has sprung!  Or at least most days it has.  The weather the last few weeks has been on-again-off-again rain, but when it’s not raining, it’s usually a beautiful 60F and sunny.  Sometimes I even take my lunch to the park in Cimiez, or to the beach with Isabelle and Caitlin 🙂

Anyways, spring is here and spring fruits and veggies are in season!  This week I decided to go with asparagus (les asperges, in French) in a pasta dish, since my half-marathon training is getting more intense (finished a 7-mile run yesterday)!  This super easy recipe is straight from here.  It also give some really good suggestions for variations, depending on what veggies are in season.

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 Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
½ pound asparagus
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp + 3/4 tsp salt
¼ tsp + ¼ tsp fresh-ground black pepper
5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp brown sugar
½ pound penne
4 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Instructions:

1. Heat the oven to 400F (205C). Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the spears into 1-inch pieces.

2. Put the asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes.

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3. Meanwhile, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer until the vinegar is thick/syrup-y and about 2 tablespoons remain.

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4. Stir in the brown sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat.

5. Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just done.

6. Drain the pasta and toss with the butter, balsamic vinegar reduction, roasted asparagus, Parmesan, and the remaining ¾ teaspoons salt. Serve with additional Parmesan.

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Serves 2, but can easily be doubled to serve more!  I ate it as my main dish with a few slices of bread, but it would make a great side, too (maybe to a delicious steak)!

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French word today:
bleu (bluh)– bruise
Après avoir fait du snowboard, j’étais couverte de bleus.
After snowboarding, I was covered in bruises.

A Day in the Alps (and a few days of recovery)

I’ve never been skiing or snowboarding in my life, but I’m currently living in southern France, right next to the Alps, so I thought “why not?”  I turned it into a (sort of) social event by inviting some people I’d met in Nice who’d expressed interest in skiing or snowboarding, so I wasn’t actually going alone.  After going back and forth in my head between skiing and snowboarding, I finally chose snowboarding.  I’d heard that snowboarding is harder, but I was hoping that my experience with edges on hockey skates would help me feel a little bit more comfortable with the edges on a snowboard.

Nice operates a “100% Neige” bus that goes from the main train station in Nice to one of the ski parks in the mountains for just 8 euros round trip, and it only takes about an hour and a half!  The ride is a straight shot north and is absolutely gorgeous!  The roads wind between mountains and along little streams and rivers, and eventually you can see the snow at the top of the mountains.  Then the bus stops going north and starts going up, winding back and forth until you’re actually driving through the snow.

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View from the bus

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View from the bus

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View from the bus

SNOW!

SNOW!

When we got to the park, we picked up our gear, got suited up, bought our day passes, and signed up for a lesson.  Then we took the téléphérique (an aerial tramway, of sorts) up to the “beginners” hills to meet our instructor.  He was nice, but seemed less than enthused to be teaching two beginning snowboarders.  The lesson was all in French, but that wasn’t the hard part.  It was exhausting because we would take turns sliding about 10 meters down the bank on our board with both feet strapped in, unstrap one foot at the bottom, and then drag our board back up to the top and strap ourselves back in.  Thank goodness there were two of us because a solo lesson would’ve been impossible!

My cool snowboard...

My cool snowboard…

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View from the téléphérique

When the lesson was over, the instructor taught us how to use the J-bar lift, a surface lift that pulls individual skiers/snowboarders up a hill while they hold onto a pole, as opposed to sitting on a chairlift.  When I finally got up to the top of the baby hill (it took a few shaky tries), the only thing left to do was go down, which proved harder than it looks.  You always see these snowboarders just coasting along downhill.  Believe me, it is NOT that easy.  I fell like 6 times (really hard!) on my back and my knees on the first trip down the mountain.  I kept trying to use my board edges like the instructor said, but I could feel myself over-rotating and then I would catch an edge and wipe out.  We went up again and half way down the second run I decided to give up on the edges.  I kept my board straight and went down at what I felt like was a pretty fast pace (it wasn’t…) and managed to stop myself by half turning my board/half falling.  I decided to try a third time and managed to stay standing for most of the run, which I was satisfied with, I guess.

View from the top of the "hill" we were going down

View from the top of the “hill” we were going down

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Learning how to snowboard is a lot like learning how to skate in hockey skates.  First, you have to be going fast to use the edges of your board or skates.  It took me years to be able to go fast on hockey skates, so no doubt it would take me years to feel comfortable on a snowboard.  Second, you have to be going fast to learn how to stop, but no one wants to go fast until they know how to stop.  It’s a vicious cycle, but I think it’s easier on hockey skates, since we have so much more padding.

All in all, it was a great day.  The sun was shining (I even got a little sunburned), the sky was blue, the air wasn’t filled with smoke (like it is in the city).  But next time, I’ll try skiing instead.  The next morning when I woke up, I could feel every muscle in my body and I had some nasty bruises on my tailbone and my knees.  I have a new respect for mountain sports people!  It was freaking hard, but I can’t wait to try again 🙂

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French word for today:
ventouse (ven-TOOZ)– suction cup/sucker
Les tentacules du poulpe sont garnies de ventouses.
Octopus’ tentacles are lined with suction cups.

Sunday Night Dinner: Fennel

I’ve never had fennel (le fenouil in French) before and really didn’t know what to expect when I picked a bulb up at the market.  Raw fennel has an anise-y scent and flavor, but when you caramelize it the fennel becomes mellow and delicious 🙂  I have a bunch of cans of chick peas in my cupboard, so here’s what I found, adapted from here.

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A little bit funny-lookin’

Citrus Couscous with Fennel, Chickpeas, and Olives

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
1 large fennel bulb
2 + 1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (the original recipe calls for coriander, but I don’t have any)
1 1/2 cups (or 1 15-ounce can) cooked and drained chickpeas
12 black olives, halved and pitted
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup instant couscous

Instructions:

1. Trim fennel and cut into 1/4-inch thick wedges.

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2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and caramelized, about 15-20 minutes.

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3. Add cumin, chickpeas, olives, and lemon juice to pan and stir to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

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4. While the fennel and chickpeas are cooking, juice the orange into a liquid measuring cup and top off with water to make 1 1/2 cups of liquid.

5. Add liquid to a small saucepan along with 1 tablespoon olive oil, orange zest, lemon zest, and salt. Bring to a boil.

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6. Stir in couscous, cover, remove from heat, and let stand for at least 5 minutes.

7. To serve, fluff couscous grains with a fork and spread on a dish. Spoon chickpeas and fennel over couscous.

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This recipe is good for Friday nights during Lent– no meat, but the chickpeas add a little bit of protein.  Alternatively, serve alongside a (perhaps) Middle Eastern style meat dish.  Serves 2-3 as a main meal, 4-6 as a side dish.

French word for today:
profiter (pro-fee-TAY)- to take advantage of
À Nice, on profite de beaux temps, mais il neige beaucoup au nord !
In Nice, we’re taking advantage of the beautiful weather, but it’s snowing a lot in the North!

Fulbright Seminar on the EU

Every year, the Belgian Fulbright Commission holds a “Seminar on the European Union” in Luxembourg and Belgium. Last week, 39 American Fulbrighters from several EU member states gathered in Brussels for the conference. I was honored to be one of the representatives from France.

I was really excited for this trip because I’ve been living in Europe for 5 months but don’t know much about the politics here and, as a busy engineering and French major, I’d never really had an opportunity to take a class at Northwestern. I learned more about international politics in this week than ever before! Throughout the seminar, we visited several different EU institutions, where we listened to speakers, sat in on meetings, asked questions, and met some very important people. I was particularly interested in science policy in the EU and how politicians and scientists collaborate to create and advocate for evidence-based policies, as it seems like the gaping chasm between science and the US government is growing every day. Although we didn’t get to discuss these issues specifically, I learned a lot about the challenges that researchers face today and also know that it’s important, now more than ever, to encourage support for scientific programs funded jointly by the EU and the US.

Each institution told us about its purpose and the problems it’s currently facing. Here’s a breakdown:

Luxembourg
Reception with the US Ambassador to Luxembourg—On the first evening of the seminar we met Ambassador Robert Mandell at a reception at his house. We had the opportunity to mingle with him and his wife and some former European Fulbrighters to the US.

European Court of Justice—We sat in on a hearing with Europe’s version of the US Supreme Court. It was a case from the Netherlands about the owner of a coffee shop called “Bulldog,” who started making energy drinks. Red Bull was not too happy about this because the names sounded too similar. Most of the proceedings were in Dutch, so I used the opportunity to practice my French by listening to the French interpreters 🙂 After the hearing, we had a question and answer session with Judge Koen Lenaers, the Vice President of the European Court of Justice, and then lunch with 2 staff members.

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European Court of Justice

Brussels
European Commission—The European Commission is the executive body of the EU (and the building looks like the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter…) We listened to presentations on economics, foreign policy, the state of the European Union, and US-EU relations.

European Commission

European Commission

European Commission

European Commission

NATO—On Friday, we visited NATO and met the US Ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, who spoke with us very candidly about the role of the US in the (miliary) work of NATO. We also heard some very informative presentations about what exactly NATO does (from a NU alum! Go Cats!) Then we had lunch as guests of NATO, which is something they only do twice a year!

US Mission to the EU—On Friday afternoon we listened to presentations on the European Parliament, the US Mission to the EU, and the US Foreign Service, followed by a reception with Deputy Ambassadors Manzo and White from US NATO and US-EU.

Brugge
College of Europe—Finally, on Saturday we went to the College of Europe, which is an independent university institute of postgraduate studies, with students from all over the world. One of the most impressive things is that you have to be bilingual to attend the College of Europe (French and English are required), but most people speak at least 4 languages… and up to 11 languages! Then we heard an interesting presentation about US-EU relations. It was interesting to see that a lot of the political and economic differences between the two nations stem from differences in culture.

Brugge: "the Venice of the North"

Brugge: “the Venice of the North”

Belfry of Brugge

Belfry of Brugge

The seminar was a great opportunity to expand personal and professional networks, but we also got to do some sight-seeing in Brugge and had some down time to explore Brussels (read: eat waffles, chocolate, and fries with mayonnaise and drink lots of beer) 🙂 I made a bunch of new friends and now I have couches to sleep on all over Europe!

Grand place, the central square in Brussels

Grand place, the central square in Brussels

Manneken Pis, a famous Brussels landmark

Manneken Pis, a famous Brussels landmark

 

Belgian waffles!

Belgian waffles!

Lots of beer!

Lots of beer!

 

Chocolate demonstration

Chocolate demonstration

And some new friends :)

And some new friends 🙂

 

French word for today:
flaque (d’eau) (flak doh)– puddle
Il pleut depuis une semaine et il y a beaucoup de grandes flaques d’eau sur la terre.
It’s been raining for a week and there are a lot of puddles on the ground.