Call Days (Darina Allen’s Strawberry Quark)

Surgery on-call days have a surreal, rewind-film quality to them.

Wednesday: Imagine that you wake up dark and early (because the sun is not up yet) and go about your morning business, washing your face, brushing your teeth, changing into clean scrubs and slipping out of the dim and silent apartment, cringing at the loud click the door-bolt makes when you lock it behind yourself and hope it doesn’t wake up your roommates. Strong-willed runners and good dog owners are already on the sidewalk, along with the bagel cart and the Wall Street journal boy. The fruit man, who never sleeps, smiles as you walk by, and tries to convince you to buy a bundle of grapes before you cross the street.

The hospital is still and hushed, as long as you avoid the always-psychotic ED, and for once, you can take the elevators from the basement to the fourteenth floor without stopping to drop off riders at half a dozen locations in between. The night nurses wave as you walk in, the first of the morning crew, and as you look out the massive windows, there’s just the faintest hint of magenta along the horizon. Within fifteen minutes, the nurses’ station is crawling with interns and residents, medical students and PAs, hustling to finish work before rounding with their team at 5:30am. That magenta stripe on the horizon hasn’t changed, the fellow appears around the corner, and the small herd of a team swoops after him, weaving from one room to the next, changing dressings, discussing surgeries, convincing reluctant patients to eat or not eat or walk or not walk or take a treatment or discontinue a treatment. Before you scatter to the OR, you notice that half the sun is visible now and it makes you smile a little, because, hey, it’s a sunrise.

The day is long and busy, with multiple surgeries and plenty of floorwork to be done while the OR turns over. The sun climbs over the building and the window shades are moved up and down and it’s suddenly the evening and your team is done and everyone goes home, and you go down to the SICU to meet the night consult resident. He’s not there, because the ED has already called three consults. For the next five hours, you dance between the ED, the OR, the SICU and the floors, calling radiologists, waking up surgeons for emergency appendectomies, praying that your septic patient doesn’t crash in the elevator on the way to the SICU. Suddenly, around 3 in the morning, everything is under control. Everyone has a plan of treatment, the surgeries are done and the ED is settling down for the night. You write notes and put in orders and check to make sure your patients are all still alive, then realize the night is over and it’s time to meet your team again.

The elevator goes straight from the second to the fourteenth floor, and you’re the first one in, again. The night nurses say hello and you settle down to collect the overnight vitals as  your intern and PA and NP stumble off the elevator with their coffees and still rubbing sleep from their eyes. That magenta line is on the horizon again, and you realize that you never saw the sun set. Soon, you’re doing the morning rounds dance and then, suddenly, rounds are done and the team is off to the OR, and you’re left standing in the elevator lobby, told to go home and sleep and come back the next day. You’re post-call and the rest of the day is yours. It’s Thursday, you think. By the time you finish your night work, and stop in and say hello to a patient, it’s 11am and you’ve been awake for 30.5 hours and working for 30. At home, you crawl into bed in your underwear, too tired to find pajamas, and hoping your roommate doesn’t come home early. When you wake up, it’s dark outside and you’ve missed the whole day.

You know that the next morning, at 5 am, when you walk in, they’ll ask how your day off was. You did have an entire day off – a day where you could have sorted your mail, gone to the post office, run in the park, studied, finished writing a paper, done your laundry and made a real dinner. But you didn’t. You slept all day. The only thing you did post-call? Make strawberry quark. Somehow, you know that when you tell this to your team, they will not be impressed.

Next post-call day, you’ll make cookies. The team will still not be impressed, but they’ll be happy.

R~ and I both enjoyed this and decided it should also count as breakfast food (strawberries and cream cheese are breakfast food, right?) It’s a simple, light pudding, a cross between a fruit mousse and a creamy cheesecake. In the 10 minutes it takes to make, your dinner guests will not even have time to finish talking about the weather.

The original recipe is made with quark, which is a light, German cheese similar to ricotta, cream cheese or fromage frais. You can make your own quark from this recipe or you can follow my changes to the recipe below, where I substitute cream cheese beat with a little cream to lighten the texture.

Feed Others: Serve this quick and easy dessert after a simple dinner or as a quick snack when a friend stops by to say hello, or bribe children to finish their peas with a bowful.

Strawberry Quark
Adapted from Darina Allen
Serves 6. Allow 15 minutes.


1 pound strawberries
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature.
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Hull the strawberries and blend with the sugar until a smooth puree. Beat the cream cheese with one tablespoon of the heavy cream until smooth and the consistency of ricotta cheese. With clean beaters, beat the heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks.

Stir together two-thirds of the strawberry puree with the cream cheese mixture, then fold in the whipped cream. Serve in individual dishes topped with the remainder of the puree.

Every Friday, a group of women writers is blogging their way through 50 Women Game-Changers of Food – find more information, as well as a complete listing of who has participated and links to every recipe we’ve made so far, here

Mary of One Perfect Bite |Val of More Than Burnt Toast | Susan of The Spice Garden | Heather of girlichef | Miranda of Mangoes and Chutney | Jeanette of Jeanette’s Healthy Living | Kathleen of Bakeaway with Me | Sue of The View from the Great Island | Linda of There and Back Again | Barbara of Moveable Feasts   Deborah of Taste and Tell | Nancy of My Picadillo | Mireya of My Healthing Eating Habits | Veronica of My Catholic Kitchen |  Annie of lovely things | Claudia of Journey of an Italian Cook | Alyce of More Time At The Table | Amrita of Beetle’s Kitchen Escapades

Posted from: New York

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This entry was posted in 50 Women Game-Changers, Dessert, Gluten Free, New York, Quick and Easy. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Call Days (Darina Allen’s Strawberry Quark)

  1. Alyce says:

    Thanks for healing people. And for making quark! I definitely think it counts as breakfast food. Especially for people who go 30 hours without sleep. Be well.

  2. bellini says:

    Strawberries and cream cheese are a breakfast food!

  3. I am very impressed, no…I am blown away that you even find time to make this lovely dessert. Give yourself a break. You are a wonder woman and your team…they sound like Amazonians.

  4. Good for you making this quark! I would imagine after working long hours in surgery and on the med-surg floors, a quiet mix up in the kitchen is quite restful, despite the urge to crash hard in bed. Yup, definitely breakfast food in my book.

  5. So now I know what Quark is. Yes, it seems more like a breakfast food. Thanks for sharing with us.

  6. BeetleBuggy says:

    Wow, if I was you, I'd sleep through my post-call off day too…I'm sure that's one of the reasons my brother chose to specialize in Psychiatry instead. How you managed to find the energy or will to make even this quick dessert is impressive. I'm sure if you took your team a whole bunch of this, they would be impressed 😉

  7. MeghanM says:

    Sleep is a wise priority. Go you!

  8. Jeanette says:

    I honestly don't know ow you found the time o write this post! I've seen quark in the store a few times but wasn't sure what to do with it.

  9. Claudia says:

    I feel like such a slug – I go away for a week and cannot get a post up and yet – you are here – even though away at work! You picked the most welcoming dessert – I love the lightness, the sweetness and the pink-hue – beckoning spring.

  10. Kathy says:

    This is such a beautiful "Breakfast"! Looks so pretty in pink! I honestly never knew what quark was, until now! This sounds like such a wonderful, light dessert! I'm with everyone else…I don't know how you do it! Kudos to you!

  11. Mary says:

    This sounds really great. it definitely has gone on my "must try" list.I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Blessings…Mary

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