During the holidays, it’s hard to stray from the old classics. Besides the Mexican hot chocolate biscotti I fiddled around with, I mostly made the tried and true last year: dark chocolate peanut butter blossoms; mint mocha crinkle cookies; speculoos breakfast buns. But the new year is ripe for experimentation. Gone are the stresses of upholding the traditions of not only your own nostalgia but everyone else’s. You can make the people you love happy not only by helping them relive their childhoods, but engaging them with something new and delicious. “How about some pumpkin walnut ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce for dinner?” I asked the husbo last weekend. He could do nothing but nod soundlessly and enthusiastically in eager anticipation.
Catharsis: tears fall, a dam breaks. Time is not your enemy, yet it nudges you along its path, regardless of your mistakes or your self-doubt — whether you’re ready for it or not. Fall with your tears, fall into the river time has made in your kitchen. This is the art of bread baking, and it’s why I came to the mountains of North Carolina earlier this month for a three-day intensive, wood-fired baking workshop with the inimitable Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Bakery. I came for an awakening.
Dear world, I’m sorry for my radio silence. It’s been an exciting and overwhelming few weeks over here, including an amazing, spiritual bread-making experience in North Carolina that I’m dying to tell you about. But I got caught in the Delta mess on my way home, then came back to a weekend of love that was showered upon me by the most incredible friends and family a girl could ever ask for, and it’s go time on prep for this wedding thing and for once I decided to cut myself some slack — no guilt this time — and take a break from blogging for a hot minute. In truth, I had this recipe for caprese pasta salad ready for you before I left for Asheville, intending to have the post up when I got to our Airbnb, but just didn’t get around to it. But this is one of my back-pocket recipes, so simple, so easy to make, and such a perfect way to celebrate a harvest of tomatoes, especially on a hot day, that I can’t wait any longer to share it with you. Continue reading →
Sometimes, lo and behold, I get a little tired of pasta, and instead get a hankering for risotto. Creamy and indulgent, short-grain Arborio rice grains soaking up wine and broth and whatever flavorings have been sautéed and toasted on the bottom of my pan. What stops me is the notion that risotto is time consuming, risotto is difficult, risotto is easily-mess-up-able. Is it more time consuming that spaghetti with garlic and olive oil? Yes. Is it difficult? Hell no. Forget about standing over the stove stirring five cups of stock slowly, oh so slowly, into your risotto. Cook’s Illustrated has a no-fuss method and we’re never going back. What better way to give it a test run than with a lovely, allium-rich late spring risotto?
I’m having another one of those weeks: spending lots of time at work thinking creatively and then expending all that energy before I get home. I have a terrible case of writer’s block. I’m also feeling more and more like my commute is one of the things that’s killing me: It generally takes an hour, door to door, but often much more when the MTA is having a bad day. Some of that time I spend reading the news on my New York Times app or a good book when I have one, a lot of that time I had spent through the winter knitting cute baby things for my cute baby nephew, but mostly, I’m standing, stuck in between people who are as miserable as I am, holding onto gross poles that are still warm from other people’s hands, as we inch through darkened tunnels and try our best not to breathe on each other or look at each other. By the time I get home, I just want to rinse myself of the day, of that time wasted expending the energy needed to stand yet doing absolutely nothing but staring ahead, and do — absolutely nothing. I’m exhausted. I’m parched. And I should probably spend more time doing writing exercises so this kind of thing doesn’t happen.
Let’s try it: train. plane. propane. proton. pluton. neutron. noodle. doodle — wait! What was that in there? Noodle? How about spaghetti? Wait! Instead of writing the other day I spent a stupid amount of time watching Beyonce’s brilliant Lemonade. Spaghetti with lemons? And basil? And shallots? And cream? And parm? Ooh! Bing, there it is. Yes, let’s talk about Spaghetti al Limone — one of the greatest, simplest one-pot suppers ever to grace this little corner of Astoria. Continue reading →
If you were to ask me what my number one, go-to, last-minute pasta dish is, I wouldn’t hesitate to say spaghetti aglio e olio. If you were to ask me what my number one, go-to, ridiculously-easy, don’t-feel-like-standing-in-front-of-the-stove pasta dish is, I would say this: Marcella Hazan’s four-ingredient tomato sauce. Continue reading →
So, for weeks I’ve had this whole long, eloquent post about how I’m injured, and not running, and generally feeling sorry for myself just sitting here on my computer. I haven’t been able to finish it because, well, UGH. I don’t need to put a sad-sack story online about how frustrated and pathetic I feel about not being able to just throw on some running shoes and head out the door, blow off some steam, release some energy. And it’s cold, and we just had a blizzard, so if there’s ever a time to be forced to take a break, it’s now, in the dead of winter. I think the other reason I was reticent is because this is comfort food, and few things require comfort as completely as an injury. And yet, when you’re forced to sit on your butt for however many weeks are required for tendons to heal, shoving tons of cheese down your gullet doesn’t seem like the smartest idea in the world. That said, it didn’t stop me from eating this, my favorite baked ziti, and it won’t stop me in the future as I re-learn that elusive “portion control” thing that people who don’t run marathons talk about. OK, fine, we talk about it too. But a giant bowl full of pasta was always justified when you knew you would just run it off. Now, maybe a little less. Everything in moderation, right? Continue reading →
When a marathon door closes, another one — vast and wide and inviting — opens. So many times, we feel empty in the days or weeks after we cross the finish line, so used to the schedule and the goals that without them an aimless restlessness takes hold. Me? Not this year. I am thrilled to have my mornings, my evenings, my weekends back. A week after finishing the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon, I felt a spark of inspiration. I felt clarity after months of cloudiness. I was back in the kitchen. After whipping up some old favorites (apple cider donuts, oatmeal muffins), I wandered the aisles of my local green grocer, cozied up in a sweater in the brisk weather I wished we had had for those 26.2 warm, humid miles the week before, dreaming of comfort, of fall flavors. And thus was born this creamy, sophisticated Pumpkin Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese.
We are now in the single-digit countdown for Marathon Sunday. My friends, teammates, and friend-strangers all over the world are settling into the zone called “the taper” — the Catch-22. Both dreaded and welcomed, it’s the time when we bring our mileage and our intensity down in order to rest and recuperate after months of depletion. It’s the time when we pull together our marathon outfits and plan our fingernail colors, go over our race strategies, and, of course, worry. Why does my ankle hurt? Why am I so tight? Can I really do this? Oh god am I getting fat?
But possibly the best part (which raises the “fat” question) is the carbo-load — a necessity to shore up the body’s glycogen stores to fuel the 26.2-mile haul. Granted (and I think I’ve said this before), I generally don’t need to do anything too out of the ordinary to make this happen. I’m a pasta fool. But after my longest, hardest effort two weeks ago, in the form of a 22-mile run up to the Little Red Lighthouse and back, I decided to shake it up a bit and go beyond my usual penne alla vodka, or spaghetti aglio e olio, or simple tomato and basil, and put in a bit of effort. I decided to make a true bolognese. Continue reading →
Are you slipping comfortably into fall? Sliding into the harvest? It fits me, like the warm sweater I’m wearing right now, on the first 50-degree day of the season. Like my favorite pair of cozy slippers. Like a perfect run in cool, crisp air, the wind at my back, my mile pace transformed. Like melty grilled cheese and tomato soup.
But not just any grilled cheese. Cheddar apple grilled cheese.