What do you picture when you imagine a perfect vacation? Is there an ocean? Good food? Beautiful running paths? Amazing music? Your favorite person? For me, it is all of the above. We (re)discovered Asbury Park, NJ — a short train ride from NYC — a few years ago, and it quickly became our go-to destination for summer holidays and birthdays and I-just-want-to-go-to-the-beach-days. Two years ago, we treated ourselves for our anniversary with a stay at the Asbury Park Inn, a lovely bed and breakfast just three short blocks from our favorite part of the beach. To say that Kate, the co-proprietor with husband Joe, is a genius in the kitchen, would be an understatement. Each of our two mornings she cooked us a feast: amazingly creamy eggs with mozzarella, avocado, and tomato; peach and thyme breakfast cobbler; coconut chocolate chunk scones. That first morning, when Kate obliged me after I couldn’t make up my mind about which one thing to order, I think I waddled to the beach, with zero regrets. Continue reading →
Somewhere, deep down, I wish I remembered my first steps. Our parents always remember our first words (mine were “thank you,” or, more accurately, “gackoo” — what can I say, the potty mouth came later), but they don’t always remember where we finally stood, wobbling on our tiny feet, and tentatively waddled awkwardly over to open arms. What did we feel? Was it pride? Exhilaration? If you’ve ever been off your feet or away from the sport you love for any length of time, I think maybe you get a bit of an inkling when you finally take your first steps back. I did, last night, only hours after breaking down into sobs over the memories of my last marathon, of the stubborn thought that I might never run again, of nothing working, of nearly picking up the phone and making an appointment for an experimental treatment with a 50-50 chance of success. Suddenly, in the middle of the day, even with my under eyes still stained with mascara from my tears, my ankle felt… great. I couldn’t even manipulate the pain I had felt upon waking in the morning, that I feel nearly every day. With the weather hovering in the mid-60s, I decided to go down to the track, where my teammates were running 1600-meter repeats, and just walk, maybe jog a little, just to see. My first steps on the track were hesitant, but magical. As I continued on with my friend Tracy by my side, I felt exhilarated, free. This must’ve been what it was like all those years ago.
It must also be what it’s like to tap the sap from a maple tree as winter begins its thaw in the northeast — it’s maple sugaring season! I never knew, not until I saw a video of sap boiling in preparation for a maple syrup festival at the Union Square Greenmarket last week and Food52 posted a delicious looking recipe for maple syrup-filled “sugar pie.” Because I haven’t been terribly active these last few months, I haven’t been terribly hungry. And I’ve felt uncomfortable in my skin. If we pass Donut Plant, yes, I will buy all the donuts (hello, tres leches). But I will feel incredibly guilty about it. I have very little self-control. So I’ve been thinking a lot more about how to put nutrients in my body — and tasty treats in my face — in compact packages without lots of refined white flour or sugar. Sugaring season was the perfect excuse to experiment with these Maple Rye Muffins. Continue reading →
Happy Pi Day! I hadn’t even realized this momentous occasion was approaching until my friend Katrina reminded me last week. She’d been thinking about it for at least a month — usually she throws a big 3.14 pie and bourbon party, but sadly, it’s a Monday, and bourbon doesn’t mix very well with work (unless it’s Friday). At the time, we had been messaging back and forth about flavor combinations, wondering, what fruit is in season? Is it still okay to use pumpkin? (the answer is yes.) She settled on making lovely little vegan hand-pies with apple and a coconut oil crust from Oh LadyCakes, which I’m dying to get my hands on. When she reminded me last week and I got to thinking about my own, though, I presented the idea to the fella: yes, I would make a pie. What pie should I make? He instantly asked for French silk — no hesitation. I hesitated. Somehow I picture chocolate and cool whip, but I’m sure there’s a better version. Still, I wanted fruit — I always want fruit pie. While he was thinking I was running through all the fruits currently available at my local market — “well, I could do pear,” I thought. “Maybe those blueberries from Chile…” And then he asked for key lime pie, and the rest is history.
Once upon a time, in a life far, far away, my roommate, my best friend, my “domestic partner,” decided she needed to move from our lovely Jersey City duplex apartment to seek new job opportunities elsewhere. The great search for a new roommate began, and I found a girl who was sweet and funny and seemed to get along with the kitties. And then I discovered she had celiac disease, and my heart sank. No roomie pizza Fridays? No Sunday cinnamon rolls? It’s okay, I thought to myself, I’ll learn how to bake for this great new person who would become my new friend. And yet I was dreading that time when the coolest person I had ever lived with would be gone and I would be left with…rice. Thankfully, that coolest person ultimately decided not to move away, and I had to break it to CeliacGirl that it wasn’t going to happen. I felt awful, but at the same time my heart was flooded with relief.
Of course, it came back to bite me: I fell in love with a man whose mom has celiac disease, and who, we feared at one point, amidst migraines and tummy aches, might have it too. But I wasn’t going to let the fear override my instinct to bake, to eat the things I wanted to eat and share all these wonderful treats. I would experiment. We would still have pizza Fridays, bread, pasta, muffins, cookies. And pancakes. Damnit, there was no way we were not going to have Sunday pancakes.
This, truly, is where the ImaginariYUM was born. There is a whole world of flours out there — buckwheat, brown rice, sweet rice, oat, almond, sorghum. With the right proportions, and, frankly, the right attitude, those flours and so many others can create baked goods that are as good if not better than the real thing. It opens up a whole new dimension. A new opportunity to do things differently, better. Continue reading →
It’s amazing what happens when one piece of a seemingly complex puzzle falls into place, and you realize it was never complex at all. Simply different, maybe a little foreign, and rare — for the time being. That’s how it was with chouquettes, but they’re merely a template — a very simple template — for all the wonderful things you can fill choux pastry with. I’m riding that French pastry train through the woods, past pristine rivers and pines, and into Paris. Next stop: Éclairs. All aboard! Choux-choux! Continue reading →
There is no better expression of love than a good episode of The Simpsons. Watched together, on the couch, with two big bowls of pasta and maybe a furry kitty between you. It’s what we did the first night we moved into our very own apartment together, just the two of us, four years ago, taking those tiny but bold steps towards something bigger and lasting. Whenever we’re blue, or distraught, or maybe just watched something too intensely depressing, we turn to The Simpsons — together. We re-watch scenes over and over, noticing tiny details that we hadn’t caught the first 38 times around. We double over in laughter. We quote Mr. Burns, Grampa, Marge, Homer, Ralph Wiggum, everyone. And it never, ever gets old. That’s love, right?
Love is also made of pastry. Candies and chocolates are great. So are brownies, and cookies, and cakes. But sometimes — like maybe on Valentine’s Day — you want to do something extra special. Something that maybe doesn’t take a whole lot of work, but is French, and is, as such, fancy, and instantly impressive. I’m talking about choux pastry — pâte à choux. That gorgeously crisp pastry dough that puffs up in the oven, leaving a just barely custardy space inside for pastry cream, or whipped cream, or ice cream, or nothing at all. I’m talking profiteroles, I’m talking eclairs. But first, I’m talking chouquettes. Continue reading →
There are, in the great encyclopedias of cooking and baking, very few things that require as little written embellishment as the humble cinnamon raisin swirl bread. It is perfect the way it is: sliced fresh, toasted with butter. The aroma wafting from a toaster as it crisps it up smells like childhood, like home. Never complacent to buy a loaf of something that’s been packaged in plastic, when I saw a recipe for it on the Tasting Table, I had to get it in my oven. 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 →
If you’re anything like me, you will go into a Trader Joe’s with a list of a handful of necessary things — light enough to truck two subway lines home — but end up with a heavy basketful and a wandering eye on the long, long checkout line. The last time I was there, just before Christmas, I spotted a bag of candied ginger while we were meandering closer to the registers, picked it up, and dropped it in our basket, convinced there was something I wanted it for. There wasn’t. Well, not that I knew of. But I knew people were pairing ginger with pears all over the place, and with the new year approaching, I also knew I wanted a new, healthy-ish muffin recipe in my arsenal. And what better form with which to experiment? These Ginger Pear Muffins are everything I never knew I wanted. Continue reading →
I have a confession to make: I absolutely, positively can’t stand Mariah Carey’s silly, saccharine “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Earth-shattering, I know. But there are few songs that fill me with rage deep enough to make me threaten to leave a party. I don’t know what it is. It’s just so — happy. And catchy. It’s in my head as I type this, threatening to overpower my vocabulary with generic, candy-coated truths. I mean, the sentiment is nice. The sentiment of the lyrics I generally agree with. I don’t need Santa to bring me toys either. I just want the love of my life. And cookies. Lots and lots of cookies. But I’ll be singing the praises of these deliciously perfect mint mocha crinkle cookies in the deliciously dark key of F minor.