I’m baking a lot of bread these days. Holding the ImaginariYUM to its name and experimenting several days a week — with different kinds and percentages of flours, with hydration levels, with folding techniques and bulk fermentation times. Even the not-so-great loaves are a thrill — the deductions of what went wrong, why perhaps this baking temperature isn’t great for that particular formula in this particular oven. It makes me remember that despite giving up in chemistry in high school, I’m a scientist at heart. I want to know how things work, why things are they way they are. Making naturally leavened bread is the perfect juxtaposition of science and my other love, art. Know thy formulas, deduce, experiment, test again, but feel it and express it with your heart and soul. Continue reading →
Well folks, we made it. 2016 is over and gone, and 2017 is here — of course, as we knew it would be. On the eve of a new year we always proclaim the previous to be “the worst year ever,” willing the next to be better and brighter, because it just has to be, right? Seriously, we do it every year. And while 2016 might have been an exception in crappiness, even in our current era, on the grand scale of politics and the like I’m not betting 2017 will be much better. But a friend posted a thread on Facebook encouraging people to post the good things that happened in 2016 — because on a personal level, I’ll bet there were as many for you as there were for me. I spent much of the year trying to regain my footing, find my place in the world — a miasmic endeavor that left me, often, in tears. And yet, 2016 was the year my sweet nephew Charlie was born, and it was the year I married the love of my life on the most gorgeous day of the year — two huge events that also left me in tears, but happy ones. Watching videos of Charlie laughing over and over again and just looking into the eyes of my new husbo have been a salve to my soul. And as 2016 came to a close and 2017 dawned cold and sunny, I’m stepping closer and more firmly to where I want to be, where I need to be, where I belong. And so, in honor of this awakening, I’m sharing with you these Orange Cranberry Streusel Muffins — as bright and glorious as the cold winter sun, and like a warm hug to welcome you in from the chill of last year.
Three blueberry recipes in a row?? I know, I’m a little obsessed. I swear I tried to make something else, but it was a disaster, and needs some work, and I bought more blueberries that tasted like candy, and I haven’t made scones in a while and damnit, this recipe is genius. No beating around the blueberry bush. This recipe needs no long-winded introduction because these gorgeous, tall triangles dotted with sweet bursts of fruit are simply the best blueberry scones I’ve ever tasted. Continue reading →
These days are lazy. As the weather has warmed, my appetite for — and desire to cook — heavy, bready things has waned. Gone are the consistent cravings for bagels every other day. Many weekends, I don’t even want pancakes. Blasphemy! I’ve been beginning most of my days lately with yogurt, fruit, and granola, and then often have a second breakfast at lunchtime with avocado toast topped with a fried egg. Really, most of what I want these days includes protein and fruits and vegetables. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still crave some luxury on a Sunday morning. I just want it to include less flour, more eggs, and be topped with yogurt and fresh fruit. Thank goodness for the FauxMartha’s Blender Dutch Baby, because now it’s all I want to make to sate my weekend morning sweet tooth. Continue reading →
Spring has finally arrived: the sun is out this week, and rhubarb has been spotted — and picked through and procured — at the Union Square Greenmarket. “O, frabjous day! Callooh, callay!” she chortled in her joy. But what to do with these nearly neon pinky-green, celery-like stalks? Especially when trucked-in, beat-up strawberries are still upwards of $6 or $7 at the supermarket? Can rhubarb stand alone? The answer, unabashedly, is yes. And with a sweet, crackly, crumbly crisp envelope and a touch of orange, they shine as brightly as that sun out there. Continue reading →
This isn’t a post about moms. The ones who wake in the middle of the night at your slightest cough or gasp from a nightmare. The ones who schlep from one end of town to another, to the next town, and back again, for figure skating lessons, violin lessons, piano lessons, general shenanigans. The ones who give in and get you a cat when you’re six years old, have you jumping around your living room with your brother at the thought of bringing home a tiny grey kitten-friend. The ones who hold your hand as you wade through life’s murky waters, are okay with a phone call in the middle of the day while they’re at work just because you’re bored or lonely or wondering what to do about a weird burn. The ones who teach you “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” The ones who are there for you, every single moment of every single day, without you ever having to ask, because being a mom means being completely selfless.
No, this isn’t about that. My mom hates coconut, and I did not plan very well this week. This weekend I’m making my mom key lime pie, but this post is really about Coconut Banana Nut Muffins. After all, Mom did teach me to listen to my body and eat the things I crave.
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 →
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 →
When you’re training for a marathon, time is no longer time alone. Time is measured in miles. Days, weeks pass by in distance. Four-hundred-meter repeats. Eight-mile tempo run. Twenty-mile long run. Forty-mile week. Monday is no longer Monday. Monday is hill repeats incorporated into 4, 5, 7 miles. Two hundred more miles until November 1st. Time — the distance — passes quickly, until the moment you dread waking up the next morning. Until all you want is for it to be over, to cross that finish line in Central Park, and reclaim the ability to sleep in without your internal clock waking you up at 5 or 6 in the morning. Return to lazier weekends. Reclaim time as time alone.
And yet — marathon training is, essentially, a selfish thing. There are a lot of “sorry”s. “Sorry, I can’t make your birthday party. I have to get up at 4:30 the next morning for an 18-mile race.” “Sorry I can’t plan a visit that weekend — that’s the weekend of my 22-miler.” “Sorry, I can’t meet for happy hour. I have to get up for a track workout the next morning.” And even, “Sorry I’m falling asleep so early. Can you please do all the dishes, clean the litter box, and give the cat his medicine tonight? Again?”
It’s valiant to run a marathon a first time. Is it unfair to try it again? This is the question I’ve been asking myself often the last few weeks. But I try, whenever possible, to maintain some semblance of normalcy around here. I’m pretty proud of the fact that the weekend tradition of my childhood — bagels on Saturdays, pancakes on Sundays — is alive and well. And pancakes scream lazy; they scream a bit of breakfast indulgence.
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And so, there comes a point in every person’s life when she must decide, once and for all, whether cooked cherries can have a part in her baking repertoire. For me, that point came last week. Except for the earliest parts of my youth, I’ve never loved the flavor. I eschew the cherry Starbursts and Tootsie Roll pops for orange and grape. And I know what you’ll say — those candies aren’t really made with cherries. But the cloying disaster of them tainted their value for me for too long. Even maraschino cherries topping drinks and chocolate-covered ones falsely promising balance are a no-go. Everything just tastes like syrup.
It wasn’t until several years ago that I even started enjoying cherries raw. I remember that first day well: I was hanging out with my old friend Lorraine on a sunny summer day in one of the parks in our hometown. We sat on the bleachers next to one of the baseball fields, catching up, eating black cherries and seeing how far we could spit the pits. And yes, we were in our 20s. The cherries were sweet, but had a hint of acidity to give them brightness. And the pits, instead of being a burden, as I had always thought they were, became the carefree definition of summer.
So cherries have become a regular character in my warm weather novella, playing a supporting role to peaches, strawberries, and blueberries, but a critical role nonetheless. In one of our hottest Mays on record, I’ve been craving those summer bounties, which, for now, still seem like delicacies until our local orchards can catch up after our long, cold winter. So on one of those hot days, along with a pint of blueberries for my Sunday blueberry pancakes, I picked up a giant bag of sweet, ripe cherries.