When my friend Melanie called wedding planning “traumatic” earlier this fall, I thought she was joking. I must have just been overreacting to the overwhelming pressures of decision-making, I thought, after I had complained about wanting this part of the whole deal to be over. No, she was, indeed, quite serious. And she was right. Don’t get me wrong — our wedding day, the most gorgeous day of October in the New York-metro area, replete with frost on the grass in the morning and abundant, warming sunshine throughout the afternoon and so very much love from so many of our closest and favorite people, was better than I ever could have dreamed. On that day, all the meticulous planning, all the decisions, all the trust that ultimately went into our amazing vendors and our incredible family and bridal party to keep us calm and ensure that everything went smoothly, were worth it. But of course, in the weeks leading up to it, I had given myself an onerous task that I should have known better than to leave ‘til the last minute. There was, of course, no way I was going to bake desserts for my own wedding, but I still wanted to share the love with our friends and family in the form of food made from my own kitchen. I would make our wedding favors. I would learn to make — and preserve — apple butter. Continue reading →
This one goes out to all you marathoners out there. All you celiacs. All you vegans. This is the back-pocket recipe I wish I had over the last two years, when I was training my ass off, hungry all the time and only half-heartedly fooling myself into thinking I could eat whatever I wanted. These vegan, gluten-free chocolate peanut butter banana energy bites have everything I want in a sweet, satisfying treat, and nothing I don’t need. Continue reading →
Of all the amazing things about Astoria’s food scene, the one thing it seems to be lacking is ice cream. In Jersey City, there was an ice cream shop literally around the corner from my apartment. I have fond memories of lightly stepping down the steps of my stoop into the barely cool summer night air with my roommate, in our pajamas, for a cone of amazingly intense, creamy chocolate peanut butter or cookies and mint minutes before the family-owned Torico closed for the evening. Astoria is dotted with frozen yogurts-on-the-wall, but good ice cream or gelato is, as yet, impossible to come by. A new gelato place opened down the block from me over the winter, and a friend and I finally tried it last week on one of the first insanely hot days of the season, with high yet guarded hopes. While it was charming for its bare decor and nearly silent European proprietor, the gelato was just sad. Gelato is supposed to be dense, creamy, and packed with flavor. This was the opposite: some whipped concoction that was instead packed with sugar to mask its lack of flavor. The strawberry, after two bites, had an almost artificial taste. I was reminded, again, that if good ice cream were to be had in this town, it would have to be made in my kitchen.
This balsamic roasted strawberry gelato has everything I want in an ice cream: it is impossibly creamy without being weighted down by the fat of a typical American ice cream. Its flavor is completely unmasked by the higher milk-to-cream ratio, intensified by slow-roasting strawberries with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. The strawberry, instead, takes center stage. Pure but ramped up on balsamic-induced steroids. Continue reading →
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 →
You’ve probably noticed a slow, steady decline in posts here at the ImaginariYUM over the past several weeks. Well, I might as well make it blog official: I’ve gone back to work full time. I’m once again a grown-up. Trust me, I lament the loss of my cat-desk much more than you could imagine, but I’ve gone to a good place, with great people, who, unfortunately, refuse to let me acquire a cat-desk for the office. I told them I’d be okay with a dog-desk, too, but they failed to see the use in that.
What this means is that, satiated though I am intellectually, my creative juices — no, my energy — is sapped by the time I get home. I’ve baked only one dessert since I started, which, honestly, brings tears to my eyes. Readjusting to normal adult life — with the inclusion of at least three intense after-work running sessions per week with my teammates — means that I am in survival mode. Wake, commute, work, commute, run, cook dinner, eat at 10pm, sleep. Repeat. And it’s only going to get worse when marathon training begins in less than two months. But at least I’ll be hungry.
As you can see, I’m still trying to create one new delicious dish to share with you each week, but I’m maybe drowning a bit, as seven days turns into nine, then to fourteen, and I know my posts often get hidden by the powers that be on Facebook, where the vast number of my wonderful following reside. (Which is why I will urge you to subscribe! See the top of the right column anywhere on the blog.)
I got a bit of a kick in the pants last Wednesday night when, in between 400-meter repeats on the track, my friend and teammate Caryn begged me not to stop. “I won’t,” I promised. “Don’t!” she said, just before we lined up, still breathless from the last lap, and we took off. And I won’t. I promise. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support I’ve gotten from some of you, your exclamations over some of my recipes. I always wanted my beauties to be my little secrets, but the truth is it’s kind of amazing to see my cookies on other people’s Instagram feeds. If I can’t share physical bites with the world, I sure as hell can show you how to make your own. Continue reading →
All too often, we spend too much time apologizing for words and actions, or silence and inactions, for which we have no reason to apologize. For speaking too quietly, for asking someone to repeat something he said. For having dinner ready half an hour later than we intended. For asking for help. And for not baking, or writing a blog post, for two and a half weeks. I want to say I’m sorry. I want to throw myself at the mercy of the few of you who read this blog, apologize for having external deadlines, interviews, a raging stomach flu. But I won’t.
Instead, I’ll present to you this gorgeous flourless chocolate cake. Hailing from the brain of the wonderful David Lebovitz, it has four ingredients that you very well might already have in your pantry, and is an easy go-to for a last-minute dinner party — or, hell, a last-minute chocolate craving. I made this for the second night of Passover, when I was no longer sick but hadn’t had any energy to go running around looking for matzoh meal or cake meal or even almonds or hazelnuts or coconut. What I did have was nearly a whole Pound-Plus Bar of bittersweet chocolate, eggs, sugar, and butter. And, with only a few minutes of prep, it was probably the only thing I had the energy to stand in my kitchen for.
There are days when I dream of sun-ripened fruit and farmstand veggies and other fresh things. And then there are days when I try to Nutella everything. I’ve gotten into the habit of baking off loaves of peasant bread and schmearing warm slices with Nutella, or rescuing day-old peasant bread by toasting it and schmearing it with Nutella. It’s been my daily afternoon treat and I think it was saving me from the depths of everyone else’s winter depression. When we ran out of the sweet stuff over the weekend, we took advantage of the current thaw and took a walk up to one of our many local European markets (one of the great things about living in a Greek neighborhood) to see if they were selling it any cheaper than the supermarket on the corner. They weren’t, but they did have giant jars. Don’t worry, I said, I’ll find a use for it. But when I say “Nutella everything” I don’t just mean a schmear on things here and there — I’m talking about recreating Nutella in all kinds of food forms. Enter these chocolate-hazelnut banana muffins. Continue reading →
I’ve been feeling pretty under the weather the past few days. Could be from the subzero wind chills. Could be from running in the cold (but not in the subzero wind chills — come on, I’m not that crazy). Could be from too many super fudgy brownies and homemade In-N-Out burgers and fries. But from forehead to belly, I’m beat. I want to throw in the towel. I just want to curl up and knit while I watch a day’s worth of Daria. And detox, in my own way, by starting off the day with yogurt and tea. Continue reading →
There’s a sweet tooth gene that runs in my family, and the farthest I can trace it with any first-hand knowledge is my grandma — my mother’s mother, born and raised in the Bronx by immigrant parents, first-generation American. Incredibly smart, she was stunning in her youth, reserved, kind, funny, and sophisticated until the end, and always had a candy jar full of chocolates on the coffee table and a drawer full of marshmallows in the kitchen. And in the winter, Mallomars. Always Mallomars. She pretty much had it all figured out. Now, I’m not one to go out and buy a bag of marshmallows on a whim, but when I do, for s’mores or hot chocolate, that poor bag is in for a ravaging. And Mallomars? Forget it. I’m on the hunt for those always, and here in Astoria, for some strange reason, I can never seem to find them. Solution: homemade vanilla bean marshmallows with dark chocolate and sea salt. The hunger in my genes must be sated.
If you’re anything like me, you probably have a bowl of clementines somewhere in your home, slowly withering away. You bought a 5-pound box sure that you would eat several every day, convinced after that 2-pound bag you bought previously that all clementines were perfect, each one bright and sweet and tangy and just calling out, in a sultry voice, to be eaten. Turns out, the box I bought sometime around the holidays was just meh — sweet but not bright. Not bad and definitely edible but not wowing, as clementines should be, as that last bag from Trader Joe’s was. So a few handfuls of them have just been sitting in my living room, some growing sunken, most still looking surprisingly okay, and in the spirit of my New Year’s Resolution I’ve put them to work. Into the world as fresh clementines, out they came as clementine marmalade.