I might be the only person in New York City who likes winter. And not just light snowfalls, pristine white flakes floating down onto quiet sidewalks, silhouetted against lamplight and curtainless windows. Not just chilly temperatures, asking for sweaters and scarves and woolen coats and boots. No, I like extended frozen landscapes. Last winter? The polar vortex? The frozen Hudson? I loved it. I may have been the only person who didn’t complain when it felt like spring would never come — well, until it did, for a day, and then got cold again. Then I was ready. Because cold winters mean glorious springs, and it was. I may shiver and it may take courage to go out for a training run when it gets below 20 degrees, but this week’s sub-zero wind chills just make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside — because when it gets like this, I fill my insides with warm bread and hot soup. But not just any hot soup — Moroccan chickpea soup.
This beautiful concoction melds the flavors of cinnamon and cumin, paprika and cayenne, to build a slightly sweet, slightly spicy base from which the chickpeas can make their case for a hearty alternative to meat. Baby spinach adds vitamins, a pop of color, and a hint of bitterness, which compliments the handful of slightly acidic tomatoes here wonderfully, and I’ve added diced carrots for an additional boost of mellow sweetness (and something else to chew on). Some of the chickpeas are mashed at the end, so that the soup isn’t just chunky, it’s thick, too. Continue reading →
Happy New Year, everyone. 2014 is now a relic of the past. Like many of you, mine was filled with ups and downs — and this year, they weren’t simply little hiccups and little boosts here and there. 2014 was momentous, it was disastrous, it was marvelous. I left my life at an organization to which I dedicated seven years of my heart and soul, bled passion and tears and hope and frustration. Left what had become an unkind regime. Rekindled my passion for my own work, my own writing. Found you, the ImaginariYUM, and found myself.
And now it’s 2015, and things are gonna change. A little. My big New Year’s Resolution is simple, but will hopefully be profound: I resolve to use up all the leftover vegetables I buy before they turn to mush, grow mold, or grow eyes. And to start, I’m using up (almost) all the leftover potatoes from my two crazy days of latke-making a couple of weeks ago by turning them into velvety potato leek soup. And as a side? I’ve taken some of the leftover buttermilk from last week’s perfect cinnamon rolls and turned them into the easiest buttermilk biscuits. It’s cold, I’m hungry and still tired from being up way too late last night, and I’m damn glad there’s something good, healthy, and hearty to eat for the start of the new year.
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It’s December. The tree is up, the menorah is candle-ready, and it’s cookie month. C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me — as long as they’re not those overly sweet, unbalanced confections that are so common at the Christmas cookie swap. If I’m going to eat my weight in cookies for a month, they’d better not give me a nauseating sugar headache. So let’s make some beautiful little treats that not only have the traditional heart of the holidays, but also have some balance. Who’s with me?
Two years ago, when we were going gluten-free out of fear that the fella may have inherited his mom’s celiac disease, we also happened to be staying here in NYC for the holidays. I tried to bring as much Christmas spirit into the apartment as I knew how — surprised him with a decked-out tree, bought some baubles, and tried my hand at gluten-free, dark chocolate peanut butter blossoms. Did you know you can make cookies without flour? Any flour at all? And that they will just melt in your mouth? It’s a thing, and they’re amazing. You could probably call these peanut butter meltaways. Two years later and with wheat flour once again a very prominent feature in our lives, I’m still making them. Continue reading →
Several weeks ago, after recovering from one of my last long runs, the fella came home from the bagel shop with a small container of mystery cream cheese, spooned some out, and asked me what I tasted. I couldn’t put my finger on it — I was craving my salty everything bagel, and this was sweet and smoky, and not at all what I wanted. I asked him to just tell me what it was. After some more pleading, because I wouldn’t play the game, he told me: maple bacon. “OH!” My eyes widened, my palm went to my forehead, and once I knew, I immediately wanted more.
We schmeared it on freshly baked and toasted peasant bread later that afternoon and lamented its quick disappearance. We returned for more, but it was for naught. Everyone wanted the maple bacon cream cheese. It was gone. Continue reading →
My brother got married over the weekend. The setting was a picturesque country club and golf course in the mountainous northeast corner of New Jersey, just over the New York border. Just outside the lodge, next to the gazebo where he and his lady would say their vows, was a gorgeous maple tree nearing its peak: bright red against what was, at the beginning, a cloudy October sky. It was brisk after pouring all day, and we froze in our dresses as we stood waiting for the photographer to get everything he wanted. But the scent out there was pure autumn. There’s always something about grass and trees after the rain, but it takes on even more fullness in fall. When I got home, I wanted that in my kitchen. I wanted apple cider doughnuts.
When I lived in Jersey City, we had an amazing farmer’s market just outside the PATH station, with several farmers and orchards from around my hometown, in the heart of northwestern New Jersey. I picked up cider doughnuts every week, sometimes more, for the duration of the apple season. Now, don’t get me wrong, Grow NYC – the organization that brings us the sprawling Union Square Greenmarket – is incredible and a boon to the community, and I would be utterly miserable without it. But in Astoria the markets are still small, with only two orchards, and to my spoiled taste buds the cider doughnuts sold by one of them are lacking. If you’ve ever fried doughnuts and eaten them the second day, you know how foul that soaked-in oil tastes. Fried doughnuts should be fresh every day, and – in my humble opinion – shouldn’t be bagged or boxed. They should be sold one at a time from a container that keeps the cinnamon-sugar topping fresh and crunchy. But that’s a discussion for another day.
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If a long distance runner tells you part of the reason she runs isn’t so she can stuff her face with pasta, she’s lying to you. True, most of it is the challenge, the endorphins, the yearning to be better than you were yesterday. But for many of us, we run so we can eat. And when you’re training for a marathon, you’re hungry. All. the. time. It took me a while to be okay with eating a second lunch – which follows brunch, which follows a very long run, which follows breakfast. I swear, though, not everything I eat is a pastry or a muffin or a biscuit – I also eat fruit and salads and proteins and potatoes rich with vitamin C. These are the things I crave after a 20-mile run. But before? Give me bowls of pasta. Lemon. Garlic. Tomatoes. Peppers. Whatever. As long as it envelops that perfect pod of a simple carb, it’s what I want to fuel me through those grueling miles.
We all grow up eating the stuff, though for many kids, like yours truly, many moons ago, we want it with butter. Or cheese – from a little blue box. We were the pain-in-the-ass kids who only knew tomatoes if they were in the form of basically orange, tangy water with little o’s swimming around. But once we learned how beautiful that fruit was? Forget it. I watched my mom make a bolognese hundreds of times growing up, but never made a basic sauce until I was 20, kind of poor, and living with an Italian-American roommate in Paris. On our first night in our apartment together, she made her grandmother’s recipe: slow cooked, fresh tomatoes, with garlic, onion, and raisins, to cut the acidity and add sweetness. My life would never be the same.
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