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 →
Herbed Chicken Pasta Salad
The cherry blossoms are blooming in Central Park. The magnolias are bursting in front yards all over Astoria. Daffodils are everywhere, and so are the people. Spring has finally sprung in New York, and nothing says spring, especially after an active day outside shaking off the last of winter’s hijinks, like a crunchy, herby salad filled with chicken, tomatoes, feta, and pasta.
It’s the perfect segue: ingredients that are available all year round, ready to be consumed the first day of the year you truly really want to put effort into making a savory meal that tastes like a warm, sunny day. And because it’s a salad, you can throw as much of this, as little of that as you’d like and it will be amazing every single time. That’s sort of the way I learned this one. I was visiting my friend Erin in Boston, probably a good ten years ago, when she suggested we make this for dinner. It hails from a possibly ancient issue of Cooking Light magazine, but we never measured anything. A handful of basil and parsley, a bunch of scallions, a bag of lettuce. And, okay, fine, a little too much penne that one day. I think once it was cooked it barely fit in the pot. I swear, it wasn’t me — but of course it was so very me. She just knows me so well. Needless to say, I have been hooked since that day, and this salad is a staple in my warm weather dinner arsenal. Continue reading →
The Definitive Penne alla Vodka
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.