I am firmly of the belief that cinnamon is an anytime-of-the-year spice. But fall and winter, truly, is where it shines. Cinnamon warms you from the inside out. The scent alone feels like a cozy night in front of a fireplace — it’s the culinary equivalent of a firm hug. Last year, with temperatures hovering in the 60s and 70s here in NYC, it hardly seemed necessary. But in 2016, December feels like December, it’s cold and windy and cloudy, and along with all the cheese I want to put on everything, and all the chocolate I want to consume, I want to add cinnamon to every single thing I touch. These cinnamon apple oatmeal scones hit that craving perfectly. Continue reading →
Baked Ziti, Baby
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 →
Maple Pumpkin Roll
The first time we drove to Indiana, it was the day before Thanksgiving, and we spent 12 exhausting hours pushing ourselves past state lines. When we arrived at Ray’s parents’ house, late at night, his mom had a feast waiting for us: delicious, hearty lasagna, and sweet, spiced, perfect pumpkin roll — two of Ray’s favorites. After the hugs and the smiles and the warmth of the house, it was the perfect end to a very, very long day. It’s been four years since that pumpkin roll came into my life, and many, many unanswered requests later, I’ve reached past the fear of rolling a cake and I’ve finally done it. I’ve made pumpkin roll — with maple cream cheese filling.
Speculoos Breakfast Buns
There are days, when the rain is pouring, the wind threatens to stop you in your tracks, and you’re sick and in need of antibiotics, but genius hits, and you need to go out of your way to pick up that something special you know you need for magic, weather and aching body be damned. That day was last Friday, and that something special was Speculoos Cookie Butter. The idea: Speculoos Breakfast Buns.
It was almost like lightning struck in my office, my mind wandering from censorship to food, as it inevitably does at various points each and every day. Speculoos Cookie Butter is already genius — I want to shake the hand of the person who one day thought it was a good idea to turn Belgian spice cookies into a spread — sweet and naughty like Nutella, but somehow almost savory like peanut butter. I eat spoonfuls of it straight from the jar when I’m hungry and out of cereal — standing over the stove making pasta, chopping vegetables, or staring wistfully out a window. You’ll know it if you’ve ever stopped at the Wafels and Dinges cart at the southeast corner of Central Park after a run, or at one of their other carts parked throughout the city; Speculoos’s pairing with Belgian waffles is heaven. And so, suddenly, while dreaming of weekend bakes, I thought, wouldn’t it also be perfect in roll form? Continue reading →
Hearty Chicken Barley Soup
A Jewish girl from the suburbs of New York grows up on, among other delicious things, three basic staples: bagels, pickles, and chicken soup. Saturday bagels for energy to run and jump and play; sour pickles for, uh, probiotics and a strong stomach; and chicken soup, for everything. At holidays, the soup, served with matzoh balls or Grandma’s Passover noodles, is always simmered for a long time, tenderizing the chicken that would be plucked out and used as an hors d’oeuvre in chicken salad (with challah or matzoh, depending on the holiday). The halved or quartered veggies are separated from the broth and passed around the table, so family can pick and choose whether they want carrot, or parsnip, or celery, or nothing at all. During the winter, my mom makes it exactly the same, but keeps everything in the pot, pulling out one chicken breast at a time to shred directly into bowls filled with extra thin egg noodles and topped with broth and whatever vegetables we’re craving that night, and we would cut into the veggies ourselves, with a spoon, and heal our winter blues. Mom’s soup is delicate but hearty, uncluttered, uncomplicated, and, in a word, home.
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.
Maple Oat Scones
There was a time in my life when every penny I saved went towards traveling around the country — and the world — to attend major figure skating competitions. Specifically, to cheer on the great Michelle Kwan and revel in her strength and the beauty she would always, without fail, create on the ice. Her movement, her emotion, her attention to every detail. We fed off of her performances in wild exultation, and she fed off of us with explosions of power and joy beaming straight out of her heart. In retrospect, it sounds insane. But if I said I regretted any of it I’d be a lying fool. The energy, the nervous excitement, the camaraderie. Ten years ago, Michelle competed in what would end up being her last National Championships, fighting her way to the top once again, for the eighth year in a row, to match the iconic Maribel Vinson Owen in claiming a record nine national titles. Ten years ago today, in Portland, Oregon, she skated to Ravel’s Bolero in a stunning gold dress, her last long program on National Championship ice, and I was there for the ride.
So you’re wondering, what on earth does this have to do with maple oat scones? This post just seems like an excuse to reminisce and be happy and sad all at once — happy because I was there and it was incredible; sad because, without truly realizing it at the time, a hip injury was slowly eating away at her ability to compete and would take her out of the 2006 Nationals, and then, maybe even more heartbreakingly, out of the 2006 Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. But that week in Portland, 10 years ago, a freak ice storm wreaked havoc on the city’s streets and sidewalks and made getting to early morning practice sessions difficult and slow — and there was no way we were going to miss any of Michelle’s practice sessions. We had to leave our hotels earlier than usual, missing out on leisurely breakfasts and necessitating brief daily runs into one of the Starbucks along the way. I skipped the coffee and bought tea, as was my custom then, and discovered their maple oat scones. Continue reading →
Moroccan Chickpea Soup
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 →