November 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
This may be a bit arbitrary, but one of the things I have come to associate with the East Coast is candied, spiced nuts. I can hardly walk down the streets of New York City without veering towards the carts selling honey roasted mixed nuts (+coconut), even though the dirtiness of the simmering pot of oil ought to deter me. Other times, you just have to mention roasting chestnuts, and I get excited, because it means fall and I never used to have a fall before. Leaves tend to stay on the trees year-round in California.
This year I was afraid we had skipped fall altogether and headed straight for winter. It poured and snowed, and all turned into slush, the other night in Boston. But then I boarded a bus out to the Cape the next morning, and the skies were blue, though the wind was chilly. The little town has the aura of a child’s plaything, abandoned after the summer. Many houses on the street are already empty for the cold months ahead. The few inhabited houses left behind have pumpkins on their front steps and young, fallen trees propped up in their yards, the only telltale sign that it stormed this past weekend. A harsh wind hits your face, coming up from the shore, where only a castaway crabbing net and a couple of seagulls remain sticking it out in the cold. In the evening, you can hear the wind, just from your seat by the window.
I haven’t been out here for over three years, though there was a time I came every summer. It’s quite different being here huddled up inside or out walking alone in a hat and scarf instead of doing front flips on the lawn in a bathing suit and washing sand off my toes under the sprinkler.
I know I just posted a batch of nuts, but i just couldn’t resist these. If the dried figs and fresh rosemary at first seem a bit unexpected, the flavors quickly meld together in a sticky, crunchy heap of irresistible snacking. I followed this recipe, swapping out the sesame seeds for pumpkin seeds, according to the season but also due to a personal dislike for sesame.
April 19, 2011 § 2 Comments
I sat down to do a race recap of my first marathon this weekend, and I can already barely remember parts. There was never a point in time where I didn’t think that I would finish it but there were many points when it just needed to be over damn it, and why did that last mile feel so, so long. Miles one through five were faster, faster than they should have been, and I was alive and peppy and trying to get away from the people that were chit-chatting behind me. And then we hit the long, straightaway along the marshes of the bay and the pace relaxed enough to take in the cow pastures. I ran past horses, along a muddled creek, a dirt gravel path framed by dried out weeds. The runners had separated out and I was on my own now, very on my own for miles at a time without a soul in sight. The out portion seemed to go on forever, one never-ending trail without an end in sight. Eight miles down, hit the 12-mile marker, turned around soon after. Did the whole trail back again. Boredom set in as I passed mile 15. I picked up the little brother on his bike around there. My whole family had been biking around the course, handing me energy gummies and water. They stayed pretty nearby for the rest of the race. Mile 19, the pain really sets in. Suddenly the slight uphill as you duck under the overpass feels like a real hill. I don’t really feel like I need to say that my legs hurt, but nothing really hurt, so I guess that’s a good thing. Another out-and-back for miles 21-24. I never really noticed a wall. I noticed I was tired yes, my legs felt tight and heavy; I knew if I stopped running, I wouldn’t be able to start again. Before mile 25, the out-and-back was over and we turned in to run the lake on the way home. Mile 25, the home stretch, you could see the finish line balloons, the tents, it all looked so far away. But you could see it. I’m not sure if that was better or worse. The last mile seemed to continue for longer than a final mile should — every time I thought I was nearly done, the path wound again to the side and then there emerged a whole other portion of the pond I hadn’t been able to see a few seconds before. And then one more turn. And then it was over. And I was sitting on the grass, eating a lackluster It’s It ice cream sandwich (why are these famous again?) and then a handful of peanut M&Ms and a Safeway white chocolate chunk cookie.
I had originally been planning on making a post-race snack the night before. But between making a 3.5-hour playlist (which I didn’t even get to finish in the race!) and cutting bite sized Power Bars, I never got around to it. So instead, the next morning, I hobbled around the house and made these hearty oatcakes. I pre-ordered Heidi Swanson’s new book Super Natural Every Day and it was like Christmas when it finally arrived. Every page is gorgeous and I want to stand in the middle of the kitchen hugging it and cooking from it all day. She calls these oatcakes an improved version of the oatcakes — little oat patties, often with dried apricots or nuts — that you find (and are consequently disappointed by) in many San Francisco coffee shops. These are the ideal version, dense, slightly moist, packed with nuts and whole grains. I used all spelt flour and half rolled oats, half steel cut oats. And I’ve been eating them ever since.
November 24, 2010 § 1 Comment
Early Saturday afternoon found me scurrying across to the 16eme arrondissement to the Grand Palais to see the special Monet exhibition. I was meeting a couple of friends from class and as Monet is one of the few painters whose work I enjoy looking at in large quantities, I was quite excited. It was a brisk but sunny morning and the Christmas market stands were already set up along the Champs d’Elysées as I joined my friends in line outside the Palais.
Two hours later we were still standing there and contemplated for the first time, giving up and heading to a more accessible museum. And then the line moved a couple feet and we decided to stay. I had my hands wrapped up in my scarf and my feet seemed frozen at the soles but still, we stayed. Another hour later and we were finally in the final quarter of the line; I now had my scarf wrapped around my head, covering my ears and mouth. The old French ladies behind us had started sharing hard candies with those around them, the French couple in front of us had long abandoned the line and everyone was trying to make conversation in an attempt to distract themselves from the fact that they could no longer feel their toes. For my part, my teeth had started chattering and when we eventually made it to the very front of the line, I was huddled up in a ball on the bottom stairs of the Palais. It was only then that the stern French guard took pity on me and beckoned us inside.
The exhibit has had a grand amount of success, with tickets selling out in the middle of the week through the weekend; even those with pre-purchased tickets must wait in a significant line before being allowed entrance. Once inside, the first few rooms are packed with people, but the crowds slowly thin out as the exhibit progresses. It is surprising walking through the rooms, how many of his oeuvres have made it out of France to the United States, though somewhat understandable given the cold reception Monet’s style of painting originally received in France. I especially enjoyed the fact that we were able to view his works on lightplay — paintings of the exact same spot painted at different times of the day, under different lighting such as the two Le Pont du Chemin de Fer at Argenteuil, one of which is at the Musée d’Orsay and the other of which is in Philadelphia— side by side, as they might have been intended, and not separated by oceans of water between two museums.
As we pushed ourselves back into the cold, into the midst of the Marché de Noel along the Champs d’Elysées, we said it was a visit well-spent. Though perhaps it could have been a bit better organized, so as to avoid such long lines, as I have never before seen a French person abandon a line before getting what he wants. And perhaps we should have been better prepared to wait as well — I should have brought these little cakes, which are here by popular demand by several women in my class. Only in France would banana bread be a new, novel idea!
Adapted from Joy of Baking
1 cup (115 grams) walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
1 3/4 cups (230 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, browned and cooled
2 ripe large bananas, mashed well (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Combine the butter, bananas, sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Gentry fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, making sure not to overmix. Bake at 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C in a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan for about 55 minutes or until the top is golden brown and knife inserted into the center comes out clean.