No Such Thing As Vacation

Growing up one of my father’s mantra was, “There’s no such thing as vacation; just different places to work.” While I am generally not a rebellious child–more likely to accept parental wisdom as law than to question–I have never fully embraced this vacation doctrine.

So the fact that this Spring Break came not with a flight to somewhere warm or interesting but with a planned five days of uninterrupted work may have brought out an unbecomingly whiny, annoyingly grumpy side of my personality, which I wish I could say appears rarely but that’s probably not true.

I channeled at least a little of that grumpy energy into a baking bender that lasted until Noah made me a pina colada on Wednesday night–sweetly implying that it was time to get over my “why aren’t we in Aruba?” funk. A day later we took off for Rhode Island and I buried myself in a novel while snuggling by a fire.


From here, I can tell you that even if I didn’t get to go away I did get to make some pretty great things that I had bookmarked for a long time. So, today, I thought I would put up  some links to the excellent food I made this week and throw out a big thank you to the excellent bloggers who pointed me towards these comforting, bad mood-defying treats:

Smitten Kitchen’s Millet Banana Bread: (Gluten-free: 1 cup buckwheat flour,  1/2 cup almond meal)

Casa Yelllow’s Frascatelli: (Wheat- free: 3 cups einkorn flour, 1 cup chestnut flour)

Sprouted Kitchen’s Cauliflower Gratin (Subbed millet for brown rice, added a chopped jalapeno, used chick pea flour in the roux)

My New Root’s Chocolate Buckwheat Granola (Added 1 cup mashed banana to the chocolate and took out the sugar, cut maple syrup down to  a 1/4 cup; threw in some dried cherries at the end).

I’ll be back with a real recipe next week.




Chocolate, Cherry, Coconut Macaroon Tart

Last weekend, was kind of perfect. It was the kind of weekend I imagine non-students have all the time, but which sometimes seems tragically absent for those of us with work always hanging over heads. Friends and family popped in and out all weekend. We played games; watched a game; I ran an impromptu race. And, this tart was there the whole time. Baked up on Saturday morning for a dinner party we were hosting, the leftovers served as a snack when Noah’s parents came by, and then accompanied us to a Super Bowl party. It received rave reviews at every point. If you are looking for a perfect weekend, I think this tart should be your companion. If you are trying to turn a less than perfect weekend around, I think this tart could help out.


It’s a riff on the macaroon tart in Heidi Sawnson’s Super Natural Everyday. I made it gluten-free by substituting almond and buckwheat flours in the crust. I made it less seasonal–because the current season is the worst–by buying frozen cherries and covering it in chocolate. Come to think of it, maybe that is perfectly seasonal for February (this could be a Valentine’s Day treat, if you are into that sort of thing).

Oh, and another thing, a few months ago I started writing the occasional post for Blue Apron Meals. Do you know about Blue Apron Meals? You should definitely check them out. Anyway, the coconut in this tart came from coconut I dried. That’s right, I made my own coconut milk and wrote about it for them. As a result I also got my own coconut water and shredded coconut. While you can certainly use store-bought, unsweetened coconut, if you really need to turn a bad weekend around, you could also get out a hammer, buy a coconut, and rid yourself of any aggression.


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Orange, Ginger, Goat Yogurt Panna Cotta

Oh, hello again. My family has a hectic November and December. My mother’s birthday kicks it off and then, in quick succession, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, my birthday, Christmas, New Years, and, just when you think you can stop thinking about who needs a present and a baked good, my father’s birthday. There’s been a lot of sugar.

There have also been an unfortunate number of gluten-free cookies that ended up in the trash for being hard as rocks and flavorless (what am I getting wrong with Buckwheat?)  or for utterly collapsing in the oven (did this recipe really work for everyone else?). There were some very good pies and also some kind of disappointing ones. My uncle, mother, and I spent an evening crafting pigs out of marzipan. The pigs show up annually in our Christmas stocking so joining the pig molding party felt a bit like being given the keys to Santa’s workshop (yay, I’m a grown up…crap, I’m a grown up).


Amidst all the sugary baked goods, I discovered this.


My birthday came a mere four days after Thanksgiving this year and I didn’t feel up for more baked goods so instead I made this Smitten Kitchen Panna Cotta (I topped it with pomegranate seeds and rose sugar instead of honey and walnuts, but I’m sure the original is excellent too.) Since, I also had the flu on my birthday this turned out to be an excellent decisions. There were a few days, when all my throat or stomach could stand was creamy, yogurty, panna cotta.

Despite, having eaten it for a week straight, I loved that panna cotta more than all the cookies, pies, and cakes that piled up around us  all month. I decided that I could update it for Christmas dinner into something a little more decadent, but still refreshing. I swapped the greek yogurt for strained goat yogurt, which has a creamier tang. I stirred in orange zest and candied ginger and a few tablespoons of orange juice. We made a pitcher of ginger syrup to go on the side. In the end, I think, it’s really the perfect holiday dessert because when you eat it for breakfast the next morning you feel both indulgent and virtuous all at once.

I plan to make it a Christmas tradition so I’ll be making it again next year. But, if you  don’t want to wait that long, I think you could feel justified making this dessert, even in January. And, if you are looking for something to serve on New Years–in the evening or for brunch–I think this would work well.


I forgot to take a good picture before we dug in, so let this well-cleaned plate stand for how delicious it was.

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Pear Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake (gluten free)


We just celebrated my mother’s birthday. In the last few years, I have begun to host a celebratory dinner for the occasion. This inspires no small amount of stress since my mother sets a rather high bar when it comes to cooking and an even higher one when it comes to baking. Her birthday cakes are not only delicious, but also fantastically beautiful. For my sister and I, there were ball gown shaped cakes encircling barbies; a perfect 7 of hearts playing card for, naturally, my seventh birthday; a delicately piped star fish for an ocean themed party; I even remember on birthday cake for my marina owning grandfather with a meringue sail boat floating on a sea of blueberries.

So, the annual preparation for her birthday has come to involve–I admit–draft cakes. This year, I even solicited feedback from friends and Noah’s classmates. (Admittedly, that may have just been a desperate attempt not to eat three whole cakes in three weeks.) While all this may sound insane, it does mean that this recipe comes to you far more tested than most I post here. While, it is not in the shape of any fantastical creatures, it has been endorsed by my excellent friends and now my mother.

I have had this sprouted kitchen recipe for honey roasted pears bookmarked for ages, so, when I was trying to decide what kind of cake to make, I started dreaming about a honey roasted pear cake. In order to make it gluten-free, I then turned that vision into an upside down cake with a cornmeal base.

Can we pause here to talk about gluten-free upside down cakes? I think this may actually be the key to gluten-free baking. Gluten free cakes are often so dry, but upside down cakes are naturally juicy and whatever is on top infuses the whole cake with the taste of caramelized sugar.


Anyway, it turns out pears and cornmeal go together fantastically. Pears get soft and gentle tasting when baked and cornmeal provides a sturdy backing for them without overwhelming their flavor. The honey and thyme in here make the cake feel like an indulgent desert that would also be at home on a breakfast table, especially, say, the morning after Thanksgiving.

Best of all, this cake is shockingly easy to make. It comes together quickly, especially if you can draft a helper into slicing your pears for you (thanks John!).

Pear Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake (Pears inspired by Sprouted Kitchen, cake adapted from Feed Me Phoebe)

– 2- 3 Bosc Pears

– 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

– 1/2 cup honey

– 1 teaspoon vanilla

– 2 tablespoons coconut sugar (brown sugar would work too)

– 1/4 teaspoon thyme

– 2 cups cornmeal (I used 1 1/2 cups finely ground cornmeal and a 1/2 cup polenta to give it a little more crunch)

– 1 1/2 cups almond meal

– 1 teaspoon baking powder

– 4 eggs

– 1 cup sugar

– 2/3s cup olive oil

– 2/3s cup greek yogurt

* Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

* Butter a 9-inch springform cake pan.

* Cut pears in half lengthwise, remove seeds, and then cut into thin slices length wise.

* In a large bowl, mix together cornmeal, almond meal, and baking powder.

* In another bowl, mix together sugar, yogurt, eggs, and olive oil.

* In a small sauce pan, melt butter, add honey, sugar, vanilla, and thyme. Bring to a boil, let boil for one minute and then remove from heat.

* Pour butter-honey mixture into prepared cake pan and spread it to cover the bottom of the pan. Carefully arrange pear slices in a circle that fans out from the middle on top of the honey mixture. (Don’t burn your fingers!)

* Fold yogurt-sugar-egg mixture into cornmeal-almond meal mixture.

* Pour batter on top of pears.

* Place cake pan on baking sheet (this will catch any honey that leaks as it bakes). Bake for about 40 minutes until tester comes out firm and cake is golden brown.

* Let cool for 10 minutes, loosen sides with knife, invert onto serving dish and let cool the rest of the way (at least an hour).

Monday and Tuesday Nights: Tomatoes!

I spent most of the morning wearing slippers and just pulled out a scarf and fleece for the first time, but we still have tomatoes, and I refuse to close our windows.


Monday: Noah was out, but by my friends Andrew and John came over. I made this roasted tomato soup from last October and–since the resident dill hater was out–this carrot, white bean, and dill salad from 101 cookbooks. Definitely a keeper recipe. We learned about the gold standard (literally) and had John’s apple pie and defrosted orange-almond cake that someone brought to this weekend’s break fast potluck for dessert.

Tuesday: Ladies auxiliary night across the street. AKA boyfriends were at a fancy law school dinner so my friend and I pooled farmers market resources (mostly hers) and cooked up a storm. Her contributions: a layered eggplant, mushroom, onion, tomato, and feta bake and pasta with kale, leeks and tomatoes. Mine: tomatoes, the remaining wilting basil, and burrata picked up at the cheese stand in Grand Central as I ran through this afternoon. I definitely did not carry my weight, but burrata masks all kitchen lazy-ness in indulgent, creamy goodness.

Upside-Down Fig Cake (and Home)

Japan–>California–> Paris–>Atlanta–> Colorado–>Philadelphia–> Chicago–> Austin–> Madison–> New York–> Iceland–> D.C. –> Home.


Since last January, I have not spent more than 6 weeks (in New York) anywhere. Before that, there were three months last fall when I commuted to Boston every week.  When I got off the plane from Iceland, it was the first time in 17 months that I didn’t have another flight scheduled.

I’m not complaining (at least not that much). It has been a pretty cool year. I have some amazing photos as well as an unfortunate number of photos of old documents. I have eaten octopus pancakes, shrimp tacos, macaroons, soup (during the unfortunate mono + Atlanta leg), piergoies, breakfast tacos, cheese curds, ice cream, dried cod, pots of langoustine, hakarl (not so bad), lemongrass chicken bun (D.C., sometimes I do miss you), and more broccoli florets than I want to count.


As a kid, I wanted to write an ice cream tour book of the world so the other night I  made a list of all the ice creams I’ve eaten this past year. It went: green tea, yuba, California date shake, marron glace, raspberry sorbet (again, during the unfortunate mono incident, when my relationship with ice cream morphed into something purely medicinal). When I got to Madison, the list took an unfortunate turn into the territory of “too numerous to name” since I’m pretty sure I went for ice cream every night for two weeks. I was in America’s dairyland after all.

But, now I’m home. I’m in New Haven, and I’m going to be here for a while. The thing about having a crazy travel schedule that commences immediately after you move somewhere new is that you never really set up a routine. It’s hard to make friends. Yesterday, someone asked me what I do here, and I had to admit, I have no idea, yet.

But, people, I have a lot of baked goods to share. I need people to eat some of these sweets and come over for dinner. So, calling all recipe tasters. Save me from myself, and save Noah too. I seriously baked through an entire carton of eggs in the last 2 1/2 days. We need help.

Are you in New Haven? No? Do you want to come visit? You are here now? Come on over! I’ve got half a fig cake to share. 


Upside-Down Fig and Rosemary Cake

This recipe is a combination of two recipes. One is this birthday cake from 101 cookbooks, which is an excellent cake in and of itself. I made it for Mother’s Day last year, and it was my mom who actually had the genius idea of using it for an upside-down cake. The choice of fig and rosemary was inspired by this recipe from Food 52, but I couldn’t bring myself to use the amount of butter called for and, our subletters ran off with the brown sugar so things had to be adjusted. Fortunately, I hid the maple sugar before they left so I think the adjustments just made everything better. 

– 12 figs

– 1 stick (8 tablespoons of butter)

– 1 tsp dried rosemary

– 1/2 cup maple sugar (I’m sure brown sugar would be just fine too.

– 14 ounces almond paste (not marzipan)

– 5 large eggs, whisked

– 1/4 cup cornstarch

– Pinch of sea salt

* Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

* Slice the figs in half and take off the ends.

* Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the bottom of a 9 inch, spring-form cake pan.

* Sprinkle about 2/3s of the maple sugar evenly over the melted butter. Arrange the figs flesh side down on the pan. Sprinkle figs with remaining sugar and rosemary. Set aside.

* Melt the remaining butter in the microwave and allow to cool.

* Crumble the almond paste into a food processor until pebbly in size.

* Add eggs to almond paste and process until smooth. (I think the secret to getting a light cake with this batter is to really whip those eggs until the egg-almond mixture is a pale yellow and almost foamy.)

* Sprinkle cornstarch and salt into batter and pulse.

* Add cooled butter and pulse until smooth.

* Pour batter over figs into cake pan.

* Bake until golden brown and cake tester comes out clean, 50-60 minutes.

* Let cool in pan, loosen with knife, and invert onto serving dish so figs are right side up.

I bet this would be great with whipped cream. Alternatively, you could eat it for breakfast as I did this morning.

We got warmer and the food got better.


I listened to Jenny Hollowell’s “A History of Everything, Including You” on a Radiolab short while running the other day. I think it’s wonderful and worth a listen so head on over there. Then come back. We have to talk about summer.

Although it’s not even a little bit what this line is referring to in the story, “We got warmer and the food got better” is the line that has been swimming in my head for the last few days as I enjoy the comforts and discomforts of summer. Of course, it has been a million degrees out, but the sticky heat paired with the over-air-conditioning, the ice cubes, and the berries, and then more berries, are the kinds of familiar pairings that make the whole thing kind of wonderful in spite of itself.

I have been writing, and running, and showing people around New York City. Every so often we find some time to cook a real meal, but when we have time we usually pick somewhere new to go and head out on an adventure. Last week it was Jackson Heights and Nepalese food. At home, the focus has really been on fruit.

So, here are some more pairings for summer–minimal recipes, if you can even call them that, which I’ve been enjoying, through these long, lazy, yet somehow hardworking days

– Breakfast: Cooked millet warmed with cinnamon and butter, swirled into yogurt and topped with roasted apricots and maple syrup.

– Post-Run Breakfast: Leftover buttermilk from making pancakes (isn’t there always leftover buttermilk in the summer?) + peach + lime. Blend.

– Writer’s snack: Spoonful of crunchy peanut butter topped with a single strawberry plucked from homemade pickled strawberry jam.

– Before dinner: Suze + Ice.

– Dessert: Whipped Cream + Whisky + Toasted Oats + Raspberries + Honey. (What are you waiting for?)