Happy St. Patrick’s Day

I’ve written about my recent tradition of buying one or two Irish soda breads from Whole Foods every year. This year, however, WF changed their game, and at first I wasn’t sure I liked it. Having tried another soda bread, from Formaggio Kitchen, I think it’s still pretty tasty. (I am a huge fan of Alice, the baker at Formaggio–excellent granola.)

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Anyway, I finally made my own soda bread this year, something I’d been promising myself I’d do for some time. The recipe is from the Food52 blog. An easy-to-follow recipe with some excellent tips from the author and from the community, it turned out a very nice dough, and I think would have been perfect if I’d used the correct pan size and some lemon oil. The pan I used was too small, and I realized about halfway through baking that the center was going to take a lot longer than the edges.

The bread tastes great, and mostly has a decent texture and crumb, although it does not slice cleanly. As I suspected, it is a bit too gummy in the center, but if you toast it and butter it the problem disappears. So next time I’m making 2×8″ loaves instead of one.

I will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by running a half-marathon in New Bedford, Mass., and thinking about Moby-Dick and the soda bread I will devour afterward. Slainte!

A Mid Winter’s Nor’easter


 
The storm I won’t call NEMO crushed the Boston area about 10 days ago. It was a worthy storm, windy and snowy enough for the hardiest New Englander.

I was lucky enough to be well stocked with food, drink, and electricity, and unlucky enough to have to ride it out alone. I’m pretty sure I frittered away most of the weekend, but I was productive enough to have made a potato leek soup, cream biscuits, and salted cashew oat cookies.

Sunday Brunch in York, Maine

Cooking classes: demo or hands-on? Even though I learn by doing it myself, in a group cooking class I prefer demo. This one was perfect for the day and my mood. This mid-January gathering for a group of friends who don’t see each other much during the winter provided a way to chat on the 75-minute drive to and fro, a good meal, and learning a bit about cooking from an experienced chef. Stonewall Kitchens Cooking School was the destination.

“Breakfast for Brunch or Dinner” with Christine Rudalevige presented a menu of sausage, egg and broccoli frittata with roasted fingerling potatoes; chicken curry with yogurt sauce served with whole wheat coconut waffles; and candied bacon served with cinnamon and spice breakfast puffs.

 

 

Christine was engaging, funny, and knowledgeable, with an easy rapport with the attendees. The whole thing was well-paced with enough air between courses. The physical space was inviting—sunny and comfortable—with easy access to a bunch of kitchen gadgets and tools that you didn’t know you needed.

Probably my favorite course was the candied bacon and cinnamon “donut.” What can I say? And I learned a few things: Harold McGee has a fairly recent book out, Keys to Good Cooking; making rosemary simple syrup is easy and delicious; you can clean a stubbornly dirty cast iron pan with kosher salt; use half canola or corn oil with half olive oil for cooking at high heat; fontina is a good melting cheese; cut peeled fresh ginger into “coins” and then smack with a knife to avoid the “threads” you can get when grating ginger.

Bon appetit indeed.

Nutzola! Sweet ‘n’ Salty 2012

I’ve been making granola for Christmas gifts since about 1992—wow, that is 20 years! Since I can’t be sure of the first year, maybe I will make 2013 the 20th anniversary of Nutzola! and come up with a new blend.

Nutzola! Sweet ‘n’ Salty on its way to the oven

I still make the original–what I call Nutzola! Classic—for the greater part of my gift list, but Nutzola! Sweet ‘n’ Salty, a mere two years in production, has become my favorite. Does the world need another granola? Yes and no. Yes, because it is endlessly variable and always good; no, because . . . hmmm . . . cannot think of a reason.

Sweet ‘n’ Salty just out of the oven

Sun and Shapes

At the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MassachusettsNov. 23, 2012
At the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts
Nov. 23, 2012

Just started taking photos of interesting shapes illuminated by sunlight or artificial light. Really only practicing, capturing stuff I like. These three were taken on the same day in Salem, over Thanksgiving weekend.

PEM lobby #2
PEM lobby from another angle

 

 

 

PEM lobby #3
And yet another angle

 

 

 

 

 

I took this photo on Dec. 23, 2012, after a 7.25-mile run along the Charles. Fabulous run, topped off by a view I never tire of.

Cambridge Boat Club, Dec. 23, 2012
Early morning light on the CBC boathouse

What I Think about When I Think about Running

I’ve been listening to Haruki Murakami’s book, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running. Murakami is a far more serious runner than I am, logging 30 or more miles a week, compared with my average of, say, 15. He talks about the rhythms of running and how the discipline involved in running regularly mirrors the kind of discipline you need as a writer. He loves the simplicity and freedom of running, and the fascination of watching your body change shape as your running speed and style evolve. Today, as I ran in the 36th Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women, I thought about a few things myself.

Tufts 10K finish area
Should I try the kids’ race next year?

The Tufts 10K, a Boston institution, takes place every Columbus Day. The course runs through downtown, and loops over the Charles River. Thousands of women run/walk/wheel the USTAF-sanctioned course. Today, Joan Benoit Samuelson came in second in my age group, with a pace of 6:11/mile. Let’s just say I’m a tad slower.

So, what did I think about today?

Mile 1: Way too crowded. Lots of elbowing. I can’t get any speed going. Still, fun to be in the pack. Legs a bit tired. Sciatica. Quads.

Mile 2: Yep, I’m tired! Heart rate and pace decent but not up to what they were my last 10K—the Lone Gull in Gloucester. Running over the Mass Ave bridge is less intimidating than rowing under it. Sciatic pain goes away at about Mile 2.5. Yay. On to quads…

Mile 3: I’m warmed up now. Should be hitting my stride but not quite there. How can people actually be carrying on conversations at this point? About party dresses? Aieeee! The cut-through on the Mem Drive median strip looks very tempting. Did not do it! Did I have the optimal breakfast? Too long ago? Not long enough ago?

Mile 4: Am I really going to toss my cookies? Why did I have that beer last night? Will I ever write a book? A decent blog post? A good shopping list? More than one woman is wearing a tutu. Pink, as if there were another color.

Mile 5: OK. How is this woman, looking about my age, just sailing on past me like I’m standing still? Did she start at Mile 4? Trying to sprint a bit as I notice the heart rate going down. Little kids extending hands for high fives. Too zoned out to play.

Mile 6: Almost there! I am not going to break 1 hour. Recording of a girl-group singing “We Are the Champions”! Whoa…

Post race: Lost my bearings looking for the Park St. station. Why not walk around an extra half hour?

I guess what I have in common with Murakami is a real appreciation of running, and how it can build a structure, a foundation. When I run on my everyday solo runs, I solve problems without meaning to, remember things I said I’d do but haven’t, think of people I need to see or talk to, imagine what I’d like to do when I have time/money/opportunity. As Murakami said in his memoir, he doesn’t really think about anything in particular when he runs, but somehow the rhythm, the habit, and the love of it gives him something to put in his pocket for later. You don’t remember it, but you remember it.

Fomenting Ferment: Guru of fermented foods holds forth

This story in today’s New York Times reminds me of why I love fermented foods–perhaps not to the extent that Sandor Katz does, but I do. Yogurt, beer, bread, wine, pickled lemon, pickled anything, really.

Fermentation Guru Seeks Out New and Old Flavors – NYTimes.com.

Old Recipes, Old Friends

Mark Bittman’s topic in today’s New York Times Magazine, “Short and Sweet,” presented a basic recipe for shortbread cookies, with a bunch of variations, from sweet to savory and in between. This is one thing I appreciate about Bittman’s approach: he gives you a base and several ideas on how to make it to suit your mood, your preferences, and your pantry contents. It’s learning to cook instead of just following a recipe.

I love shortbread–who doesn’t?–and this column reminded me of the pepper-cumin cookies I have been making since I first saw the recipe in the Times Magazine in 1996. I’ve been a recipe clipper for many years, and here’s what this one looks like now. These cookies really are fantastic, by the way. Easy to make, they have been a surprise hit at parties.

 

It Ain’t Pretty, but It’ll Do

Formaggio Kitchen, Cambridge MA, 8/29/12

It’s fall, and I’m at long last reviving my blog, Nutzola! I could wait until I’ve had time to rework, rebrand, and renovate it, or I could just get on with writing it and get to the other stuff later. I’m going with the latter.

My posts will be food and fitness oriented, with the occasional side trip. Glad to be back.

Tend your own garden

This is a look inside a raised-bed greenhouse on the grounds of Boston Latin School. I need to find out who built the beds, who is tending them, and what the project is meant to accomplish. It’s hard to think of a downside to this exercise. Wish I’d had something like this at my grammar school. Our next-door neighbor had a garden to end all gardens, which inspired all sorts of fancy, but we weren’t allowed to enter.

UPDATE: According to the November 22, 2011, issue of the BLS Community Service Spotlight, this garden was launched in 2010 as part of the 10.10.10 National Day of Service. Now in its second year of operation, this student project has introduced students to gardening and the concept of sustainable food sources. The garden’s location on busy Avenue Louis Pasteur also gave student the opportunity to talk with passers-by about the project, a nice community-building bonus. Nice work, BLS!

Greenhouse at Boston Latin, Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston