Run On (+ Gluten-Free Whole Grain Biscuits)

[On a run, October 2014.]

I finally downloaded a GPS running app for my phone and hello long runs, my old friends, I didn’t even know I was revisiting you until Runtastic told me so. 8.2 miles is my new weekend run and I’m happy to report that I’ve been running that occasionally for months thinking it was more like 6, maybe 7, miles. Predictably I overextended myself last week and ended up logging 24 miles total and damn, it felt good. Two years ago tomorrow I ran a marathon – missing a PR by three minutes – and so I will try to commemorate it in the morning by pushing myself just a bit farther even than the 8.2 if it doesn’t rain. I haven’t run more than 11 miles in almost two years; I can’t even believe that’s truth but it is. My love of going long has been well documented on this site and I get itchy when I can’t.

This past year has been sort of a blur and I cadged runs when I could (with more miles spent on the treadmill than I’d like to admit). Suddenly my birthday looms in three days and fall is churning on, carrying us relentlessly toward the close of 2014. I’d rather be running out to Arch Rock than dodging pedestrians and horses along the Corniche but beggars can’t be choosers and this is what I have to work with in my present reality. I remind myself at least there is an ocean within throwing distance even if it’s not my beloved Pacific.

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About flourless. (+ My Favorite Granola Recipe)

I received an advance copy of my cookbook (flourless. recipes for naturally gluten-free desserts) last week and wow, what a thrill that was. Still is. (Actually, any word/s I could use to describe that feeling would be an understatement.) From signing the contract to publication date totals about two years so this has been a long time in the making. It is so gorgeous — the photos are dreamy and well-styled and I didn’t even cringe when re-reading my own words, written last spring at my desk in San Francisco (!). The book will be released on August 12, and I’ll shamelessly plug the amazon link if you’d like to preorder it. It is here.

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A Lemon Yogurt Cake (with Flax Seeds)

[Marrakech rose, May 2014.]

June. On Saturday we walked and walked in Rabat just here and there in the Casbah and the medina where I did not buy anything and thus spared myself the fatigue of haggling. I impulse-purchased a really pretty tea set in Sale and told Sierra that when she is just a little bit older we can play tea parties with it (I may have to go back for more pottery; it’s dangerous there as everything is so well-made and affordable – mostly – and very nice). We drove back along the coast and the beaches were surprisingly rugged and not too crowded. I made a mental note to organize ourselves to get up there at least once a month as it’s only an hour from Casa and much quieter, which for a lot of us is sorely needed on the regular.

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Easing the Bite (+ Roasted Veg Soup + Cornbread Muffins)

This morning I went to my first yoga class since September. (And that September class was a prenatal class, so not full of the usual vinyasas I so love which means I guess technically I haven’t gone to a class since last August. Woah.) It was conducted entirely in French and wasn’t that an experience, my French not being up to snuff too well just yet. I discovered I can still hold a decent plank and do an adequate crow and a shoulder stand, and despite not always knowing exactly what my instructor was saying I muddled along well enough (I think). Now I would like to go to another class maybe tomorrow, please, or at least as soon as possible. Before then I’d like to have a bowl of vegetable soup and a cornbread muffin to restore myself and my stretched-out muscles.

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Pizza with Roasted Zuchini, Red Onion + Tahini Sauce

Like many, I’d say Mondays are my hardest day of the week, mostly because I have to get into the office by 8:30, sometimes earlier. It’s not like I am not used to this — I’ve worked for years, after all — but life is a bit different these days. Now I have to clear the cobwebs out of my own head to get organized enough so that I can get some breakfast and coffee in me, put on some semi-‘professional’ clothes — and do that times two (well — minus the semi-prof clothes bit). Gone are the days when I could fully wake up on the walk to the bus and then zone out while thinking about my first cup of Blue Bottle Coffee always made impeccably by the nice Italians near my old office. I won’t say Mondays (and Tuesdays, and occasionally also Wednesdays) are frantic, because S is still very portable and doesn’t care about what clothes she wears, but they are definitely much more … efficient … than once they were. By the time we make our way home after 5p I’m especially grateful if I’ve managed to come up with an idea for a quick dinner that will take less than 15 minutes to put together (vegetable fried rice anyone?) or have stashed a pot of soup in the fridge.

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Vegetable Pizza with a Polenta Crust

[Fruit at the market, July 2013.]

A grey day here today, as it’s been the past few days, at least in the morning; except for the press of heat outside the windows I could almost pretend it’s San Francisco (well, sort of). I am up early to eat oatmeal and struggle through the last bit of cookbook edits — after a fitful night’s sleep, I foresee lots of coffee in my future. I jolted awake around 3:30 a.m. and was treated to a full 45 minutes of the early morning call to prayer — we are situated smack between two mosques — and then I couldn’t really get back to sleep, tumbling in and out of strange dreams in which I still partially lived in Washington, DC, but could somehow drive to California in a few hours … Whatever caused it, pretty much the last thing I want to do is re-write my introduction but it must be done. A pain au chocolat surely will help.

[Fresh orange juice — we didn’t use the sugar, July 2013.]

This weekend was a bit of a lazy one — lots of lounging about for me, unaccountably tired after what turned into a rather long work-week (I’m supposed to work 20 hours a week but that usually tends to stretch out to more than that), involving a trip to Rabat and lots of meetings and planning. Come Friday night it was all I could do to churn out a quick pasta for dinner that, I will admit, was not my finest effort. It happens. Yesterday morning we went for a run/walk down on the beach; the tide was in and we saw a few happy dogs and early swimmers and even a surfer, then came home for coffee and decided to go back down to the beach again to scout out a fancy(ish) beach club for (a pitifully slim) lunch and some more lounging about. I didn’t even swim, that’s how slothful I was. It was glorious. Home to roast a bunch of vegetables for dinner and now I am staring down at the words I wrote back in April and trying to edit them into something more coherent.

I mentioned last week that I’ve been cooking even more than usual here, mostly because of the effects of Ramadan. Saturday night I made a large batch of rice noodles and slicked them with a quick peanut/lemon/soy sauce blend then tossed it all with stir-fried vegetables. A girl at the consulate has organized an organic farm share and we were inundated with all sort of goodies last week, including tomatoes!, squash, a raggedy but delicious bunch of arugula, lots of herbs, potatoes. I hesitate even to mention how much it cost because I feel like I’m getting away with something but — a 1/4 share, which turned out to be an enormous quantity of vegetables, was $6.50 U.S. The farm also sells eggs (and, it turns out, whole chickens), which makes me irrationally happy, and I will avail myself of those soon.

Then last night I finished off some white beans I’d prepped earlier in the week, sauteeing them with olive oil, a small red onion, and the rest of the arugula, and served them with roasted potatoes, carrots, and more onions (plus a piece of salmon en papillote for DW). I’ve also made a delicious pasta dish with fresh ricotta and fresh peas (recipe soon), various quinoa and vegetable and chickpea stir-fries, quick spaghettis with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, a vegetable-stuffed tart with emmenthaler and parmesan cheeses. I am trying to use what is available to me — no mushrooms just yet, no sesame oil, no greens (!), no tofu (though I have it from two reputable sources that there is a place to get tofu and other organic grains + goods; I will scout that out soon). Next year we have grand plans to grow a garden, but until then … So I have to be a bit more creative here, starting off, lacking my familiar cooking ingredients (not to mention implements; what I’d give for a good knife!) which is not bad necessarily, just a little more work.

Last week I put together something that I consider one of my best successes yet: a pizza with a polenta crust.

The recipe for the crust comes by way of Nikki at Art & Lemons and it caught my eye immediately because 1. I had all of the ingredients on hand, 2. It seemed fairly quick to put together, and 3. It was gluten-free. I am heading back to California on Saturday morning (more on that come this Friday) to spend some time with my brother and sister-in-law who will be visiting; faithful readers will remember that Emily is gluten-free, and thus I am always thinking about things I might like to cook for her when I see her. This pizza/tart, made simply from gritty polenta, olive oil, and water seemed just the thing. But I needed to test it out first.

First I sauteed the few vegetables I had left from a trip to the market the weekend before — I think I just had zucchini and a large red onion. Then I made the crust, using a tart pan with a removable bottom, which worked quite well, though at some point I’d like to make it on a cookie sheet in a more free-form, pizza-like fashion. I spread a can of tomato paste across the bottom of the crust — lacking fresh tomatoes for sauce, this was a good substitute — sprinkled the vegetables across it and topped it all with a healthy sprinkling of pepper, dried oregano and basil, and shredded mozzarella cheese. I baked the pizza until the cheese was melted and bubbling, then slid it from the oven to admire before we devoured.

Now, this will not taste like a traditional pizza in any sense beyond the topping. The crust is not made with yeast and there’s not a speck of flour to be found. And yet, it is wildly satisfying, especially with the traditional flavors of tomatoes and mozzarella; I think it would be especially wonderful with fresh basil, and I intend to make it again next week for Emily using the freshest herbs and vegetables I can find. It’s also a forgiving recipe: you can incorporate as many or as few vegetables as you like into the vegetable topping, and I think you could even skip the cheese if you’re vegan or more health-inclined. Just make sure to include a healthy amount of herbs to punch up the flavor.

Meanwhile — it’s back to work with me. I’m looking at these next few days as the final push, another minuscule step towards publication. And when the day comes when I hold that book in my hand … well, all these tired mornings will be well worth it.