Hello, folks. I was supposed to drop in here before I left for New York, but one thing led to another and suddenly I was on the airplane, belly a-bumping, aimed for that sunny, bloom-filled city. I got back to Berlin yesterday morning, which, in a cruel metereological twist, was cold and gray and wet when I arrived, mirroring how I felt after leaving New York.
It took me much longer to acclimate to New York than usual this time. The first two days, I was just overwhelmed by the colors, the people, the noise, the constant barrage of gorgeous sights. I didn't know how to process any of it. Someone told me recently that when you're pregnant, you're much more vulnerable than usual because you have to be open to this mind-bending experience taking place within your own body, to all the changes that are to come. So as a result, you're like an open wound, far more sensitive than usual to any kind of stimulation, good or bad. By the time Friday evening rolled around, I was in tears. I couldn't really explain them except for the fatigue, jet lag, dehydration. Luckily, my friends picked me up and brushed me off, like a sensible mother with an overstimulated toddler at the playground. And the next morning, I was on New York time.
The rest of the week sped by in warp speed, a blur of happy moments: my baby shower, takeout Momofuku with my friend Teri on her couch, burly firemen in a blaring truck grinning and waving at my friend Jenny's son as he waved at them, the cover of my book on my publisher's fall catalogue, sitting in Stuyvesant Square in the sun with my father and stepmother, walking the full length of Houston Street at nightfall like I used to, but this time feeling the baby wiggle.
Leaving gutted me. Sitting in the departure lounge at JFK on Wednesday was actually sort of physically painful. I just wanted to bolt, just wanted a few more days among my friends and all the friendly New York strangers who made me smile on the streets. I didn't want to go back to Berlin just yet, to the quiet apartment that feels like a treehouse sometimes, to the emptier streets, the solemn-faced people. Not quite yet. So, yes, last night, I found myself in tears again, set off as I unpacked the pale blue WubbaNub my friend Andrea had given me at the shower. Max listened and soothed me over the phone and then, in the gentlest tones possible, told me to get some sleep.
And today things are better.
While I wait for the markets to flood with berries and pink stalks of rhubarb, I can't help still compulsively buying apples when I see them. But they're last fall's apples and no longer the crisp, juicy specimens they once were. One way to get around a mouthful of mealy apple after dinner (the worst, no?) is to turn those apples into applesauce. And better yet is to roast the apples into applesauce. The recipe comes from The Zuni Café Cookbook via Food52 and is a new favorite of mine.
All you do is roughly peel, core and quarter the apples and then stick them in a baking dish with a little sugar, a pinch of salt and the merest bit of butter (I use more sugar and less butter than the original recipe - it's up to you to calibrate that stuff.) Tightly covered with aluminum foil, the apples roast in the oven until they're tender and melting. Then you take off the aluminum foil and let them dry out and take on some color, giving them a deeper richness than a regular baked or stewed apple would get. All that's left, then, for you to do is to scrape them into a bowl and stir them into a loose purée with a fork.
You can, if you like, add a splash of cider vinegar at the end, just to sort of sharpen the flavors. I love this tip - it's like adding balsamic vinegar to strawberries - it just underlines what's already there in the subtlest way. There's no additional flavoring, no cinnamon, no lemon, just the pure, clear taste of cooked apples with a bit of caramelized depth. Something faintly toasted. Something good. I eat these apples with yogurt or on top of my morning oatmeal or just straight from the refrigerated container, so cold that my teeth ache, before bedtime. And just the other day, it occurred to me that they'd make perfect baby food.
And this picture from my baby shower (that's me on the left):
Judy Rodgers' Roasted Applesauce
Makes about 3 cups
Find the original recipe here
3 1/2 to 4 pounds apples (Rodgers uses crisp eating apples, like Sierra Beauties, Braeburns, Pippins, Golden Delicious or Galas)
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
A splash of apple cider vinegar, as needed
1. Heat oven to 375 F.
2. Peel, core, and quarter the apples. Toss with the salt and sugar (more or less to taste). Spread the apples in a shallow baking dish in a single layer. Top with slivers of the butter, cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil, and bake until the apples start to soften, 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your apples.
3. Uncover, raise the heat to 500 F, and return the pan to the oven. Leave the apples to dry out and color slightly, about 10 minutes. When the tips of the apples have become golden brown and the fruit is tender, scrape them into a bowl and stir into a chunky purée. Season with salt and sugar to taste, then add a splash of apple cider vinegar to brighten the flavor (don't overdo the vinegar). Keeps for a week in the fridge.