Meyer Lemon Gingerbread

Among the many charms of my new workplace is the Just Food Citrus Buying Club. A couple of weeks ago I replied to an email, indicating that I was in for ten pounds of certified organic citrus from Beck Grove in Fallbrook, California. (It seems even diehard local eaters need a little dose of sunshine come mid-January.)

I left work on Friday with as many blood oranges and Meyer lemons as would fit in my purse. The rest would have to wait until a night that did not include a meeting followed by swanky cocktails and an even swankier dinner. I took great pleasure in producing fragrant reminders of warmer weather for the people who swirled through my busy weekend, but did manage to retain a little fruit for myself.

All of that socializing didn’t leave much time for sleeping. And so Monday found me sitting at my dining table desperately trying to focus on a backlog of work.

The right music was essential. It being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I went with Forever Young, Gifted & Black: Songs of Freedom & Spirit, an excellent compilation of Nina Simone songs from the Civil Rights Era–including a devastating 13-minute version of “Why? (The King of Love is Dead)” performed just three days after King’s assassination.

While the music soothed my brain a bit, my stomach was still unsettled by my efforts to substitute coffee for sleep. Rooting through the fridge, I found my recently acquired Meyer lemons, a giant knob of ginger and some fresh turmeric left from a fall apple picking trip to Fishkill Farms. A quick Google search led me to the New York Times’s Meyer Lemon and Ginger Infusion with Turmeric and Cayenne. Color me obsessed–and productive.

I logged eleven hours at the office today. This included the first of two days of all-staff training, which was a great experience, but also exhausting–so much so that I boarded the wrong train home, overshooting my destination by 45 or so blocks. Mercifully, I had some curried pumpkin, tofu and kale left from Sunday night’s dinner. I consumed this cold and straight out of the container, standing at the kitchen counter.

While I ate, I contemplated whether I still had the energy to deliver on the sweet treat I had promised for day two of our training. There was no way I was trudging back outside. Whatever baked good I made would have to be limited by the ingredients I had on hand. As it turns out, this is not a terrible fate when you’ve got Meyer lemons and ginger in the fridge.

Meyer Lemon Gingerbread

Meyer Lemon Gingerbread

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 12 ounces butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 golf ball-sized knob of ginger, peeled
  • 3 Meyer lemons
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 12 (or thereabouts) baking pan with butter. Whisk flour, baking soda, spices and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cream the remaining butter, sugar, molasses, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl. Using a fine microplane, grate three-fourths of the ginger and the zest of two lemons into the bowl and stir to combine. Slowly work in the flour mixture.
  3. Juice the two zested lemons and add enough water to make a cup of liquid. Heat this until just before boiling and then add it to your batter, stirring to combine. Pour this into the pan and pop in the oven for 30 minutes or so. (This is a fine time for a yoga/State of the Union interlude.)
  4. When the bread has pulled away from the edges of your pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes while you make the glaze.
  5. Zest and juice your last lemon into a small ramekin. Grate the remaining ginger and add that along with the confectioners sugar. Stir briskly with a fork, adding water if needed until you get a syrupy consistency. Drizzle this over your gingerbread and spread evenly with a spatula before allowing to harden.

Meyer Lemon Gingerbread for Staff

This recipe yields enough gingerbread to feed a dozen bleary-eyed staff members and still leave a little treat for the neighbors to discover in the morning.

Meyer Lemon Gingerbread for Neighbors

(Alternately, you could polish it off yourself.)

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

I am suffering from my third stomach ailment this year. After two days of being laid up, my fever had broken and my energy was back. But a ten-hour workday, punctuated by kale salad, farro, beets and Brussels sprouts put me in my place. I woke out of a dead sleep at 4am and went to retrieve the recycling bin that had been my constant companion earlier in the week.

Somehow I managed to dress for work and get as far as my subway stop before giving up and returning home. On the way I stopped off at the grocery store for an array of easily digestible (mainly white) foods. Breakfast was plain white toast. For lunch, I moved on to a small banana and a can of Coke (a concession to my caffeine addiction). By 7:00pm, I was actually experiencing something that resembled hunger, but suspected I still needed to tread lightly.

I’ve made this soup before in various forms. The ginger is great for stomach ailments and clearing the sinuses. It cooks up in under half an hour and, if you’re feeling a little less peaked than I am at the moment, you can doctor it in all kinds of ways. Even the most basic version is a welcome flavor boost after white bread and bananas.

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 knob ginger about the size of your last thumb joint, peeled and sliced into very thin matchsticks
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • freshly ground black and white pepper
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup Jasmine or other long-grain white rice
  • Optional additional ingredients: rice noodles, egg noodles, spinach, egg, scallions, chives, Sriracha, sesame oil, cilantro
  1. Add the first four ingredients to a small pot, bring to a boil and reduce to a very low simmer. Add the chicken and simmer gently until just cooked through (7-10 minutes). Remove chicken.
  2. Add the rice and continue to simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, shred your chicken using two forks. When the rice is cooked, slide the chicken back in and simmer another minute or two.
  3. The above makes a lovely, restorative soup. If you want to take it a step or two further, at this point you could do any or all of the following 1) swap rice noodles or egg noodles for the rice (and adjust the cooking time accordingly), 2) add spinach leaves and simmer until just wilted, 3) stir in a lightly mixed egg, 4) garnish with thinly sliced scallions or chives, 5) stir in a shot of Sriracha, 6) drizzle with a little toasted sesame oil, 7) sprinkle with cilantro leaves before serving. 

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

UPDATE: The chicken breasts came three to a pack, so I continued the theme throughout the week. Here’s a version with daikon radish, turnip, parsley and sesame oil that I made the next day, once my stomach had started to recover. The parsley was a sorry substitute for cilantro, but this iteration was otherwise delicious.

Daikon Turnip Chicken Soup

A few days later, when the craving for fiber and complex carbohydrates had kicked in, I swapped the rice for a thinly sliced sweet potato and stirred a bunch of baby spinach and a lightly whisked egg in at the last minute. This was a very nice reentry into my normal food patterns.

Chicken Sweet Potato Spinach Soup

Is It Spring Yet?

Despite having lived in New York for more than two decades, I am newly disappointed each March to discover that it is still winter. School, work, and a chronic lack of sunshine conspired to make this past week quite challenging. By the time Friday rolled around, I was ready for some relaxation in the form of a specialty cocktail.

Is It Spring Yet?

  1. Add a shot (or more if you’ve had as rough week as I’ve had) of white rum and two to three times as much mango nectar to a rocks glass.
  2. Use a microplane or the fine holes of a cheese grater to grate some fresh ginger into your glass and give it a stir. (Your index finger works fine.)
  3. Pour some Prosecco or another dry sparkling wine on top, add a squeeze of lime, and plop in a large ice-cube.

This cocktail pairs beautifully with takeout Indian food and your sister and brother-in-law’s HBO on Demand while your nephew slumbers in the next room.

Is It Spring Yet goes down so easy that you might find yourself feeling less than stellar the next day. Fortunately, there’s a cure for that, and the ingredients can all be found at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket – even in early March.

Not Yet Spring Breakfast

  1. Get your ass out of the house. Be sure to take gloves; it’s still cold. Seriously.
  2. Grab some coffee on the way to the farmers market. (If you failed to bring gloves, this will help.)
  3. Pick up some fresh Madura Farms shitaake mushrooms, an organic whole wheat sourdough miche from Bread Alone, a hunk of Cato Corner Farm Farmstead Cheeses’ Dairyere and, if you don’t have some stashed in the fridge, a shallot and some eggs.
  4. Head home, remove your pants. In that order.
  5. Add half a tablespoon of unsalted butter to a small skillet over medium heat. Once the foaming has subsided, add a finely minced shallot and sauté for a few minutes. Sprinkle a little thyme over the top and then add halved or quartered mushrooms. Stir occasionally, allowing your mushrooms to brown. At some point, add salt and pepper.
  6. Lay thin slices of cheese atop sliced bread and broil until bubbly and browned.
  7. Turn the heat under your pan down a tad, slide the mushrooms onto a plate, add a little more butter and fry an egg. A bit of water and a lid will help cook the white while preserving the runny yolk. 
  8. Assemble the components as you see fit, grind a little pepper over the top, and enjoy.

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