Let us divide runners into two categories: those who eat in order to have the fuel they need to run, and those who run so that they can eat whatever they want. I am very much in the second of these categories. The magazine Runner’s World recognizes both types of runners. They publish recipes that are healthy, but also recipes that are anything but healthy, just strictly for reward. In this post I consider two cookbooks from the editors of Runner’s World: The Athlete’s Palate Cookbook: Renowned Chefs, Delicious Dishes, and the Art of Fueling Up While Eating Well by Yishane Lee, and The Runner’s World Cookbook: 150 Ultimate Recipes for Fueling Up and Slimming Down–While Enjoying Every Bite by Joanna Sayago Golub.
The Athlete’s Palate Cookbook features recipes from well known (and not so well known) chefs and cookbook authors who themselves run: many marathoners, but a few more casual runners who might just run 20 miles or so per week. Many of these cooks, we learn, came to running after dealing with weight gain or illness. Most of the recipes appear to be relatively healthy, except for a few obviously decadent ones. Not surprisingly, carbs are generously represented. Although I ended up with two excellent recipes and a good approach to Brussels sprouts (one of my culinary bêtes noires), recipes were not really jumping off the pages of this book, begging to be tried: there is a limit to the number of noodle dishes I will make in one cooking session, there were a good number of meat and trayf seafood recipes that I just skipped over, and a few recipes just seemed too simple to really count.
“Arugula Salad” (page 46) is one of those recipes that almost doesn’t count as such. This salad is simply arugula with thinly sliced pear and crumbled blue cheese, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. The dressing was a little too ascetic, so I added a squeeze of honey. It all made a fine combination, and made me think that I should do simple salad combinations like this more often instead of having a green salad consisting of romaine and all my standard salad vegetables.
I actually rather liked “Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad” (page 65). Very thinly sliced Brussels sprouts (thinly sliced using the food processor), peanuts, and parsley have a dressing of olive oil. walnut oil, mustard, lemon juice, and vinegar. The recipe also called for Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, which I omitted. The peanuts and sprouts went quite well together, and the salad was sturdy, holding up over several days.
“Asparagus Omelet Tart in a Dill Polenta Crust” (page 2) was amazingly good. I like the idea of using polenta as a crust, although I should have cooked my polenta a little longer since it kept sliding down when I tried to build up the sides of the crust. Eventually it cooled enough to solidify and stay put; then I put cheese, asparagus, and roasted peppers on the crust, poured over a quiche filling, and baked until done. When I served this for lunch, my end of the table particularly enjoyed this dish. [Go to the recipe.]
“Flourless Chocolate Cake” (page 186) is reason alone to take up running. To make this cake, melt 8 ounces of dark chocolate with 4 ounces of butter. Separate 5 eggs, and beat the yolks with sugar until thick, the whites with sugar until stiff, using a total of ½ cup of sugar. Fold the chocolate and butter into the yolks, then fold in the whites. Use a largish springform pan and bake in a preheated 350º oven for 20 to 30 minutes. This cake may well replace Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “Chocolate Oblivion Torte” from The Cake Bible in my repertoire. Rose uses three ingredients: a pound of chocolate, half a pound of butter, and six eggs (not separated). Her cake is much denser, less cakier, and much easier to overdose on. Both cakes should be served with barely sweetened whipped cream.
I found more things that I wanted to cook in The Runner’s World Cookbook than in The Athlete’s Palate, but of the recipes I tried, all were okay, but none were great. These recipes are culled from the pages of Runner’s World. There are a variety of labels applied to each recipe when appropriate: prerun, recovery, fast, low-calorie, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. Although I have not actually counted, my impression is that there are a larger percentage of recipes labeled “recovery” in The Athlete’s Palate than in The Runner’s World Cookbook.
“Creamy Potato-Spinach Soup” (page 105) is a standard purée of spinach, onion, and potato in vegetable broth, flavored with cumin and lemon. The recipe calls for frozen spinach instead of fresh spinach, and so has the inevitable over-cooked spinach taste. Danny liked this soup; I was much less enthusiastic. Perhaps I would have liked it better if I had added yogurt, as directed by the recipe.
Instead of following the method in the recipe for “Spicy Sausage and Mushroom Soup” (page 109), I dumped all the ingredients (wild rice, mushroom, kale, vegetable broth, spices, and sausage, substituting vegetarian sausage for chicken sausage) into the slow cooker, and cooked them to death. For a soupy cholent dish, this did not turn out nearly as bad as it could have. The kale held up quite well to the long, long cooking.
I had no plans to make “Watermelon and Feta Salad” (page 76) until I saw these very cute baby watermelons (completely out of season here in Michigan) at Hiller’s. I got one, and combined it with feta cheese, mint, and an olive oil and lemon dressing, to which I added, as before, a taste of honey. The baby watermelon was not seedless, but had baby seeds, and it was impossible to remove them all, but they must have been somewhat edible. This is probably as good a way to eat watermelon as any.
Oranges and beets are a classic salad combination, but “Beets with Avocado and Orange” (page 78) was made more interesting with wasabi in the dressing. Not only did all the tastes go well together, but the textures combined well: the cooked beet, orange sections, and avocado chunks each provided a different variation on softish food: from mushy to squirty to al dente. The original recipe called for black licorice to be shaved on top of this salad; this was too weird for me, so I omitted the licorice. I assembled this salad and the other salads discussed above right before serving them for Shabbos lunch, and so have no pictures. [Go to the recipe.]
“Brown Rice Salad with Curried Tofu” (page 210) was not very salad-like. Cooked brown rice is mixed with fried tofu, peas, coconut, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and tomatoes. The original recipe called for edamame beans instead of peas, but I didn’t have any and like peas better anyway. This is the sort of recipe that is convenient to have on hand when one needs to feed vegans.
I find whole grain pasta difficult to like. “Pasta Bean Toss” (page 150) had hearty ingredients such as kidney beans, carrots, and broccoli that seemed suited to whole grain pasta. The entire assemblage, despite being spiked with Worcestershire sauce and treated with Parmesan, was quite lackluster. Danny discovered that the leftovers improved with the addition of Frank’s Red Hot; sriracha would no doubt have the same effect.
The recipe for “Coconut-Almond Energy Bars” (page 44) is an appropriate recipe for a runners’ cookbook. The original version of these bars is found at The Bakery of New Paltz, New York. The bars are made with oats, seeds, nuts, dried fruit, and generous amounts of peanut butter (or tahini) and honey. Right after I cooked these, and was nibbling at the edges, I found them quite delicious. When I finally got around to eating one, though, I was less pleased. I think there was just too much peanut butter and honey (although I used less honey than the recipe called for). Right now these are in my freezer; I am not sure that they will be eaten.
Asparagus Quiche with a Polenta Crust
Adapted from Yishane Lee, The Athlete’s Palate Cookbook
3 cups vegetable broth
3⁄4 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
Fresh dill, chopped
1 pound asparagus
1 or 2 roasted red bell peppers
1 cup grated or crumbled cheese
1⁄2 cup milk
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 onion, grated
Preheat the oven to 375º. To make the crust, bring the broth to a boil. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat, and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot frequently, until the polenta is thick and can support itself, which should take 30 minutes or more. Stir in as much dill as you like (I like a lot), salt, if needed, and a generous amount of pepper. Line the bottom and sides of a pie pan or baking dish with the polenta. If the polenta keeps sinking down on the sides, let it cool more, and then it should behave.
Snap the fibrous ends off the asparagus stalks (which is the part that naturally snaps off if you break a stalk in two). Cut the roasted bell peppers into strips. Line the crust with the cheese. Use whatever cheese you fancy; the original recipe calls for a combination of fontina and Parmesan. I think I used some sort of “Italian Blend”. Top with the asparagus and peppers. Beat together the eggs, milk, salt, and onion, and pour into the crust. Bake until just set, 30 to 40 minutes.
Beet, Avocado, and Orange Salad
Adapted from Joanna Sayago Golub (editor), The Runner’s World Cookbook
1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
1⁄4 cup walnut oil
1 teaspoon mustard
2 teaspoons wasabi powder
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
Cook the beets. You could boil them, or, as I do, wrap them in foil and toss them in the oven with whatever else I’m cooking in the oven. This might take an hour at 350º. However you cook your beets, cook until done, testing for doneness by piercing the beets with a sharp knife. Cool and peel the beets, then chop into cubes.
Peel and segment the oranges. This is easier said than done; ideally, all the orange membrane is removed. If you have never done this, here are directions. Peel and cube the avocados (for which you should not need directions.
Mix up the dressing ingredients: vinegar, oil, mustard, wasabi, with salt and pepper to taste. If you don’t have wasabi powder, you can use wasabi paste; just try to get real wasabi.
Just before serving, combine the beets, oranges, and avocados. Mix in the dressing, and decorate with the chopped basil.