the grub street diet

Klancy Miller Relaxes With Cinnamon Rolls

“It is really cathartic to make dough.”

Klancy Miller at home with some of her favorite sweets. Illustration: Lindsay Mound
Klancy Miller at home with some of her favorite sweets. Illustration: Lindsay Mound

“I feel a lot of gratitude, and I’m just happy it’s out here,” says the food writer and cookbook author Klancy Miller of her magazine For the Culture. The first issue of her first magazine, it’s also the first publication devoted to Black women in food and wine. As the Washington Post’s Aaron Hutcherson put it, “while the magazine does focus on Black women, by doing so it inherently tells an important part of everyone’s story.” The stories cover the gamut of the African diaspora, including a search for Rome’s best Ethiopian food, a story about ZAFA Wines’ Krista Scruggs, and an interview with the luminary Dr. Jessica B. Harris. “To shepherd this process with and create a publication with 35-plus people all going through a pandemic,” Miller says, “feels really miraculous.” 

Wednesday, February 3
I woke up with extremely high anxiety. Didn’t get much sleep.

I drank hot water with apple cider vinegar and ate toast — gluten-free Udi’s Ancient Grain omega flax and fiber bread — with Sarabeth’s blood-orange marmalade slathered on top.

Then I ran to a doctor’s appointment. Was told that I’m in good shape but that I should meditate and do more self-care. I treated myself to shopping at Kalustyan’s and buying apples at Union Square Greenmarket. At Kalustyan’s, I got some prepared foods including chickpeas with curry and some onions. I always get potatoes-and-pea samosas when I’m there. I also got their Moroccan preserved lemons, lentils, basmati rice, Medjool dates, dried apricots, and — I’m cracking myself up here — aphrodisiac tea. Why not?

Going to Kalustyan’s makes me happy. Anytime I have to be in Manhattan in that area I’m just like, well, gotta go. But for some reason, ever since the pandemic hit, I haven’t been as gung ho about the farmers’ markets. Not because I don’t love them. I used to just be out and about in the before times, so I would just happen into Union Square. Now, I have to be there.

I’m not really in the same places as much. I live in Bed-Stuy and truth be told I only go into Manhattan when I really have to run an errand. There’s this whole past ritual of just wandering around or walking to meetings that I don’t do anymore. Now, it’s very errand-specific. I do sometimes go to the Fort Greene farmers’ market. But it’s like, “Okay, get out of the house before noon. Go there.” It’s not in my head the way it used to be.

I miss all my past rituals. I feel like one of the best things in New York is just wandering around. Either because, you know, the weather is nice and you have free time, or because you’re going to meet a friend for drinks but you have enough time to walk there. There’s just that running around the city aspect that helps you to see so much and explore so much, even if it’s literally between meetings or drinks or whatever. I totally miss that.

I went home for back-to-back Zoom meetings. I sometimes feel like I’m still having that Groundhog’s Day reaction that a lot of people felt last spring: Oh my gosh, here I am, still in my house. I feel that way about the Zoom meetings. Here’s another Zoom meeting. Here we are, in our homes, meeting via a computer screen. 

For lunch, I ate six potato-and-pea samosas and drank Topo Chico with lemon juice. 

I snacked on dried apricots and toasted pecans that I toasted in a skillet over a medium-high flame.

For dinner I cooked basmati rice, sautéed kale, and mixed it all together with the already cooked curried chickpeas that I got from Kalustyan’s prepared food section. I drank one glass of Sancerre and one bottle of Casamara Club Alta sparkling amaro soft drink. It’s a non-alcoholic, non-sweet soda. While eating, I watched the end of the horrifying Dominique Strauss Khan documentary on Netflix and part of the not-horrifying movie Locked Down on HBO Max.

Thursday, February 4, 2021
I woke up and drank hot water with lemon juice. Then I made toast again.

I had a very long Zoom meeting and a very juicy, gossipy phone call. I spoke with someone I haven’t for pretty much the whole pandemic. We used to have these fun catch-up lunches together when everybody used to be social and have meals. It was just a really fun conversation. Like, Aw, gossip I haven’t heard that in such a long time. It’s like it sated some hunger I didn’t even know was there.

For lunch I sautéed more kale, and reheated my rice and chickpeas and added chopped preserved lemon and mixed it all up and had seven mini samosas. All my meals vary. It tends to change on a weekly basis, whatever is kind of on-hand for three-plus days.

It’s so funny to me that cooking used to be an actual joy for me. (I’m kind of kidding.) I feel I’m more motivated to use leftovers than ever before, partially because I don’t feel like cooking three meals a day. (Hence the toast, because that’s basically not cooking.) Then lunch, frankly, I like to do as little as possible because I’m working. There’s a lot of remixing that happens.

Cooking so much starts to feel like a chore. I used to go to dinner parties and I would eat something really interesting, and I’d ask whoever cooked it, how did you make this? And maybe that would go into my file, along with going to restaurants, the whole thing. Now I have less inspiration to work from, and my attention span isn’t what it was a year ago. I kind of feel like I have more important things to think about. Occasionally, I do make things I’m really excited about. I just used to make more things that I was excited about.

I snacked on toasted pecans.

I received two amazing food deliveries. One was expected and one was a happy surprise and I’m not sure who sent it. The unexpected one was a big box of food from Questlove via Goldbelly, there may have been 20 things in it. I think it was a holiday collaboration, and I got it literally a week ago. Fortunately, everything is popcorn and nuts and things that don’t really go bad super quickly. It’s got Junebaby’s cornbread mix, these delicious caramelized pecans from the Grey in Savannah, these pitted amarino cherries.

The second was a box of the delicious guava passion fruit pop tarts by Lani Holiday’s Brutus Bake Shop — an obsession. I was anticipating those. They’re so damn good. I had them at her pop-up over the summer. I was just like, Oh my gosh, these are a revelation.

Passion fruit is in the top five of my favorite fruits. I have them on my counter right now. I like them as a palate cleanser, I also think they’re really nice in salads. I started using them in culinary school because in France they love to use passion fruit in a cake or macaron or something. I just think they smell so good and are so tart.

I took a long walk and picked up a book at Greenlight Bookstore and groceries Greene Grape. Some passion fruit, tortilla chips, I always get spinach or arugula. They have these really good ginger-molasses cookies from the Good Batch. That’s my go-to place for something I’m missing in my fridge that I think I need for dinner. There have been weeks when I go every single day, because that’s my excursion. It’s far enough from my house that I feel like I’m getting exercise. In the summer, I would go and pick up things for picnics and meet friends in the park and treat the park like my little café.

For dinner I made a frittata with sliced shiitake mushrooms, kale, and leftover linguine. I bought the pasta earlier in the week, when I was running errands, from Il Buco Alimentari. It was a huge batch, and I didn’t want to reheat it. Frittatas are really nice for leftovers. I drank a glass of red wine and had one of the Brutus Bake Shop pop tarts for dessert. I meant to save the pop tart for breakfast but really wanted to have dessert and pop tarts get the job done.

Friday, February 5, 2021
I woke up late. Drank hot water with lemon juice.

I had a very late breakfast that was probably more like lunch. (In my mind — especially during the pandemic and being at home so much — I consider any meal before noon to be breakfast. Any meal before 4 p.m. is lunch or brunch. I usually have dinner between 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Anything before 6 p.m. is still lunch.)

I ate one slice of toast with jam. I ate the other slice of toast with my leftover frittata on top. I drank decaffeinated Earl Grey tea with lemon juice. I can’t do caffeinated beverages because they keep me from sleeping for 48 hours and mess up my stomach and I’m naturally high energy (and frankly a little anxious sometimes). 

My neighbors brought me a slice of orange olive oil cake. They are super kind.

I took a long walk to Fort Greene Park and knew I wouldn’t feel like cooking, so I bought a fontina, mushroom, and speck pizza to go from Roman’s. Also spaghetti with artichokes and a sfogliatella. I got extra food so I could also not cook the following day.

I walked home almost drooling because the pizza smelled so good. When I got back I made a spinach-and-avocado salad and drizzled some Holy Tshili oil on top. (That came in the Questlove box, too.) Usually I make a balsamic vinaigrette, but I’d run out of olive oil, so I was like, “Let’s see what this does.”

I heated up a few slices of pizza. The salad and pizza and a glass of red wine were my dinner. A pop tart was dessert.

I watch The Flight Attendant on HBO Max. Television is how I unwind. With the exception of the magazine when we were really trying to get it out to the printer, I kind of have a cutoff time of eight o’clock. That’s when I allow myself to turn on the television. I’ve only had one or two friends come over during this, but that’s just my form of relaxation whether I’m alone or with other people. Especially now, because I basically feel like I don’t have any other forms of entertainment.

Saturday, February 6, 2021
I had a bunch of errands to run. Before heading out I made a glorious breakfast. One slice of frittata, the sfogliatella (which I heated in the oven), toast, and tea. I felt very opulent and carefree.

I think it was the sfogliatella that made the breakfast extra special. Those are so freaking good. I hadn’t had one in so long that I’d almost forgotten how delicious they are. I’ll have breakfast like this every now and again. I’m a huge fan of waffles, and a lot of times I’ll make waffles on the weekend.

I walked to the J train and got off at Delancey and walked to Plant Shed to buy two bouquets of flowers, then I went to buy some makeup and a sexy dress for a filmed interview. I also did some window shopping and random walking around for no particular reason.

I came home and took a long hot bath and felt like a new human. It was a really nice day. It was almost like the before times too, but who even cares? It was a genuinely good day.

For dinner I made another spinach avocado salad with Holy Tshili chile oil crisp on top and heated up more pizza.

I made dough for cinnamon rolls and put it in the fridge overnight. There’s something about baking — and I think this is what I really love about the cinnamon rolls —  and the fact that it is all with your hands. It is really cathartic to make dough. You have to set aside the mental space to prepare. Once you do, it feels really good.

Sunday, February 7, 2021
I woke up and it was snowing — again. I decided it was a great day to make the cinnamon rolls — plus I had been wanting to make them all week, but couldn’t find the time.

I developed a recipe for cinnamon date sticky buns a couple of years ago for the New York Times and over the past week I saw Alison Roman’s recipe for cinnamon rolls, so I decided to do a mashup of both recipes. I had been craving cinnamon rolls for a minute.

I wanted to try hers to see how they was different from mine. I was really curious about the dough. I had those dates I bought earlier in the week and had oranges, so I decided to do part of the batch with the filling from my recipe and the rest with hers.

I really did like the dough. The dough I usually make takes less time, but it’s a different consistency. Her dough rolls thinner, which ultimately means you get lots and lots of those layers. It’s kind of fun. If you’re a cinnamon-bun aficionado, that is a cool feature. I enjoyed mashing up the two recipes, playing around, and also feeling comfortable playing around because I have made my fair share of cinnamon rolls. I was just super psyched.

While waiting for the cinnamon rolls to proof, I ate an apple, a date, and a slice of frittata. When they finished baking, I ate three. I think I had a cup of tea.

My soundtrack for the week while cooking was Nick Hakim’s Will This Make Me Good. A lot of times I will listen to music because that’s also my mode of relaxation. I don’t like to cook with the TV on because I can’t pay attention to it and prep my food. I’m obsessed with Nick Hakim. I’ve seen him in concert, I think, seven times, and I absolutely love his music. Love. It touches something in my soul. I also think he’s really cute.

Earlier in the pandemic, I made pizza a lot. Like, a lot. Once a week for several weeks, and possibly more than once a week. That’s when I wasn’t going out much at all. Over the summer, I started getting takeout. Now when I crave something, unless it’s something baked, like the cinnamon rolls which are very satisfying to make, I’ll usually just go to a restaurant and get takeout.

For dinner I ate the spaghetti and artichokes from Roman’s. I skipped alcohol and drank more Casamara Club Alta.

I watched Malcom & Marie and immediately started posting about it on Instagram. Half the people who commented loved it and half the people told me about all of their problems with it. I kept thinking about the boxed mac ’n’ cheese in the opening 13 minutes of the film — other elements stayed in my mind, too, but definitely the mac ’n’ cheese.

Then I washed and braided my hair and went to bed.

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