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30 April 2009

late morning, windows open

sour cream-applesauce muffins

Sometimes, writing a food blog feels like inviting everyone into our kitchen.

We do love our kitchen, and it's much more spacious than our old one was. In the late morning, if the sun is shining, we crank open the windows next to the stove and let the warm air rush in. (Even if a giant drunken bumblebee comes stumbling in unexpectedly, and we run around the house a little scared, and a little unsure of how to usher him out.) Today, in the Seattle area, everyone probably flung open his or her windows and wanted to burst into song.

(What were you singing this morning? "Don't Stop Believing" or "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" or "Good Morning Good Morning" from The Sound of Music? Just so long as it wasn't "Good Ship Lollipop" or "It's a Small World," I think we're okay.)

It has been that long since the warm air felt good along our arms. Or that we had time to really stop and savor the smell of our skin in the sun.

We've been awfully busy around here, you see. The plates are stacked up next to the sink, waiting to be washed. Emails languish in the inbox, staring at me witheringly. (Am I the only one who feels that un-answered emails have human feelings, and talk to me in a stern voice like the imperious aunt you avoid at Christmas parties and funerals?) The boxes in one room of the house remain untouched, toppling over each other, in very real danger of never being unpacked.

And we know we're not the only ones. Spring makes everyone move faster, doesn't it? We want to clean the house and mop the floors and start exercising again. We make lists and have goals and do everything we can in one day, until we flop onto the bed exhausted, still running the list in our minds of what we didn't accomplish.

At least I have been, lately. It's really no way to live.

Today, I turned to Danny in the car, as we drove past blue water pulled away from the shore, yards of wet sand exposed. And I said what I had been thinking, "I can never accomplish in one day what I set out to do that day. Never." As soon as the words were gone, however, I wish I hadn't said them. I wish that I had suggested, "Let's stop the car. Let's take Bean out there and put her toes in the wet, and look for starfish, and let our hair grow warm in the sun." We weren't even in a hurry. But I was talking as though we were.

So before we went to the store, we stopped at the playground, and put her in the baby swing. She looked up at us in amazement, her smile cracked open wide. We pushed her on the swings, sauntered to the slide, and slung our legs over the teeter-totter with her. There was a game of peek-a-boo behind large trees, and some pulling of yellow dandelions on green grass. We didn't move out of the sun for awhile.

I'm not sure I have another story today, and that one has nothing to do with food.

* * *

A couple of days ago, I read a piece that has stayed with me, and that has been informing these days, in a kind, forgiving way. (So much of what I read on the internet, at times, is not kind and forgiving.) Andrea Scher of Superhero Designs is one of my heroes, the woman who made the necklace in which I was married, and the other one that I wore all through Little Bean's birth and those terrifying days after. Andrea is a beautiful woman.

In March, she wrote a truly moving piece, called What is Real. And life has whirled and been crammed so full that I just read it this week. She wrote so much of what I have been feeling:

"I have a lot of friends in cyberspace. I know you do too. We love them! They are like us! They are kindred spirits. They are creative, they care about what we care about. We wish they were in our hometown. Sometimes we graduate to phone friendships and these connections deepen even more. Still more rare and wonderful is when we get to meet them in person and confirm, Yes! you are real! and you are even better in real life. These are incredible blessings. "

(The other day, I realized that most of the close friends I have arrived through the internet, including my husband.)

And yet, the internet is not real. We touch each other's lives and leave indelible impressions. The community on Flickr is one of the most creative and intimate I know, and I keep going back to look at my page of favorites when my hair feels plastered to my forehead with all the running. (And looking at it again, I realize they are all photographs of peace and pause.) But I don't really know those people.

Andrea said she had gone quiet on her blog because she had been reaching out to her neighbors around her, the people whose footsteps she heard on the landings, whose dogs barked down the street. And life felt more expansive than it had when she spent all day in front of the computer.

That's what I have been thinking about ever since reading her piece. I don't really like sitting in front of the computer. I like the typing, the writing, the connections that can occur. I love flitting about on Twitter when I cannot think of what to say next, and finding moving essays like this one. I like when I can move the mouse over the publish button and press down.

But the actual sitting in front of the computer? Not really.

I much prefer the avocado picnic that Little Bean and I shared underneath the cherry tree this afternoon, reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and then looking for fuzzy caterpillars around the yard. Or the pop, then whizz when I flip the cap off a bottle of root beer. Or the sizzle of the chicken roasting in the oven as I write.

I like the physical. Words really don't exist.

So I might be a little more quiet around here for awhile. Before we moved, I was posting something every day. Ingredients! Recommendations! Videos! Recipes! Photographs! Now? I want to slow down. Those posts will appear here, in time. That's why we moved to this island, to listen more, to drive around a curve and lean our bodies into it and watch the bay emerge to the left of the car wheels, not complaining, just being here.

* * *

And the other thing? As spacious as our kitchen is, it's still not big enough to fit all of you in.

When I made these sour-cream-applesauce muffins this morning, they were just for us.

Some moments are best left private.

sour cream-applesauce muffins II

Still, if you'd like to have a muffin, here they are, in a slouchy relaxed fashion.

SOUR CREAM APPLESAUCE MUFFINS, inspired by The Joy of Cooking

1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup sweet brown rice flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed in
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 400°. Oil a muffin tin. (choose your own size)

The dry ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients together, sifting the flours into the bowl.

The wet ingredients. Combine all the wet ingredients. At the end, add one egg at a time, slowing down to let each one be incorporated into the batter.

Finishing the batter. Stir the liquids into the dry ingredients. Combine them together with long, sure strokes, not rapid-fire movements. Watch, carefully, to make sure all the flour is combined, not pockets of dry goods left standing. But don't over-mix, either, because that will make the muffins tough and dry. Go slowly. Pay attention.

Baking the muffins. Fill the muffin tins as high as you want. (Too high and they might spill over a bit, but that's okay. too low and they will be small, but that's probably fine too.) Slide the tin into the oven and bake for about 15 to 18 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the muffin comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes. Pull them out of the muffin tin. Eat, preferably with butter and rhubarb jam.

Made 12 muffins in our house.

27 April 2009

goat cheese

goat cheese

When I was in the 9th grade, I had fairly safe music favorites. My parents introduced me to the Beatles before I could walk, and I wore out my father's copy of Sgt. Pepper's on my Fisher Price record player before I was 8. We grooved out to Barry Manilow (oh Mandy), Peter Paul and Mary, and the Allman Brothers. My brother and I liked to pretend that we were conducting the symphony when my dad put on Beethoven's 9th, waving ballpoint pens in the air as we stood up over the back of the couch. I think it was a vigorous drumming session to "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" that left the green naugehyde couch permanently stained with splotches of blue ink.

There was also Stevie Wonder, who has always made me dance. And the Jethro Tull album my father owned that kind of creeped me out, with the ghostly skull on the front. Even so, they had flutes in their band.

And by the time I hit the 9th grade, I had not one streak of rebellion in me. Painfully shy and awkward as hell, I did not seek out new bands that would make my parents shake their heads and say, "Oh, kids these days." Now I listen to Talking Heads and Sonic Youth and Squeeze and XTC, happily. (Of course, 19 years later, this is hardly rebellious music either.) But at the time, I didn't even listen to the radio, just the record albums I knew.

Except one hot afternoon, in the cool darkness of my room, I turned on KROQ, this station I heard about from students talking around me in math class. New music. Cool music. I wanted to try.

The first song that came out was "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell. Now, of course, this is a cheesy 80s hit, a cliche. (But I defy you to not start singing it right now.) But at the time, it was weird. All those jangly chords and slightly off-kilter rhythms. It scared me, a bit. And fascinated me. I started listening to the radio, just to hear it again. That's how I discovered other bands, like U2, when they got their first radio play. I started listening to music that wasn't always safe.

Goat cheese reminds me of Tainted Love.

Bear with me.

How many of you, who did not grow up in France, ate soft chevre when you were kids? Most of us did not. Danny says he did not encounter goat cheese until he was in culinary school, and then thought, "What the f- is this?" I think the first time I ate it was in New York, when I was in my 30s. It seemed just as strange and jangly — soft and crumbly in texture, with a definite acidic tang — as that Soft Cell song had seemed to me at the time.

Now, however, goat cheese seems like a staple food around here. We always keep a log in the refrigerator, to smoosh onto salads and dollop onto scrambled eggs at breakfast. Right now, we're enjoying this La Buchette log from France, by happenstance. It's assertive and truly tangy, no hiding what it is. But word is there's a woman on the island who makes her own goat cheese, and I'm eager to try it.

If music is food, then the Beatles are crisp apples, sauteed spinach, hamburgers, and cherry pie. Always good. Still surprising. If goat cheese is Tainted Love, then gizzards and smoked chardonnay foam are the Sex Pistols. Goat cheese is the gateway food to other, stranger music. All you have to do is open your mouth and try.

And you? When did you discover goat cheese? And how do you like to use it? What's your favorite kind?

24 April 2009

chorizo sausage (made for stuffing)

ready to make chorizo-stuffed tenderloin

We often have a strange assemblage of items on our kitchen counter. But this one was the most intriguing lately.

Time to make sausage and stuff it in a pork tenderloin.

(I love seeing what's in other people's kitchens, like this gorgeous Polaroid from Ab Chao. In fact, I've started a group in Flickr, called What's on your counter, right now. Come on over, if you want to join in.)

Chorizo. Say the word, and each person conjures a different taste. Chorizo can be fresh or cured. As far as I can tell, Spanish chorizo has plenty of paprika. Portuguese chorizo is heavier on the wine. Mexican chorizo is made from ground pork, instead of chopped. In Argentina, chorizo means any kind of sausage.

Which kind is this one? Oh, none of them, although it's probably closest to Spanish chorizo. It's ours, in the moment. Danny doesn't love food to be spiced so hot it puckers his tongue. (I like a bit more heat.) So this is milder than most chorizos, which makes it good for stuffing tenderloin. He wanted all the flavors to blend. We enjoyed it, thoroughly.

There are many other fine recipes involving chorizos out there, of course. Take a look at these, all of which should be gluten-free:

Elise's Mexican chorizo and scrambled eggs

Chorizo and potato fritatta (based on Jamie Oliver's recipe)

Roasted red pepper risotto with chorizo cubes

And as soon as I learn how to make empanadas gluten-free, I'm going to make these:

Deb's chicken empanadas with chorizo and olives

Oh, chorizo. You inspire so much great food.

And finally, Danny has taught me to make a little taster of the sausage, before you cook them all up. That way, you can check that the seasonings are correct without having to eat raw meat. (And really, don't.)

That just means another bite of sausage for you, which isn't a bad thing, really.

taster of the chorizo

Chorizo for Stuffing Pork Tenderloin

1 pound ground pork
2 teaspoons chile powder
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon piment d'espelette
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
splash sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon each kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Assembling. Mix all the ingredients together.

Tiny tasting. Make a tiny taster of the sausage. Bring a sauté pan to high heat. Pour in a splash of oil. Put the tiny sausage patty in the hot oil. Cook until the internal temperature reads 160°. Eat, to check the seasonings. Adjust accordingly.

Cooking. If you are using this chorizo to stuff a pork tenderloin, leave it raw. If you want it for breakfast, cook it up in the same fashion as the taster.

23 April 2009

The Chef shows you how to butterfly and stuff a pork tenderloin (a video)

Hey, everyone. It's video time.

Life has been a little complicated around here. Pack and clean out a house with a baby. Move in the middle of cold rain and hail. Unpack, for days on end. Walk the baby up and down the house all night, then go to the emergency room. Danny gets the shingles. The baby gets chicken pox. House still not unpacked.

Tell truth, this has been a bit of a rough month.

At least we're still eating well.

These complications have kept us from doing something we really like: shooting a cooking video. Every time we tried, life intervened. But this week, we did it. We shot a video, on Monday. A whole video!

And then the computer ate it. Each shot simply disappeared, instantaneously.

So we shot another one, yesterday. And it stayed! (I put little bits of sticky tape on the back of this video.) And, triumphant, we intended to post it...

and the baby grew more itchy and frantic. The internet had to go away.

But here I am, at 9 pm, the baby finally down, my fingers flying across the keyboard. A video. It's done. It's here.

And it's pork tenderloin, butterflied, pounded out, and stuffed with homemade chorizo.


We'll share the recipe for chorizo tomorrow. Promise.

We'd like to take this space to announce a new venture of ours (and part of the reason we have been so busy). We're writing another blog, one all about pork:

Pork Knife and Spoon

We're pretty proud of it, and we're having a hoot writing it. Three times a week, we write anything we want about pork. Who knew this could be a job?

And a job it is. To be completely honest about what we're doing, we're being paid to write this blog, by the National Pork Board. You might find you have a sort of feeling about them. Many people do. We'd appreciate it if you keep that feeling to yourself, and not tell us all about it in angry letters. We were approached with this possibility, and after some consideration, jumped right in. To our delight, we have been given the freedom to write what we want, no editing, no censoring.

Just pork.

What we've been hired to do is simple: write about pork. We love pork. That's pretty clear from this website. But we also love the chance to showcase people we love who are making good food, people like Don and Michelle at Volterra restaurant, who offer an incredible pork cheeks and buckwheat polenta dish. Over the course of this year, we'll be featuring the hard work and inventive dishes of many Northwest chefs (and some beyond our environs) involving pork. In these economic times, we'd like to do anything we can to help good restaurants survive. Danny is itching to write about the different cuts of pork, and how best to experience the flavors. We'll also be bringing you the stories of people who raise pigs and make good pork, like the folks at SeaBreeze and Skagit River Ranch, family farmers trying to make it in this world. We actually buy almost all the pork we eat from those two farms. We're lucky enough to have local, sustainable pork near us. Perhaps if we write about these farms, folks who read might want to find a pig farm near them, too.

And of course, we'll talk about bacon.

So come on over to Pork Knife and Spoon for more recipes, videos, giveaways, and hilarious stories about pork. We'd love to see you there.

And for those of you who don't like pork, we can now say that this website will be essentially pork free, after tomorrow's recipe.

Enjoy the tenderloin.

21 April 2009

Alden's ice cream

Alden's ice cream

Oh, the beauties of Alden's ice cream at the end of a long day.

Come on over to Gluten-Free Girl Recommends to savor it with us.

20 April 2009



The air outside hit 70 degrees today on the island.

We woke up to birdsong filling the space of the open window. We rubbed our eyes and listened to Little Bean's squeals of giggles through the monitor. What used to be an unthinkably early hour is now our waking, thanks to that little one. Since it's spring, we open our eyes to full sunlight streaming down on us. This afternoon we joked that we should wear sunscreen to bed. And after I went into Little Bean's room, and smiled when she lifted her arms toward me, I carried her into our room to cuddle. That's when I looked out the window and saw it. The cherry tree had exploded overnight into a dreamy white profusion of blossom and sky.

A few moments later, Danny lifted her as high toward that sky as he could reach, so she could experience the cherry tree, in that moment.

Later, we walked down the beach, our feet moving side to side (sometimes nimbly) on the barnacle-encrusted rocks as we talked. Little Bean rode on my back, snug in her carrier, looking out at the water, watching. No one else was there, except the unexpected waves from a big container ship slapping the shore. By the time they reached us, the ship had slipped out of view and trudged forward toward China.

The sun felt good on our skin, after this long winter.

We didn't bring any food. This surprises me now. It was perfect picnic weather. If I had thought ahead, I would have brought radishes, in small slivers. In a bag at my side, I would have carried slices of crusty (gf) bread, creamy butter (French, or the one we make at home), and some sea salt. I would have sat down on a piece of driftwood, spread butter on bread, radishes on butter, and crunched the sea salt on top. And then I would have looked up into the sky, and seen the halo of the sun around Danny's head as I handed him the snack.

Today was heaven.

But maybe tomorrow I'll remember the radishes.

And you? How do you like to eat radishes?

p.s. I was deeply honored that the fabulously talented Paige Orloff asked me to be part of the Sister Project, and featured me in an interview and gallery of photos about what sisterhood means to me.

Come on over and take a look.

16 April 2009

David Leite's chocolate chip cookies, gluten-free

36-hour cookies III

(We're thrilled that this recipe is being featured at's roundup of holiday recipes for 2009. For more of our featured posts, visit today.)

"This recipe is being featured at For more of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef's featured posts,
See that cookie? That chocolate-oozing, warm-in-the-hand cookie? The cookie I was mean enough to make Danny stop eating after only two bites so I could take this picture for you?

And, I'm assuming, if you are looking at the photo, the cookie you want to eat, right now?

Well, that's one of David Leite's famous 36-hour chocolate chip cookies. Gluten-free.

36-hour cookies V

I love how recipes live on much longer than the time it takes to read them on a page. Someone has an idea — I know! How about refrigerating the dough before baking? — and the idea becomes cookie, becomes words, becomes other cookies. That piece of paper is spread from hand to hand (or these days, from screen to screen), becoming increasingly frayed and chocolate stained along the way. Recipes are one way of talking with each other. A particularly delicious way.

Back in July, just a few weeks before Little Bean was born, the New York Times published a compelling story by the inimitable David Leite. Why was it compelling? Well, of course, David's research and scholarship were impeccable, his writing fluid and easy to read, and his recipe meticulously written. Who am I kidding? It was the photograph that grabbed the eye, a baking tray with warm chocolate chip cookies packed in like little kids waiting to be released for recess. One look at the melting chocolate, the caramel color, and the crisp edges of the cookies, and I wanted one.

Oh, I wanted one bad.

But of course, these were full of gluten. The original recipe calls for cake flour and bread flour. Nope. That wasn't going to happen. More to the point, Little Bean was going to emerge into the world just 12 days later. I set the recipe aside.

(I did laugh when someone wrote to me, about 4 days before the little one was born, and asked, "Look, I know you're about to have a baby, but could you just adapt these cookies first? I need one." Um, no.)

Little Bean turns 9 months old next week. (How the hell did that happen?) I finally got around to it this week.

Oh, the wait was worth it.

Sometimes I meet folks who despair about having to bake gluten-free. They're scared of it. They don't want to do the work. I understand. It's daunting, at first. But lately, I meet more people who -- like me -- revel in this. We get to be mad scientists in the kitchen, tossing flours together and waiting to see what happens.

Shauna, I can feel you saying. That's all very well. But I can't stand to hear you wax rhapsodic about the joys of baking right now. Please, just cut to the chase. How do I make these cookies?

No problem. Here you are.

Instead of cake flour and bread flour, I used sorghum, tapioca, potato, and amaranth. Equal parts of each. I tried another batch with teff, instead, but those puffed up and stayed in ball shape. Normally, that's quite the achievement in gluten-free baking. But here, I wanted those flat cookies, crisp on the outside, increasingly chewier toward the middle, and a little flattened and soft in the center. This is the combination that worked for me.

The original recipe calls for large chocolate discs, either made by Jacques Torres or Valrhona. Well, I'm afraid I can't afford Mr. Torres' chocolates. And many bars of Valrhona I have seen say, in tiny letters, may contain gluten. So, neither one was an option. The tiny chocolate chips just won't do for this recipe. You want giant oozing gooey chocolate places in the midst of the cookie. What to do?

Thank you, Dagoba Chocodrops. 73% cacao. Single origin. Fair trade. Organic. And gluten-free. Also, along with those superlatives? A lovely piece of dark, slightly bitter, redeemed-by-a-bit-of-sweetness chocolate. Oh yeah, baby.

A bit of xanthan gum. Make sure the butter is softened, not melted in a rush. Good sea salt to crunch on top.

And other than that? They're cookies. They're damned fine cookies.

Are these as good as David Leite's originals, the ones with gluten? I'll never know. I'll never be able to eat those.

But I can tell you this. This weekend, when I finally made the cookies, Danny's niece, Kelly, and her fiance, James, and their friend Tanya stayed with us for three days. (For those of you who have been reading for a bit, you might remember that Kelly and James came to visit in September, and we made fried green tomatoes. Well, they are engaged now, and we couldn't be happier if we tried.) Three food-loving, discerning young people, all in their 20s. None of them is gluten-free. Before they met me, they probably couldn't have told you what gluten was.

Just after they arrived, on Friday night, I made the dough in front of them. I watched James's eyes go wide. Just the dough looked delightful. "Nope," I said, shoving the dough in the back of the refrigerator. "We have to wait until Sunday morning."

As David explained in his original article, the refrigeration wait allows the dough to soak up all the liquids, which makes the final cookies more fully flavored. And the drier dough produces a firm, crunchy cookie. So, we had to wait.

For a moment, James looked wounded. Luckily, we had plenty of other food to feed them.

Sunday finally arrived. We ate smoked salmon that an island family catches in Neah Bay and sells out of ice coolers on the side of the road. (It was good.) Scrambled eggs. Danny's roasted potatoes. No one was going hungry.

But still, just after breakfast, James called out: "Time to make the cookies. It has been 36 hours now." He was right. I started working.

We all stopped talking when the warm chocolate cookie baking smell emerged from the oven.

They came out perfect. I jumped up and down, a bit. James wanted to grab one, right away. So did Danny. (The girls were more polite.) Nope. We had to wait, just like the recipe said. All in the name of science, and this blog.

Finally, they had cooled sufficiently that the center had fallen, like a sleeping baby against the shoulder of someone she trusts. The outer edges were crisp. Okay kids. Eat.

Everyone took a bite. Silence. More silence.

In the past, I would have worried, tried to fill the space with words. But Danny has taught me. If no one talks, it just means they don't need words. They only want to eat.

Everyone loved them. Everyone ate two that morning — these are big cookies — and the kids took another six home for the car ride home.

I don't care if these are as good as, or better than, or an adequate substitute for the originals. These were warm, gobbled quickly, and inspired companionable silence. Everyone in the room agreed: these cookies, these gluten-free cookies, are the best chocolate chip cookies that each one of us has ever eaten. Ever.

These will be my chocolate chip cookie recipe now, the one I bake with my daughter when she grows older, the one I'll pass on to her, the edges of the paper frayed and stained with chocolate.

These are my chocolate chip cookies.

36-hour chocolate chip cookies II

36-hour chocolate chip cookies, gluten-free
adapted from David Leite's chocolate chip cookie recipe

1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup tapioca starch
1 cup potato starch
1 cup amaranth flour
1 tablespoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (we used bakers' sugar, which is extra fine)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
16 ounces Dagoba chocodrops
sea salt

Sifting the dry ingredients. Sift each of the four flours, individually, into a medium-sized bowl. Add the xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir well (I like to use a whisk, to sift again, in a way). Set aside.

Mixing the wet ingredients. Put the soft butter and the sugars into a stand mixer. Using a paddle attachment, mix them well, until they are just combined, and then 1 minute more. (Do not over-cream, however, because this could lead to spreading in the baking stage.) Add the eggs, 1 at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Pour in the vanilla extract and mix for a beat.

Finishing the cookie dough. Sift the dry ingredients into the batter, about 1/2 cup at a time, and then mixing. When the all the dry ingredients have been incorporated, add the chocolate pieces and mix for just a moment. You don't want broken chocolate here.

Refrigerating. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and put it in your refrigerator. You might want to shove it to the back and arrange even more enticing foods in front of it, because you shouldn't touch the dough for 36 hours. Really.

Preparing to bake. 36 hours later (or as long as you could stand it), pull the dough from the refrigerator. Uncover it. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat.

Baking the cookies. Scoop generous balls of dough from the bowl. (You can determine the size for yourself. David suggested they be the size of large golf balls. Or you can weigh them at 3 1/2 ounces each. Mine were the size of the indentation of the palm of my hand, but I could still lightly wrap my fingers around the ball.) Place 6 of them onto the baking sheet. Poke any errant chocolate pieces into the dough. Sprinkle the top of each cookie with the sea salt.

Bake the cookies about 18 minutes, or until the tops have turned golden brown. The middles should still be somewhat soft, however. Take the baking sheet out of the oven. Allow the baking sheet to sit on the counter for 10 minutes. Transfer the cooling cookies onto a cooling rack and allow them to cool for a few more moments.

Eat warm chocolate chip cookies and feel grateful. Why not?

Makes 1 to 2 dozen chocolate chip cookies, depending on the size you make.

09 April 2009

just after

after dinner

(We're thrilled that this recipe is being featured at's roundup of holiday recipes for 2009. For more of our featured posts, visit today.)

When I was in my 20s, I liked the moments before, the most. Ten minutes before a party, if I wasn't running around trying to throw a shirt over my head after washing my hair, I sat in my suddenly clean home and looked around. Imagining my friends on the blue and white checked couch or leaning on the granite-colored countertops made me happy. I lingered in those moments, dreaming into the white space.

I'm sad to say that sometimes the imagining was better than the reality. My friends were lovely — some of them are still my friends — but nothing could live up to those expectations.

As I've grown older, I like being in the moment, more. Messy and mucky sometimes, like pulling rubber boots out of the mud, the moment always surprises. Those moments before are loaded, afterwards can be deflated. But the moment? Oh, the moment. I'll never know it. I love that.

These days, though, I like the moment of just after. I love the meal, of course, but I almost like more the moment of leaning our arms on the table, napkins crumpled, glasses empty, the plates only crumbs. We're sated and sitting, together, no one leaving yet, no expectations of anything more.

A couple of weeks ago, just after we had moved into our island home, our good friends Tita and John came over for dinner. I've known Tita since I first lived on this island, almost 17 years now. (good god. is that possible?) She was my teaching partner — we invented a class called American Studies, with her commonsense clear lectures on history and my hands-waving exhortations on the Beat poets. Tita taught me how to buy clothes at thrift stores, how to make a mint julep from scratch, the beauties of cake made from farmhouse cookbook recipes, and how wonderful it is to walk along the beach with my jeans rolled up haphazardly, my feet a little sore from the rocks beneath them. Her husband John is one of the most talented painters I've ever known. He's also ribald and bawdy, the only man to really call me on my shit, before I met Danny. If I make John laugh so hard his face turns red and he stops breathing for a beat, I feel bigger than the sky.

And they love Danny. I waited a long time to meet him. When I lived on this island before, I told Tita one day: "Whomever I love, I'm going to bring him over here to meet you. You two have to approve." They do, unconditionally. That happened the first time they met him.

So John and Tita came over for dinner. No expectations. We know them too well to wonder how it will go. We talked and moved around the kitchen, smiling and sipping sparkling pear cider. We leaned against the counters and dipped crackers into the hummus with preserved lemon and scraped our knives down the cliffs of St. Andre cheese perched on a plate.

(Have you tried this cheese yet? Good god. Ripe and soft as brie, St. Andre is 70% butterfat. Need I say more? Eating this together was a good moment.)

We laughed over roast pork shoulder and mashed potatoes and salads made with greens grown on the island. Little Bean slept in her room, and I listened to her breathing through the baby monitor as we talked. Dinner over, we had reached that moment. The just after.

I imagine my dear friend Molly is enjoying her moment of just after these days. For the past two and a half years, she has been dreaming of her book, picking out recipes with meticulous care, writing and writing, sometimes tearing out her hair, sometimes soaring with the words. I've known her now for almost four years (good god. how is that possible?), after we met through these blogs of ours, and walked through the Ballard Farmers' market on a sunny September Sunday. She had just met Brandon. I remember a conversation we had about him, and his wondering about storage onions. I had only known her for half an hour, but I knew that she had met him.

I met Danny six months after that.

How much has changed.

But Molly's book, which she has been dreaming and anticipating, is out now. A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. Have you read it? Many have. It's selling like hotcakes, just out of the oven, slathered in butter and waiting for syrup. It's such a lovely book, filled with marvelous stories and recipes that work. Molly makes you hungry, not just for food, but for the chance to know her. I'm very much honored that I do know her, and quite well.

I am the person that married her and Brandon, standing in front of the water in Bellingham, just after Danny and I were married. I'll never forget those moments, seeing them close, me the only one on that side of them. Brandon hugged me, hard, a dozen times, before we began. I could feel how much Molly missed her father in that moment, along with the joy of marrying Brandon. Burg would have been so proud of her.

He would be so proud of her now.

I adore Molly, the Molly you might know from reading Orangette, or seeing her evocative photographs on flickr. But I love the Molly you can only know in person. Her fabulous not-quite-shiny green flat shoes, her understated tweed poncho. The way she listens to Johnny Cash and David Byrne when she's cooking, her hair up in a messy ponytail. She has a bit of a potty mouth (when she wrote to me today, to say she couldn't meet us in the city: "Shit, man.") and an unexpected absurdity for someone seemingly so delicate. Molly's always discovering new passions, like photobooth shots, the same way I am. And she's the only person I know who gets drunk — I mean red faced and giggling — after one glass of champagne.

Molly's also the kind of person who, in the middle of her book tour — a different city every day, throngs of people coming out to meet her — calls you from New York City to ask how your move to the island went. The girl's got class, and a huge heart.

I love that heart of hers.

And I love her banana bread with chocolate chips and crystallized ginger.

So, just after dinner with Tita and John, I pulled my gluten-free version of Molly's banana bread from the oven. We sat at the table, waiting for it to cool, talking about...well, unmentionable topics of conversation that quickly turned worse, and made all of us laugh. The chance to eat was the only thing that stopped that talk from spiraling downward further.

"Oh, this is good," Tita said. (I think she never expects much from gluten-free baked goods, even though she has always liked mine.)
John ate two pieces.

There sat John and Tita, married for over 30 years, eating the banana bread that Danny and I had made, inspired by Molly's recipe, and her love for Brandon. (And those two will still be together 30 years from now, let me tell you.) That I know them, and we were joined by this food, during a Wednesday evening dinner party for four, moved me more than I can say.

The banana bread disappeared. All I have is the photograph of this moment just after.

p.s. If you haven't read Molly's book, you really should. And since there was such an explosion of interest in The Flavor Bible the other day, I'm pleased to be doing another giveaway. (Molly's giving me one of her copies for this.) Leave a comment here with a story of food connecting you and someone you love, the just after, and maybe you will win a copy of A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table.

 Molly's banana bread, gluten-free
Gluten-Free Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger, adapted from A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table

We must have made this banana bread five times in the last three weeks. It's addictive. Watch out. What's not to love with chocolate chips and crystallized ginger?

Our friend Matthew had a bite of this bread (or, to be specific, this loaf) and said, "I think this might be better than wheat flour banana bread." Well, hot damn! If that doesn't inspire you to make this, I don't know what will.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup teff flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (about 3 large bananas)
1/4 cup full-fat yogurt (or sour cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup crystallized ginger

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a loaf pan (the usual size). Melt the butter on low heat. Set it aside to cool.

Combining the dry ingredients. Sift the four gluten-free flours into a large bowl. Stir in the xanthan gum, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir them all up together.

Combining the liquids. In a large bowl, combine the mashed bananas, eggs, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Stir until they are just combined. (If you are using a stand mixer for this, be sure to mix until the liquids are just combined. You don't want to over-cream the liquids.)

Finishing the batter. Slowly, sift the dry ingredients into the wet batter, until everything is just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and crystallized ginger. Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan. Smooth the top.

Baking the bread. Slide the loaf pan onto the middle rack in the oven. Bake about 45 to 50 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and a knife slides out of the bread clean.

Cool the bread for 10 minutes in the loaf pan, and then tip it out, slowly. Allow it to cool before you slice your first piece. (well, good luck.)

Feeds about 8.

07 April 2009

The Flavor Bible

the flavor bible

Would you like to win a copy of this exemplary book? Come on over to Gluten-Free Girl Recommends.

06 April 2009


sorrel in the garden

I didn't know what this was when we saw it in the garden.

The garden. I should phrase that more carefully, before those of you reading might think we are early planners with green thumbs. Today may have been warm in western Washington, but it was one of the first days of rolling down the windows as we drove around the island, music playing, the baby blinking against the breeze in her eyes. The skies have slanted grey for months, the rain coming down, hard. Even the most experienced gardeners don't have much blooming, yet.

And we are certainly not the most experienced of gardeners. In fact, we know nothing.

I have this working theory: life keeps you humble when you try to learn something about which you know nothing, or at least very little. No matter how good you are at one activity, if you fumble and falter in the face of something new, you're never going to walk around with a swelled head. And so I take on these little projects, a new passion that fills me and threatens to knock vigorously from the inside until I pay attention.

This spring, I want to start using film again, instead of digital in the camera. That scares me. So many blurry photos. But I love the imperfections of film, the wonky stripes, and the rich textures. Digital is starting to feel a little too shiny for my taste.

But the biggest lesson, the one I feel like I'll be learning -- and humbled by -- the rest of my life? I want to learn how to garden. As Lisa wrote in this inspiring photo essay (and the conversations that followed it), "If there's a heaven, I hope it smells like basil and dirt."

As much as I love buying vegetables directly from the farmers, I cannot wait to pluck carrots from the black dirt and run them into the kitchen for dinner.

Of course, we don't know what we're doing, so there's no guarantee there will be anything edible this year. But we'll try.

(And if you have suggestions on how to start, fire away.)

No, the garden surrounding our house was, in part, already here. The landlords of this house we are renting lived here before us, for years. And they built raised beds, planted rose bushes and raspberry canes, pruned the giant cherry tree for its health, and created herb beds. We have volunteer strawberry plants, a fennel bush, baby apple trees, and bulbs bursting from the earth all over the yard. We are, in a word, lucky.

Still, we didn't know what this stretching leafy green was, until we ate some. Danny reached down and plucked half a leaf, then popped it in his mouth. "Hm. A little lemony." And then he scrunched up his face. "Peppery. Like arugula. More acidic." We looked at each other. "Sorrel."

(And then we googled it, to be sure.)

So we have sorrel.

Later that evening, Danny sliced some up and flash-sauteed it with a little olive oil, and some onions. The leaves melted into a dark khaki green softness. He finished the puree in the blender, and then dolloped it over the first halibut cheeks of the season. Roasted potatoes and fresh coleslaw made the meal the best one of the spring so far.

But there are more to come. And more with sorrel. Any suggestions? Let's all help each other out.