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31 October 2005

a pile of gluten-free recipes for you on Halloween!

pumpkins!, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

If you are expecting a Halloween-themed entry from the picture of pumpkins above, well, I'm here to disappoint you. Instead, have a Halloween rant.

(I actually wrote this two years ago, on an earlier blog. But it still stands. And I think I'm allowed to quote myself.)

This morning, my dear colleague D gave an entire lecture on the spirit of the Roaring Twenties, while dressed in the following costume: a powder-blue leisure suit, a turquoise shirt, beige suede moccasins, an auburn wig with a lovely sheen that swooped down to his shoulders, and a pair of frightful 70s sunglasses that had big, black sideburns attached. He looked like a skinny…. Well, I don’t know what he looked like, actually. D is mostly unquantifiable, which is why I love him. What I like best is that he made absolutely no comment on the outfit before or during his lecture. So he stood up in front of 54 juniors and talked about prohibition and Calvin Coolidge, and he was wearing this ridiculous get-up. Every time he made a new point, running across the front of the room to write something down (and spilling yellow chalk on his blue jacket), I started laughing. I can’t imagine that the students are going to remember much about Herbert Hoover.

I try to enjoy Halloween, but I never really have since I last obtained free Snickers bars by knocking on people’s doors. I don’t know why. There could be something wrong with me. It’s not that I’m shy. I don’t mind feigning the appearance of someone else. Maybe it’s performance anxiety. Everyone around me is quite spectacular at coming up with creative ideas. A few years ago, my brother photocopied every part of his body (with clothes on, silly) and taped them all to his front. So he showed up as a copy of himself. One year, when I was living in New York, my friend Sharon showed up as murdered Baby Spice. Her hair was long enough for the pigtails, she owned all the baby-doll clothes already (I know, it’s a problem), and she painted thick red scars and blood drops all over her neck. It was terrifying. Perfect. I think that year I went as…a gypsy? A hippie? I actually didn’t know myself, because in my usual Halloween panic, I decided not to do anything, because I couldn’t come up with something brilliant, and so I wasn’t going to try. But, then I decided I wanted to go to the party, so I borrowed someone’s long-haired wig, wore a plaid shirt, and a big skirt. People at the party kept looking at me sideways, then returned to their fabulous conversations.

Last year, I actually planned a costume. When I had lived in New York, I had worn all black, of course. (It’s a rule.) One year, my brother took one look at me during my Christmas visit to Seattle, and said: “Try wearing a color. Any color.” Slowly, they started creeping in, and by the time I moved back to Seattle last year, I had switched to fleece clothes and hiking boots in my daily life. Especially at school. So, when I found out that all the faculty members at my school were expected to dress up for Halloween, I went to Value Village on my way home. Found a cheap black leather jacket, some impossible boots with towering heels, and planned my attack. I was going to be a New Yorker. I walked into school with sunglasses on, completely dressed in black, carrying a copy of the New York Times under my arm, talking on my cell phone, scowling. Some of my students understood, but my colleagues looked at me, then complained that I hadn’t dressed up. When I complained that of course I was dressed up—look at all the eye makeup I was wearing—one said: “Oh, I just thought you looked nice. I thought you’d just had enough sleep last night, for once.” Oh dear.

This year, I didn’t dress up at all, except for a pair of nerd glasses. That’s enough.

Come to think of it, I still may be scarred by this particular Halloween when I was a kid. I loved the LA Dodgers. Worshipped them. In what I considered to be the greatest Halloween costume ever, I wore an authentic Dodger uniform my parents had purchased for me. That year, I would have all the candy. All the people who appeared from behind closed doors would look at me in wonder. But it was also the year that my adorable little brother broke his leg, so he couldn’t walk around for Halloween. Instead, I pulled him behind me in a red metal wagon, and he just sat there looking cute. When the doors did open, mothers dropped candy in my bag, starting to ooh and ahh about my costume, then took one look at my tow-headed brother and broke into loud, sympathetic noises. They all rained handfuls of candy on his lap. But he wasn’t even wearing a costume! Outrage, I tell you.

Oh well. Tonight is my Buddhist class anyway, so when all the children are ringing doorbells, I’ll be meditating on the Hinayana path. I just hope I don’t have to have a compelling costume to reach enlightenment. If I do, I’m doomed."

Hey, this year I'm the one with the bummed-up leg! Maybe if someone pulled me around in a little red wagon, I'd be the one showered with Halloween candy.... Nah. It would probably look creepy. Or ridiculous. Besides, most commercial candy contains gluten.

Instead, I've unplugged my doorbell. (Yes, I've become that person. Besides, it has the eerie habit of chiming when no one has even rung it, including at 4 am. Is it the wind?) Meri, who has been in Asia for three weeks, is on her way over with roast chicken and rice. It was her birthday yesterday (Happy Birthday, Merida!), and she's cooking for me. That's a friend. So this gives me just a squinch of time to show you my favorite gluten-free recipes on the web this week. After all, it is Monday.

Brendon, over at Something in Season just started his food blog this month, but I can tell he's already hooked. He's been serving up tasty recipes all month, and they are all gluten-free! His wife has to eat gluten-free, so not only does he eat gluten-free with her, but he also cooks it for her! Now that's a good husband. Fitting with the Halloween theme (and in time for Elise's pumpkin carving cook-off), Brendon made a gorgeous-looking Spicy Lemongrass Pumpkin Soup with Cinnamon-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds in a Pumpkin Bowl. Well, I'm convinced. Welcome to the food blog community, Brendon.

Ah, Clotilde. Even when she's on vacation, driving through the French countryside without any internet access, she still inspires me. Since she's gone, she's running repeat posts from last year's autumnal feasts on Chocolate and Zucchini. And her aptly named Zucchini Polenta Tart is perfect for us who have to eat gluten-free. I've never made a crust completely out of polenta, but as soon as I can stand on both feet solidly again, I'll be rectifying that situation.

David Lebovitz is one of my food heroes. I'm not kidding. The guy was the pastry chef at Chez Panisse for twelve years. Need I say more? Well, I will. His three books on desserts, and especially The Book of Chocolate, will keep me inspired for years to come, either adapting certain recipes into gluten-free versions, or celebrating the ease of great gluten-free desserts. If you haven't been to visit his site yet, you should. Especially because he posted a hilarious, enticing piece on the quintessentially French delicacy, macarons. David made chocolate macarons, and they are gluten-free! I may just fall over with joy. (Oh wait. I've already fallen over this week. That didn't do me much good.) On top of that, David launched Prune Blogging Thursday, which inspired food bloggers around the world to concoct fabulous creations with prunes. How can you resist?

Adam at The Amateur Gourmet has been actively cracking me up for months. Prodigious in publishing, he seems to have five new posts up every day. And most of them record fabulous, seventeen-course meals he ate the night before at expensive Manhattan restaurants with his endless array of friends. And he attends graduate school at NYU and makes little funny films about food. Where does he get the money? The time? I may never know, and I don't care. The fact is, this guy's hilarious. I'll be honest--I don't check in for the photos. I read his site for the belly laughs. And this week, he posted a recipe for Brazilian Chicken with Olives that have me thinking he's going to leave me with more than just laughs.

Finally, you have to go over and read My Madeleine. Molly is an extraordinary writer. She leaves me open-mouthed with her fluidity of language and generous, fearless posts. For the first few months of her blog, she wrote about her passion for food, her determination to leave behind her college expectations and work in a restaurant. She had concrete plans to attend the Culinary Institute of America. She was fierce. In August, she disappeared from the blog for awhile. I kept checking back, wondering where she had gone. It turns out she had been hit by a car while jogging. Among other injuries, she lost her sense of smell. As much as I may have suffered with my car accident, I never had to suffer that. But she prevails, beautifully. And this week, she put up a gorgeous post about baking on crutches. Reading it, I felt like such a ninny for complaining about my sprained ankle. Read her. You'll adore her too. And her Chocolate-Chile Butter Cookies, which easily could be adapted to gluten-free cookies.
(In the spirit of disclosure, I have to admit that Molly and I have been writing to each other these past few weeks, which pleases me no end. In that post, she cites me for sending her a Rilke quote. That is NOT why I'm sending you to her post. But everyone should read that Rilke quote, anyway.)

So there you are. After the haze of too much candy has cleared from your head, take a look at those posts. You'll feel better immediately. And then, start cooking!

30 October 2005

a last splash of light against the darkness

roast potatoes, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

It’s pitch black dark outside. It’s 5:30 pm.

Here we go, descending into the long, dark days of winter.

I hate daylight saving time.

Have you ever noticed how everyone grows just a touch cranky this week? Right after the switch, we’re all just a little off. (And for those of you reading this outside the US, you have the right to shake your head and wonder why we do this.) When I woke up this morning, groggy from the codeine, I looked outside and saw the saturated, dark-blue sky, ascending into lightness. About right for 7:30 in Seattle these days. And then I looked at my computer’s clock and realized it was 6:30. Says who? This (and the equivalent day in spring) is the only time I realize in my body just how arbitrary our concept of time is. It’s an hour earlier because the government says so? Well, why don’t we say it’s spring and be done with winter?

No wonder we all grow a little testy for a couple of days. And besides the existential wondering, it’s dark at bloody 5:30. It feels like 10 pm instead.


Actually, I don’t like the transition into it, but I do like winter. I love the way the chill air surges through my skin unexpectedly. I love the clarity of the light in December, when sunny days feel like a welcome blessing. I love the raspy feel of wool socks on my toes, scarves against my throat, and the bulk of my coat on my shoulders. I love the way the darkness presses in against us, and we have no choice but to huddle in closer together, grateful for a flickering fire or a string of white lights in a room. There’s something primal about this season that approaches: I feel closer to myself in the dreary days.

And this winter, I’m looking forward to all the food. The gratins and stews and cassoulets. The hearty foods. Deeply layered. Meats braised all afternoon. Everything just a bit denser than it was in July. Has anyone else noticed a sudden urge to eat more grains and starches? To slow simmer soups for hours? To eat a little more, a little more frequently? We are, after all, animals. We’re preparing for hibernation. (And when it grows dark at 4:30, the way it will be here in Seattle in about a month, I sometimes wish I could just crawl in a cave and sleep until March.) We need to pad up against the cold.

Well, I don’t want to give into that urge completely. But I have noticed that I’m roasting food more often these days.

There’s something deeply comforting about a roast. Crispy chicken skin. A big pan full of roasted root vegetables. The coziness of the kitchen with the windows steamed up from the heat. In September, I bought a decent roasting pan at Sur la Table. At the time, I worried it was a bit of a splurge. But today, I saw just how handy that pan is growing.

I still can’t walk that well. I limp along between the couch and the freezer, fetching ice in hopes my ankle will stop swelling. Slowly, it’s healing. I’m sure that I’ll be fine. But after a day of laying down on the couch and eating only TV dinners, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to cook something.

So I dragged a small stool over before the oven and propped my green-and-blue ankle upon it. (If you really have to see it, you can click here. But I'm warning you.) I figured I had about seven minutes before my ankle just gave out and forced me back to the couch. And I still had some vegetables left in my Pioneer Organics box. What could I do, fast, that would still leave me feeling as though I had cooked?

Roasted potatoes.

This isn’t a revelatory recipe. It isn’t at all complicated. I’m sure you’ve all made them yourself. But for this hobbled, gluten-free girl, these roast potatoes hit the spot. And if it has been awhile since you made some, pull out some little Yukon gold potatoes and start pinching sea salt, adding pepper, and dousing it all in olive oil. In half an hour, the smell will knock you out. And the taste? Crunchy crisp on the outside, starchy softness inside. Ah.

Let winter begin.

potatoes to be roasted


8 small Yukon gold potatoes
4 to 5 tablespoons of great olive oil
1 small handful of herb de provence
several pinches of herbed sea salt
8 or 10 quick grinds of black pepper
6 skewers of rosemary

°Cut the potatoes into quarters. Throw the pieces into a copper bowl and douse with the olive oil. Toss.
°In rapid succession, sprinkle on the sea salt, herb de provence, and pepper. Toss again.
°Throw the whole lot into a quality roasting pan. (Line with tin foil if you want to avoid the clean-up.) Lay the rosemary skewers on top, haphazardly.
°Put into a 425° oven and roast for about 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft to the touch when pricked with a fork.

29 October 2005

the perfect cure for a badly sprained ankle

Fran's grey salt caramels, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

So all day long, the couch has been my home. Two enormous yellow pillows, plus a couple more purloined from the bed, have held my left leg in place. I feel as though I am presenting it, like a glass slipper, on a dainty pedestal. My foot is mostly purple, and a little green. Swollen. But a little better. Thank goodness for codeine, which helped me sleep eleven hours last night. This morning, everything felt lighter.

Last night, after a marathon of school, doctor's, drug store (it took them forty minutes to fill my prescriptions, mostly because they had to call each manufacturer to ensure the pills contained no gluten), and two bumpy bus rides home, I was more exhausted than I ever remember being. The #2 bus stops across the street from my house, thank goodness. It also stops outside of Ken's Market.

Ah, Ken's Market. How I love it so. One of two in a small Seattle chain, my Ken’s has been here at the top of Queen Anne for decades. I know people my age who worked there as teenagers, and still come back to shop for groceries and say hello to old friends. It’s a real neighborhood store, filled with friendly checkers. (Each one of them smiles at me, since they see me nearly every day, my hands full of a wild variety of spontaneous food choices for that night’s dinner party. I should throw a dinner party for them, since they make my food life easy.) But this is more than just a corner store. Nearly all the fruits and vegetables are organic. They buy breads from local bakers. The deli roasts chickens fresh every afternoon. And the wine section astounds me with its selection. On top of the kitchen basics, Ken’s carries plenty of gourmet delicacies. Matiz Extremeno fig bread from Spain. No flour in this bread, just compressed figs and honey. (They also carry the artisan apricot bread, and the date bread.) St. Dalfour prunes from France, the plumpest, juiciest prunes I’ve ever tasted, in clear glass jar, underneath the spice shelf. And last week, I discovered de la Estancia polenta, grown in Argentina. This gorgous golden cornmeal cooks up into true polenta in one minute. It’s not instant polenta. It’s merely that the families that own the company grow a different breed of corn, one that cooks up fast. And it’s organic. I’d never seen it before, and there it was, sitting on the shelves at Ken’s.

On Friday night, I hobbled through the store in pain. Every fiber of me wanted to lie down, on the couch, and sleep away the next three days. I winced with every step on my left foot. But I knew that I needed food, easy food to help me through the worst of it. I bought some Amy’s frozen dinners. I know, I know. TV dinners? But I couldn’t stand on my feet for longer than three minutes, so cooking was going to be beyond my reach for three days. And these are lovely: organic, vegetarian, and gluten-free. In a pinch, I’m happy to eat them. Some fresh herb turkey slices. A dozen organic eggs. And some gorgeous smoked salmon. That’s my idea of a splurge now: smoked salmon.


the piece de resistance? Fran’s Gray Salt Caramels.


I’ve referenced these, obliquely, before. But now, I want to address them, head on.

These are, by the far, the best caramels I have ever eaten.

Fran's grey salt caramels II

I mean, look at them. Don’t you just want to a take a bite, right now?

The caramel is buttery and dense, with a true chewiness. Take a quick bite and watch the caramel stretch in a lovely long arc from your mouth. Bite down slowly, and you can feel your teeth becoming one with the caramel. No fake aftertaste. No hint of too much sugar. Just pure butter and golden goodness. Oh goodness. And the chocolate? Thick, rich, and dark. It doesn’t shatter with your bite. It stays intact, wrapped around the caramel. And the salt, a gray salt from Brittany, cuts the sweetness of the chocolate, and brings it out more, at the same time. Sweet salty chocolate-butter goodness.

How can you resist?

I didn’t. And I’m glad.

Fran’s is a Seattle company, founded in 1982. And according to her website:

Fran opened her business with the goal of creating and selling extraordinarily high quality chocolates, caramels and desserts, to customers who valued the distinction between mass marketed chocolates and truly exquisite chocolate confections. Her objective then, was to provide the ultimate taste experience by cooking with only the finest ingredients in small batches, using no preservatives or artificial additives.

Over and over, I’m choosing the companies that insist on freshness, natural ingredients, and quality of care. Food tastes better that way. And even better, the Fran’s plant is about twelve blocks from my school. Some day, I’ll take a tour and breathe in the smell of pure dark chocolate. It’s a dream. It might happen.

In the meantime, I consoled myself with a couple of caramels. Normally, I wouldn’t indulge so much in one day. But the rain slanted down upon the windows, my trip to New York was only a distant figment of my imagination, and my ankle throbbed with pain. In cases like this, life calls for caramels.

Update: In a panic, I called Fran's chocolates this morning. Silly me, I hadn't even confirmed that these are gluten-free. WHEW! They are. At least, the dark chocolate caramels are gluten-free. The milk chocolate caramels have malt in them, which means they contain gluten. Also, any of the truffles with single-malt whiskey? Clearly, they have gluten too. The whiskey truffle is a bit of a loss. But the milk chocolate? Bah! Who wants to eat milk chocolate anyway?

Remember, all of you reading who cannot eat gluten, to double check before you eat.

28 October 2005

"I want to be a part of it...."

New York spinach and raisins, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

New York, New York. That's where I'm heading tonight.

After writing New York memories with increasing frequency here, I recognized that I needed to visit. After all, because of the mystery illness last winter and spring, the one that took nearly three months to correctly diagnose as celiac disease, I haven't been back to New York in over a year. And I miss it, dearly. I miss the dirty streets, the honking horns, the way the skyscrapers blot out the sky. I couldn't live there anymore, but sometimes I just jones for the chance to walk down Broadway, going fast, passing thousands of people on the sidewalk on the Upper West Side. And, even though I can no longer eat bagels from H & H, or bread at Le Pain Quotidien, there are new gluten-free restaurants to explore. We have a five-day break coming up at school. Why not take two more days off and make it a week in my favorite big city in the world?

So, the plan is to teach my last day of classes, write evaluations all afternoon and early evening, dash home to pack, then climb on a midnight flight to JFK. Then wake up in New York City, one of my favorite places in the world.

Well, that was the plan.

Update since I first started writing this post. It's actually Saturday now, even though the date on this is yesterday's. Yesterday morning, I put up this photo and started writing, in the giddy, silly hope that I could overcome what, in the end, prevented me from climbing on that plane last night.


Well, on Thursday morning, I slipped on some stairs at school, missed a step, and slammed down on the outside of my left foot. It appears now that this either stretched tendons and ligaments beyond their capacity, or tore them, or caused a hairline fracture. Or all three! When it happened, I immediately thought, "Shit! I broke my foot!" Students ran for the athletic director, who brought up ice and an ace bandage. A friend drove me home, and I lay on the couch all day, in shock, my foot propped up on five pillows, icing and resting. Being the model patient. And I really just thought, "Oh, I'll rest today, and I'll be fine."

But that night, it all grew worse. It swelled in the night, even though I iced it. I didn't sleep more than an hour and a half. I knew then I'd have to postpone my flight at least a day. I went to school, to try it out. And during the day, my ankle and foot grew grotesque. Ballooned. Blue, purple, green. Even the inside of the ankle swelled and turned colors. I could see the blood pooling at the bottom of the foot, under the skin. (My friend Dorothy said today, after seeing it: "It looks like someone sliced off the bottom of your foot, bruised it badly, then sewed it back on." I could post a photo, but this is ostensibly a food blog, and I don't want to turn your stomach. This description will have to do.) And I could barely put weight on it. Walking in the hallways scared me, for fear that kids would bump into my foot. How was I going to do the subways?

By the time I reached the doctor's office--I had to listen to reason and have it x-rayed--I had already accepted my fate. And then, when he took a look at it, he said, "Wow, you have a doozy here." (Apparently, I can't do anything halfway.) When I jokingly told him that I had a flight to New York that night, he wouldn't even pause to let me tell him that I had to cancel. He just looked at me and said, "You are not traveling."

So there you go.

The good news is that it doesn't appear to be broken. It could be a hairline fracture, but it will--get this--take four or five days for the bone dust to settle before they could see that. If it doesn't feel significantly better by Tuesday, it might mean torn ligaments. So I have to rest. He wants me to start physical therapy immediately. I will. If I had pushed it and gone to New York anyway, I could have damaged this foot far more badly, and left myself with lingering effects for months and months. I've already had that, with the car accident. Now, I know how to rest. I know the beauty of surrender.

In the meantime, I rented four or five dvds to watch. I have four or five new cooking magazines to read. I have friends stopping by to bring me supplies. I'll have days at home, with no obligations, and hours to write. I haven't had that since school started in September. I'm alive. I'm fine.

I'll miss New York. I talked to my friend Monica on the phone this morning and heard car horns honking behind her and wanted to cry.

But at the same time, I'm aware of how much worse this could be. After the car accient, I always feel this. All I did was trip and sprain my ankle.

We make plans, and then life changes. Okay. It's only the transition time that's hard, the moments when I can't quite believe that what I envisioned my life to be is not going to come to fruition. But isn't that most of life?

And, as my friend Jara wrote me in an email today: "At least you didn't break a rib, so you can still laugh." Absolutely.

Besides, life provides when you need it. On Thursday, when Francoise pulled into my driveway, my ankle dripping from the ice bag, she had to block the sidewalk a bit. My neighbor's car was in the way, so we jutted out. At the precise moment we opened the car doors, a tiny, wizened older lady walked up. She was a perfect evocation: hunched back, smeared red lipstick, a clear plastic rain bonnet on her grey hair. Francoise apologized to her, and said: "I'm so sorry, but you'll have to go around the car. My friend is injured." The woman took a look at me, my swelling ankle, the way I had to hobble from the car. And she also looked at the stone steps up to my door. So she said, "Oh dear, I'm sorry. Would you like to use my cane?"
I looked back, softened. "Oh, that's okay. Thank you, though."
She leaned her body against Francoise's car, then held out her battered metal cane. "No, you really should use it, my dear."
And I looked at her, and the steps without a railing, thought about it for a moment, then said, "Okay."
It really came in handy.

So you see? Sometimes you hurt your ankle when you least expect it. And you miss your trip to New York. But then, an old lady will offer you her cane. And all is right with the world.


When you're injured, and in pain, you need comfort food. My first thought last night, after visits to the doctor and bumpy bus rides to the drug store and back, and after years of habit, was "I want macaroni and cheese." But of course, that's not possible now. Not unless I have gluten-free pasta at the ready, and two stable feet to stand on as I make homemade mac and cheese. Right now, that's not me.

So instead, I offer this suggestion. I made this a few days ago, based on a suggestion Melissa had made in the comments on my post on turmeric, and how much I love spinach. I'm sure the dish she had in Spain was far better, but this one certainly satisfies.

1 cup homemade chicken stock
1 large bunch of spinach, washed and dried
1/4 cup of pine nuts
1/2 cup of plump golden raisins
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of turmeric
sea salt and pepper to taste

°Boil the chicken stock in a large skillet, until some of it has boiled away.
°Throw in the spinach, and the spices together. Cook until the spinach is wilted.
°At the last moment, toss in the pine nuts and golden raisins. Cook until everything is hot. Eat immediately.

26 October 2005

in the kitchen, all is well

skylight kitchen, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

In the morning, when I first wake up, I’m increasingly less eager to leave the bed. Blustery weather, darkness that lingers, and that dratted alarm clock bleating too early—they all make me want to stay under the warm covers. But then I open my eyes, and think, “There’s coffee in the kitchen. All I have to do is go in there and turn on the button, and that warm, dark smell will suffuse the entire house.” So I stumble into the kitchen, and watch that red light turn on, and the gorgeous smell emerges. And I sit down at my little kitchen table, waiting for it to finish brewing, and feel awake.

When I’m at school, deep in the middle of seemingly endless work, one conference after another, wonderful but exhausting connections with adolescent beings filling my day—I flash on an image of being in my kitchen at the end of the day, my bags dropped from my shoulders, and I’m starting to chop some vegetables on my scarred cutting block. I breathe out, and know I can make it through the day, as long as I make it back to the kitchen.

And when I’m sitting here, writing, on the couch, my feet propped up on the blue exercise ball, and I hit a moment of not knowing what words to trust, I look over into the kitchen. And I see flowers on the table, photographs on the refrigerator, and an entire box of organic vegetables waiting to be cooked. And suddenly, I find my words.

So when I was tagged with the latest blogger meme, I was thrilled to see it was Show Us Your Kitchen. Since this is where I spend the best of my time, I’m happy to share these little flashes of images with you.

The photograph above is actually my favorite part of the kitchen. Look at those skylights. Liquid light spills down onto the table and white linoleum floor on sunny Seattle afternoons. This past Saturday, I woke up to a messy kitchen. After the big dinner party on Friday night, I went to bed just after my guests left. Oh, I put away all the perishable items, and scraped the biggest piles of food off the plates, but I was exhausted. I’m not a big stickler for a continuously tidy kitchen. Granted, I like it better when the place is spick and span, but it doesn’t always happen. I use my kitchen. Every day. The dishwasher runs every evening. And I long ago let go of the notion that I couldn’t go to bed until everything is sparkling. Life’s too short.

So when I woke up Saturday morning, I went to make my coffee, curl up with the paper, then set to cleaning. But the light was so achingly gorgeous that I had no choice but to take photographs. One of the questions of this meme goes something like this: tell us what your kitchen says about you. And here’s mine: I notice the light more than the imperfections that need to be changed. Life’s imperfect. That’s why it’s so joyful. If I had started cleaning, instead of picking up the camera, I wouldn’t have swallowed this light, which enflamed everything it touched, including me.

red teapot

I’m blessed with a big kitchen, spacious and wide. I can fit twenty people in there. At parties, people lounge against the counters, talking and drinking wine. It heartens me to know that people feel comfortable in my home. But I have no dining room, no big table where everyone can fit. If you come over here to eat, you’re going to have to sit on the living room floor, on the worn carpet, and balance the plate on your knees. When I’m by myself, or with one other friend, I’m sitting at this tiny little table in the nook. I prop my feet up on the counter, spread out the newspaper, and let the light fall down upon my head.

pantry shelves

And I can look at my small white shelves, stocked with gluten-free staples. Corn meal, arborio rice, teff flour, amaranth, garbanzo beans, tuna, crushed tomatoes, cashews, and tuna—I couldn’t live without them. Two sets of small white shelves encompass my entire pantry. I live alone. I don’t need much. And with four great grocery stores within ten minutes of my house, I don’t need to fill my grocery cart with food every time I shop. But I keep a few small staples, always near me, to spontaneously fill my kitchen with smells of great food.

spice shelf

On the side of the nook? My spice shelf. There’s another one over the counter near the stove, with the ten spices I need most, the ones I use for savory tastes and baking: nutmeg; chili powder; cinnamon; salt, etc. But this one, on the right side of the nook—I reach for it more and more. Coriander. Turmeric. Cumin seeds. And especially, ground ginger. When I cook, I love to lean over and just grab a handful of bottles, then throw handfuls into the pot. Lately, I’ve been buying small clear bottles, then buying organic spices in bulk. It’s cheaper that way, plus it means I always have fresh spices. And if you’re looking closely at this photo, you’ll see—and this is sort of embarrassing—that this spice shelf is actually alphabetized. That’s a recent innovation. We’ll see how long it lasts.

essentials on the kitchen shelves

And over here, on the enormous metal shelves I bought in August, are some of my favorite, more exotic spices. The ones that are becoming most essential. Smoked paprika from Spain. Chestnut honey from Tuscany. Herbed sea salt from Venice. Survival Spice. Creole seasoning I made in early September. And Mariebelle hot chocolate, which is quickly becoming a nightly event on these cold autumn nights. And in the late afternoon, when the sun is out, this little shrine just shines.


Over here, the refrigerator. It’s a pretty standard size. It came with the apartment. (Actually, I live in the top half of a house, which I rent, in a beautiful little neighborhood in Seattle, right across the street from a corner grocery store stocked with organic, gourmet items. How lucky am I?) I do love it, though. What’s inside tonight? Greek yogurt, nonfat. Three eggs from my brother’s chickens. String cheese. Leftover polenta. Chicken stock from Sunday. Gruyere cheese. Nonfat milk. Applesauce. Ume plum vinegar and a whole door full of condiments. Green olives. And more. Not as much as normal, because I’m headed on a trip soon. But when I first return home, I love looking in the refrigerator, and thinking, “Hmmmm, what should I eat today?” And on the front, photographs of some of my favorite people. Along with some of the photographs I’ve taken that show up on this website. You might even recognize some from July. I’m actually printing up my favorites, slowly, and mounting them on the kitchen walls. Soon, I’ll be surrounded by food.

over the microwave

Here’s the microwave. I accepted it into my home, reluctantly, after years of not having one. It is handy, I’ll admit it. Melting butter for baking. Re-heating soup the next day. Warming up the last cup of coffee in the afternoon. But that’s about it. Call me an old-fashioned girl. I still like the stove instead.

Sadly, my stove isn’t that great. It works, and I’ve cooked all these meals on its battered burners. It’s an electric stove, and I prefer gas. And in fact, two of the burners barely work. But somehow, I make it work. Someday, however, I want an elegant gas stove, with sturdy burners, ones that always work and flame up immediately. Someday.

And by the way, see the dirty dishes? That’s what comes from cooking full-course meals every day. Sometimes, you just have to mess up the kitchen.

full kitchen shot

This is the full kitchen shot, through the archway of the living room. It’s a much darker picture, because I took it on Sunday, when the day bloomed grey and gloomy. I had meant to mop the kitchen, have all the surfaces gleaming, before I showed off the entire room. After all, it’s easy to clean off one corner and have it look perfect in close-up. But this is me, imperfect and alive. And sometimes now, I even let friends come over when there are dishes all over the counter.

Last night, my friend Quinn came up the stairs before I’d finished cleaning. Oh well. The stove-top was besmirched with chocolate stains from the chocolate sorbet I’d made the night before. Even six months ago, I would have felt nervous, wanting to apologize for everything not being perfect. I would have been embarrassed. But now? No way. Since I was diagnosed with celiac disease, and I stopped eating gluten, my mind has become more even. And in fact, I now mark my life as pre-gluten and post-gluten. Everything’s a fresh start now. And after near-death car accident and months of painful mystery before I stopped eating gluten, I know, down to the bone, that life’s too short to be embarrassed for no reasons. Besides, Quinn and I were going to make homemade potato chips (per his request), and I knew that oil would spill down on the stove. Why bother cleaning until after that?

We told stories and laughed, laughed so hard my stomach hurt. The chips grew crisper with every batch. We drank wine and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. A clean kitchen couldn’t have made it any better.

But I really do intend to mop the floor one day.

KitchenAid reflection

This meme asked us to write about our favorite appliance, and I have to say my KitchenAid. I’ve had this trusty blue machine for ten years, and it shows no signs of slowing. It works so beautifully, so reliably, and it makes all baking spectacular. I love it so much that I dragged it with me on my move to New York City. And then back again, to Seattle. I hope it’s always with me.

But I have to say, that lately, I’ve been enjoying the crock pot almost as much. I don’t have a photograph. But I have a recipe for Provencal beef stew, which I made the other night. Lately, I’ve been sauteeing meat and slicing onions in the morning, before I go to school, and letting the stews slowly simmer while I’m at school. When I walk in the door, the smell makes me run up the stairs. Always, food awakens me.

I’m here.

beef stew


Sorry guys. Recipe tomorrow.

24 October 2005

this week's round-up of the best gluten-free on the web

Francoise beet salad, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

So many recipes, so little time. However, I'm keeping my promise to you (and really, it isn't that hard for me to do this one) and trolling the best food blogs out there, in search of the most scrumptious gluten-free recipes of the week.

And this week, they mostly seem to be dessert. Maybe it's that time of year, when the body wants to start padding up for hibernation. Or maybe it's because this week was Sugar High Friday, over at Lovescool. Or maybe we food bloggers never grow tired of our sweets. Whatever the cause, here are my favorites of the week:

°Nic, at Baking Sheet, has this gorgeous dark chocolate yogurt, made with thick, Greek yogurt. I've never heard of it, never thought of making it. But that's what I thought about the cauliflower with cocoa powder, and I made that again tonight. Nic has a sweet tooth like almost no one else, along with pithy renditions of the making of the recipes. Her dessert sensibilities are exquisite. And last month, she made crepes with rice flour! I'm going to try this one this week.

The enigmatic J at Kuidaore has outdone herself again. Her photographs are little magic lanterns of taste, a window into a world of rich desserts laid out on tidy plates. I'm fascinated. How does she do it? This time, she made three desserts for Sugar High Friday (does she ever make just one?), with one of special interests for us gluten-free girls and boys: Carmen Meringay. Whimsical and sky-high, this one defies explanation. Meringues are a wonderful way to eat gluten-free dessert, and I'm going to try this one soon. No way am I taking a photograph, though. It would never look like J's.

Before you go over to look at Oswego Tea's Dark Chocolate Truffles with Fleur de Sel, make sure you prepare yourself. Take a deep breath. Take another. Make sure you've had something to eat recently. Okay, go look. Didn't I tell you? My god, those look good. And she made them herself? I adore dark chocolate with sea salt. Fran's, here in Seattle, makes caramels so good that an entire room will be filled with moaning as soon as you eat them. But Michele, she made these herself. And had the patience to take photographs before she gobbled them all? Oh my.

Tara at Seven Spoons teased us all week. Last Monday, she posted a photograph of the most divine rice pudding, promising the recipe. But no word from her. She claimed life overtaking her. Certainly, I understand that. But Tara, you tease! Finally, she has posted the recipe for Arborio rice pudding with Calvados and cinnamon caramel. You see what I mean? I hope life slows down a bit soon, Tara. Come back to us.

With all these desserts, we need something with substance. Why not try Ilva's zucchini, potato, peppers, and sun-dried tomatoes dish? And yes, I know this is the second week in a row that Ilva has made the weekly round-up. What can I say? She's doing a great job.

And our last entry (pictured above) isn't from the web at all. It's from my friend Francoise, who was over for dinner tonight with her two delightful girls, her dear friend Judy, and our lovely friends, Lakshmi and Matt. Yesterday, I wrote that I have a fear of beets. So many people left comments and emailed me, urging me to try them again, that I resolved this afternoon to cook with beets soon. Ask and you shall receive.

Francoise brought over the makings for this salad, then masssaged olive oil and white balsamic vinegar onto mache leaves. She dolloped goat cheese, then strew some walnuts she had roasted with honey. (This is my kind of friend.) And finally, little maroon coins of wonderfully pickled beets. We all pitched our forks into it and came up smiling. How can you resist? You should try it too.

I think I may have conquered my fear.

23 October 2005

A Vegan Feast (mostly. close).

millet fritters, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

Friday afternoons leave me happier than almost any time of the week. A solid five days of work, the feeling of having done something good in the world, dozens of connected conversations and graded papers and early mornings and heady anticipations—all of it behind me. And the freedom of the weekend: a wide-open space.

Sometimes, nothing feels better than Friday afternoon at four.

This Friday at four, I was at home, chopping up tomatoes and consulting recipes. Friends were due at 7 pm, and I had ambitious plans. For days, I had been fiddling with the menu, trying to find the right fit. After all, this needed to be a vegan feast.

Daniel constantly amazes me. He speaks at least five languages and has every fact about 20th-century history at his fingertips. He tends the most profuse, diverse garden I’ve ever seen, with plants from Chile, the Himalayas, South Africa, and China. And he can recite the Latin names of every one of them. He lived in Japan for fourteen months, has visited every continent, and possesses an avid passion for traveling to the rest of them. Seemingly, he knows how to do everything. (But apparently, he’s no good at dancing. Whew. I wouldn’t know, since he won’t let me see it. But I’ve heard reports.) But when he laughs, I mean really really laughs, he looks just like a little boy.

And he has been a vegan for 30 years.

How do I feed him?

And not just him, but also our dear friends Lisa and Mane. Lisa feels eternally young. When we see each other, spontaneously, we huddle together and talk in conspiratorial tones about the last two hours of our lives. She nudges me in the arm and laughs hard, a little whinnying at the top of it, joy coming out of her. She and Daniel have led trips to Spanish-speaking countries for years. I’ve heard so many stories about the beauties of Cuba that I am perpetually jealous. Lisa’s wonderful husband, Mane, comes originally from Spain. Jocular and open, he looks at you hard as he listens. He too has a beautiful giggle—his shoulders shake and he snickers, from deep in the belly. And on top of all this, he is the only known gardener in Seattle to coax a pomegranate tree to fruit. No one else.

What a talented group there would be in my living room.

Mostly, though, they’re just my friends.

Daniel has been feeding me for years. Exquisite, intricate-tasting, vegan food, on the balcony of his house, overlooking Eden in Seward Park. I can always count on eyes-closed appreciation moments at Daniel’s house. We could have eaten there again, but his dear partner, Jeff, had just left for Puerto Rico. And Lisa just had her kitchen remodeled, so she was in no mood to cook. I wanted to feed everyone, and I wanted it to be good.

Daniel's bouquet
Lisa and Mane arrived first, laughing immediately. And then Daniel, who was hidden behind a huge box of flowers. Dear one that he is, he had brought me bouquets of blooms from his garden.

Chinese pod inside
And these strange blue pods from China, like Muppet fava beans. When you slither them open, they reveal shiny black seeds encased in clear, bluish pulp. Lisa and I shrieked, because it looked a spine, or a fat slug. But we stood in the kitchen, all of us, lowering our mouths to the sudden openings, slurping up the seeds with varying gusto. Once we sucked them clean of the sweet, mild pulp, we pursed the seeds between our lips and spit them into the trash. Then laughed.

appetizers at the feast
So we started with appetizers:

--marinated goat cheese (see Friday’s post for the recipe and photo)

--homemade hummus with gluten-free crackers

--Mount Athos olives, shriveled, black and puckering in the mouth

--a gorgeous artisan goat cheese from Carr Valley cheese in Wisconsin. Thank goodness for Metropolitan Market, which is featuring American artisan cheeses all this month. This Cocoa Cardona? Aaaah. A semi-soft goat cheese, with a cocoa powder rind. Not sweet at all, just smooth and dark. We all oohed and ate this one.

You may be wondering—did Daniel eat them? He did. After a quarter century of being a vegan, he seems to have bent just a bit the past few years. Occasionally, he’ll eat goat cheese. Somehow, that feels more equitable to him than cow’s milk. I’m glad he’s flexible on that. Those cheeses were a joy. I wouldn’t want to have missed them.

I have a large apartment, but of course we huddled in the kitchen, at first. And not just the kitchen, but the tiny nook under the skylights, where the food beckoned. But soon I had to turn the oven up to 425°, and that drove everyone to the living room.

cocoa powder cauliflower
This was the big surprise of the evening. When I had dinner with Matt at Le Pichet a few weeks ago, he mentioned that he was thinking of some roast cauliflower for his sister’s dinner. Cauliflower roasted with cocoa powder. What? I had never heard of this, although my mind turned toward it. He said that he had learned at CIA (the Culinary Institute of America, for those who don’t know), that it was standard stuff there. Hesitant, I hadn’t made it yet. Not because I didn’t trust him, but because I haven’t liked cauliflower my entire life. Too rigid. Too chalky. Too....bleh. But Daniel had made some sauteed cauliflower once that tasted surprisingly good. And he has been urging me to conquer my fears ever since.

As we laughed and talked, the guests in the living room, me in my familiar place before the stove, I tossed the cauliflower florets in Spanish olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. At the last moment, I decided to toss on some of this smoky Spanish paprika, dark red with a kick. And then, with a fine-mesh sieve, I sifted on some Ghiradelli’s unsweetened cocoa powder. Why this combination? A little chocolate and chile, mole sauce taste. I had no idea how it would work.

Twenty minutes later, Daniel was exclaiming, Mane was groaning, Lisa was shaking her head in excitement, and I was just grinning. Oh god, this was good. Earthy, rich roasted, layers of taste—this roasted cauliflower was unforgettable. I’m going to make it again and again.

Maybe next summer I’ll conquer my fear of beets.

We sat in the living room, the boys with their backs up against the wall, Lisa and I cross-legged on the couch. Not yet full, we dined on rich, gorgeous pesto soup (from a secret source, so I can’t tell you more). And then they had second bowls. We started talking about food, of course. The food of our childhoods: Daniel in Arkansas, me near LA, Lisa in Seattle, and Mane in Seville. Spontanteously, we went around the room, listing our typical breakfasts. Then lunches. Then dinners. Poor Daniel had to pick okra. We agreed that Mane had it best, with his three-course meals every lunch, and not a bit of junk food in sight. I wish I’d grown up in Spain, especially because every lunch seemed to have involved garbanzo beans in some form. (And apparently, when he grew up, the saying was not “the black sheep of the family,” but “the black garbanzo bean.” I love that.)

And finally, another new recipe I was eager to try: millet and butternut squash fritters. Another splendid recipe from The Splendid Grain. Millet, which was originally grown in Asia and whose correct name is proso, is most commonly sold in this country as bird seed. (Or at least some forms of it are.) Shame, that, because it has more iron than any other grain, makes a complete protein, and cooks up beautifully. And as with all these “unusual” grains, it once grew abundantly throughout the world, including in the Roman empire and northern China, where is was more popular than rice. Farmers in the midwest grow it in abundance. But having grown up in Southern California, in 70s and 80s, I had never heard of it. I’d certainly never eaten it. And even though I have been experimenting with every gluten-free grain I could try, I still hadn’t cooked any recipes with millet.

Until Friday.

Easy to make, the fritters look as though they’re going to be all wrong at one point. After I toasted the grain, it felt strange to put them in water, with cubes of butternut squash, raw ginger, and toasted mustard seed. I worried, about 5 pm, that these were going to be awful. But with the right mix of water (3 cups of water to 1 cup of millet), the millet absorbs all the liquid and becomes as soft as polenta. When it had cooled, I threw in handfuls of cilantro, then fried them up in olive oil. Oh baby. These were divine.

There was more. An apple-ginger crumble. But at that point, it felt like gilding the lily. Everything else had already tasted so good. Such wonderful friends. Such a lovely Friday evening.


1 cup of millet
1 teaspoon of mustard seed
1 teaspoon of curry powder
2 1/2 cups of water
2 cups of peeled and diced butternut squash
1 teaspoon of minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro

Put the millet in a saucepan or wok over high heat. Toast, stirring constantly, for about four minutes, or until the first seed pops. Wash, drain, and set aside. Toast the msutard seeds and curry powder for one minute, or until aromatic.

Put the millet and spices, water, squash, ginger, and sea salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes, or until the millet has absorbed all the water. Remove from teh heat and let cool.
Add the cilantro to the millet mixture. Wet your hands and blend the millet mixture to a fairly uniform consistency. Form into twelve cakes. Grill for about three minutes on each side, or until golden. Serve hot.

21 October 2005

gluten-free bliss at Cafe Flora

pomegranate salad, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

A clear diagnosis of celiac disease, finally made after years of indeterminate suffering, has brought me so much: fervent energy; an even mind; weight loss; a general feeling of exuberance; the cessation of pain. This website. All of you reading this right now. New friends. A return of my fascination with all things medical. A renewed passion for food. Dozens and dozens of new recipes. An entire shelf of suddenly vital cookbooks. Kitchen shelves. A daily photography habit. A seemingly inexhaustible topic of conversation with anyone who will listen. Exciting writing possibilities.

The whole wide world.

There is one experience this diagnosis did not give me: a plethora of restaurant visits.

Since my diagnosis in April, and the explosion of expertise that followed it, I’ve only eaten in restaurants about a dozen times. Maybe a few more, but that’s about it. Time was, I used to eat in fine dining establishments and corner delis for nearly every meal. When I lived in New York, I followed suit of everyone around me. I grabbed egg sandwiches at the Americana deli on 101st and Broadway, thrilled to the taste of a slice at Sal and Carmine’s, ate pancakes at Metro Diner on a Sunday morning, and could always snack on scones at the Starbucks when I sat there writing. And those were just the restaurants on my block. I loved the cannoli at Amsterdam, the saag paneer on 6th Street, the bagels on 79th, the curried egg sandwiches on 81st. The Ethiopian sandwiches just off Central Park, the fried chicken in Harlem, the pizza in Brooklyn, the quiche in the East Village, the pain au chocolat in Chelsea, the mapled French toast on the Upper West Side, the pastrami sandwiches on the lower East Side—god, I loved them all. Every social interaction seemed to center in restaurants, and I never ran out of new ones to try.

But now, that life has changed. It didn’t change when I moved to Seattle. We have a stunning number of devastatingly good restaurants in this fair city, and I was well on my way to trying them all. Slow-cooked eggplant at Green Papaya. Lemon meringue pie at the Dahlia Lounge. Buttermilk biscuits at Glo’s. And every baked good ever made at Macrina Bakery. I was making my way through the glories of this fabulous restaurant town, happily discovering more every time I turned a corner.

And then, not so much.

Now, after my celiac diagnosis, eating in a restaurant is always an endeavor fraught with awful possibilities. In some restaurants, it’s almost impossible to find a meal without breading, or a roll on the side. Most Asian restaurants, which would seem to be a safe haven, use soy sauce with amazing liberality. Even if I order a meal with no apparent bread or flour, how do I know that the line cook has washed the flour off his hands before he started making my meal? That someone hasn’t spilled flour in the salt shaker? Or that bread crumbs didn’t accidentally land in the sauce?

I don’t mean to sound paranoid. I’m not. These have all happened.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of eating with Matt Kantor, from Food Blog Central. He was in town for a weekend, and we’d been writing. So we went to Le Pichet, formerly one of my favorite places in town. It’s a little bistro on 1st Avenue, with a black-and-white-tiled floor, long windows above the seats, and a capacious bar where you can wait for your gorgeous roast chicken to finish. I’d been there a couple of times in years past, and many of my friends celebrate special days in its space. Since I’d been doing so much luscious cooking, night after night, I hadn’t step foot in a restaurant in weeks. More excited than I imagined, I waited for Matt. Before he arrived, I warned the waitress about my gluten intolerance, almost apologizing, but being firm. She sent the manager out, who looked scared. “How dangerous is this?” she said.
“Well, I’m not going to go to the emergency room if you mess up, but I’m going to be sick for two days,” I said.
She looked relieved. It was clear that she was more concerned about their liability than my health. And then she said: “You know, we’ll try our best. But you know, where we cut the bread is just above the silverware drawer. And you know, I go home just covered in bread crumbs every night.” She shrugged and raised her hands in the air, as though she had already quit. And then turned and walked away.

Does it surprise anyone to know that I left that night with a wretched headache, even though I had ordered a garlic pork sausage? Or that my stomach grumbled in knots for two days? Or that I was left feeling enervated, more susceptible to catching the flu that wove its way through the halls of my school?

At least it was great to meet Matt.

So when I find a restaurant where I can eat, with no fears of growing sick, I’m overjoyed. It felt almost impossible for awhile. In June, after four months of not eating anything outside of the house, my dear friend Meri took me to Cafe Flora for dinner. We sat in the back, near the large windows pouring forth the light of late spring. Outside, a little courtyard, with Tibetan prayer flags stretched between the trees, waving in the breeze. I had been there before, in years past, for family brunches, and the occasional lunch. It’s a vegetarian/vegan gourmet restaurant, with an open space for seating, including one large side room with a burbling fountain. I always liked the peaceful feeling of the place, but I mostly remembered eggs. Before, I had not thought of it when friends wanted suggestions as to where to eat.

But Meri had read somewhere that Cafe Flora was friendly to gluten-free diners, so she suggested we try it. She was about to leave for New York, and I was about to finish school for the year. Time for a celebration.

Our waiter came to the table with menus, filled our water glasses, and left. I opened my menu, then I nearly fainted. Behind the descriptions of nearly half the menu items, I saw this: (gluten-free). What? Oh my god. A restaurant where the waiters not only know what gluten is, but also care enough to label it for me? And the food isn’t merely a small salad with no dressing, and a piece of plain meat? I couldn’t believe my eyes. I really did start to cry, a little.

And then, when the meals arrived, I could only moan. Roasted polenta with spicy tomato sauce. Gorgeous cheeses. And a creme brulee creamy-crunchy-sweet enough to make me break down and weep. Truly great food, not rushed or thoughtless, not something I could have made myself, but truly great food, gluten-free, made for me.

And as an unexpected benefit, Meri treated me to the entire meal. What more could a gluten-free girl want? Cafe Flora instantly became my new favorite restaurant.

So this week, I was thrilled to make a return visit. Cafe Flora was celebrating the publication of its cookbook with a seven-course prix fixe menu. And 25% off the cookbook. How could I resist?

Happily, I met my friend Jan, who is the mother of one of my favorite former students. I love the unexpected ways that people enter my life. Jan is one of the most loving, deeply listening people I have ever met. Whenever I am with her, I just feel as though I’m breathing easier. We talked and talked, and talked so much that our waitress tried not to look harried. She wanted to bring us our next dish.

polenta at Cafe Flora

Each one was spectacular. Small saucers filled with wonderful little bites. Smooth hummus with flourishes of rice crackers. Chanterelle pizza, made on white corn tortillas for me. Crisp polenta with goat cheese and rosemary sprigs. And so on. In fact, if you want to see the menu, here it is, along with the page numbers where the recipes appear in the cookbook:

First Course

White bean and roasted garlic puree with grilled eggplant and roasted red peppers.

Second Course (51):

Soup Shot: Curried Butternut Squash

Third Course (60)

Warm pear salad with orange vinaigrette and spiced walnuts.

Fourth Course (101):

Grilled polenta with fennel tomato sauce and Goat cheese.

Fifth Course (153):

Chanterelle and leek pizza with roasted garlic pecan pesto.

Sixth Course (125)

Roasted vegetable and wild rice roulade with parsnip puree.

Dessert Course:

Three small scoops of dulce de leche ice cream, with mint.


The place was filled with happy people, bathed in candlelight and talking. Everyone there to celebrate this marvelous place. Jan and I were basking in its warmth as well, enjoying the first chance we had found in months to see each other. As always, it’s food that brings us together.

At the end of the evening, the author of the cookbook and the head chef came over to see us, to assure me that everything had been gluten-free (I had trusted that. They came over on their own.). And they even asked me questions, about how best to look at a kitchen for gluten-free needs. I’ve never met such a great group of people. I knew they were interested in more than their own liability. I felt it in the way they talked to me, and especially in the way the food tasted: this place is built on love.

And to top it all off, without my knowing she had this planned, Jan treated me to the entire meal, and a copy of the cookbook. This gluten-free girl is dumbfounded at her generosity, of the generosity of everyone in that place. I’m still reeling.

So if you live in Seattle, or you’re planning to visit soon, you have to go to dinner at Cafe Flora. This is one of the best spots in Seattle. The food is fantastic. But even more inviting for those of us with food restrictions, Cafe Flora cares about what goes into your food and the way it is prepared. Are you vegetarian? Vegan? Gluten-free? No problem. In fact, they want to make sure you eat great food, and leave feeling happy, and well.

CAFE FLORA'S MARINATED GOAT CHEESE, from Cafe Flora Cookbook (7)

Cafe Flora marinated goat cheese

"One of Cafe Flora's first dining room managers and our good friend, Linda Silberman, would bring this appetizer to dinner parties. It was always one of those dishes that guests seemed to hover around until it was all gone. Ultimately we adopted this dish on a larger scale as part of our repertoire of appetizers for catered events and fund-raisers.

Not only is it irresistibly delicious, but it's easy to put together, which is especially important when you're pressed for time and need to arrive at a party with a dish....This simple hors d'oeuvre lookes and tastes like you put much more time into it than you did."

4 large fresh basil leaves, plus a sprig for granish
4 Roma tomatoes, most of the seeds removed, diced
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained, OR
6 kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4-ounce log goat cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper

CUT THE BASIL IN A CHIFFONADE. Stack the basil leaves on top of each other. Roll them up tightly, starting at the stem, and slice thinly across the rolled-up leaves. This will give you long thin strips of basil.

MIX THE MARINADE. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients except the goat cheese, salt, and pepper. Put the log of goat cheese in the center of a shallow serving bowl, and pour the tomato mixture over it.

MARINATE THE GOAT CHEESE for about an hour. (If you're going to marinate the cheese longer than that, refrigerate it and take it out half an hour or so before serving to return it to room temperature.)

SERVE THE GOAT CHEESE. Just before serving, taste it, add salt if you think it needs it, and grind pepper over it. Garnish with a sprig of basil. Serve with a knife to cut the cheese and a spoon to scoop up the flavorful tomato mixture.

[Gluten-free Girl's notes: oh my goodness. This is luscious, decadent, and a definite repeater. My guests adored it. And I made a double batch, with capers and kalamata olives, and there was just enough left over the next day--that's the picture above--to make the most woozily good gluten-free pasta I've had in a long time. Make this today.]

19 October 2005

turning mad for turmeric

garbanzo beans and spinach, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

Lately, I’ve been having an extravaganza of making up my own recipes. And they all seem to involve turmeric.

I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the gorgeous orange color, bright and alive against the grey clouds. Maybe it’s the slight bitterness, which tastes a little like the fall. Or maybe it’s the joy of watching the little turmeric dust clouds rise up from my hands as I pinch it into the skillet. With a hint of ginger, and the echo of curries in my mind, turmeric has been infusing all my dishes lately.

Turmeric originally grew in India, where it’s essential in curries and spicy dishes. It’s a rhizome relation of ginger, which makes sense when you see a photograph of it in its natural state. History documents its use as early as 600 BC. Mostly, it was used as a food coloring and natural dye. In one of my favorite useless quotes, Marco Polo once tried to describe by tumeric by writing that it is "a vegetable with the properties of saffron, yet it is not really saffron." Gosh, that’s helpful. In the US, most people don’t use it alone. You probably recognize its yellow-golden color as the base of blended curry powder. But lately, I’m just using it by itself, with spectacular results.

Chickpeas dance in my mind too. I just can’t eat enough of them lately. For years, I have been buying chickpeas in the can, already cooked, ready to eat. I always wondered, “Does making them myself really make a difference?” Yes. The answer is yes. It does. Last week, I bought a bag full to bursting in the bulk section of Whole Foods, their dried shells clicking against each other in the cart. Using three parts water to one part dried chickpeas, I filled my biggest stock pot full and let it sit on a back burner, covered, for the entire night. On a slow Sunday, I boiled them up, lifting the lid to smell the steam sometimes. When I took my first bite, I was converted. No hint of the slight sliminess that sometimes accompanies the canned beans. Just gorgeous organic goodness. Rich, meaty, and filled with flavor, these chickpeas just made me want to sing out loud.

So what better combination than turmeric and chickpeas? With a tub full of chickpeas in the refrigerator, and a fresh bunch of organic spinach delivered to my doorstep, I just had to experiment one afternoon.

Here, I have to pause to tell you I have always had an unusual relationship with spinach. I adore it, dream of it, can’t get enough of it. Cutting gluten out of my diet was easy when it came to breakfast, because my favorite breakfast in the world is perfectly poached eggs placed on top of mounds of sauteed spinach. But it’s not just now, in my enlightened adulthood. When I was a kid, I begged for spinach. When I was a teenager, I came home from school, pulled a package of frozen spinach out of the freezer, ripped it open as fast as I could, threw it in the microwave, waited for it to stop spinning, squeezed lemon juice on the dark green leaves, and sat satisfied, five minutes later, after having eaten an entire bowl of salty spinach. What kid does this? I did. And I still do. Only now it’s with fresh spinach, organic, an entire bunch torn into giant pieces, thrown into a pan, with sea salt and olive oil. Three minutes later, I’m sitting, satisfied, my belly full of spinach.

So all I needed to be happy was some chickpeas, some spinach, and some turmeric. Based on a Spanish tapas dish my vegan friend Daniel has made for me a dozen times, this dish arose spontaneously one afternoon last week. I heated the skillet to nearly-smoking high. A little Spanish olive oil. And then a handful of chickpeas. Sea salt. Garlic, and lots of it, minced finely. Cumin seeds, enough to fill the palm of my hand, which I opened and let them rain down upon the browning chickpeas. And enough turmeric to stain my hands that faded saffron color.

turmeric on the hand

I threw in the spinach and stirred it all madly until the spinach wilted. And ate it, with gusto, watching the blustery afternoon outside my window. My new autumn comfort food.

A few days later, I was over on Vashon, spending the weekend with the nephew. We had our wonderful fun together: walks in the forest; twirling; playing with “the tiny man” in the dollhouse; rolling dump trucks over the bedroom carpet; reading the Elmo flap book and giggling; sniffing; and shooing the chickens off the porch. And Elliott told me his first story, after he had “read” me Cowboy Small. (He has it memorized, down to the word, including the page that reads, “’Come and get it!’ yelled the cook at noon. The cowboys had lunch around the chuckwagon. They ate beef, red beans, and rice.”) He said, “Once upon a time,” and everyone around the house perked up his or her ears, because this had never happened before. Here was Elliott’s story:

Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Felix. He was at his house, and he heard a knock on the door. Who could it be? When he opened his door, he saw two oranges and a deer. The oranges said, “Hello,” and Felix said “Hello.” The deer said “Hello,” and Felix said, “Hello.” And then they said goodbye, and he shut the door.

I couldn’t stop laughing.

So it was, once again, a magic time with my favorite little guy in the world.

But perhaps the best time of all this weekend was cooking with Elliott. My brother asked me if I wanted to cook on Saturday night, since I have been enjoying my time in the kitchen so much, and Dana was at work until late. (Just before he starts to sound sexist in my words, my brother cooks nearly every night, and he’s good at it.) Of course, I said yes. We all, including my parents who were visiting for the day, climbed in the car and drove to the local health food store on the island. Minglement, a tiny wooden rectangle of a shop, with a sloping floor and the faint smell of patchouli, has been there for decades now. But it still continues to be a gathering place for the community. And recently, I discovered that it also has more gluten-free products available than any large store in Seattle so far. Whenever I visit my brother and his family, I stock up on goodies there.

So we wandered the small store, Elliott shrieking with delight at something. I grabbed whatever looked good, and fresh. Concocting something in my mind, I tried some strange ingredients. I had no recipe. I had never even heard of this recipe. But why not?

Later in the evening, after Mom and Dad had left, I put a butternut squash in the oven to roast, coated in olive oil. When it was done-to-bursting and golden, I started cooking the quinoa. I had found organic red quinoa at the store, and intrigued beyond my knowledge of its taste, I grabbed a package. Andy had a box of Pacific mushroom stock (gluten-free, of course) in the back of the refrigerator. I splashed some into a pan and boiled it, then poured in the red quinoa.

Elliott stirring

At this point, Elliott looked up from my knees and said, “Is you cooking, Shauna?” Yes I am, Elliott. I could tell that he wanted to see what I was doing. He wanted to be part of it. So I grabbed the chair from the pantry, the same one we had been sitting on earlier to sniff, and pulled it close to the stove. He stood on it, solemnly, staring into the pot of boiling quinoa. When I asked him if he wanted to help stir, he nodded. I put the spatula into his hands, warned him quite strenuously to not touch the burner, and stood by to watch. He stirred with all his might, which wasn’t much. And after every half turn, he stopped, lifted the spatula with a half inch of rosy grains on the end, and said in a quiet voice of awe, “Whoa.” Seriously. He did this every forty seconds. “Wwwhhhoooaaa,” he stretched out, looking intently at the little grains, watching them become food. I wanted to cry with happiness, to see him enjoying it so much. Again, he asked the name. And when he picked some up the next time, he shouted, “Hi there, quinoa!”

How could I be happier?

We ate, a little later, Dana home from work by now. I had seared some tofu, in high heat in the skillet. And of course, I had thrown in little dust clouds of turmeric, with ginger, cumin, onions, and garlic. I’ve finally learned to let tofu cook much longer than I think it should be done, just before burning. This way, it takes on a crunchy taste, with a soft inside. When it was done, I tossed in cubes of the butternut squash, and some sliced red peppers. More turmeric and garlic. And served it all up, over the fragrant red quinoa.

When we were eating, talking away, we let Elliott sit in his high chair, with a little plate in front of him. I don’t think anyone expected him to like it, or even eat it. We enjoyed it, thoroughly, but he is only two. We were almost ignoring him, when he piped up, in a musing, surprisingly insistent voice, “This is very good.” Surprised, we said, “Yes, it is, Elliott.” And he took up another forkful, raised it to his mouth, and chewed thoughtfully before he said, again, “This is very good. Quinoa is very good.”

I agree, little guy.


red quinoa and buternut squash

1 butternut squash
enough olive oil to coat
sea salt
2 cups of organic red quinoa
4 cups of mushroom stock
2 tablespoons of walnut oil
2 red peppers, sliced thin
1 package of firm tofu, drained of liquid
5 garlic cloves, minced finely
turmeric, ginger, and cumin, to taste

°Cut the butternut squash in half. Brush olive oil onto the cut surface. Place in a 375° oven and cook until the squash is soft enough to cut through with a fork. (About one hour.)
°Boil the mushroom stock, then pour in the red quinoa. Cook on low, stirring constantly (preferably with a favorite nephew), until the water is fully absorbed.
°Set a skillet on high heat. Add one tablespoon of the walnut oil. When it’s hot, add medium-thick slices of tofu. Sprinkle on turmeric, ginger, and cumin with a flourish. Throw in the minced garlic. Wait to turn the slices until they’re just about to burn, about five minutes. Do the same on the other side, until they are seared. Set the slices aside.
° Pour the remaining walnut oil in the pan. Quickly sautee the red peppers, then the butternut squash, with more turmeric, sea salt, and cumin.
°Serve the tofu and vegetables on a bed of the red quinoa. Enjoy it while it’s hot.

17 October 2005

a melange of gluten-free foods

food banner, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

It's Monday here at the Gluten-free Girl. The weekend spent, a soon-to-be-distant memory. The rigors of the day cramming in my head. And a long week to come before I have hours and hours to cook and write. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I have surrendered. I know I cannot write every day, the way I could in summer, the way I long to still do. But I don't want to abandon you to the wilds of the world without new gluten-free recipes. And so, I'm starting a regular, weekly column: my favorite gluten-free recipes from other people's websites this weekend.

On the weekends, dramatically fewer of us are reading food blogs. (Probably all blogs, but I just know about food blogs.) The numbers dip and swoop down. I used to worry: "Am I writing boring posts on the weekends? Is that why people aren't coming by to read?" Well, you'd have to tell me. But now, I see a pattern. People are out doing other activities, and not just sitting in front of a computer on Saturday and Sunday. Of course. We have farmers' markets to peruse, local co-ops to search for mesquite flour, restaurants to visit for long, lazy brunches, and some sleep to catch up on. (Plus, a few other activities.) Most of you are probably reading this at work, surreptitiously, when the boss isn't looking. What better way to fill your days at work than lavishing your attention on these photographs of food?

But since you're probably not reading as actively on the weekends, you're missing some great essays. And for those of you who must eat gluten-free, like me, there are dozens of great recipes being offered on Friday through Sunday. As always, I want to give everyone reading new ideas of what to cook. And they don't all have to come from me.

So here you go.

But first, can I complain for a minute? Looking closely this weekend, I was actually shocked to see how few food blogs offer recipes on a regular basis. Sure, we all like these luscious photographs and the snappy prose. But really, everyone, we want to eat. Please start posting more recipes.

Okay, now here we go. Vaguely in the order of a meal:


This post from Delicious Days on the 15th of October made me drool. In their voluminous, pictorial style, Nicky and Oliver have outdone themselves again. Scroll down to see one astounding photographs after another, filled with rich colors and sensory details. The photograph of the sour apple the size of a cherry just killed me. And the gorgeous sushi. In their recounting of their recent trip to Colorado, they offered a scrumptious recipe for coconut crawfish soup that sounds simply divine. Relatively easy to make, and naturally gluten-free, this one has made it near the top of my list.


Ilva in Tuscany is making me hungry on a daily basis. Swedish, and married to an Italian man, she has lived in the rolling hills since 1994. I adore her new blog, and you should go visit it too. These saffron-sauteed potatoes look better than I could convey. And her kitchen looks wonderfully homey as well.


Heidi at 101 Cookbooks has done it again. Every few days, she posts the most lavish, alluring photographs of food I've seen in days. Until she posts her new one. Her next-to-last post showed us how to make sweet-potato puree, with heavy cream and a vanilla bean. (Don't look for low-fat on this one.) I made it this weekend, with roasted butternut squash instead. When I took my first spoonful, after pureeing it in the food processor, then slowly adding the heated cream, I actually, truly jumped up and down in the kitchen. This would be a decadent, gluten-free treat at the Thanksgiving table.


Pille at Nami Nami charms me with every post. I adore her sweet smile and quiet sensibilities. This week, she made a gorgeous-looking frittata with feta, tomato, and rocket (we call it arugula in America). She's on a quest to learn more Greek cuisine for her boyfriend. I'm on a quest to make this soon, as frittatas are the perfect gluten-free way to go.


Is it nepotism if you sing the praises of someone you know, even if she's not in your family? I know that I wrote about Molly at Orangette last week, and I'm thrilled that we're becoming friends. But I can't let that disqualify her from me recommending her site once again. Last week, she posted an almost obscenely good post about making panade, with soggy bread, cheese, and chard. Bread? you may be asking. Doesn't that have gluten? Well, yes, it certainly does. And that's why I grew disgruntled when I first read the post. But Melissa (more on her later) reported in the comments that she had made a gluten-free version with oven-toasted gluten-free bread. And it still smacked her in the head with how good it was. And so, this week, I have to do it too.


Finally, there's Melissa at Traveler's Lunchbox. I have to admit it: I'm a little in awe of Melissa. Her website is so beautifully designed, the photographs jaw-droppping gorgeous, and her prose so carefully chosen that there are days I feel a little rushed and amateurish in comparison. And on top of that, she can't eat gluten either. She's one of my favorites, and she'll quickly become one of yours as well, if you visit her site. Especially when you see this recipe for Basque cake which looks unbelievably good, as always. The recipe calls for flour, but you can easily substitute your favorite gluten-free mix.

And voila. There's a full meal for you.

16 October 2005

a few words about fish

It hit me this morning: if you look at this blog as a record of what I eat, it must look as though I gorge myself on butter, cheese, and chocolate all the time. It wouldn’t be a bad way to go, on some days, but it isn’t the best way to live. Someone wrote to me recently: “I wish I could have your life. Your recipes aren’t really low-fat. How do you do it without gaining weight?”

First of all, I’m no skinny malink. But I have come to love my body. (And you can read this from August if you haven’t already seen it. There’s no use in my repeating myself.) I could probably lose some more weight for my health, but it’s happening organically now. I don’t believe much anymore in counting calories or eating minuscule portions as a way of punishing myself. I know what good food tastes like, and I insist on it. In small doses. When you truly, truly taste your food, you don’t need much to feel satisfied. Special, packaged foods, non-fat, low-carb, filled with sugar substitutes? Oof. I’ll take a smaller portion of souffle or plum crumble, thank you. I follow the Julia Child school of cooking—what’s so wrong with a little butter?

I also need to move. Vigorous yoga classes three times a week. Long walks. Kayaking. Bike rides. Pilates. And even, sometimes, the dreaded gym. I just feel better when I’ve moved, stretched my body to its spacious places, and can come home comfortably tired. And it’s worth it for some great cheese once in a while.

But there’s another story behind that. I don’t write about every bite of food I eat on this blog. I know that there are a few manic people online who document every morself that goes in their mouths, but that’s not me. After all, good writing requires contemplation and editing. And I tend not to write about the simple meals I eat most of the days of the week. The homemade hummus on carrots. The salads filled with greens, fava beans, flaxseed, and a squeeze of lemon. Split pea soup for days. Why? Well, writing “Hey, I had a truly wonderful cup of non-fat Greek yogurt for breakfast yesterday,” fails to bring out the poetry in me. So I focus on the special foods, the ones I feed my friends. They leave happy and sated, and I have a kitchen bereft of fattening leftovers. With the memory of slow-cooked beef stew and gluten-free brownies in my mind, I don’t need to eat it again.

Still, some healthy foods deserve a little more attention. Like fish.

I eat fish at least three times a week. Halibut, salmon, sea scallops, cod, catfish, ahi tuna, and sea bass—they all entrance me. Even when I was a vegetarian for ten years, I never stopped eating fish. (And yes, technically that means I wasn’t a vegetarian, but a pescitarian. Okay.) There’s just something about the taste of a thick, tender halibut, sauteed in olive oil and lemon juice, with a little dill and garlic, that will always make me smile.

And of course, fish is just so good for you. Fish is brain food. Do you remember this from childhood? With so many health benefits, fish makes our bodies better. If, that is, you buy the right kind. With what we’ve been doing to the environment these past five decades, so much fish has been tainted with pollution and mercury that we could easily make ourselves sick instead of sated and super-brain-powered. (If you have any doubts, see this document to learn what fish you should eat and when.)

I stick to salmon, but I insist on wild-caught Alaskan salmon. That’s not only because it’s listed as one of the safest fish to eat, but also because it tastes so damned great. When I lived in New York, I also turned down my mouth when I saw salmon listed on the menu. After several tries, I had learned my lesson. The salmon served in all the top restaurants is Atlantic salmon, a pale, mealy-mouthed imitation of its west-coast cousins. Alaska salmon is deep pink, forceful, and magestic in taste. Besides, I spend the last part of every June in Alaska (dear little Sitka, to be precise), and whenever I’m eating wild Alaska salmon, I feel like I’m in that second home of mine. I just won’t eat other kind.

Arguably, I’m spoiled. Here in Seattle, the seafood is so fresh in places that it might as well still be wriggling on the line. Even the grocery stores have good fish. But I only buy mine in several places.

The University Seafood and Poultry Market. Run by the same family for the past sixty years, this local butchers/fishmongerers is legend in this city. One of my foodie friends, a wonderful woman named Marguerite who ran a French restaurant for years after a lifetime adventure in food, says she will only buy her duck fat here. Prepare to spend hours of your life here once you enter its doors. Their seafood is wonderfully fresh and competitive in price with the other best places in Seattle.

The little fish stall in the middle of Pike Place Market. I don’t know the name of this one. I’ve never known the name. It’s not the flashy fish show at the front of the Market, the one on every glossy documentary, where the men throw whole fish over the heads of gape-mouthed tourists. No, that one’s far too expensive. Mine is about halfway down the main way, near to Sosio’s Produce. Heck, I just know it as the place where Neil works. Neil was once one of my students on Vashon Island, back in the 90s. Now, a grown man, he stands behind the glass cases filled with fresh fish and piles of ice, and points to the ones that came in that days, the ones I should buy. (Here’s an important piece of advice for you: don’t go to the Market with a fish in mind. Ask for the best piece that day, then build a recipe around it.) After Neil has chosen a piece for me, gleaming and plump, he throws it on the scale, then leans down to say, “Don’t worry, Ms. James. Half price.” You see? There are benefits to grading all those reseach papers. (And please don’t tell his boss.)

Wild Salmon Seafood Market. I have to admit that I’m partial to this place, and only partly because it’s six blocks down the street from me. The primary location is in Ballard, tucked into the back of a convenience store. No one would know it’s great fish, unless you asked. But it is, because that dinky little convenience store is about five minutes from Fisherman’s Terminal, where all the seafood comes into Seattle. My branch is located in the same space as my butcher’s, A & J meats, so I’m there almost every other day. In fact, the friendly manager, Michael, calls me now when a new shipment of my favorite fish comes in. And every time I go in, he teaches me something, about which farmed fish to buy, and why some salmons have pinker flesh than others. I love having a neighborhood connection with the people who provide me with food. It’s so much better than the flourescent anonymity of grocery stores.

Michael is the one who sold me the luscious piece of ahi tuna in the picture at the top of this post. I wanted to make a recipe from the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook, and there it lay waiting for me. Sometimes, nothing makes me happier than fresh, seared tuna. All I have to do is turn up the heat, throw in some olive oil, sear the fish for one minute on each side, then eat it up, immediately. Luxury on my plate. This time, I encrusted the fish with crushed coriander and fennel seeds, sprinkled it with sea salt, then seared it. I recommend it. In fact, the recipe was just okay (truly strange for Chez Panisse, which normally makes food sing in simple melodies), a little over-busy in its tastes. But the tuna was more than worth it. I’d make that again, and soon.

cod with pistachio meal

And when Molly and I decided to make a meal based on butternut squash and pistachios, I immediately envisioned covering fish in ground pistachios. I’ve been exploring more alternatives to flour than gluten-free substitutes. Ground nuts appeal to me, not only because of the taste, but also because the fats in nuts are healthy for the heart as well. I love the meaty nut taste, the natural saltiness, and the green glimmer of pistachios. When Molly was here, I simply pulsed pistachios in the food processor, then pressed cod into the crumbly pile. Placed in a hot skillet, with a little bit of olive oil, this fish made us both happy.

But a few days later, when I wasn’t addled from my cut thumb, I made this again, this time with catfish. Michael advised me to a farmed catfish, which they pick carefully from their suppliers. With a rich taste like pistachios, a rich fish makes the difference. This one didn’t have the putrid strength of smell some people associate with catfish. Instead, it just resonated with a dense taste and held together under the scrutiny of the skillet and spatula. A little egg before the rolling helped enormously. I gobbled it up long before it could be forgotten. And I smiled at finding yet another way I could eat my fish.

So if you’re wondering what I’m eating most evenings, think fish. Not all of life is cheese and chocolate. Just the best parts.


2 fillets of catfish, about 1/3 pound each, skin removed
1/2 cup of pistachios, ground into a meal in the food processor
1/3 cup of gluten-free flour
1 egg (egg white if you have eaten enough eggs for the week)

°Ground the pistachios in a food processor. Pulse them, quickly, and then check. You still want them rough and crumbly, not a fine meal.
°Mix the crumbled pistachios with the gluten-free flour. Sprinkle in some sea salt and pepper. Toss it all with your hands.
°Dip the fish fillets in a slightly beaten egg. Coat lightly, then coat them in the pistachio, gluten-free flour mix.
°Lay them down immediately in a skillet on high heat, with olive oil (or grapeseed, if you prefer). Sautee for three minutes on each side, turning carefully.
°Eat immediately. You’ll smile.