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vivid color in the midst of the grey

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05 December 2005

vivid color in the midst of the grey

red bowl of satsumas, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

Seattle can grow ominously grey in the winters. We may not have blizzards or four months of darkness or hail storms that flail off the skin, but we do have grey. It's funny, when people find out I'm from Seattle, they always say, "Yeah, but doesn't it rain there? A lot?" It does. But that's not the cause of the winter blues here. Instead, it's that flat, unending low sky of grey. No sunlight darting through. Not even rain. Just grey.

It's easy to grow a little gloomy when the glimmering light of the gloaming sets in about 3 pm. By 4:30, it's pitch black outside my living room windows. This week, winter descended on Seattle. And every year, it takes me a full few weeks of the early darkness to adjust. To remember that we are animals first, then civilized beings afterwards. We hunger for the light. We want to go to bed early. We don't want to work. We want to eat more to store up reserves for the winter. We want to burrow into ourselves, against the cold. And we fight against our own bodies for the winter months. Because we still expect ourselves to be as energized and efficient as we were during the days when it stays light until 10. Even though it happens every year, this growing dark at 4:30 thing, I always think of it as the aberration. Isn't that funny?

But this year, I feel only a touch of the chill upon me. With all my hours in the kitchen, standing in front of the stove humming, the blackened windows steamed up from the heat, I don't feel that bad about the darkness. And I take my camera with me everywhere, and snatch at the little bursts of light when they appear. This winter, I'm happy to be here, braising, making dark greens, settling into starches, and writing about it here.

And today, I'm happy to share some of my favorite gluten-free finds from the food blogging world, recipes and suggestions for you:

Melissa at Traveler's Lunchbox has created beautifully balanced piles of cookies for the holidays. After my baking experience the other day, I'm eager to try more gluten-free cookies in the coming weeks. I'll definitely be making the Persian rice cookies and the crumbly almond ones at the end of her post. And I'm fairly certain that the other two could be converted into gluten-free goodies, as well. (An olive cookie? I have to try it.)

Dear Pille at Nami-Nami cooked in a whirlwind of a weekend, recently. She planned a dinner party for Saturday night, then discovered that an old friend of hers was unexpectedly in town. And her Belgian friend has celiac disease! So Pille carefully prepared a sumptuous menu for her gluten-free friend. And apparently, it was so good that she made the same the next night, for friends who can eat gluten. Now that's my kind of dinner party.

Kevin truly is doing Seriously Good work over there at his site. This week, he introduced us to a balsamic cranberry sauce, filled with exotic-sounding ingredients. But put away your faint-of-heart tendencies. Kevin claims the rich textures of tastes fade into the background, shoving forward the cranberry essence. Given my Thanksgiving experience, I realize I want a bold cranberry sauce, assertive with taste. This may be it.

Rachael just keeps astounding me. With her Fresh Approach Cooking, she sometimes teaches us the fundamentals of cooking. And then sometimes, she goes wild, like she did with this Ancho Cashew Black Sesame Brittle. Are you kidding me? Of course, I want some of this right now. Now be warned: Rachael did say that the first batch was a near-disater, and she almost couldn't empty her drain after pouring it away. But still, it certainly seems worth the effort.

And finally, I'd like to direct you to Eggbeater, not for a specific recipe, but for this eloquently written post about the deep comfort of cooking for other people. For those of you out there reading who are newish to cooking, and wonder if all this effort is worth it? Read Shuna's heartfelt piece. It will make you want to start pulling out pots and pans right now.

In fact, just after I read her piece, I did pull out my trusty skillet and started cooking for the love of the act of itself. Using only what I had on my counter and the top shelf of my refrigerator, I made up something I quickly came to love.

It filled me, simply. This was more than enough to blow those winter blues away.

Slow-sauteed leeks with fresh mozzarella

2 fresh leeks, sliced thin (white part only)
1 pat of butter
1/3 ball of fresh mozzarella cheese

Slice the leeks thin. Do this slowly. Really feel the knife rolling along the cutting board. On as low a heat as you can stand (the anticipation might push you to turn up the heat, but resist), slowly melt a pat of butter. Add the sliced leeks, and then let them heat up. Push them around with a wooden spoon sometimes, but for the most part, leave them alone.

After fifteen or twenty minutes of slow sauteeing, the golden-gorgeous smells might overcome you. When the leeks have all-but-melted in the pan, and the underside is golden brown, add in small slivers of fresh mozzarella cheese. Sautee them until they have melted into the pan, into the leeks.

Lift the lovely concoction off the skillet, and onto your plate. Pause a moment before you eat. Lower your face down into the steam. Close your eyes and inhale, deeply. Then, you may begin.


At 10:45 PM, Blogger Bengali Chick said...

I've been reading your blog for a long time and think that it is fantastic. Your love for food is inspiring and makes me want to eat healthier and fight the candida that plagues my body. Preach on sister! You have a following.

At 4:12 AM, Blogger Peggy said...

I did try making the scourtins (olive cookies) from The Traveler's Lunchbox, using the GF Pantry's bread mix for the flour. The appearance left a LOT to be desired, but oh, the taste! Sweet and salty at the same time -- a perfect evening treat with a glass of red wine. I just got the rosewater to make the Persian Rice cookies, so I'll let you know how they turn out.

At 8:16 AM, Blogger Ilva said...

I do agree with you, both on how useful it is to cook in order to fight off winter blues (I actually feel even more inspired now than in summertime) and on how nice it is reading Shuna's Eggbeater!

At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shauna, wonderful roundup! I'm honored to be included again, and glad to have provided some gluten-free inspiration :)

And Peggy, I'm so glad the scourtins worked out for you! And if it makes you feel better, I struggled with several batches before I had something even remotely camera-worthy...

At 2:01 AM, Blogger K Allrich said...

Hi Shauna! Thought I'd return the favor and stop by to say hello. Gorgeous photos! You are lucky to live in an area blessed with such beautiful fresh produce. I have produce envy. ;-) Keep well, and gluten-free ~ Karina

At 2:10 AM, Blogger Pille said...

Shauna - lovely write up - and thanks for including me again:)

At 6:42 AM, Blogger animono said...

:) you have a nice touch with macro and light in the photos you take!
Is nice to see you again!

At 4:39 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Shauna, I feel your gray sky blues pain - I'm glad you've found a way around it and now I'm inspired too! Thank you for the round-up, I always look forward to finding new blogs from you...and I loved Shuna's write-up and even posted it in my kitchen as a reminder!

At 9:56 AM, Blogger Dawn said...

Shauna, this reminded me of that episode of Northern Exposure where they were all wearing those light visors. They supposed tricked the brain into believing it was light outside and therefore combatted depression and tiredness. I guess your 'light visor' might be the light over the stove? :-)


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