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28 January 2007

a spiffy-do look, with thanks.

pizza at our house

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine said, "Shauna, I was reading your blog from this time last year. Do you realize that your site is completely different now?"

Yes. Yes I do.

This time last year, I was still rising at 6 am, dreading the darkness and pushing myself onto a bus. Piles of papers came home with me every afternoon — WWII exams; poems written by 17-year-olds; journalism articles — and, most of the time, they stayed in my bag. Much as I loved teaching, this time last year I knew I needed to leave it. I just didn't know how. I was finishing up a proposal for a book I sensed might work. The jocular woman at the post office was just about to hold that package in her hands. And this time last year, I was sick, googling Ricola at 3:30 in the morning to see if I could have some cough drops (nope). No one was around to take care of me.

This year, I rise with the light, with the Chef by my side. We meander through the mornings, reading the newspaper and dreaming up meals. My computer bag comes with me as I drive the Chef to the restaurant, and then I sit in coffee shops or libraries, writing all afternoon. I come home with nothing dragging down my shoulders. I never want this life to stop. The book proposal turned into a book deal, which turned into a first draft, which became a final draft. I finished the final draft just less than a year after I had put the proposal in the post office woman's hands. Another one sits in the back of my brain, waiting to be written. And this year, when I was sick with the flu, the Chef stayed up in the middle of the night, soothing me with his hands far better than any cough drop ever could.

In the first year after I went gluten-free, I stepped into the world of food as a beginner, eager but new. Now, I feel more seasoned, and solid. The Chef has taught me that nothing is beyond my capabilities. Duck confit? Cranberry-orange shiso leaf sorbet? Albacore tuna with Meyer lemons, sunchokes, and Nicoise olives? Bah. I can do that. Let's try.

When I began this website, I felt on the edge of a new existence. I was a self I had never known before. I needed a year alone to know myself.

Now, I feel this self, familiar. And I no longer live alone. In less than six months (gasp!), I will be a married woman, perhaps the happiest one in the land.

My friend Pete is right — this is no longer the same website.

Time for a redesign.

For the past couple of months, I have had the pleasure of working with Kaytlyn Sanders, who runs Beneficial Design. We met after I put up a little ad on Craigslist, asking for help. There were numbers of offers. When I met her at my local organic coffee house, I knew within two minutes that she was the right one. That's how the best people seem to enter my life — immediately and deeply. Her open eyes, gentle laughter, and keen design sense made me feel comfortable. This website is my baby. I knew I could hand it over to her without fear that she would drop it.

We have been conferring over emails and cups of coffee, laughing at life and becoming friends, in the process. She's lovely. She understood that I wanted a clean, clear look, with plenty of white space, and a readable font. (finally!) I had taken this website as far as I could, alone. But now, I know: there's no need to go it alone anymore.

Kaytlyn designed the new header you see (the photo is by my dear friend, Monica Frisell, who will also be taking the photographs for the big wedding; the pizza is by the Chef). Kaytlyn also helped to make the entire site wider, clearing the way for the Amazon links to the right. So many people have written to me, asking where they can buy teff or sorghum, that I wanted to make it easy. I am also going to be starting a series on some of my favorite cookbooks, and those links should make it easy for people to purchase those too. Besides that, with a wider space within the site, I can have huge horizontal photographs! Ah, release.

There will plenty of changes around here soon. Certainly, more posts, on a regular basis. (Wait until you hear about the meatloaf. Ay god.) Product reviews, restaurant glimpses, recipes from my favorite cookbooks, and a new column, called Ask the Chef. Now that the book is done, I can't wait to return to this sanctuary.

So, those of you who only read this website on RSS feeds, come on by for a look at the new place. We're pretty proud of the way we have spiffed it up.

A huge, heartfelt thank you to Kaytlyn. You have made this space feel like my home.

26 January 2007



You may have noticed — I haven’t been here as much as I said I would.

When I turned in the manuscript of my book on January 1st, I was elated and exhausted. After all, writing a book in four months took all my mental clarity and energy. It was a joyful task — the most joyful of my life — but still, whew. The Chef and I took a wonderful week away from work, in our own home. No blog posts. But I intended to come back. I love being here, after all. This is not work.

However, to my shock and sweet surprise, my editor threw me a curveball. Everyone I know who was dealt with the world of publishing told me I would probably have to wait a month, maybe six weeks, to receive my edits. To be honest, I was ready to wait. It always takes a bit of distance before a writer can see her words clearly.

But my editor — such a mensch; my favorite new person in my life — did something near miraculous. She edited the entire manuscript (nearly 500 pages in the first draft) in nine days. Can I repeat that? Nine days. She didn’t just read it. She made judicious cuts, extraordinary swaths, cutting stories into pithy anecdotes, and making paragraphs sing. The book I envisioned was coming into existence, thanks to her excellence.

I am so making her cookies.

The only thing that wasn’t entirely glorious about this? She needed me to cut another 30,000 words after her cuts. (We want everyone to be able to afford this book. Also, this doesn’t really need to be the length of Larousse.) Does that sound horrifyingly hard? It’s worse. She needed all the edits — the final copy; the version that will be in your hands when you buy the book — in thirteen days.

Thirteen days.


What could I do? No use in panicking. That cuts time away from the work. No use in losing sleep. In sleep-deprivation, I’m never that clear when I write. No use crying or wailing or telling everyone how ridiculous this was. I just remembered, again, how lucky I am. And I sat down to work.

On the same day that my editor sent the changes, my father happened to tell me a story. We were chatting on the phone, and he told me about a little Buddhist book he has been reading. The story that struck him most made me laugh, immediately. I wasn’t laughing at him. I was laughing with delight, the way that truth shoots straight to giggles. Here it is:

“A Zen master accomplished in the way of the bow and his Zen archery teacher were practicing on the cliff overlooking the sea. The archery teacher demonstrated his skill on a target near the precipice by piercing its center. He handed the bow and an arrow to the Zen master. The Zen master pulled the bow to its fullest arc, and with complete focus, care, and attention, released the arrow into the ocean. When it struck the water, he said, "Bullseye!"

-- from by Abbess Blanche Hartman of the San Francisco Zen Center (2002)

I can’t explain why this moved me so. I hope you’ll know when you read it. Besides, koans are rarely rational.

What I do know is this — every day, every hour, when my shoulders tensed up and my brain wanted to spasm and everything in me thought, oh my god, this is what’s going to print?! — I just shrugged and thought, “Bullseye!”

Tuesday night, I thought I was done. I had been staring at sentences and counting syllables and wondering where the words could slip away, for twelve days. I could see no more. Nothing else could go. I could not find a single word more that I could cut.

It was time to let go.

As we did the first time, the Chef and I pressed the send button together. Besides my fierce focus and need for release, I could not have made this happen without my dear Chef. He fed me, caressed my sore shoulders, sang to me in the car while we drove, and held me all night long. Because of him, I didn’t even feel stressed. I just kissed him and worked. So we sent it, at 1:30 in the morning, together.


The next morning, I awoke with a start. Something didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel that release.

The draft I had turned in the night before was 106,720 words. That’s 60,000 fewer words than I had turned in the first time. Wasn’t that enough?

No, it wasn’t.

I went back to the official editing letter and read — with a dropping stomach — that my final edit needed to be under 100,000 words. I thought that I had cut everything I could have, but I needed cut 7,000 more words. And I had only five hours.

Thank goodness for the Chef’s hugs.

This doesn’t need to be a long story. It’s already much longer than a zen koan. End of story: I did it. I sat myself down in the lobby of a community center (the Chef had to renew his food handler’s card) with the laptop, and I thought: you have an hour and a half and 7000 words to cut. Go. So I did.

I remembered a line from Richard Hugo: “Kill your darlings.” And mostly, I just kept thinking, as I cut through paragraphs and stories I had so lovingly massaged into perfect shape and descriptions of food I love — bullseye!

By the end of the day, I had cut 7,000 words, plus 1000 more. Also, I had made the final selections on all the photographs for the book. With the Chef on the phone in front of his restaurant, and me in a coffee shop nearby, I pressed send. It was gone. I was done.


(Is anyone surprised that only a few hours after I sent it, I came down with a violent stomach flu? I have been in bed ever since. That’s why it has taken me two days to write this out. That, and it’s difficult to write a food blog when you haven’t eaten for two days.)

Three bits of good news in the midst of this…

1. The book is done.

2. My editor loves it. I can’t write it all here — it would feel too much like bragging. Suffice it to say — she loves my book. So does the marketing department and the publicity department. They can’t wait to sell it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to meet many of you on the book tour in October.

3. If nothing else, I can promise you this:

if you buy my book, you will be reading my heart.


19 January 2007

how this food connects us

that orange drink

Most of my best food experiences come from random happenstance, it seems.

Yesterday, while I was buying my daily venti drip coffee for the Chef at the beginning of his shift, I talked to my favorite barista about her lunch. (We talk every day, and we have become friends. It wasn't as weird as it seems.) She exulted about the jicama she ate, along with fresh fruit. Jicama....My brain caught upon it, the idea of that crisp, delicious white tuber, cut into strips. By the time I had walked back to the Chef's restaurant, I had an idea. Together, we perused his copy of Culinary Artistry, his favorite book besides mine. Jicama goes well with chiles and lime? Hm. When I left the door, I had a new recipe in mind. Time to go to the store.

This is how we ate my new favorite dish for dinner last night: chilled millet with roasted jalapenos, mangoes, lime segments, and slivered jicama. Oh goodness. You'll see it, eventually, too.

There's always a tug at the back of my brain when a new food idea enters. Something stops. For a moment, I seize. My gut says yes. And then my mind won't let go. I walk around for a few moments like a zombie, chanting in my head, "Jicama. Jicama." Finally, I have to go do something about it, just to move onto something new.

I'm so grateful to be living a life that allows me to act on this strange behavior.

Last week, I was reading the February issue of Saveur magazine, their 100 favorite foods, restaurants, drinks, people, places, and things. Don't let me get started on how fascinated I have been by this issue, and inspired. There are pink post-it notes darting up from nearly every page, marking foods and recipes I want to try. One simple paragraph, along with a photograph of a hand clutching a drink, set me going the most, however:

"Though its name means to die dreaming, Morir Soñando hasn't scared folks away from Reben Luncheonette, in Brooklyn, New York, where they've been serving the Dominican beverage — fresh-squeezed orange juice, milk, sugar, and a dash of vanilla syrup, shaken with ice — for 45 years. A sign behind the counter proclaims, 'You taste it. If you don't like it, don't pay.' Assistant manager Aristedes Anthony Garcia says nobody's ever asked for money back."

My brain stopped for a beat when I read this. I don't know why, entirely. I have stopped needing to know why on these matters. I just knew I needed to make it.

On Sunday, my dear friend Merida came over for lunch. She and the Chef have become great friends, so I will switch that pronoun to our from now on. Amidst all the celebrations of the holidays and the manuscript being turned in, we had seen her some, but not just the three of us, alone. What better time than Sunday lunch?

I love a Sunday afternoon, lazy and slow. Food, but nothing rushed. The Chef made us a big plate of fried chicken, from a recipe we developed for the book. "Oh holy god," Merida uttered upon her first bite. I couldn't talk at all, for ten minutes. This chicken was so juicy — from the buttermilk soaking — and so crispy — from the breadcrumbs and sorghum flour, that I just couldn't stop eating it. I barely took a breath.

It had been two years since I had eaten fried chicken.

There was also a lovely plate of sauteed kale and roasted vegetables, but I barely paid attention to that, I'm afraid to say.

Sated and smiling, we all settled down on the couch. We had talked, idly, about going to the movies. But after a meal like that, you rarely want to be industrious and drive somewhere with a purpose. We decided to stay in, instead.

Thus began the longest, loveliest afternoon of sitting in front of the television I have experienced in a long time. For four months, I had to be disciplined and productive, nearly every hour of the day. I could not remember the last time I had acted like a kid still in her pajamas at 4 pm on a Saturday. We gave in.

We watched several episodes of Arrested Development, which the Chef has only started watching, because of us. There was one episode of Jamie Oliver's series, which was really a busman's holiday for the Chef, since every time he watches dear Jamie he sprouts ideas for the restaurant. He makes us put the dvd on pause (not really such a chore, since it freezes on Jamie's lovely face) and scrawls shorthand menu items. This time, it was something with prosciutto and goat cheese. We insisted on showing the Chef the Gourmet Night episode of Fawlty Towers, a series he has somehow never experienced. (He has never seen It's a Wonderful Life or The Sound of Music, either. Shock! We have some movie watching to do.) When Basil thwacked his wonky car with a huge branch, we all laughed so hard I thought I would hurt myself. Mostly, there were episodes of South Park, of course.

(If Matt Stone and Trey Parker are somehow reading this, we would love for you to come to our wedding. We do have a South Park love, after all.)

After hours of idling, we needed something more to eat. Three of the most determined and busy bees finally rested, together. It made us hungry. As I peeled myself from the couch, I suddenly remembered the orange drink. "Hey Merida," I shouted from the kitchen. "Do you want to make this?" And I brought the magazine toward her.

Her eyes grew wide. "Morir Soñando!" she shouted, without looking at the blurb. Her Dominican grandmother and aunt in New York used to make it for her, all through her childhood. "It's good for clearing the head and giving you energy," she said. Well, we could use some of that.

We could have gone to the store and bought oranges for fresh orange juice. We could easily have found some whole vanilla beans, which Merida says makes it taste infinitely better. But, when that food idea tugs at my gut, and I can feel it within reach, I want it now. So, we improvised.

"More," Merida said, as I poured in some orange juice from the carton. "A little milk now," she urged me. We had no recipe. We just played with the proportions in the blender until the color looked right to Merida. "There!" she shouted, and we poured it into glasses.

Merida's eyes closed with the pleasure of this childhood treat. I took one sip, and my eyes shot open. "Oh my god!" I shouted, then took a glass to the Chef, in the living room. He took one sip and looked up at me, astonished. We both had the same memory.

Orange Julius.

When I was a kid, one of my most favorite treats was this orange-drink concoction at the mall: Orange Julius. We couldn't afford it that often, and even as a kid I sort of hated the mall. But when we had that frosty, frozen orange explosion in our mouths, I was in heaven. I remember, along with the poofy colored hats the poor kids who worked that stand were forced to wear, that everyone wondered how Orange Julius achieved that elixir of taste. No one knew the recipe.

It turns out — it seemed to us — it was a mass-production variation on a Dominican drink, all along.

And in that moment of drinking orange juice and milk, frothed up with vanilla syrup, I knew why my mind and gut had tugged at reading that recipe. Not just because it reminded me of my Orange Julius childhood, but also because it connected the three of us in that room, with the slender thread of remembered tastes. There we all had been, in the late 1970s — Merida, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan; the Chef at the Cinderella Mall in Denver; and me, at the Montclair Plaza, just outside of Los Angeles — all drinking something similar and marveling at the taste. None of us knew each other then. None of us even knew the other ones existed. But there we were, in early 2007, gathered in this room together, now integral to each other's lives, and remembering our childhoods.

I love how this food connects us. The world now feels much smaller, and far less random, than I once thought.


I am certain that the more authentic version of this, with fresh-squeezed orange juice and vanilla bean paste, would be even more exciting than this simple fix we created. However, I will say this: I haven't been able to stop drinking this version. Besides, with the citrus crop all but destroyed in California now, it may be that we will all be drinking orange juice from a carton for awhile.

Life is short. Let's live it, imperfectly.

4 cups orange juice
1 cup milk
15 ice cubes
2 tablespoons vanilla syrup (or more, to taste)

Throw it all in the blender. Whirl it up. Taste it to see if you like it. Add more of what you need. Blend again. Drink.

Serves three thirsty people.

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12 January 2007

the sweetness of domesticity.

blueberry muffin

I am becoming so domestic.

This morning, I woke up before the Chef. Sentences were singing in my mind, with a high-pitched insistence. Reluctantly, I left the bed to write some more, quelling the choir into quietness. After awhile, I was fully awake. After I set a pot of coffee going, I checked in on the Chef. Sleeping sweetly. What was I to do? Read the paper? Curl up with my new favorite book? Go for a walk?

No, I did the only sensible thing a gluten-free girl can do. I made muffins. From scratch.

I have never made gluten-free muffins from scratch. I have only made them from mixes a few times, and those are fine. In fact, I have one sitting on the shelves of our pantry, right now. I could have so easily dumped that in the KitchenAid, added some butter and eggs, and called it done.

But these days, almost nine months after the Chef and I met, I find myself — to my surprise — becoming incessantly domestic. I make lists of projects to do around the home. I spend every evening wiping down the counters so the kitchen is clean before the Chef comes back. When I lived alone, I would let the kitchen go, for days. Who was around to see it? Now that it is his home too, I find that I want it gleaming and clean. And after reading dozens of crafty blogs the last month — especially this one — I’m even considering buying this book and teaching myself to sew.

(If you had seen the lopsided, sadly shapen, horribly embroidered placemat I made in the seventh grade, you would know just how shocking that sentence is.)

Mostly, though, I just can’t stop creating food. Certainly, that has been true for more than a year and a half now, since I stopped eating gluten. I have been cooking myself into a new being for months and months. But now, I’m cooking for someone else. Top it off, I’m cooking for a professional chef, a damned fine one. I have had to face the reality — I will never sear lamb chops or create a fish special the way this lovely man can, no matter how long I cook. He has a gift, a genius, I can only admire. Then again, he stands in awe of my writing, particularly the fact that I wrote an entire book in four months. We both have our strengths.

But you see? No one cooks for chefs. Everyone is too intimidated. Unless I let go of the need to be as good as him, the man will never eat home-cooked food. And this is our home.

Long ago, I gave up trying to impress him. What I want most of all now is to feed him.

Nothing sends out love like baked goods made from scratch. When I was first diagnosed with celiac, I thought I would never be able to make a batch of cookies for a friend, or woo a man with my pies. Now, however, I no longer worry. I’ve done enough experimenting with gluten-free flours to know what I want. The bottom shelf of our little pantry is filled with little one-pound bags of millet, quinoa, sorghum, and teff. I love the experimenting.

Mostly, though, I love the final product. When I make something new, and it turns out right, I stand in the kitchen and clap my hands, truly delighted. These muffins? They were golden-brown and studded with raw sugar, filled with so many blueberries that some bites tasted like June, and wonderfully warm. When I brought one into the Chef — he had been awoken by the smell of baking — along with a hot cup of coffee, he smiled up at me, delighted.

That is the sweetest part of domesticity: the look of love in his eyes.


Gluten-free baking truly isn’t that hard. All it takes is a desire to play and a willingness to make mistakes. However, over time — months later —you will know, instinctually, which flour to use. When I made these muffins, I knew. Sorghum, because that is the base of almost everything I bake these days. It is light and binding, the closest texture to wheat of any of the gluten-free flours. In fact, I use it in almost everything I bake these days. White rice flour, because muffins should be light and airy, with almost no density, just enough to hold them together. Tapioca flour, because some kind of starch works well with these together. (Could have been cornstarch or potato starch. I like tapioca starch here. It has an ephemeral sweetness, faint but perceptible, that I like.) Put them together — muffins.

My friend Monica came over for a visit this afternoon, for one last conversation before she returns to New York. She can’t eat gluten either. In fact, she was diagnosed because of me — she had the same symptoms, and my experience taught her what questions to ask. I fed her minestrone soup, some of the gluten-free bread, and one of these muffins. “Man, you are really getting this gluten-free baking down,” she said. I smiled. No accolade at school ever felt so sweet.

10 tablespoons unsalted, soft butter
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 cup sweet white sorghum flour
1 cup white rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder (or ½ teaspoon cream of tartar, ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon cornstarch)
½ teaspoon baking soda (if combining above, add another ½ teaspoon to mix)
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups plain yogurt
1 cup blueberries (frozen are fine)
2 tablespoons raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 375.

Combine all the dry ingredients together. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together, until just creamed. If you leave the stand mixer running as they are creaming, these muffins will not rise. Simply cream them until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each egg.

Add one half of the dry ingredients, mixing well. Add one-third of the yogurt and combine until well mixed. Add one-half of the remaining dry ingredients to the mixture, and combine. Continue this, alternating the yogurt and dry ingredients, until you have mixed both of them in, completely.

Add as many blueberries as you can.

Oil a muffin tin well, then sprinkle a little cornstarch or white rice flour on the bottom of each cup. Fill each space for muffin two-thirds full. Sprinkle the raw sugar over the top and set them in the oven.

(This recipe will give you enough batter to make two tins of muffins, or close.)

Bake the muffins for about 35 minutes, or until the tops have browned and started to harden, and the entire house smells of warm blueberry muffins. If your sweetie wakes up from the smell, the muffins are done.

Makes 18 muffins.

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09 January 2007

i am stubborn. i don't give up.

more sorghum bread


A few weeks ago, in the midst of the end-of-book frenzy, I posted this piece, about my gluten-free attempt at the no-knead bread going around the internet, slavishly reported upon by blogger after blogger, all of them able to eat gluten. Dutifully, twice, I followed all the instructions, with gluten-free breads. Both times, my attempts were disastrously funny.

Readers wrote to me, asking me to try again. Many, many people on this thread at the Delphi forums insisted — in almost messianic tones — that it was possible! Really! Even though I was within weeks of finishing the most important project of my life, and I really should have been devoting my time to testing all those recipes in the book, one more time, I swerved away from my original plan. Beguiled by the smell of yeast in warm baked goods, and the desire to conquer something I publicly admitted I could not do, I relented. I started baking bread.

Hard work and sheer mule stubbornness pay off.

Over the past month, I have made at least twenty loaves of this bread. The first few attempts were mediocre, a modicum of bread taste and too much denseness. But then, I stumbled upon a couple of secrets — with the help of the Chef — and I started making bread. Warm bread, straight from the oven, with an almost-airy crumb, and a crust so crunchy I worried I could crack my teeth. Bread. I started making bread.

Last August, when Sharon was here, visiting for my 40th birthday, she and the Chef and I sat down to breakfast. I happened to have some packaged gluten-free bread — a semi-decent brand, their cinnamon-raisin bread — and toasted some to go with my eggs. Sharon asked for a slice. I handed one over, reluctantly. She chewed, thoughtfully, then chewed some more. After a full moment, she said, “Hm. It’s really more of a texture than a taste, isn’t it?” We all laughed. She was right. Most gluten-free breads really are just a dense texture, a weak-signal echo of real bread. That’s why I spent the first full year after my celiac diagnosis divorcing myself from bread, entirely.

This gluten-free bread, however, tastes like bread. Soft and warm, a small chewiness, then air between the teeth. A brown, cracked crust, a wonderful contrast against the soft crumb. It smells like yeast and grandmothers and a cold winter’s day with a bowl of soup.

I’m proud.

Now, here are a few notes for you, based on my baking instincts, and tweaks from the Chef.

The eighteen hours of rising called for in the original recipe? Absolutely not necessary. No matter how hard we try, or how well intentioned we are, we will never replicate the physical characteristics of gluten. The eighteen hours of rising make the gluten strands grow, in the typical bread. We gluten-free girls and guys just don’t need it. However, this is a joy. From mixing the bread to eating some can take as little as two hours. Save some time.

One of the secrets of the bread? Club soda. On one of my baking attempts, I knew that I wanted the bread to be lighter, a little more airy. It needed...carbonation. I used the warm club soda on the counter, instead of water or milk. It does the trick, every time. Make sure the club soda is warm when you use it, however. Cold club soda could kill the yeast.

(And when I told the Chef that I had come up with club soda, he said, “That’s my girl.” Turns out that club soda is one of his tricks too.)

The only part of that eighteen-hour recipe that turns out to be a revelation here is the last part. Heating the oven to 500°, then putting in a Dutch oven for half an hour to heat? It makes the pan sizzle when you throw in the gloppy dough. This is what creates that incredible crust. Keep that. It’s important.

I have fiddled with a dozen different combinations of flours and starches for this recipe. This is, for the moment, the one that works best for us. But you should try some yourself, and let me know if you find anything you like more.

One note for those of you in Seattle. The Chef approves of this bread so highly that he has asked me to make a loaf every few days for the restaurant. That way, those of you who must eat gluten-free who come in for a meal can have warm bread delivered to your table. And one of his appetizers this month is a salad, with “Shauna’s croutons.” That’s the way it is printed on the menu. Oh, that man.

However, I have to say this. We have eaten this bread for a month. We had a loaf of rosemary sea salt bread with Christmas dinner. We have made French toast, pappa alla pomodoro, bread pudding, macaroni and cheese with bread crumbs, and a dozen sandwiches. And you know what surprises me? I find that I am tired of bread.

Strange, isn’t it? After worrying that I would never eat it again, I found that I have eaten my fill, for the time being. I’m back to toasted quinoa and sautéed kale and rice pudding these days.

Still, I hope you enjoy it. Bon appetit!


Some recipes are merely a list of ingredients, a guideline for what to try. But I have to say — as is true for most baking — the techniques and the order in which you use these ingredients really matters here.

The Chef told me recently that one of his favorite head chefs, when he was training long ago, said this, “Try a recipe exactly the way it is written, once. That way, when you adapt it for yourself, you will always have a memory of what worked for you.” I recommend the same for this bread. Then, go wild.

2 cups sweet white sorghum flour
½ cup potato starch
½ cup sweet white rice flour
1 ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 packet active dry yeast (.28 ounces or 8 grams)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 eggs
½ cup warm club soda (or as much as is needed to wet the bread)

Preheat the oven to 200°. Let it come to temperature.

Put all the dry ingredients into the bowl of your stand mixer. Turn on the mixer and combine the flours and other dry ingredients well. Turn it off.

Add the white wine vinegar and keep the machine running. Add the eggs, one at a time, and allow the mixer to beat them into the dry ingredients, on low speed. After you have added all the eggs, pour in the club soda, in a slow drizzle. Pour in only as much as is needed to wet all the ingredients completely and combine this into a dough.

Turn the oven off, immediately.

Attach the dough hook to the mixer and stir the dough on medium speed for three to four minutes. This will give the dough a chance to cohere more evenly. It will also whip air into the dough, which will cut the usual density of gluten-free bread. After those three to four minutes, turn off the mixer and transfer the dough to an oiled bowl.

Put the bowl into the oven, which will be warm, but not actively heating. Allow it to stay in there for forty-five minutes. It will not have risen much, at this point. Just a bit. It’s gluten-free, after all. There is no gluten to push along that rising. Accept that.

Take the bowl out of the oven and put it on the stovetop. Turn the oven up to 500°. Put a cast-iron pot, large enough to hold the bread, into the oven. A cast-iron dutch oven with an enamel surface is probably ideal. But any large pot or pan will do, as long as it has a lid. Leave the dutch oven in the 500° heat for half an hour. Meanwhile, the dough will be doing its small rising on the stove.
After half an hour, take the dutch oven out of the oven, carefully. Without worrying too much about the perfect shape, transfer the wet dough into the hot dutch oven. Put the lid on and push the dutch oven back into the oven, immediately.

Set your timer for thirty minutes. Do not turn down the heat. Allow the bread to cook in there, with the lid on, for the entire thirty minutes. By the end, it will really smell like fresh-baked bread. Take the pot out of the oven, take the lid off the pot, and voilå — a lumpy, wonderfully crusted loaf of gluten-free bread. Allow it to cool for ten minutes, then cut right into it.

(It really doesn’t hold up that well overnight. Eat as much as you want, just after baking. Slice up the rest immediately and put it in the freezer for another day.)

You can also use this dough and technique for any number of variations. For olive bread, put ½ cup chopped kalamata olives into the dough. For rosemary bread, add one tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary into the dough, the sprinkle thick crystals of sea salt on the top of the bread before baking. Be creative and do what you can.

Serves six.

04 January 2007

we interrupt this break to bring you

yes to the blog post

The Chef and I have been lounging in bed until noon, looking at recipes in Gourmet magazine, and contemplating homemade pomegranate marshmallows, artichoke ravioli made out of potato slices, and every recipe out of Jamie's Italy. Long walks, movies until late at night, laughing over the newspaper, and even talking about the wedding and its planning.

Yeah, I know. I met the Chef, we're deeply in love, I got a book deal, and I made my deadline. You probably don't want to hear another bit of my good news.

However, I have to interrupt this planned week of silence to announce something that floors me. Again.

Over at WellFed, the Food Blog Awards for 2006 have been announced. To my delight, I find that I have been nominated for Best Food Blog, with a Theme. Having one this award last year, I never expected that I would be nominated again for the same award. Thank you. The theme of this website certainly starts with living gluten-free. However, what I have found -- particularly this year -- that in writing about gluten-free, I am simply writing about living. And since April, that means writing about loving.

My dear little blog has also been nominated for another award, one that particularly moves me: best food blog post. My YES post the one where I announced how the Chef and I fell in love, deeply and immediately. It is also where I revealed that we are going to be married this summer. Most importantly, I wrote it, in the first draft, entirely for the two of us. That we allowed the outside world to read it was a secondary decision. That piece of writing was my anniversary present to him.

We really do have a love affair with food.

It cannot be a surprise -- and thus I hope I am not giving anything away -- to say that the last chapter of my book is, in some large part, about the Chef. In fact, I finished wrote the last words of that chapter in the kitchen of his restaurant, last week. After writing and editing and shaping the book, I saved my favorite chapter for the last. About 3 pm, just two hours before dinner service, it was time for the last scene in the book. It will be entirely new to readers of the blog -- in fact, at least half the book is prose and stories I wrote in the past four months, which has not shown up on the blog. I cannot tell you the ending now. But suffice it to say that it felt right.

There I was, in the kitchen of his restaurant, my laptop propped up on the sink, writing the last words of my first book, while he simmered rabbit stock and roasted pork tenderloin to my side. We both burst into happy tears when I had finished.

The YES post served as an inspiration for that last chapter.

This is why I feel so humbled and honored to have been nominated for both of these awards, but particularly the one for best post. That was -- I have to say it, because it is no exaggeration -- the most beautiful writing experience of my life.

So, if you have read the piece, and it opened something in you, well....feel free to go here to vote for it.

Other than that, please revel in the good news for other bloggers. There are so many of us out here, writing our hearts out, and trying to capture our love of food in words and photos. My dear friend Tara is nominated in the same category as me, for a wonderful post she wrote called Diary of a Mad Foodblogger. Genius. And Molly?

Well, dear Molly announced the other day that she has been given a book deal from Simon and Schuster. I've been sitting on this news for weeks, as I was happy and happier to help her through the process. And now, Molly has again been nominated for Best Food Blog. She's too modest to announce it for herself. But me? I can. Go vote for Molly. Seriously.

Me? Well, as silly and hackneyed as it sounds, I truly am humbled to have been nominated. I've been so out of the food blogging loop this year. It's lovely to know that you're all out there still noticing.

(And by the way, on that note -- whoa! happy, happy days it has been, reading all your comments on the fact that I finished my book. Seriously -- thank you.)

Okay, consider this a little interruption. It's time to go back to the Chef. He's making chicken cacciatore from scratch, the Italian way.

I know. I'll be quiet now.

See you next week, everyone.

02 January 2007

done. done. and done.

our fingers on the mouse/

Last night, at nearly 2:30 in the morning, I emailed all the chapters of my manuscript to my editor. Actually, I should say, "we emailed all the chapters...." The Chef, bless his soul, wanted to be part of this momentous occasion, and so he put his hand on top of mine, over the mouse on the computer, and gently pressed down on the send button with me.

It's fitting. I just could not have written this book without him.

There's something really beautiful, and clarifying, about such an enormous project as this one. Many of you have commented, in comments and emails to me, how impressed you are that I made the deadline. I guess in a way, I am too. Heavens, I wrote an entire book in four months. It's even too long! (My editor is wonderful; there will be tightening galore.) In four months, some people might not have been able to write half the required words. I wrote twice as many.

I've been thinking about this Blaise Pascal quote, incessantly:

"I have made this [letter] longer because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter."

In the midst of the last few days of editing, this one made me laugh. How many times did I tell my writing students, "It's much better to have too much to work with than too little." Everything I ever taught them, I have been putting into practice. I stand humbled.

I also stand amazed. Of course I made my deadline. What was I going to do —— miss it? Writing and publishing this book is a dream come true for me. Not only because I have wanted to write a book and see it on the shelves from the time I have first been able to clutch a pen, but also because I have a darned good feeling that at least a few people are going to be helped by reading this book. That kept me going.

The Chef's father is renowned in his family, for something he said to the Chef's brother, Pat. When Pat was in the seventh grade, and already a phenomenally talented skiier in Colorado, he lost a big race that he had expected to win. His father consoled him, then counseled him to go train harder. "If you want something bad enough, you have to work for it," he told his son. The Chef has lived his life by this edict. I have lived mine by it too, especially in these last four months.

Oh, and Pat went onto to compete in the Olympics in Sarajevo, in 1984.

The real beauty of a project like this, however, has been having the Chef by my side through it all. He has been — stunningly — a supportive partner. We are a team. We felt it before these past few months. We know it now. Last night, I made all the final, tiny edits on the computer. For hours, I had to hunch over the laptop and keep plugging at it. Sometimes, I'd think, "Oh, I can catch that comma splice on another edit," especially as the evening grew later, and my arms and back grew sore. But I didn't give up. Why?

At that exact moment, as if by magic, the Chef would walk over to me and start massaging my shoulders. (The man uses his hands all day. Oh boy.) He brought me big glasses of water. He made a hearty meat stock in the oven, so that I would have the smell of good food filling the house as I worked. He created an unbelievably good gluten-free lasagna for us, along with garlic bread he toasted from the sorghum loaf I had made that morning. Late in the evening, he chopped up a fruit salad, with apples, bananas, satsumas, and pomegranate seeds. Every time, I wanted to cry with gratitude. Always, before this, I have been alone in the midst of big projects.

At 11 last night, he came over to me and said, "You need some air. You need to move the blood around. Let's take a walk." So we walked, around our neighborhood, in the dark and rain, talking about the year ahead of us, arm in arm. We pointed out different houses, the ones with capacious porches, and we imagined ourselves in them. His instincts were perfect — I needed to see something beyond that small finish line. We have a life, not just a deadline.

And so, it is done. From this perspective, I can even say, 'tis done well.

I hope.

How did we celebrate? We slept in late. We ate leftover lasagna for breakfast. We took another walk in the rain. And then, we drove downtown....and went to Gameworks.

That's right. We played video games for two hours. After four months of dreaming up sentences and trying to make something profound sound a little more mundane, as well as cutting words in my sleep, I wanted the least intellectual activity I could find. We played old school games (I still rock at Space Invaders!) and the baseball game where someone climbs in the cage and takes swings at the screen and shot aliens with plastic guns. Mostly, I schooled him in air hockey. We leaned over the table and mock-glared at each other, and laughed out loud when someone scored a point. A little crowd gathered to watch us -- we were really, really into it. When that first game was over, I threw my fists into the air and shouted, "Yeah!" with all my force and energy.

It was a mighty celebration.

(Oh, he would want you to tell me that he won the second game by seven points.)

Finally, we stopped at Dick's for chocolate shakes. This is a funny ritual, especially for a woman who just wrote a book on eating local, seasonal, organic, and close to the ground. But, the day I first sent my book proposal off to my would-be agent, Dick's was right across from the post office. I walked in spontaneously and bought a chocolate shake. It worked. She signed me.

(And by the way, that was less than a year ago. From first draft of the book proposal to first completed draft of the book? Eleven months.)

Now, it's my good luck talisman, a chocolate shake at Dick's. The Chef walks in with me, now. And you know what? Those shakes tasted really damned good.

There is more. Always more. But you can tell that I have not written all day. That feels weird after six to eight hours a day for four months. Forgive me the length. I just feel like sharing.

The Chef's restaurant is closed this week, as they are every year in January. Blessedly, somehow, that means we have an entire week off together, with not that much to do. We're going to revel in each other, and eat really well. I may not be here much this week. I hope you understand. Come back next week, though. I've missed being here every day.

Thank you for reading.

And you know what? I made the deadline! I finished the book!