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30 June 2008



It is finally summer here, after all.

Damn, it is hot.

I know. After months of wondering if the grey cloud cover would ever lift away to reveal blue sky, I have no right to complain. Last week, I felt exuberant, like a little kid released from school, hop scotching down the sidewalk. Warm air, no need to huddle under a raincoat, the chill of winter a now-distant memory. Sitting on the couch, by the living room window, I felt a great lift. Winter had finally passed. We may not have had much of a spring (I never did see ramps in the farmers’ market this year), but each season is a good lesson in how little control we have over nature. Understood.

Let summer begin.

An entire week of gawking at the clear sky and gratitude for being able to turn off the furnace rose through me and beamed from my face. 68 degrees seemed utter perfection to this pregnant woman.

But not 91, in the shade. Oh dear god, being pregnant in the summer is an entirely different experience.

Unless I keep the bathtub partially filled with cold water at all times, so I can stand in there and slowly stomp my feet like a peasant woman crushing grapes? My ankles want to swell like I’m a distant relative of the Elephant Man. My wedding ring threatens to dig into my skin until I can barely move my hands. This is what I get for feeling superior that I hadn’t suffered any swelling yet. Now, only three weeks away from meeting Little Bean, I am wiping the sweat from my forehead with my swollen fingers and sending out hope that it might rain again soon.

Just a bit. Warm rain is fine. But in a city not set up with air conditioners, and a hugely pregnant woman with five pounds of baby bulging within her, this weather just plain sweats.


(You knew I was going to find the good in this.)

All the spring and summer produce has popped into the markets at the same time. Scarred rhubarb stalks sit waiting next to lurid red and yellow Rainier cherries. The strawberries on Saturday had benefited so much from four days of sun that they loomed almost maroon from their blue pint boxes. Squash blossoms and bitter arugula and the fat heirloom tomatoes, plump and grinning, beckoned us to the tables. The luscious green perfume of basil permeated the air. We may have been sweating when we reached for English peas and cucumbers, but we were smiling.

And another benefit of this sudden intense heat? Watermelon season has begun.

I don’t know why it took me so long to love watermelon. Even though I never think of myself as a picky child, I did eschew certain textural experiences in my food. Tomatoes felt too mushy to eat until I was sixteen. Lima beans disgusted me with their tough exterior and chalky insides. (They still kind of do, to be honest.) And watermelon always tasted too mealy to my tongue. Used to the firm flesh of cherries, the crisp bite of apples, and the succulent indulgence of a ripe peach, I turned my tongue away from watermelon. Mostly water, with a strange little chew at the beginning, watermelon grossed me out.

And the seeds were so damned cumbersome.

Now, I’m happy to sit on the back porch and squeeze the sweetness out of every bite of watermelon, and then spit the seeds into the green grass. That picky kid has become a woman of gusto. Messy taste experiences, richer for diving into them? Bring them on.

At least now I eat watermelon in more forms than as a taste in Jolly Rancher candies.

So the heat will pass. We only have four or five-day heat waves here in Seattle. Later in the week, the air will turn cool and lambent again, the perfect 74 degrees during the day with willowy cool nights. But for now, when it’s as hot as the Los Angeles of my childhood, and I’m forced to wear a wet t-shirt to bed again, I’ll put half a watermelon in the freezer and wait for it to chill. Sorbet? Watermelon ice cubes? A cool gazpacho? I’m not sure yet. This is the level of decision I’d like to make these next three weeks, while waiting for Little Bean.

And you? How do you like watermelon?

26 June 2008

gluten-free girl recommends

gfg recommends

Little Bean arrives into the world in less than a month. So, what is the best action to take before giving birth?

Start another website!

Actually, I’ve been brewing this new baby for far longer than Little Bean. For over a year, at least, I’ve been saying to friends and family, “I’m working on something called Gluten-Free Girl Recommends.”
“Cool idea,” they all say.
“Yes. As soon as I can make it happen…..”

You see, this has been quite the year. Within the last year, the Chef and I moved house, got married, went on a honeymoon to Italy, launched my first book with trips across the United States, kept working at the restaurant (Chef), kept writing this site and other projects (me), signed a two-book book deal, and became pregnant with our first child. You know, a few things. And that’s just the highlights.

Still, I’ve been dreaming this website, a complement to Gluten-Free Girl, through it all. It has danced in the back of my head, sometimes waltzing, sometimes doing a furious tango.

As I have traveled across the country, and sat here at my desk, so many of you have asked salient questions. What’s your favorite gluten-free flour? How can I eat safely at a restaurant? Do you know any gluten-free lipsticks? Are there any bread mixes worth the money?

We are a community, and I love the conversation. But lately, the emails in my inbox have swelled to voluminous levels. I simply cannot answer most of them. Now, with a baby coming and a book manuscript due in the winter, I’m going to need all the energies I can muster. And since so many of the questions I receive do repeat each other a bit, I have wanted to create a space where everyone can gather, and start another conversation.

Enter Gluten-Free Girl Recommends.

This new site will be updated three times a week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays) with pithy prose, my photographs, and links to places where you might find more of what you like. (For those of you paying attention here — with the ingredients posts on Monday and the recipes/stories posts on Thursday — that means there will be some new gluten-free content every weekday.)

There are already 50 posts up there, culled from the archives of this website — small passages of prose about a place to eat or cookbooks we find useful. There are also a few new posts on there too. I thought about writing for months before letting anyone see it, building new material. But I wanted you to be part of the development instead, adding your own opinions. (And frankly, I’m just running out of energy these days!)

Let me make this clear. This will be a recommendations site. I’m not going to be reviewing restaurants just after they open, or saying nasty comments about gluten-free mixes that turn out to be horrible. I receive so much gluten-free food from producers. Most of it tastes grainy and disappointing to me. You see, I want a truly memorable food experience every time I eat. Most of the time, that means we focus on real food around here, not packaged goods. But when I try a mix that tastes fantastic, that I will buy again for this home, I want to share it with you. I love the family stories that have evolved into thriving businesses. We should all celebrate those.

At the new website, I’m going to be giving you experiences to which I have said yes.

You’ll see, on the sidebar, a list of categories:

Cookbooks and other books.
Cooking utensils.
Gluten-free foods.
Other artists and their work.
Places to eat.
Places to buy food.

These are all experiences that make our lives richer around here. Where would I be without Jamie Oliver books, the peltex spatula that makes cooking easier, sea salt caramels, good olive oil, the necklaces from Superhero Design, Volterra restaurant, or the University District farmers’ market? We want to share our enthusiasms with you.

(Over the next couple of months, there might be some baby stuff in there too.)

And I intend the Places to Eat category to be particularly helpful. Every day, I receive letters asking, “Where can I eat?” If you want a specific city, you can simply search Places to Eat, New York (for example) and find out what I know. (You can also ask the New York bloggers!) So many restaurants in Seattle feed me safely and well. Over time, I’ll be sure to share all of them with you.

There’s something else that’s different about the new website. We will be taking ads on Gluten-Free Girl Recommends. The Chef and I have thought about this for months. It felt important to both of us to keep this site ad-free. But I have written every piece here — and created every recipe — for free. This site has been one of the biggest loves of my life. But with a new baby coming, and our budget always interesting, we decided that ads seem reasonable.

There is another reason for the ads. Rather than going with an established ad network, and thus end up with ads not tailored to the gluten-free community, we have decided to create our own network — the Green Apple ad network. With the help of my fabulous designer friend, Kaytlyn, we will be designing and placing ads from gluten-free foods producers and great food makers. So many of you ask me, “Where can I find teff flour?” Well, we hope that soon there will be ads that make a direct link for you, so you can read the site and simply buy what you need.

(If you are a representative of a foods producer reading this now, please feel free to contact me.)

Speaking of Kaytlyn, I cannot say enough about this woman. Kaytlyn Sanders, who runs the excellent design business Beneficial Design, has shepherded me through this entire process with grace and good humor. And a huge amount of talent. We have become close friends through the past two years of working together, and I cannot imagine my life without her. This website would not exist without her. I mean, look at that new banner up there!

(That is the rooster and hen who live in our neighborhood and come to our front door every morning these days. The Chef is especially fond of them. He took that shot while lying on his stomach on the living room floor, pointing out to our front yard.)

Kaytlyn is a genius, and a kind one at that. So, if you have any design needs, please contact her. Your website and life will be better for it too.

There is more I could say here — everyone has a birth story, right? — but this feels enough. I’ve been dreaming this baby for nearly a year, and now launch day is here. Time to take the stage, little one. Go knock yourself out.

23 June 2008



My conception of popcorn may have changed over the years, but I have always loved it.

Does anyone else remember Jiffy Pop popcorn? That stuff fascinated me when I was a kid. The kernels came bunched in a tinfoil pan, flimsy and destined to be trashed. I suppose it was intended for camping — popping corn over a campfire was probably far more romantic than the electric stove. But on our electric stove at home, I’d watch as the outline of popcorn bulged out of the thin lid. Soon, popcorn. I’m sure that the convenience food was suffused with chemicals and lousy additives I would never eat now. It seems like the kind of product that has gluten in it, somehow. (however, turns out Jiffy Pop is gluten-free, so you can still experience it.) But when I was a kid, I loved the mystery, the sense of potentiality, of popcorn beginning to emerge.

Mostly, though, we ate popcorn that cascaded from our hot air popcorn maker. Intended for people who wanted to make popcorn healthy (none of that nasty butter or oil in the age of margarine), the hot air popper took a few moments to whirl to life. The air coming from it always smelled like warm plastic, a draft you didn’t want to stand in. If you could stand the heat and smell, and peer inside, you’d see popcorn kernels twirling frantically in the metal tunnel, like a centrifuge of food. After what seemed a lifetime, white kernels came flying from the yellow plastic shield. A big bowl of popcorn waited. On top of the popcorn maker sat a shallow divot, also of yellow plastic. If you put a pat of butter in it before turning on the maker, you had a pool of butter — white milk solids swirling on top — to pour onto the popcorn. Sadly, even with all that butter, and those god-awful salts that claimed to taste like butter or bacon, the popcorn tasted pretty close to the plasticky warm air from which it came.

It took me years to graduate to the basic technique: popping corn in a big pot, a skim of oil on the bottom, kernels swimming, dancing. This popcorn making does require patience, a lot of shaking the pan across the burner, a keen listening for the first poppings, and then the anticipatory moments of hearing every kernel pop at once, a small thunderstorm underneath the metal lid. So much more pleasure than the others. So satisfying. And the popcorn actually had a taste, free of chemicals and plastic.

For years, when Sharon and I went to the movies, we shared a big tub of popcorn (what exactly made that sickly yellow butter color that soaked at least half the kernels?) mixed with a giant box of Milk Duds. Think we’re crazy? So did I when she introduced me to it. But she converted me, quickly. I miss it now, and her.

These days, it’s pretty simple. Popcorn I make myself, good-quality butter, and a hint of truffle and salt. Wait, you haven’t eaten black truffle salt on popcorn? Good god. Get to it! And it’s not nearly as expensive as it seems. We’ve had one of those little jars for over a year, and it’s still not empty. You don’t want it on everything. But popcorn? You do.

Last evening, if you had been here, you would have found me on the bed, my belly nearly obscuring the television screen before me, Bringing Up Baby on the dvd (oh! Cary Grant), and a bowl of popcorn at my left hand.

It doesn’t take much to make happiness in a moment. Give me some real popcorn, and I’m there.

How about you? What is your favorite way to eat popcorn? Have any creative recipes that involve dried corn kernels that don’t turn into popcorn?

19 June 2008

I made you this delicious rice salad.

ruby-red jasmine rice

I had this story forming in my head, one I wanted to write so I could learn what would spin from it.

It’s a story that started with me buying myself a pair of Birkenstocks yesterday, because my belly has grown so large that I literally could not bend down and tie my own shoes yesterday. (Thank goodness for the kind-heartedness of the Chef, who came running and didn’t even make fun of me.) And so I drove slowly to MJ Feet and bought myself a pair of Birkenstocks. Not the fashionable ones, mind you, the dainty sandals I saw adorning the feet of nearly half the women in Rome when we were there. No, the clunky two-strap sandals I owned when I was in my twenties, the ones that everyone sees and secretly thinks, “Hippy.”

(And I love them. They are always the most comfortable shoes in the world. Why have I waited so long to buy another pair? I can simply slide my feet right in, without having to contend with the belly.)

I was going to share how Birkenstocks always remind me of the pseudo-hippy kids who went to my high school, the ones who clustered on the hill in front of the library at every lunch, discussing modernist poetry and surrealist art, twirling in their patchwork skirts, and smelling of the hazy cloud of smoke they left near the tennis courts at lunch. We called them Granolas. That was my image of Birkenstocks, those kids with dirty feet wearing worn-down sandals.

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that I sort of have become a hippy, albeit in the “I like to bathe” way. We are growing a garden in the backyard, even though the squirrels shirred off every leaf of the bok choy last evening, in a neat, flat line. I cook almost everything from scratch. My community of friends is dedicated to local foods, worries about the environmental impact of their existence, and gathers in each other’s kitchens to talk passionately about politics. My friend Tita always puts on an old bandana around her hair before she cooks. I have deep faith in hope. And I still believe in peace, love, and understanding. Yes we can.

My life has become the vision I dreamed of when I read Laurel’s Kitchen as a teenager.

And I could have wandered and wondered through the beauties of pregnancy, only four weeks away from meeting Little Bean. How much I love this time of swimming, sitting on the couch and feeling a foot rise up to meet my hand, beneath my ribs. How I dream my days in a happy daze and accomplish more when I listen to my body and slow down. And how, the closer I am to becoming a mama, the closer I feel to the earth.

And how feeling Little Bean within me makes me want to feed myself, feed us, with the wholesome foods I’m eating that might make some people brand me a hippy. I just call it good.

But you know what? I’m tired. Last night, I taught a class on saying yes to living gluten-free, to a wonderful group of people, with whom I felt a real sense of community. But prepping for that, and standing on my feet for over three hours, left me feeling a little beat up. I’ve dragged all day, even through my walk with my dear friend Francoise. This morning, the Chef and I saw our doctor and found out the exact date of Little Bean’s birth; we have been emotionally elated and exhausted all day. And now, after preparing food, and writing a recipe, my body is aching to lie down and watch the Top Chef reunion.

And so I will.

Instead of a full story, accept this offering, in the style of Napoleon Dynamite: “I made you this delicious rice salad.”

red rice salad

Ruby-red rice salad with asparagus and goat cheese

I started eating so much rice during this pregnancy — thanks to starchy cravings and the beautiful rice cooker — that I had to find new ways to eat it besides plain and white. Recently, I’ve discovered my new favorite: ruby-red jasmine from Thailand. This company brings it into the US, with fair trade practices. It’s massively delicious, with a strong, nutty flavor. I can’t eat enough.

Because it’s such a hearty rice, ruby-red jasmine stands up well to strong flavors, and as the base of a rice salad. Cooking it with star anise, ginger, and garlic gives the rice such a punch that it almost smells meaty when it’s cooking. I could barely stand the wait until the rice cooker beeped.

And then you have to cool it. Well, I did anyway. I think this salad is best served cold.

You could mix any play of flavors in here you want. Local asparagus — so much longed for around here — is in its last weeks. I love shaving the stalks and plunging the green curlicues into the rice. Goat cheese camembert is its own delicacy. And the avocadoes are, now, green and creamy, like butter, but better.

But do what you want with this salad. You can’t go wrong. And it’s so darned healthy that you could almost call it a Birkenstock salad. (But I don’t recommend putting your shoes in it.)

1 star anise
nub of ginger, peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon butter (or non-dairy substitute)
pinch of pepper and kosher salt
1 cup ruby-red jasmine rice
2 cups of water

Put the star anise, ginger, garlic cloves, butter, pepper and salt in your rice cooker (or pan). Add the rice, and then the water. Stir once, then set the cooker on high to do its magic.

When the rice has finished cooking, deeply fragrant and enticing, spread it out on a large plate. Pick out the nubs of ginger and garlic, and the star anise. Put the rice in the refrigerator to cool down.

After the rice has sufficiently cooled, toss it with your favorite vinaigrette (we like champagne vinaigrette in particular). And then top with the following:

pieces of avocado
goat cheese camembert
chive blossoms and stalks
fresh cilantro, chopped
shaved asparagus stalks.

Or, whatever feels right to you. (I’d dig some sunflower seeds here too.)

Enjoy, and know that you are feeding your body. Oh, and this tastes good too.

Feeds 4.

16 June 2008

ripe strawberries

strawberries in June

On Saturday afternoon, my friend Tea and I walked around the farmers’ market slowly. Even though it was towards the end of market day, the farmers all looked happy, their stands nearly empty. The sun shone on our skin. People thronged, eager to buy cherries from Yakima and the first real bunches of spinach available this year. I filled my new bag, the one Tea gave me, with meat from Skagit River Ranch, Port Madison Farm goat cheese, and vegetables galore. Just as I thought we could go, I realized: I hadn’t bought strawberries yet.

Toward the back, a Mexican-American farmer stood at his stall, only four small pints of strawberries left. We gestured, and he started giggling. Puzzled at first, we followed his hand. He had taped three strawberries to the branches of a potted plant next to him. “Strawberry tree,” he whispered, and all three of us laughed. I bought two pints; Tea bought one. The shopping stroll was done.

At home, I rinsed the strawberries and stepped outside into the backyard with a bowl full of berries. The sun filtered through the trees and landed on my skin. I took a bite of a small berry, one that could never make it to the store. Sweetness lapped over my tongue, a burst of sunlight condensed into a bite of fruit the size of two seconds. Rich, full — call it what you want. The words will never match the experience.

And immediately I thought of the first time I bought wild strawberries. In Paris, on an early Sunday morning, wandering through a market by myself. Are markets open there on Sundays? Perhaps it was Saturday. Was it May or June? I don’t know. I don’t even know which neighborhood that clean market gleamed in. Normally, I write down street names, remember details like photographs, harken back memories with the names of people I will probably never see again. But that day — that bite of wild strawberry, offered in the callused palm of a farmer on a slow market morning — obliterated everything else for me. In that minute, I was simply someone standing in the sunshine, eating a strawberry.

Yesterday was a new day for the Chef, his first Father’s Day. (Little Bean may not be in the world yet, but we already feel like parents.) After a morning of listening to songs that made us teary, we drove down to visit my family, the sunny sky without clouds stunning after weeks of rain and 55 degrees. We couldn’t help but singing. At the family gathering, there were long laughs, goofy lawn games played with focused intensity, barbequed salmon, French cheese, Elliott in the backyard splashing everyone from his pool, and long games of Wii. Perfect, in other words.

Soon after we arrived, I pulled the last of the farmers’ market strawberries from the bag. I wanted to share them with my parents. “Open up,” I said, and fed a strawberry to my father from above, like a baby bird. In his usual contained manner, he said, “That’s good.”

I gave one to my mother, sharing that the strawberries had been picked the morning before, that I had taken them from the hands of the farmer that afternoon, and we were only a day away from eating them. “Really, they taste different than the ones from California, the ones we all ate in April.”
She took one in her mouth, and after the first chew, closed her eyes. “Mmmmmm….,” she said, not trying to put words to it. Her face softened. She sounded like me, that day in Paris. And I knew, as the sun shone through the window and landed on our hands, that my mother’s conception of strawberries would forever be changed.

This is why I adore food so much. Oh sure, I love the tasting, the smelling, the debriefing afterwards. But in a wholly humble and awed sense, I am amazed at how food gathers all the parts of ourselves into one moment. And we are new again. The farmers’ silly jokes stick with me, Paris leaps up, and my mother tastes a food differently now because I offered some to her. I am three, and 33, and right now, and feeding my child in the future. Nothing else can stitch together my life like food.

Especially ripe strawberries.

How about you? Strawberry ideas to make new memories?

12 June 2008

simple fruit salad

fruit salad

I used to spend hours in the kitchen, dancing to music and creating flavors underneath my hands.

I’m hoping to return to that state of being, loose and not focused on any particular goal, someday.

But for now, I’m growing pretty darned tired.

Little Bean arrives into this world in five weeks. That’s barely longer than a heartbeat, it feels to us. Besides the Chef working away at the restaurant, dancing in his kitchen, we also have a house to clean and organize, baby stuff to buy, a few more cooking classes to teach between us, and the three hundred projects that seem vital but will probably drop by the wayside. Oh, and write a cookbook. Little things.

This year has been quite the whirlwind. I’ve been spending time on planes, talking on the radio, cooking in front of people, reading beautiful emails, making appearances, and grinning through it all. That’s after we moved house, planned a wedding, danced in the backyard, and went to Italy for a honeymoon. Whew.

But now, Little Bean’s insistent kicks, increasing size, and incredible bulges in my belly have slowed me down. As much as I have wanted to slow down before this, nothing forced me to sit. LB has. I’m sitting on the couch as I type this, the laptop just below my prodigious belly. Luckily, I can still see the keyboard. Barely.

The Chef took a photograph of me yesterday, after I emerged from the shower, and showed it to me. “Look! You’re huge!”

Now, normally, this wouldn’t be most girls’ dream, to have the man they love call them huuuuuugge! But I looked at my enormous rounded belly and my eyes gaped. There was the full, ripe belly I always associate with pregnant women. Think of that photograph of Demi Moore when she was pregnant, naked on the cover of Vanity Fair. That’s what I look like now (well, not entirely. The bulge, yes.).Clearly, voluptuously pregnant, no doubt about it.

No wonder I have been so out of breath lately. This explains why I have to ask the Chef to help me tie my shoes.

I love this. I really do.

Sure, I’m tired when I wake up from a full night’s sleep (and those could be an extinct phenomenon soon). My body only feels light when I am floating in the pool, suspended in water the same way the baby is inside of me. My memory is more spotty than brindled cows on green hillsides.

But I feel as though I am in this protected space, curled up in the patch of sunlight on the worn wooden floor. When I walk down the street, slowly, people look at me knowingly, and smile. No one expects much from a pregnant woman about to give birth. And I’m learning not to expect so much of myself, either.

And so, the time in the kitchen is limited, these days.

But I’m still enjoying my food, thoroughly. And slowing down, focusing on simple foods, makes me taste everything more fully. Slowing down always allows me to truly taste my life.

I’m lucky to be this pregnant on the cusp of summer. Stone fruits are entering the market, finally. Strawberries are rumored to be in the market by this weekend. When the heat rises, no one wants to cook much anyway. And besides, my stomach has shrunk from a baby sitting astride it, kicking with tiny fists. It’s all about the snacks now.

I’m just focusing on the best ingredients, food in season, small portions, and sensory pleasure. When I think about it, that’s not a bad way to live all the rest of the days.

The Chef was so happy last night when I told him we had meatloaf and baked potatoes for dinner. The look on his face as he ate made my entire day. That meal took me about twelve minutes to prepare — about as long as I could stand. But we were happy, in bed, at 11:30 at night, chewing and savoring.

After Little Bean is born, and we survive the first few months, I know that elaborate cooking projects, hours in the kitchen, and dancing with new flavors will return. I love it so. We’ll just include Little Bean in the process.

But for now, the simpler the better. One bite of fruit salad can be enough to fill an entire afternoon with sunshine.

fruit salad II

Simple Summer Fruit Salad

I'll be playing with some variation on this theme for the rest of the summer, I'm sure. Ripe fruits, a dash of something citrus, the lovely fullness of vanilla bean, and some sort of surprising tang, like pomegranate molasses. Stir and mix, slowly, and feel free to add whatever feels right.

The other day, I found a can of coconut water at one of my favorite grocery stores, and so I brought it home. It's light, barely sweet, so refreshing when cold. When I poured a bit over the fruit, everything seemed to come together more completely. It's not necessary, by any means, but you might like to try it too.

I make a big bowl of this and then let it marinate in the refrigerator for days. Plopped atop thick yogurt, stirred into waffle batter, smooshed in smoothies, or eaten with a spoon — this fruit salad keeps me happy and Little Bean dancing, no matter how I eat it.

1 mango, cored and sliced
1 pint strawberries, tops removed
1 pint raspberries
4 large ripe plums, cored and diced
4 large apricots, cored and diced
1 vanilla bean
2 limes, juiced and zested
1/4 cup coconut water
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (or grape must syrup or good balsamic vinegar)
3 tablespoons sugar (vanilla sugar, if you have it)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup crème fraiche

Wash all the fruit. Cut the mango and strawberries into half-inch cubes. Put the cut fruit into your favorite bowl. Add the raspberries, plums, and apricots.

Pour in the coconut water and stir it in with the fruit.

With a small, sharp knife, cut down the center of the vanilla bean, then peel back the skin. Scrape the gritty innards into the bowl. Toss well.

Add the lime juice, lime zest, pomegranate molasses, sugar, and nutmeg to the fruit. Stir gently.

For the fullest taste, allow the fruit salad to marinate in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Dollop each serving with a large spoonful of crème fraiche and serve.

Feeds 4.

09 June 2008



The first time I read Homer's The Odyssey, I was plagued by a confusing phrase. He referred to the waters around Ithaka as "...the wine-dark sea." Being only 16, and never having drunk any wine, I couldn't figure out what Homer was trying to make me see. Was it just supposed to sound funny and catch my ear? Certainly, the phrase burrowed in. My mind repeated it for days. Language has a way of haunting me — certain names need to be repeated. Some phrases will stay in my brain as long as that time I was stuck in the middle of It's a Small World at Disneyland, all the animitronic figures dancing spasmodically without sound for 45 minutes. "Wine-dark sea" seemed to threaten to stick in there, bobbing on the waves without reaching shore.

And then, in a moment, I thought of my favorite afternoon snack. Bing cherries. The inside of perfectly ripe Bing cherries have a rich red color akin to blood, dark as Merlot and sucking to the pit. Their sweetness is belied by the tapestry color, the royalty and ominousness of red-leaning-toward-maroon-purple, the juice dripping so dark that my fingers stayed stained all day. If anything is wine-dark, it is the inside of cherries.

Suddenly, I saw why my English teachers always nattered on about similes and metaphors, about figurative language. It all seemed like textbook talk before, the hoops we had to jump through to complete our class and achieve a good grade. With this metaphor of Homer's, swirling through my head for days, I felt what writers can do. I saw myself in this sensual experience and understood the longing Odysseus felt for home.

After all, that longing that lingers like a lump in the throat is just how I feel, waiting for cherries to come into season.

We had a long winter in Seattle, late snows, cold spots, and chilly evenings. Even today, when the light is leaning toward summer, the wind is blowing against the rattling windows. We turned the heater back on last night. Better that than huddle against the blankets as though we are on the frozen tundra. It just isn't summer. And in some moments of the day, I think every citizen in Seattle starts to worry that we will never see the sun again.

This hasn't been good for cherry season.

Normally, by now, the farmers' markets stands are bursting with Bings and Rainiers. Last week, as I wrote in my last post, I found the first batch of Yakima-grown cherries at Pike Place Market. $3.99 a pound. It turns out they really weren't that sweet, like the distant memory of cherries, how they taste in the mind in March. But still, I savored them. I even loved the pits and stems so much I took a photo.

While I am waiting for the cherries to ripen, I have been savoring the pickled sour cherries my friend Matthew made for me. When I read his post about sour cherries on, my heart skipped and fluttered. I must have some, I thought, knowing it might be awhile. But Matthew is so damned cool that he pickled up a batch in time for my latest visit with him and Iris. (Okay, I was helping re-structure his book manuscript for him, but still. I think I got the better end of the deal.)

As soon as I reached home, I draped some sour cherries (pickled with hibiscus flowers, balsamic vinegar, and cinnamon) on two scoops of lemon custard ice cream. Hot damn, I thought. I'm finally a pregnant woman, eating ice cream and pickles.

Tomorrow, I think I'll make a sour cherry-rhubarb cobbler. There are worse ways to spend cloudy days.

Still, I'm waiting for the day that Bing cherries (and Rainiers) overflow the tables of my favorite farmers. I want to eat them, one by one, letting the dark juices dribble down my chin. Maybe by the time Little Bean is born, I'll be able to taste that wine-dark sea. This has certainly felt like an odyssey, all these months of pregnancy. Soon, we will all be home.

And you? How do you like to eat cherries?

05 June 2008

the decadent pleasure of summer

shrimp cocktail I

The weather outside may look like January — heavy grey clouds; rain on the freeway that makes the truck to our right loom larger with its spray; nippy air — but it really is June. The light, no matter how dim, is lingering longer into the evening than it did a month before. All the stores advertise sales for dad and grad. And just this morning, at the Market, I saw the first cherries grown in Washington State available for sale.

It’s finally starting to be summer.

I’ve been thinking about summer a lot, lately. The joys, the bounty, the unexpected pleasures. The roaming season. The months of meandering. Growth without needing to be measured.

Little Bean will be a summer baby. The Chef and I both were, as well. In fact, LB will be born just before his birthday, and about two weeks before mine. For years to come, those few weeks at the height of summer will be a time of celebration, gluten-free cakes, and a cacophony of green leaves in the garden. This summer, if the weather ever turns warmer, after Little Bean is born, perhaps we’ll spend sleepless nights walking around the backyard with LB in our arms, looking at the moon and listening to the grass grow beneath our feet.

(Thank you to our friend Laurie for that poetic suggestion of how to deal with a crying baby.)

Summer has always been the time of bounty for me. Most of my life, simply having three months off from school (first as a student, and then as a teacher) was enough to make me want to wake up with a hallelujah every morning. Now that I create my own schedule, I see how the earth unfurls itself in these oh-so-short months. It’s as though all the energy lying dormant under ground during the winter explodes outward into summer. Every bit of produce I crave, all year long, is available at the farmers’ markets in twelve short weeks: fat heirloom tomatoes; plump raspberries; bitter arugula; cool cucumbers; dark juicy blackberries. Miss a week of the market and miss a week of the summer. It’s a time of almost embarrassing blowsiness, like Blanche DuBois in too much red lipstick.

Oh god, I love summer. We can’t wait to share it with Little Bean.

When I was a kid, summer meant barbequed steaks, long swims in chlorinated water, Bing cherries, late mornings waking to the sunlight on my face, iceberg lettuce with ranch dressing, red flag smog alert days, listening to the Beatles on my headphones, and tall glasses of lemonade.

But a really decadent pleasure of summer? The one I looked forward to most at the end of a long, hot day? A cold glass bowl of shrimp cocktail.

We didn’t eat it often. But sometimes, on special occasions, my mom piled tiny pink shrimp into a parfait glass and smothered them with red cocktail sauce. It never mattered that the sauce poured out from a bottle. What mattered was eating as many shrimp as possible. Damn that glass for emptying so fast.

After I went gluten-free, I found out the hard way that many commercial cocktail sauces are now forbidden to me. The Chef and I were at the ocean, two summers ago, in a little beach shack seafood place. Outside, in hand-written letters, a worn wooden sign reading Restaurant lay up against large rocks, a man-made driftwood, quite a distance from the shore. The menu felt sticky underneath our fingers, one page laminated with nothing much on it but seafood simply prepared. Everything had been pulled from the ocean the day before. We stared at each other across the table, moony-eyed and taking photographs of each other’s hands, the engagement rings on our fingers new to the touch.

He persuaded me to try oysters. Until that day, I had never let one slither down my throat. Early in my childhood, I had been traumatized by the memory of my slovenly uncle (no longer part of the family, thank goodness) at a buffet. Always greedy and slightly seedy, he walked to a table piled with ice and dotted with fresh oysters. In just a few minutes, he plucked enough of them from the display to mound his plate high with the craggy shells. Unfortunately, he sat across from me at the table. I watched in horror as he threw back his head, opened up his mouth, and shoved one oyster after another into his gaping maw. He smacked his lips after each one. I lost my appetite after that. (And who eats oyster at a buffet?) I could never imagine eating an oyster, since it meant looking like that man.

The Chef laughed when I told him this story, and then he ordered us oysters. “We need to get you past that,” he said. In order to make the first briny, still-swimming-of-the-sea mollusk seem more appealing to me, he dolloped some cocktail sauce onto the slithery flesh. And then, slowly, he slid the oyster into his mouth, savoring it, before swallowing. Okay, he made it look sexy. Much better than that uncle. I tried one too, keeping my mind as open as my lips. To my surprise, I loved the texture, the taste only a glimmer on the back of the tongue, since I swallowed the oyster whole. I looked at him, in pure pleasure, and said, “Give me another.”

Too bad the cocktail sauce was bottled, and it contained soy sauce. I didn’t think to ask. I spent the next two days sick.

(Still, I’ve eaten oysters many times since. I won’t let one little gluten episode ruin my pleasure in food.)

I don’t want to go all the rest of my summers without the tangy taste of cocktail sauce on my tongue. And we want to share with Little Bean, someday, the pleasure of a cold glass, salty large prawns, and the wash of red peppery lemony sauce.

We have no way of knowing what Little Bean’s memories of summer will be through the years. But shrimp cocktail, I have a feeling, will be one of them.

shrimp cocktail II

Homemade cocktail sauce

Really, it couldn't be any easier to make this if you tried. That bottle seems more convenient, but once you stir these five ingredients together, and dip your finger into the tangy red sauce, you won't reach for the bottle anymore. A bit of bite, a peppery lick, a little lemon, and some zing at the end -- oh my goodness, bring the summer here.

I much prefer raw, grated horseradish here, but you can use prepared horseradish too. Beware -- some prepared horseradish has gluten in it. That, and about 12 ingredients, some of which I don't know how to pronounce. But prepared horseradish is more intensified than the raw stuff, so be sure to use a little less, unless you want your mouth to fall off.

1/2 cup ketchup (find the best one you can, with the fewest ingredients)
4 tablespoons raw horseradish, grated (or 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish)
1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely minced
several dashes of Tabasco, depending on your energy that day
1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Mix all the ingredients together. Allow the cocktail sauce to marinate for a bit (at least a couple of hours), coaxing the flavors to mingle together.


Feeds 2.

02 June 2008



When I was first diagnosed with celiac, and I realized I would never eat gluten again, I shouted out a big hooray. Finally, an end to the pain, the fatigue, the brain fog, and the always wondering what was wrong with me. Give up beer and bread and baked goods? No problem. Who needs those when I would finally be well? (And now I have all of those, gluten-free, except the beer. And that's only because I'm pregnant.) I could feel it in my bones. This was my path.

Truth be told, there was only one food for which I longed. One food that eluded me, haunted my dreams, twisted me into melancholy many mornings, because I would never eat it again.


I know. I'm weird.

You see, I had gone on health kicks all my life, since I never felt well, and never knew why. Lose weight. Exercise rabidly. Eat more whole grains. Cut out cheese. Become a vegetarian. Watch all the fats. Walk every day. Worry incessantly if I was eating the right thing. Most of those commands to myself turned out to be driven by fear. They fell by the wayside, eventually. But my oatmeal habit stuck. For the two years before I was diagnosed, I ate oatmeal for breakfast every morning. (With the exception of the horrid spring of 2005 when I was down to eating baby food from jars before I finally figured out that the life-long feeling of lousiness was driven by gluten.) Topped with fresh blueberries, drizzled in maple syrup, sugared with dried mangoes, or made sweeter with strawberries in season -- every bowl tasted like a new moment. Every morning, I eagerly anticipated the slow cooking to finish, the texture of the thick-cut oats done perfectly (no longer chewy, but not quite mush), and the steam that rose off the first bite on my spoon. Every day, I felt a tiny disappointment that the bowl of the day was done.

I know. I'm weird. (I can't seem to persuade the Chef to like oatmeal. He's mystified as to why I like it.)

Three years ago, when I first started living deliciously, there were no gluten-free oats, at least that I knew of then. Sad and learning acceptance, I posted this piece (oh so long ago) about hot-cereal alternatives for those of us who live gluten-free.

Now, I still love red quinoa with eggs, or brown rice cereal, and certain other kinds of hot cereal. However, everything changes in life, and sometimes it changes for the better. Gluten-free oats are available ubiquitously now.

I've written about this before, in this piece I did in December, with a recipe for oatmeal cookies. If you are new to gluten-free, and wondering why you can't eat most oats, take a look there, and be sure to read the comments. I'm constantly astonished at how helpful we can be for each other in this community.

The gluten-free awareness is now so much more enormous than even three years ago that we have a plethora of oats choices for us. Here are just some of them:

Gluten Free Oats - Bob's Red Mill

Laura Scudder's Oats Rolled Wheat And Gluten Free

Gluten-free Oats from Wyoming

Cream Hill Estates in Quebec, Canada

Gifts of Nature in Montana

Only Oats from Saskatchewan, Canada

I'm sure there are more. If you know of any other reliable growers, please let us all know in the comments.

But here's the best part. Once we secure gluten-free oats, through the retailer that makes the most sense to us, we gluten-intolerant folks can just treat those oats like food again.

(Ahem. With this proviso. If you haven't eaten oats in a long time, be sure to introduce them back to your body slowly. All that fiber can wreak havoc on your system, at first.)

Also, perhaps the rest of you can offer up a moment of gratitude for how blithely you can eat oats!

And since this is Monday, when I offer up ingredients and ask for your ideas, here's my question for the day.

How do you like to work with oats, in any form?

p.s. For those of you in the Seattle area this weekend:

The Chef and I are teaching a gluten-free cooking class at the Sur la Table in Kirkland on Sunday, at 2 pm. We're honored to be there, and we're happy to be teaching together again. Since so many of you have been writing to me, asking where we'll teaching, we thought we'd let you know here.

This will also be one of the last classes we'll teach before Little Bean arrives. (LB arrives in seven weeks!) And then it will be many months again before we'll venture out into demo kitchens.

We will be making shaved fennel salad, chicken thighs with pomegranate molasses, artichoke risotto, and fig cookies. The eating alone should be worth it.

So, if you'd like to see me hugely pregnant, or watch the two of us dance in the kitchen, bantering, please join us on Sunday. You can register by clicking here.