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29 June 2009


raspberries from our garden

Golden and red raspberries, tumbling off the bush when our fingers touch. Our skin warm. Our hands blushing pink and red. Lovely silence.

We feel lucky to have found this home. There's a cool quiet in the middle of the afternoon. We have a spacious kitchen, with a gas stove and a bay window where we chop our food for dinner and look out at green. There's the open space that allows us all to be in one room, separate but together. And we are surrounded by trees.

These days, though, I am grateful for the gardening efforts of our landlords, who planted a bounty around us. This week, the raspberry canes are offering dots of red and vivid orange among the leaves.

We've been picking raspberries every morning, Little Bean in her bouncer, singing to herself, as we stand side by side and feed each other berries as we go. And her too, of course. She opens her mouth like a baby bird, wanting more.

They are wonderful raspberries, smaller than commercial berries, mis-shapen at times, pure sweetness. They remind me of longed-for summer vacation. They taste of still afternoons with nothing to do but listen to birds and smell the grass grow hot in the sun. They smell like pie and flavored bubble gum and honeyed perfume.

They are the best raspberries I have ever eaten.

Yesterday, we had friends over for a party. Blue skied day, in the 70s. Who needed to be inside? We lounged on the grass and watched the mass of little kids attack the swing, climb the cherry tree, and descend en masse on the strawberry patch. Reina made a salad from the foraged foods she found in our garden: endive and lettuce, the few remaining red currants, strawberries plucked from beneath the bushes. All garnished with daisies. (Danny added the lemon slice, for her vinaigrette.)

We loved that she relished the garden so much.

But we weren't sad this morning to go out into the garden and find that she (and the rest of the kids) had left us a few more raspberries at least.

What are you going to do with this summer's crop of raspberries? We'd love hear your ideas.

25 June 2009

early summer vegetable love

my favorite new summer salad

Danny's at the kitchen counter, chopping and humming, the sunlight flooding in. Little Bean is standing at her wooden stove, just behind him in her room, banging out a rhythm with a wooden spoon. I'm bustling around them, rinsing the dishes or putting something on Twitter or opening the refrigerator to see what I can make for dessert. Our living room and kitchen are one big space, which flows into her room, so we are all together.

And then something shifts. Danny looks down at the food beneath his hands. He looks up at me, his eyes wide. He says, "This is going to be good."

I look over to see a new salad he's created, a melange of snap peas, English peas, green beans, corn kernels, and the fava beans he has blanched and skinned. The feathery pile of fresh dill on the cutting board has disappeared, chopped into fine pieces, mingling with the vegetables. I can smell the fresh lemon zest meandering through the room. And the jar of buttermilk ranch dressing we made a few days before is empty now.

Of course I move toward him, for a kiss, and then a bite of food. He has cut all the vegetables into the same size pieces. Even though I'm experiencing a new combination with each chew, it feels right. The salad tastes of early summer: long days, eating late, light lingering into the evening. The first real farmers' market of the season, suddenly more choices than kale and radishes, again. The garden packed with full heads of lettuce, instead of stared-at dirt, willed to grow, dammit. Our skin warm from the sun, finally.

I had never eaten this salad before. After two bites, I thought, "Why haven't I eaten this every summer of my life?"

That first bite happens as the golden light arrives.
"Will you read Bean that book she loves right now?"
He moves toward her, smiling.
I find the camera and race outside to grab the last scraps of sunlight.

When I return inside with a dozen photographs to choose from, I give the salad to Danny. It's time for Bean's bath, soon. But first, I turn to the computer and ask him to tell me exactly how he made it. Within a few moments, the recipe is saved, the photographs are downloaded, and the salad is growing cold and crisp in the refrigerator.

Someday, when she's older, we'll explain to Little Bean that not every family photographs its meals and writes down the steps before they eat.

my favorite new salad

Early Summer Vegetable Salad

This salad only appeared on our plates because we were trying to use up all the vegetables we had bought at the farmers' market a few days before. This time of year, we go a little crazy at the market: beans! peas! arugula! spinach! And then the crisper drawer in the refrigerator bulges with too much green.

The lovely Kim O'Donnel, who writes A Mighty Appetite for the Washington Post, has been hosting the Eat Down the Fridge challenge again this week. It's such a great idea. We're often too tempted by the allure of a new recipe, an idea for dinner that requires another trip to the store. It's a slippery slope around here — food is what we do. And then we are shocked, again, by how much we spend on groceries every month.

We're trying to save, just a bit, and appreciate what we have, instead of always yearning for a new ingredient. And what we have discovered lately shouldn't come as a surprise, since this happened when I had to cut out gluten. A little deprivation breeds creativity. Without the determination to use what we had, this salad would not have been born.

1 cup fava beans
1 cup English peas
1 cup green beans, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup snap peas, topped and tailed, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 ears corn, roasted and kernels cut off
sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh dill
zest 1 lemon

Blanching the beans. Set a pot of water, with a pinch of salt, to boil. Put a bowl of ice water in the sink. As the water is coming to a boil, shuck the fava beans. Snap the shell and extract the 3 or 4 beans per pod. Shell the English peas as well.

When the water has come to a boil, plop all the shucked fava beans and English peas into the pan and let them bob in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Immediately drain the pot of water and plunge the beans in the ice water. After a moment, take them out and let them chill in the refrigerator for a few moments.

Composing the salad. Combine the fava beans, English peas, green beans, snap peas, and corn. Season with the salt and pepper. Toss in the fresh dill. Stir. Zest the lemon over the salad. Stir.

Toss the salad with the dressing of your choice. We enjoyed this with the buttermilk ranch dressing we have been eating all spring. I think it might also be delightful with this creamy lemon chive dressing. A simple vinaigrette might do the trick, as long as you don't use a big-tasting vinegar like balsamic.

Feeds 4.

23 June 2009

Good Bite

For months I've been keeping a little secret, something I have been wanting to share. But we had to keep quiet, my fellow food bloggers and I. Until today.

I'm happy (and honored) to announce that I'm part of the new Good Bite team.

Good Bite is a new web-based video show, with a team full of food bloggers passionate about food who are willing to film themselves with small cameras and have their faces spread around the web. (Have you ever seen Momversation? This show is produced by the same team that makes that happen.) We're talking about food, in roundtable discussions and recipe explanations. As the tagline of the show says, it's about "...delicious made easy."

See, the thing is, whenever people who love food are put together in a room, we generally don't talk about baseball. Instead, we're comparing notes on cast-iron skillets, favorite pulled pork recipes, and the best place to buy strawberries in June. That's what this show is — people gathering together (in separate rooms, bound by video) to talk about their food passions.

Here's a preview of the contributors. And, if you're watching closely, you'll see me there, in the middle.

It's quite the crew. My goodness.

Matt Armendariz from Matt Bites
Elise Bauer from
Diane Cu and Todd Porter from
Jaden Hair from
Jeanne Kelley from
David Lebovitz from
Catherine McCord from
Deb Perelman from
Julie Van Rosendaal from

I'm honored to be among this group, people whose ideas on food are already important to me.

And I have to tell you this — I'm especially excited to be on the show as a gluten-free blogger. It would have been easy for the production company to dismiss my presence because I can't eat a certain food. Or because they believe I would only talk about sorghum flour and substitute muffin recipes. Nope. I'm just talking about great food. And I'm doing it for all of you, too.

Here's the first video I shot, with Elise and Julie, talking about lazy dinners. What food do you make when you're tired and in a hurry, but you still want to eat well?

If you go to the Good Bite website, you can see an LA chef, Aarti Sequeira, make my chickpea and wilted spinach dish for you. (I had to laugh that she put a piece of bread to the side of the chickpeas.)

That's one of the things I love about this project — it's a collaboration with people who really love food. It will be filled with videos and recipes from the bloggers, as well as links to great recipes from hundreds of food writers and bloggers across the internet. (Many of them will be gluten-free.)

Good Bite hopes to inspire people to step back into the kitchen and start cooking. And that is something I'm happy to be a part of any day.

22 June 2009


grilled corn

Saturday night, Danny was up late with a teething baby, walking the hallway and singing. So, of course, he put a head of fresh spring garlic into the oven. (like you do.) By the time she was ready to curl up to sleep again, the garlic had grown soft as stewed prunes. He put her down, then pulled the baking tray out of the oven and left it out to cool. When he crawled back into bed, I lifted my head and sniffed the sweet, pungent smell of roasted garlic.

And then went back to sleep.

In the morning, he kneaded the garlic into soft butter, squeezed a lemon, stirred a smattering of smoked paprika, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Into the refrigerator.

We spent the morning reminiscing, looking at the present I made for him — pictures from the last 11 months — while Little Bean bounced on the balls of her feet between us, reaching up to pat the window. We teared up, talking about this year, the most dramatic, laughter-filled, action-packed year of our lives.

A din of voices, laughing and clambering over each other, talking fast and telling stories. The entire family gathered at our house, to celebrate. At one point, my father sat on the rocking chair, his knees filled with grandchildren, his arms around them both. His smile could have lit the island.

As we ate, however, there was silence. Contented, chewing silence. Danny loves several sounds, deeply. The sound of Little Bean chattering in the morning. The startle of thunder rumbling over our house. And the silence people make when they eat his food.

We had a feast: a big bowl of coleslaw; potato salad with homemade mayonnaise and fresh dill; a green salad made with lettuce from my brother's garden; salmon on the grill, brushed with Danny's barbeque sauce (recipe in my book). But best of all, corn on the cob, with a bowl of the roasted garlic/smoked paprika butter on the side.

Little Bean smells the meals before us and demands to eat too. So I fed her first, of course. But while she ate, I kept thinking about that corn. The corn he had grilled in their husks, a few kernels tinged with black, the rest softened and waiting.

I remembered the corn on the cob I ate as a kid, around another table with my parents, the little plastic holders shaped like corn stabbed into the ends. Then, we ate corn on the cob with margarine and iodized salt. And I loved that corn. Craved it. Every summer.

By the time I finally had the chance to eat, I reached first for the cobs. The taste of the corn I imagined while I gazed at it on the table paled in comparison to the thing itself. How would you describe the taste of good corn on the cob? I find I can't quite do it today. Sweet. Entangled in the teeth. Robust. Ephemeral. They don't quite cut it, do they?

Somehow, that corn tasted like the perfect way to celebrate Father's Day, the first one for my husband and Little Bean's papa, the darling man who makes the food on his day because he insists, because that's his favorite way to celebrate — feeding the rest of us.

And you? What did you eat for Fathers' Day? And how are you going to eat corn this summer?

19 June 2009

silly for strawberries

strawberries for jam II

Some of you might remember that 1970s commercial for sugary cereal: "I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!"

That's how we feel right now. We're senseless for strawberries in June.

strawberries at the market

I miss strawberries all year long. A sweetness far deeper than sugar could ever dream. The red juice smeared on my lips. The little grit of small seeds in my teeth.

Oh sure, we could freeze them and retrieve the memory of them in January, when the world feels bleak. But we don't. We wait. Strawberries are June.

strawberries for jam

And we wait until we can buy pints smeared with strawberries that didn't make it in, some of the strawberries a little bruised from the picking, some of them with dirt still clinging — the strawberries from the farmers we know.

Sometimes, in April or May, the social occasion arrives that has us eating strawberries from California, the ones that come in big plastic packs, all the berries lined up perfect, not a dent in them. And inside, white like frost, the berries withered into themselves. All looks, no personality. (I'll let you make the analogy to the vapid celebrity of your choice, here.) No, thanks.

To quote my friend Matthew, ""I won't buy strawberries from California, not because I'm a dogmatic locavore but because strawberries from California suck."

(I've received so many comments by Californians who are offended that I have to clarify: of course strawberries in CA are wonderful. The ones they ship to us are terrible!I know that in a field outside Fresno, or on the table just off the garden in Thousand Oaks, strawberries taste mighty fine.)

I agree with him even more, now that we have strawberries in our backyard. Yesterday, late afternoon, Little Bean and I sat in the grass, picking tiny alpine strawberries off the vine, popping them into our mouths. Red smeared on our chins, dirt on our hands, and big grins between us.

This is our first summer with our daughter.

preparing strawberries for jam

Last week, my new friend Jeanne (and her darling daughter) came over, a giant canning pot in hand, along with half a flat of strawberries she had found at the farmers' market the day before. While her daughter arced back and forth on our tree swing outside, and Little Bean chattered from her bouncing chair, Jeanne and I made strawberry jam.

The mystery of lowering jars of food into boiling water and waiting was an enormous pleasure. (I went out and bought my own canning pot and utensils yesterday. There will be pickles on our shelves soon.) The jam in jars gleamed from the kitchen counter at the end of the day. I'm hooked.

But in a way, what I loved best was the companionable silence as Jeanne and I stood side by side and sliced strawberries, the sunlight grazing our fingers.

scones in the afternoon

A few days ago, our good friend Lara arrived at the house with a bag full of flours, buttermilk, fresh yeast, and a jug of canola oil. We were making doughnuts.

Lara's writing a doughnut cookbook, you see, to be published next fall by Sasquatch Books. She'll have master recipes for all the major doughnuts, as well as dozens of delicious variations on every one. And, she's going to include gluten-free doughnuts.

So we gathered to test recipes. Lara had already worked out a basic recipe. We tweaked it, with different fats, and variations in flours, and guar gum. She plopped the first doughnuts in the bubbling oil and we watched. Golden and holding their shape, these looked like doughnuts. The three of us huddled around the plate covered with a paper towel and waited for them to cool. I popped a piece in my mouth.

Light and lightly browned, slightly sweet....oh hell with the words. It was a doughnut. Just look at it.

I grew a little teary, actually. I don't miss gluten. Except, I had not eaten a doughnut I liked in over four years. All those sense memories came rushing back. Satisfying.

(I'm afraid I can't give the recipe, however. It will be in Lara's book. Worth the wait.)

We felt giddy.

Later in the afternoon, since all the flours were on the counter still, I pulled out some butter and made an adaptation of Alice's sweet cream scones. You know why? Because she slathered one with strawberry jam, and that was enough for me. (My picture is a tribute to hers.)

strawberry-rhubarb crisp

And if we're not eating strawberries right out of the pint container, or making them into jam, or slathering them into scones? We're making crisp. Danny wakes up in the morning and makes coffee, and then starts sifting flours for the latest incarnation of gluten-free crisp goodness. (There are a number of our favorite recipes here.) This one is a strawberry-rhubarb crisp, made from the last of the rhubarb in our garden.

That's how we like to eat strawberries when they are in season. All the time. In every combination. Until we are suffused with strawberries and our fingers are permanently stained.

That's how we like to eat every fruit in season. We wait until they arrive in the farmers' market, in anticipation, going without all year. And then we go from smitten to sated, within a few weeks.

I'm not tired of strawberries yet. But I'm almost there. After all, the raspberries are almost ripe...

strawberry-rhubarb lemonade


The other day, Danny made some simple syrup with the last of the rhubarb, and some strawberries we had sitting on the counter. When we tasted it, we both thought, "Lemonade."

Would you like some?

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 cups rhubarb, fine diced
1 pint strawberries, cleaned, tops removed, and rough chopped
1 sprig mint
8 lemons, juiced
2 quarts water

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil on medium heat. Add the rhubarb and strawberries at this point. Keep a pastry brush with a bit of water next to the pot and wet down the sides of the saucepan if the sugar creeps up. When the sugar has completely dissolved, turn the heat down to the lowest setting and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

Take the saucepan off the heat. Throw in the mint.

Allow the syrup to steep for 30 minutes.

Strain the syrup. Save the fruit. There might be enough flavor to repeat this process with more sugar and water.

When the syrup has cooled, juice all the lemons. Combine the syrup and lemon juice. Add the 2 quarts of water. Stir it up. Taste and adjust according to your ideal of lemonade.

Makes 2 quarts.

15 June 2009

the story of our breakfast

breakfast this morning

Skagit River Ranch bacon.

Whenever we go to the city for a farmers' market, we head straight for the Skagit River booth. Eiko comes from around the table, gives a cursory wave to us — sometimes not even that — and heads straight for Little Bean. She smiles and pokes dimples and claps her hands. So does Little Bean. We stand by, admiring, and then buy a pound of bacon from the other woman working the booth.

Yakima asparagus, snap peas, and Walla Walla sweet onions, picked two days before we ate them.

A retired couple on the island has begun their summer business again. They have connections with 20 farmers, in Yakima and Puyallup, with whom they talk each week. He drives to Yakima every Thursday to pick up bushels of produce, and she drives to Puyallup. They come home with cherries, strawberries, fresh garlic, and everything ripe that week. And then they set up a stand on the main intersection of town and sell it to the locals. Cash or check only, please.

Last Friday, after buying a pound of these snap peas, Danny sneaked a couple of snap peas from the produce section of the grocery store, so we could compare the taste. I expected them to taste flat on the tongue, nothing as vibrant as the ones picked more recently. Instead, they were so bloated with over-ripened sugars that I couldn't finish the entire snap pea. I never expected to be disgusted by the sweetness of a snap pea.

Olsen Family farms red bliss potatoes.

We love Brent Olsen's bushy beard, his shy smile, his weathered hands. And we love the potatoes he grows.

Eggs from Dana's chickens, ten minutes from our house.

My wonderful sister-in-law, Dana, has a brood of chickens full of personality. Dana feeds these chickens a complex, balanced diet. She's a talented veterinarian. She knows what she's doing. The chickens respond by producing enormous eggs with yolks orange as roasted butternut squash. Or maybe they're just mimicking the color of their carrot-orange chicken house, which has a painting of Ed Norton on the side. (That's my brother's work.)

We buy all our eggs from Dana now, to help pay for that feed. After starting to eat eggs from Dana's chickens, Little Bean refuses to eat the eggs we occasionally buy from the grocery store. It cracks us up — she purses her lips and turns her head away, after the first bite. We have to agree.

Danny in the kitchen, flipping eggs over easy.

When he was 20, Danny cooked breakfast in a family restaurant, with a bar full of colorful locals, in Breckenridge. This is where he learned to make eggs over easy. There's a muscle memory, a swirl, a kick back on the balls of his feet. I love watching him make those eggs. When he does, he watches the pan, closely. When the eggs flip easily, a glistening whole without a yolk breaking, he always says, "This is going to be a great day." It usually is.

About 11 am, the baby in her highchair, the two of us full of coffee, ready to eat.

We're ready. We take our first bite.

Yeah. This having to eat gluten-free really stinks, doesn't it?

What's the story of your breakfast?

p.s. I'm happy to announce that NPR's Morning Edition did a lovely piece on celiac yesterday, focusing on a family who has recently become gluten-free. You can listen to that story here.

A continuation of that coverage is in this On Health podcast, which contains an interview I did with Alison Aubrey, the health reporter for NPR.

(And if you want to hear a story about life doubling back, it turns out that Ms. Aubrey produced the NPR piece on celiac in 2005 that my friend Beverly heard on the radio, and then called me to tell about it. That piece is what led me to ask for a celiac test. Four years later, I'm doing an interview with that same reporter. Wow.)

12 June 2009

ceviche from down the road

salmon on the side of the road

On Fridays, we grow excited around here. Not because it's almost the weekend. Our concept of weekends as a couple has always been off the norm, since Saturday nights were one of the busiest days for Danny at the restaurant. I sort of miss that Friday afternoon feeling, when the school week finished and everything was shining with possibility. Now, Friday's just another day.

Except, on Friday mornings we wake up and say, "It's fish day."

We love living on this island. You've probably already gathered that. In fact, you're probably already tired of hearing us talk about it. This place we live? It isn't perfect. It's small and rural, rife with small-town rumors, lacking any really good restaurants or the entertainment we take for granted in cities. For us, that's a relief. We have found our home. That's what we love, more than the island itself — the sense that we have found the place we can call our own (along with another 10,000 residents). Both of us spent years searching. It's good to put our feet up and talk about what we will be doing ten years from now. Here.

And we both hope that when Little Bean is a teenager, and attending the same high school where I once taught American Studies, that we'll still be able to drive down the main highway and buy fish out of coolers from the family that caught them.

the fish shed

The Quall family has this plywood shack set up on the main highway, just south of town. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, you can see the signs on the road and pull over for salmon.

Mike and Thomas, father and son, are fishermen. I have a feeling that Mike — the older guy, with the long suspenders and lumbering walk — has been doing this all his life. They sit together there, talking, listening to the radio, waiting for customers. Mike sits in that folding lawn chair, just in front of the dangling sign that reads "Seafood Sold Here." When they run out of fish, he walks back to the house, through the yard littered with fishing net, and pulls out more halibut or scallops. Thomas taps his feet and greets each customer politely, when they tumble from their pickup trucks and fancy sedans. Everyone seems to know each other. After all, they've been doing this every summer weekend for years.

whole salmon

You might be thinking: "That sounds charming. It's certainly local. But how good is the fish?"


The salmon — in this case, a King salmon from the Washington coast — is firm-fleshed, pink as a hard blush, and so flush with taste when grilled that it's almost obscene. We bought scallops from the stand a few weeks ago. When Danny and I sat down to eat them, at the end of a long day that left us searing up dinner close to midnight, we nearly fell off our chairs. Those scallops were so fresh and sweet that they melted into something like scallop cotton candy in our mouths.

The only problem is that fish this fresh makes everything else taste sadly lacking. We're ruined from it.

Thomas cuts the salmon

When I was growing up, fish only meant fish sticks, filet o'fish, fish and chips, and frozen shrimp for shrimp cocktail. Not knowing anything else, I enjoyed them. Danny grew up in Colorado, so he had even fewer options in that land-locked state. Neither one of us appreciated seafood until we moved to Seattle.

I could not have imagined a young man pulling a side of salmon from a cooler, then slicing off a pound with practiced hands and a sharp knife. Thomas cuts precisely, with his fingers lined up like a ballerina's toes en pointe. (I'm sure he's never thought of it that way or even considers that he has graceful fingers.)

Watching anyone doing what he (or she) knows well fascinates me. It could be anything: iron welding, log rolling, or weeding the lettuce bed. There's an economy of movement, an absorbed focus, a dance that collapses everything around it into that moment. Watching Thomas cut fish feels like that to me.

smoked salmon

Eating seafood these days raises questions of sustainability, immediately. Should we avoid certain fish because of high mercury levels? I'm afraid of white canned tuna, although I still love it. Is "organic" fish better than non-organic? We don't really like organic fish, because the only way fish can be certified is if it's farmed. Did you know that farmed salmon has naturally gray flesh, and is only sold pink because it's fed chemicals with its feed to turn the color? However, some people insist that farmed seafood is more sustainable than trolling for the wild fish.

What the heck are we allowed to eat?

This week, Mark Bittman wrote a fascinating piece about this confusion of choices, in which he admits that he doesn't want to update his fish book from 1994, because "...the cooking remains unchanged, but the buying has become a logistical and ethical nightmare." He doesn't have any definitive answers, but he asks good questions. In a companion piece, five seafood experts weigh in on what we should be eating. I'm not sure there was much clarity for me after reading what they all suggest, since people disagree.

We sure don't have all the answers, or even most of them. I think that Nancy Leson framed this question much more clearly than I can in the piece she wrote for The Seattle Times this week.

However, the NY Times piece quotes Ray Hilborn, a professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington. In it, Hilborn writes: "On the West Coast, Alaskan salmon have been well-managed for the last 50 years and are at record levels of abundance; Pacific halibut and sable fish have long records of successful management."

That's what we buy: wild Alaskan salmon, halibut, black cod (another name for sablefish) and any seafood in season that the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch suggests is a good choice. We only eat salmon in the spring and summer, when it's in season. The rest of the time, we'll eat it smoked, occasionally (that's what you see in the photo above).

Thomas is heading up to Alaska on Sunday, to fish all summer long. He told us that on the days when the luck is running with them, they can sometimes catch up to 20,000 pounds of salmon in one day. That we get to buy this fish from the hands of the fishermen, out of coolers from the side of the road, makes us happy. We're not just buying fish. We're supporting a family who chose the same home we did.

How do you grapple with these questions of sustainability? What do those of you in the Midwest or other landlocked places do? Is seafood just not as much a part of your life? We'd really like to know.

halibut ceviche


As much as we love grilling salmon and halibut, sometimes we need a new taste. Last week, Danny made a ceviche we ate so quickly we couldn't take photographs. So the next week, we ate it again. We'll probably be eating it all summer.

Ceviche is the all-purpose word for any fresh fish marinated in citrus juices. There are a thousand variations. I'm fond of the Ecuadorian ceviche recipe in my book, because my friend Meri invented it. You could make up your own ceviche, based on the flavors in season. Amy Sherman has an interesting kona kampachi ceviche made with corn that could be amazing for the summer. Elise offers the skeleton of a recipe, with room for you to flesh it out. And if it were still kumquat season, I'd be making Bea's scallop and kumquat ceviche right now, instead of writing this to you.

So play around. Make this for the clean flavors, the little bite of jalapeno at the end, the cool softness of the avocado. Please use only the freshest halibut you can find, however. With this few ingredients in a dish, every one of them counts.

1 pound halibut, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup lime juice
juice and zest 1 lemon
1 small jalapeno, seeded and sliced
1 yellow pepper (red or orange are fine too), seeded and julienned
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cilantro, fine diced
1 avocado, sliced thin, for garnish

Cover the halibut pieces with the lime and lemon juices, the zest, jalapeno, and pepper. Make sure the juices cover the halibut. Let the ceviche sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, and then stir everything up, to ensure all the pieces are coated with the juices. Refrigerate for at least 1 to 2 more hours.

Do not let sit for more than 24 hours, or the acids will break down the texture of the fish.

When you are ready to eat the ceviche, season it with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish it with the cilantro and avocado.

08 June 2009

some gluten-free foods for you

gluten-free in West Seattle

Have you noticed it lately? Whenever we're walking, we spot the phrase, on packages and advertisements and even in the windows of bakeries: gluten-free.

How did we become the cool kids?

Gluten-free is everywhere. Well, not everywhere. Not in hospital cafeterias, airports, school lunchrooms, or places where we need something to eat and nothing exists for us. But still, it's a start. When I was diagnosed with celiac, four years ago, I had to drive around to several different stores to find what I needed to make a cookie recipe. These days, I have my pick of places I want to be.

Or, when I'm in West Seattle, I just go into the Great Harvest Bread Company.

I know. With a name like that, it has to be gluten, right? Except, this particular location of the bread company has gluten-free pizza crusts, breads, scones, hamburger buns, and cupcakes. And they're good.

After I took photographs, in astonishment, I asked the young woman behind the counter how this came to be. The owner and her daughter cannot eat gluten. So they have set out to conquer gluten-free baking, for the sake of everyone else.

Oh yeah.

Great Harvest Bread Co.
4709 California Ave. S.W.
Seattle, WA 98116
(206) 935-6882

gluten-free oats

The first year after I was diagnosed, I bemoaned the fact I could no longer eat oats. After years of eating steel-cut oats every day, I had to cut myself off. Strangely, I missed my morning bowl of oatmeal more than baguettes. I resigned myself to never eating them.

Again, how much things have changed.

Now, not only does Bob's Red Mill make gluten-free oats, but commercial baked goods made with oat flour and oat flakes are starting to show up on shelves around here. There are so many varieties of gluten-free oats available that we have our choice.

Lately, we've been enjoying Gluten-Free Oats around here. The oats taste great. The story is sweeter.

The son of the family who grows and manufactures these oats was diagnosed with celiac at the age of two. His parents didn't let him wheat, of course, but he ate the oats they grew in another field. Sometimes he grew sick. No one could figure out why. Later, when he was doing his Future Farmers of America project on no-bake cookies, he realized that oats are contaminated by growing in fields next to fields of wheat. (Those plants like to mix and mingle, apparently.) He searched for a source of oats he could eat. After finding one, he rolled the oats and packaged them himself, so that other local celiacs could eat oats. (Future farmer indeed!) This small endeavor grew into a family business, pushed forward further when his father was diagnosed with celiac too.

I met both father and son this weekend, at the GIG conference in Seattle, and they were utterly charming. And healthy.

Their oats are pretty darned tasty, too.

Gluten-Free Oats
578 Lane 9 • Powell, WY 82435
(307) 754-2058 • Fax (516) 723-0924

blackbird bakery

The FedEx man and UPS woman know the way to our house now. Nearly every day we find a package of gluten-free foods on our porch when we return home.

We're happy that so many small businesses are trying to make it by creating gluten-free baked goods. However, I can't tell you about all of them. Some of them are wretched — dry as dust, overly sweet, a wreck in a plastic package. So when good ones land in our laps, I'm happy to share.

The baked goods at Blackbird Bakery are lovely. So is the website. Karen Morgan, who began the bakery, is an artist with a husband who was trained in classic French cuisine. For years, before turning to commercial baking, Karen kept the website The Art of Gluten-Free Cooking. Now, her bakery in Austin is turning out beautiful baked goods.

We liked everything we tasted, including the scones and biscotti. But I particularly liked these millet power bars, in part because no other bakery seems to be making them. (Everyone sends us brownies.) A little like a rice krispie bar, without all that sweetness, and millet mixed in.

I'd like to keep some of these in the car for those in-between times, when there's nothing gluten-free to be found in public places.

Blackbird Bakery

"flour" tortillas

Like I said, everyone sends us brownies. (Here's a secret: it's really not that hard to make good gluten-free brownies.) They're all quite good, but they start to taste the same. When I open the latest box, I long for something new.

How about "flour" tortillas?

We love corn tortillas around here, particularly the ones we make by hand. And white wheat flour tortillas are a gringo invention anyway, right? But sense memory says that sometimes a quesadilla should be made with flour tortillas. These white tortillas are newly made by French Meadow Bakery in Minnesota. This organic bakery makes all kinds of glutenous goods, but their gluten-free production is certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization. Their chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and macaroons are quite good.

But these tortillas are something else.

Danny ate nearly all of them himself, making quesadillas, one after the other.

French Meadow Bakery
1000 Apollo Road
Eagan, MN 55121

p.s. Since I posted this, many of you have noted that the gf tortillas don't seem to be on the website. I can't find them either. Shoot! They sent them to me, and I tasted them at the GIG conference. Here's hoping someone from French Meadow reads this and rectifies that problem immediately!

Kinnikinnick hamburger buns

Skagit River Ranch ground beef burgers (a little trick: mix in one egg to firm up the burger), cheddar cheese, grilled Walla Walla sweet onion and caper relish. And Kinnikinnick Foods Gluten-Free hamburger buns.

Summer's here.

eat local II

One of our favorite places in Seattle is a tiny storefront next to a dry cleaners, on the top of Queen Anne hill.

Eat Local sources its ingredients from some of our favorite local farmers, ranchers, and producers. "Eat Local is an artisan food store offering prepared meals made with seasonal, organic ingredients bought directly from local farms." It sounds good, right?

Their meals taste even better than the ethos sounds. Eat Local uses traditional home cooking methods, rather than mass production, to create frozen meals anyone can enjoy. Have you ever had a pork and apple tagine in a tv dinner? Made with ingredients you recognize and nothing else?

I also love the fact that the meals are packaged with the environment in mind. Much of the food comes in glass dishes that you bring back to the store. It's like a neighbor made you dinner, and then you return the favor. It's a bonus that all the labels and illustrations for the store are created by Nikki McClure, one of my favorite artists, as well.

Not all the food at Eat Local is gluten-free, but much of it is. Greg Conner, the driving force behind Eat Local, has a good friend with celiac, and thus an interest in feeding people safely. (Businesses built on personal connections are always my favorite.) We've eaten their food quite a number of times now, always with great enjoyment, and safely for me.

The lavender creme caramel is particularly stunning.

Eat Local
2400 Queen Anne Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109

You can find each of these recommendations, and many more, over at Gluten-Free Girl Recommends.

04 June 2009

the best we can

ranch dressing
I once taught with a man named Paul Raymond.

Oh, Paul Raymond. Paul had survived the Korean War, the Civil Rights movement, the Kennedy assassination, the 60s, Tricky Dick, all the machinations of Vietnam, Ronald Reagan, and beyond. He taught the human stories that make up 20th-century history at the school in Seattle where I taught before leaving to write full-time. Actually, Paul helped to found the school, and he had been a powerful presence for decades.

Paul wore a different wildly hued silk shirt to school every day. One year, some students organized a Paul Raymond day, and half the students walking downstairs and lounging in hallways were wearing faded silk shirts that billowed out past their waists. (Some of them had bought shirts from Paul's voluminous collection, apparently.) They also showed up in khaki shorts, thick wool socks, and Teva sandals. Just like Paul did. Every day.

One of my favorite Paul Raymond memories was listening to him give an impassioned polemic on Herbert Hoover's failed economic policies. "He thought that he'd help Americans with food shortages by sending them broccoli seeds!" Paul bellowed. (Paul bellowed, in a friendly fashion. He had a booming voice, a capacious belly, and the moral authority instilled by dozens of years of teaching, and a lot of living before that. Besides, that was just Paul.) He stepped around the lectern, gingerly — his knees were shot; his diabetes forced him slower — to pause, for effect. He looked down at his feet.
A pair of chunky shoes rested just under the hem of his pants. This was November, after all. Time to retire the shorts until spring.
Paul looked up at everyone in the classroom, and with astonishment in his voice and mischief in his eyes, he shouted, "I'm wearing shoes!"
The entire class burst apart, a sharp clap of laughter in the lecture hall. I leaned forward in my giggling and nearly fell off the stool I was sitting on. We all took a moment to breathe.
That was Paul.

If you haven't already gathered this, Paul was a bit of a trickster. He loved to take the mickey out of anyone's pretensions. Even, sometimes, insecure 16-year-olds, some of whom left his office in tears a time or two. But they all came back to thank him later, for expecting so much from them. He had a glint in his eye when he talked, and he expected you to play back. (I think Paul liked me from the first conversation we had, in the back of a bus, going to a staff retreat. I bullshitted with him, back and forth, saying nothing, all sarcasm. He was on my side ever after.) Paul loved nothing so much as a good argument (in a civil fashion), even though he won most of the time.

Paul was a tremendous teacher. When reading student papers in my first year of teaching there, I made notes in the margins, asked questions, and generally wrote more on their papers than they had written themselves. In conferences, little clutches of students would perch on the couch in my office and listen to my advice. However, since it was already written on the page, I was merely rehashing thoughts from the night before. Good work, but not the relaxed action of being in the moment.

And then, when I sat in the office between conferences, marking up more papers, I started listening to Paul in the cubicle next door. He had the students read out their papers. He listened, leaned back in his chair, his hands folded on his belly. Every once in a while, he might ask a question or insert a statement, but mostly he listened. When the student finished, he wanted to know what the others had thought. And when they finished, he laid out his thoughts, in every complexity, about the thesis (or lack thereof), the research, the quality of thinking that shone through in the words. In 45 minutes, those students had a chance to really learn.

He never put a pen to any of their papers.

My first year there, I thought he was lazy. Certainly, he was allowed a pass — in his early 70s, teaching all his life. Why not? But the longer I listened, the more I realized: Paul had it right. It wasn't about me, my thoughts scribbled on the page in blue ink. What mattered is what the students learned from the process of writing those thesis statements on the Pacific Front of WWII or Nadine Gordimer's characterization of South Africans. And boy, did they learn.

So did I.

I could tell you about Paul Raymond all day, I am realizing. There are so many stories. Like the story he told some years about watching his best friend, a black man, die beside him in a trench in Korea. And then going back to America and watching other black men, home from the war, having to use separate drinking fountains from whites. (He only told it some years because it was too hard for him to tell it in others.) Or the stories of being a white man from Kansas in the depths of Mississippi during the late 50s, working for civil rights and having doors slammed in his face. Or how Paul took a week off of school every year to fly down to Georgia to protest the School of Americas, with nuns from El Salvador and peace activists from around the world.

Or how Paul sat down at his desk at school and wrote a postcard to his daughter in college every single day.

(I've started writing daily to Little Bean too, inspired by Paul, again.)

I can only imagine how she treasures those postcards now. Paul died in the spring of 2007, the year after I left the school.

The hole is enormous.


Of everything Paul Raymond taught me, what has stayed with me most is one sentence.

He began every year with it, chanted it to students when they grew nervous during tests, and became so famous for it that little slips of laminated paper with the sentence printed on them were passed out at his memorial service. (I still have mine.)

The sentence?

"Do the best you can in the time available to you."

Take a moment to chew on that.

I find it maddeningly easy to grow overwhelmed, with work, the clutter in the living room, and mostly my expectations of what a productive day should be. With an active (and now healthy) baby, a writing career, a husband I love, a new community, a garden that needs watering, friends' birthdays, laundry to be done, and 473 emails I probably should have answered already? I can go a little batty. Sometimes I feel lousy about myself as a person.

And cooking has changed, since Little Bean arrived. There are no longer hours to roast and sauté, to play with new ingredients and contemplate flavor pairings. Sometimes. But not every day. Last night, I intended to make charred leeks with romesco sauce, arugula salads with a black pepper-Parmesan vinaigrette, and a basil roasted chicken. But the baby bucked against sleeping, for three hours, with the wilting heat we're having, and she needed me to hold her in her terrible, mischievous exhaustion. I didn't step foot in the kitchen until she finally went to sleep, just as the darkness gathered outside. Ten minutes before Danny arrived home.

I grew frustrated. I had wanted those three hours to be different. But then I remembered: she was doing the best she could too. Do you remember being a kid and fighting sleep when it was still light outside and you wanted to play? And besides, she's here. That little smirk as she stood up in her crib was hard to resist.

Danny listened to me be frustrated. He held me. About 11 pm, he threw some Skagit River ground beef on the grill. I dumped some greens out of a bag and threw on some of our ranch dressing. The burgers were juicy, far tastier than I had remembered. And we told stories as we ate those salads, remembering again what it felt like to be a kid.

When life threatens to boil over, like a pot too full of water, I do three things. Tickle Little Bean and watch her giggle. Look down at my wrist at the yes in blue ink, to remind myself to say yes to this moment too. And I think of Paul Raymond, who led a full, imperfect life, and gave me this gift:

Do the best you can in the time available to you.

And when I remember that we are all doing this (even when we're scrambling), that we're all just trying our best (even the people who annoy me), everything in life tastes better.

I have a feeling we'll be saying this to Little Bean often, as she grows up. Do the best you can in the time available to you, sweetie. It's all we can do, after all.

Thank you, Paul Raymond. Again.

salad with ranch dressing

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, thanks to Cookiecrumb

For the past few years of playing with my food, I've had this feeling that I should be eating something more refined than ranch dressing. After all, bottled ranch is what I ate on iceberg lettuce salads as a kid. Surely I've grown past it?

Really, buttermilk ranch dressing made from scratch? What the heck was I thinking was wrong with that? We're a little bit obsessed with this at the moment.

It all started on Twitter (as so much does, these days). I mentioned something about ranch, and the inimitable Cookiecrumb sent me this:

"Mix equal parts yogurt, mayo and buttermilk. Add dried garlic, dill and oregano. Dried! To taste. Let it burgeon. Trust me."

Well, really, do you need the recipe? There it is.

Oh, all right. I'll write it out. But really, you know now. Easy. Takes five minutes. And with fresh buttermilk (as fresh as you can find it), homemade mayonnaise, and good full-fat yogurt, this is about the best salad dressing I've ever found.

But if, like us sometimes, you are doing the best you can in the time available to you, bottled Hidden Valley ranch dressing is gluten-free. And it's still pretty darned good.

1 cup buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
1 cup full-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon each dried dill, oregano, and garlic
juice 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon each kosher salt and cracked black pepper.

Mix everything together. Taste. The dressing might taste a bit more muted than you want, but beware of adding too much more seasoning. As Cookiecrumb said, let it burgeon.

Allow the dressing to sit for a day. Taste. Yeah, that's it.

Use in any fashion you wish.

Serves 8 to 10. Or fewer. Or more. Depending. (Really, it makes 3 cups.)

02 June 2009

The G-Free Diet and Babycakes

gfree babycakes

The G-Free Diet and BabyCakes — two massively popular books stirring controversy in the gluten-free community.

Come on over to Gluten-Free Girl Recommends to see more.