This Page

has been moved to new address

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

Sorry for inconvenience...

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
/* Primary layout */ body { margin: 0; padding: 0; border: 0; text-align: left; color: #554; background: #692 url( top center repeat-y; font: Trebuchet;serif } img { border: 0; display: block; } /* Wrapper */ #wrapper { margin: 0 auto; padding: 0; border: 0; width: 692px; text-align: seft; background: #fff url( top right repeat-y; font-size:80%; } /* Header */ #blog-header { color: #ffe; background: #8b2 url( bottom left repeat-x; margin: 0 auto; padding: 0 0 15px 0; border: 0; } #blog-header h1 { font-size: 24px; text-align: left; padding: 15px 20px 0 20px; margin: 0; background-image: url(; background-repeat: repeat-x; background-position: top left; } #blog-header p { font-size: 110%; text-align: left; padding: 3px 20px 10px 20px; margin: 0; line-height:140%; } /* Inner layout */ #content { padding: 0 20px; } #main { width: 400px; float: left; } #sidebar { width: 226px; float: right; } /* Bottom layout */ Blogroll Me! #footer { clear: left; margin: 0; padding: 0 20px; border: 0; text-align: left; border-top: 1px solid #f9f9f9; background-color: #fdfdfd; } #footer p { text-align: left; margin: 0; padding: 10px 0; font-size: x-small; background-color: transparent; color: #999; } /* Default links */ a:link, a:visited { font-weight : bold; text-decoration : none; color: #692; background: transparent; } a:hover { font-weight : bold; text-decoration : underline; color: #8b2; background: transparent; } a:active { font-weight : bold; text-decoration : none; color: #692; background: transparent; } /* Typography */ #main p, #sidebar p { line-height: 140%; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 1em; } .post-body { line-height: 140%; } h2, h3, h4, h5 { margin: 25px 0 0 0; padding: 0; } h2 { font-size: large; } { margin-top: 5px; font-size: medium; } ul { margin: 0 0 25px 0; } li { line-height: 160%; } #sidebar ul { padding-left: 10px; padding-top: 3px; } #sidebar ul li { list-style: disc url( inside; vertical-align: top; padding: 0; margin: 0; } dl.profile-datablock { margin: 3px 0 5px 0; } dl.profile-datablock dd { line-height: 140%; } .profile-img {display:inline;} .profile-img img { float:left; margin:0 10px 5px 0; border:4px solid #8b2; } #comments { border: 0; border-top: 1px dashed #eed; margin: 10px 0 0 0; padding: 0; } #comments h3 { margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: -10px; font-weight: normal; font-style: italic; text-transform: uppercase; letter-spacing: 1px; } #comments dl dt { font-weight: bold; font-style: italic; margin-top: 35px; padding: 1px 0 0 18px; background: transparent url( top left no-repeat; color: #998; } #comments dl dd { padding: 0; margin: 0; } .deleted-comment { font-style:italic; color:gray; } .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


30 July 2009

gluten-free cornbread

gluten-free cornbread (perfect, perfect)

I have been wanting for weeks to tell you about this cornbread.

Look at that golden crust. Don't you just want to admire it for awhile? Oh, you don't? You'd rather cut a slice and dive right in? Understandable. Be my guest.

I had this piece gathering in my mind, about the essential subjective quality of recipes. How you may love a dish, and I may want to spit it out. How, no matter how well written a recipe is, someone is going to say it stinks. How we all start from a different place, and so we are all reading a different book really, and how reviews are somewhat specious, therefore.

Yeah. It sounded that garbled in my head, too.

Really, what I wanted to tell you is that I hate Reggie Jackson. In the World Series of 1978, he thrust out his hip while he was running from 1st to 2nd base, to deflect the ball, and thus be safe. Cheater. This much-replayed incident started a chain of events that broke down my beloved Dodgers, who should have been the real victors of that series. This was the second year in a row that the Yankees beat the Dodgers, breaking my 12-year-old heart.

And so, I hate the Yankees. Sorry to lose you if you're a fan of the pinstripes. That's just the way it is.

Any association I have with the Yankees is going to be tainted. I'm never going to like them. Or the bleacher bums in right field who shout out obscenities as they slosh beer on their chests in their drunken quest to pump their fists and berate the right fielder playing beneath them. Even when he's from their own team. So if you asked me to read a book about the Yankees, no matter how well written or compelling a read it is, I'd probably not be able to recommend it to anyone else. Just because I'd be scrunching my lips while I read it.

The same is true for recipes.

Okay, here's the deal. I'm not making any sense. It's so damned hot here that my brain has clearly melted.

Yesterday, the temperature was 103°. That's right. 103°. The hottest day in Seattle recorded history. No one here is equipped for this. We don't have air conditioning. I rubbed so many ice cubes on my wrists and behind my ears that the ice maker stopped working. I wet my hair so many times during the day in an attempt to cool down that it is now ratted up like some archetypal image of a tough girl from the 50s. Only not that hip.

Yesterday, our friend Tita tried to make us feel cooler by telling us the story of how she and her husband drove across Death Valley in the middle of an afternoon when the temperature gauge read 134°. They had no cool drinks in the car, no air conditioner, and they were afraid to roll down the windows for fear that their faces would fry. Two hours in, she turned to her husband and said, "John, do you hear Beethoven's 5th Symphony?"
"Yes," he said. "For the past 20 minutes."
"John," she said. "We don't have a radio in this truck."

This didn't make me feel better. Instead, I have been humming Beethoven's 5th Symphony all morning.

Yesterday, at nearly the peak of heat, the power went out for much of the island. Kaput. Transformers blown because of the heat and lightning strikes. This meant no fans, no refrigerator, no relief from the heat pressing on our bodies. Poor Little Bean was freaked out by the sweat on her face. She had never sweated before. We held our cool as much as we could. There's one 4-foot spot on the front deck where a breeze the equivalent of an old man pursing his lips and blowing out sometimes shuddered across our feet. We stayed there.

When the fan started whirring its white noise again, we cheered. Power back on. Everything up and running. Except the internet. And I had to make the last changes to the first chunk of our manuscript and send it to our editor last night, before our trip. So a call to the cable company, to see what happened. When the guy on the phone (who was clearly in a cooler place) asked me to check the connection on the modem, I had to crawl under the table holding the computer. Not only did I find shriveled mosquito wasps and spider webs, but I had to pant to breathe. 112° down there, I'm sure. I stood up and had 1/2 cup of sweat on my face.

Have I mentioned that I hate this? Almost as much as the Yankees.

All is better now. The internet started working again. I made the last changes and pressed send at nearly 10. The baby did eventually fall asleep. Danny and I stayed up until midnight, packing our clothes and the baby's toys. The temperature inside the house was a much cooler 91°.

And now I'm up, at 5 am, trying to write this piece about cornbread, before we take off for Colorado today. Rocky mountain high, indeed — it's supposed to be only 70° in the mountains. We're leaving for a family wedding, a joyful reunion of all the Aherns. Much laughter will ensue. All will be well.

There's still much to do. Danny will be up soon, to help me finish cleaning the house, so that our friends who are staying here while we are gone don't have to find all those dead moths, the ones fried by the heat as well. But right now, it's only 75° in the house. Beethoven is fading.

We can't wait for a vacation.

Hm. I still didn't tell you about the cornbread. But I feel strangely better now.

gluten-free cornbread II

THE BEST GLUTEN-FREE CORNBREAD WE HAVE EATEN, adapted from The Better Homes and Garden Bread Book

My dear friend Tita is the wisest person I know. She's loving and generous, but she also has no time to waste. If something seems ridiculous to her, she wants nothing of it. (You should have seen her face when we were trying to explain molecular gastronomy to her.) She is a good cook, with no pretentions. So when she says, "This is the best recipe for cornbread I have ever made," I listened.

And she's right. This is fluffy cornbread, full of corn taste with just the tiniest gravitas because of the cornmeal. I love that it's adapted from a book Tita received as a birthday present in 1972. "Everything I have ever baked out of that book has worked." And gluten-free? With these flours, it's indistiguishable. It's just good. Tita had some at our house the other evening, and she loved it. Couldn't tell the difference.

Have at it.

1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup potato starch
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
¼ cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ cup shortening (not butter)
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup yellow cornmeal

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Combine the flours by sifting them into a large bowl. Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir.

Cut the shortening into the flours, the way you would when making a pie dough. You should end up with walnut-size pieces in a sandy flour. (Tita says that shortening, preferably lard, is essential here. Butter just won't do the same.)

Combine the eggs and milk in a small bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid. Stir with a rubber spatula until everything is combined.

Stir in the cornmeal, whisking fast, until it is just combined. Do not overstir.

Pour into a greased 9 by 9 by 2-inch pan. Slide it into the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sides of the cornbread are slightly shrinking from the pan and a toothpick comes out clean.

Feeds 8.

28 July 2009



"That's rosemary, for remembrance."

The past few days have been witheringly hot around here. Certainly, those of you in the Midwest can make fun of us when we wilt in 90° plus. But you know, we are used to cool marine air, morning mist, and blue-skied days in the 70s for most of July. When I step onto the back porch to take out the recycling in mid-day, and my feet start to fry like that mythical egg on the sidewalk, I'm shocked.

Plus, take 1 darling baby who fights sleep on cool days, and add 20° = no sleep for anyone.

We were a little cranky last evening, when the clock read 9:30 pm and the thermometer 84°. Danny was taking his turn trying to soothe a sweaty baby. I walked into the garden for the first time all day.

The promised garden of May has become dry grass and shriveling shoots. The lush plants of late spring are all still alive, but they are starting to sound faintly like The Wicked Witch of the West: "I'm melting. I'm melting!" Except, instead of melting, they are drying. No matter how much we stand patiently waiting with the hose running, some plants are waning. It hasn't rained here since May 19th.

This is just outside of Seattle I'm talking about, after all.

Last evening, I stepped into the garden and saw the rosemary. The rosemary is still thriving.

Rosemary smells like deep woods and the sharp sting of pine needles in the nose. It's pungent and tough, a tiny bit bitter, like a jaded fighter with his guard up. Rosemary tastes like grilled meats and polenta in the evening and lemonade with a kick. In summer, it's stronger than in the winter. All that sun seems to bring out its assertive nature.

We like chopped rosemary on roasted lamb, a light dusting of it on seared salmon, threads of it in a plate of roasted potatoes, and in a marinade with lime and lemon juice for zucchini on the grill. It brings out the full flavor of pumpkin soup, roasted duck breast, and a crusty loaf of gluten-free bread.

One whiff of rosemary reminded me of the scope of the year ahead.

The heat will pass. The baby will learn to sleep.

One smell of the rosemary in our garden on that unfocused, over-heated evening, and I was feeling strong again. I went back inside to help the baby let go.

summerfest badge

Today's post kicks off Summer Fest 2009. Danny and I are honored to be part of this four-week cross-blog event, co-created last year by Margaret Roach of A Way to Garden, Matt Armendariz of Mattbites, Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, and Todd and Diane of White on Rice Couple. This year, they've asked a couple of new folks to join in, including Simmer Till Done’s Marilyn Pollack Naron and Paige Smith Orloff of The Sister Project. Oh, and Danny and me.

And you.


* Tuesday, July 28: HERBS. Any and all.

* Tuesday, August 4: FRUITS FROM TREES

* Tuesday, August 11: BEANS-AND-GREENS WEEK

* Tuesday, August 18: TOMATO WEEK.


Leave a comment here, sharing your tips with rosemary. Or your favorite herb. We'd love to learn what you do.

And then go visit the other blogs, to read their ideas and leave comments with them. Soon, this will feel like a huge party, focused on rosemary. (And next week, we'll do the same with fruit.)

21 July 2009



This evening, we three sat on the couch, a bottle of milk thrown off to the side, a dozen board books at our feet. As much as Danny and I wished for Little Bean to fall asleep in that moment, we knew we were wasting our time in wishing. She sat on my lap, her eyes wide open, clapping her hands.

She claps all the time, this little one. When she wakes up in the morning, she opens her eyes, wobbles to a sitting position, and begins to clap, as soon as she sees the light.

Little Bean is huge joy, arms open wide to embrace the world. She's a character, full of kind and mischievous grins in equal portions. She loves to dance, wiggling her hips to Talking Heads and Caspar Babypants. She giggles under her breath as she walks from one end of the couch to the other, her grip lighter on the fabric every day. She eats fresh raspberries in the morning until her cheeks and lips are stained sweet red. At meals, she offers us bites of her biscuits and won't eat her dinner until we are both sitting down with her, paying attention to our food too. And she loves other people, staring up at each new person who enters the room with full attention, a big grin, and then outstretched arms.

She is our favorite person in the world.

And by the time you read this, she will be one year old.

papa and Lucy II

Oh Little Bean, you of the intent gaze and pert grin. How I wish I could write you a letter encapsulating this year. It's hopeless, of course. This has been such a roller coaster of a year, beginning with you not breathing easily, in the ICU the first terrifying week of your life, to major brain surgery at 9 months old and now these grace days of summer, you crawling on the grass as we work on the garden blooming around you. These long days of light and laughter, ease and the two of us finally shrugging all the fears of this year off our shoulders. This summer, we are breathing. And so are you.

This girl, she loves her papa. And as you can see from his expression in this photo, he adores her. I watch his face soften when she crawls vigorously into the kitchen, her hands slapping the wooden floor in her need to go faster toward him. I hear her banging a wooden spoon on her little wooden stove, in the room right behind him, as he stirs and simmers a sauce on the stove. He beams when she is near. He talks to her in silly voices as he changes her diaper, putting a book in her hands, which she holds above her, studying. And every other evening, he holds her close, and whispers in her ear, and waits until she curls up in his arms, finally asleep, before he looks up. There are tears in his eyes.

I thought I loved this man before. Before Little Bean, the time that feels almost surreal now. The love I feel for him now, as the father of our daughter, is more than I could ever say. He has been through all of this with me. We don't have to talk. We pick rattles and stuffed animals off the living room floor, bending down together, side by side, after she has fallen asleep. We haven't slept properly in months, and we still aren't fighting. We're laughing.

And talking about her.

Lucy with her hands in the air

This kid (because we really can't call her a baby anymore), she's a fighter. A survivor, man. She has been through the wringer, and she has come up grinning. Eating grass in the backyard just to taste it. Conducting small symphonies with her hands, or gripping the air in her excitement like she is holding onto a motorcycle, or waving hello to all the check-out people in the grocery store. Because she is here. And it's all so damned good.

She's not always happy, of course. We wouldn't want that. Who is? When it's time to go to bed, she fights. The kid does not like to go to sleep. She knows — she's missing too much. I remember that aching feeling when I was young, the feeling that parties happened when I lay in my bed alone at night. (If only she knew how boring we are in the evening, weary and leaning against each other, willing ourselves to make it up to Jon Stewart and most nights failing.) After her surgery, her sleep was ragged and imperfect, understandably. For weeks, we were up every hour, on the hour, all night long. Thankfully, that's over now. Now, she just squirms in our laps and tries to charm her way out of it by making funny faces at us.

(We still make her go to bed, though. After we laugh.)

Lucy, make the face!

This is the face she has been making for weeks now, not to show surprise or amazement, but just to make us laugh. The first morning she made this face, I nearly fell off the couch in spasms of laughing. Last week, we were out to brunch with our friends Lorna and Henry, and Lorna's parents. There wasn't much conversation at first, because Little Bean sat up in her highchair, looked down the table filled with black-eyed pea cakes, scrambled eggs, and frittatas, and made this face, over and over again. And then smiled wide, enjoying the way she had made us happy.

She makes sound effects and copies every phrase we say. She talks up a storm, in babbles and clear words. She makes signs to be let out of her highchair when it is covered in the last few bits of grated cheese and smears of pureed spinach. She eats and eats, grabbing food with her fists, one finger outstretched, smiling. (Except for the days she turns her head away, disdainfully, wondering why we want her to eat a slice of avocado, even though she inhales one nearly every other day. Those days, we know she's about to cut another tooth, and we brace ourselves for a long night.)

She eats up life, this one. She gobbles it all up.

Lucy contemplates

At the same time, Little Bean loves to sit quietly and contemplate. She's independent, not needing to be attached to our legs. Often, Danny will be in the kitchen, cooking away, and I'll be sitting at this computer, typing away, and to our left is Little Bean, sitting on the hardwood floor with a book in her hand. (This part of our house is one big open space, all of us in it together, and yet separate.) She loves books. She pulls books off of every shelf, grabs one, and plops down on the floor to turn its pages. Right now, her favorite seems to be Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, or The New Yorker Book of Humor Writing. Last week, Danny looked over and saw her staring at Plato's Republic. She's not reading, of course. She's staring, drinking it all in. Maybe she likes Penguin paperbacks as much as I do. Maybe she's just parroting our actions.

But I never imagined that a kid before one would be as excited by books, or have as much fun feeling the pages between her fingers, as this kid does.

She takes it all in. She's intensely curious, wide-eyed, unblinking. She is so interested in people, and the world, that she doesn't slump on my lap, playing with her toes, as the world goes by. She watches it all.

I wish I knew what was in her mind.

I love seeing the world again, anew, present and alive, through her eyes.

mama kisses Lucy

She is, without a doubt, the biggest yes of my life.

"...but now here's this tiny baby
and they say she looks just like me
and she is smiling at me
with that present/infant glee
and i would defend
to the ends of the earth
her perfect right to be"

— Ani DiFranco, "Present/Infant

Obviously, we dig our kid. She's cool.

But she's not singular. There are so many babies, alive and kind, making funny faces at their parents, staring at books and loving the taste of food. She has brought this to us: the palpable sense that we are not alone.

"Sometimes, I look at her and love her so much that I feel like my heart is going to explode," Danny said to me the other day. I feel the same. However, instead of this feeling allowing us to narrow down t0 only us three, we feel more connected to the world, and more humble, after she arrived. Loving her as we do, we think of our parents, and their parents, and the parents of our friends, and our friends who have kids, and the parents we see on television who can't afford good food for their kids, and the parent that Little Bean might someday be. She is one of millions, spectacular to us, certainly loved, and among friends.

And we want her always to know that she is not alone in this. We want her to love humanity.

papa and Lucy

So go ahead, Little Bean. Keep leaning into life, knowing you are safe in our embrace. Lean forward with that grin of yours, those wide-open eyes. Try to drink it all in. Clap and make faces. Contemplate. Be awake. Be silly. Feed the people you love. And know that you are not alone.

Happy Birthday, Lucy Marie Ahern, our Little Bean. You are one year old.

You have given us the best year of our lives. Here's to many, many more. Please.

These incredible photographs were taken by our friend, Clare Barboza. She's magic with kids, to be sure, and Little Bean loves her. But where she really shines is with food photography. Go on over to to see her work. We would love to have any of her food photographs hanging in our kitchen, for Little Bean to see as she stands beside us to cook. We're sure you will too.

20 July 2009

shrimp recipes at Good Bite

Hey everyone!

We've been a little silent around here, I know. Thank you to those who have written, asking about us. All is well. We're just in the midst of a storm of recipe testing. Over 150 people, some of whom might be reading this right now, have been testing the recipes for our cookbook. And so far, I'm reading a lot of happy reports.

(Check out this post at Scrumptious Seattle, where Voracious Girl used our pie crust recipe to make a cherry pie that her gluten friends adored.)

However, when I say a lot of happy reports, I do mean a lot. A plethora. A mountain of emails under which I feel buried.

So we had to focus on what is going to print soon, instead of giving you the cornbread recipe I had planned.

(But it will be worth the wait, I believe.)

However, tomorrow there will be a special, one-time supplementary post, just for the day at hand. And there's cornbread on Thursday.

For now, check out the latest video from Good Bite. Jaden from Steamy Kitchen, Catherine from Weelicious, and I are talking about shrimp.

And here is the how-to video for making that shrimp cocktail sauce, made by David Lawrence of Forking Delicious (you have to love that).

It's perfect weather for making shrimp cocktail. I defy you to resist after seeing this.

09 July 2009

how to make gravlax (a video)

It's salmon season around here. Wild Alaskan sockeye rests on beds of ice at the grocery store. We've been searing and grilling, making breakfast with leftovers. This time of year, we eat as much salmon as possible.

Once it's out of season, we won't be eating it again until next year.

If, by some chance, you have grown tired of barbequed salmon or king salmon with crispy skin, you might want to try your hand at gravlax.

We've been eating this gleaming home-cured salmon for weeks. And then it occurred to us: it has been a long time since we did a video for you.

And so, may I present to you:

The Chef Shows You How to Make Gravlax.

p.s. We've had so many requests lately for us to come to different parts of the country and teach. Sadly, with a baby, and book deadlines, that's not going to happen for awhile. But we've been thinking about offering online cooking classes, based on the concept of these videos. What do you think? Would you be interested in taking some, for a small fee?

However, if you live anywhere near Seattle, we'd love to see you this Sunday at Diane's Market Kitchen for a class called Say Yes to Gluten-Free. In talking about the abundance possible in living gluten-free, we'll also be teaching you how to make shaved fennel/Rainier cherry/radish salad, a pasta with prosciutto, fava beans, and English peas, and raspberry tarts. (Did you see the pictures of the pie crusts we have been making lately?) We'd love to see you there.

p.p.s. Speaking of pie, our friend Lorna did a beautiful job of evoking the magic afternoon and evening we shared together on Monday, with our friends Jon Rowley and Kate McDermott. It's hard to convey what a joy it was to pick cherries from our tree, raspberries from the vine, and make pies together. So I'll let Lorna show you. Look at the photos. We want you to know: great gluten-free pie is possible.

02 July 2009

I made pickles.

I made pickles

There's something satisfying about a kitchen project.

Instead of racing to the next place we have to be, or sitting hunched at the computer completing another assignment, or trying to figure out what to have for dinner in ten minutes, a big project forces us to slow down. Focus. Be there.

All that work can be a sweet release.

I especially like when a kitchen project produces pickles at the end of it.

cucumbers for pickling

I've always loved pickles. A few weeks ago, I waxed lyrical about why I love them. Read that, if you haven't. Today, I want to talk about the pickles themselves.

We bought these cucumbers from the older couple on the island who run a farm stand in the middle of town. Every week, they bring in fresh produce from Yakima (the other side of the mountain from here), where the sun scorches sooner than it does in western Washington. And so, pickling cucumbers sat in a cardboard box on the sidewalk in the middle of June. When I spied their bumpy lovely selves, I had to buy some.

Time to make pickles.

peppercorns, coriander, and mustard seeds

You see, I had never made pickles, at least not by myself. We made some for our family day-before-the-wedding party, but Danny really did it. I helped by pouring vinegar into the mix. And standing in awe of it, taking pictures. Without this, we wouldn't have a website.

But sometimes, it's too easy for me to defer to Danny on this, to let him do all the cooking, especially after Little Bean arrived. When it comes to big projects, he's five times as fast and he needs to do this. Working with food, inventing something new, is like breathing to him, like writing for me. But if I let him do all the cooking, I miss it: standing in the kitchen, humming under my breath, the dishwasher chugging along, music playing in the back. I miss that focused place of being, the moments beneath my hands.

So we split the cooking around here now. Imperfect as my meals can be, they make Danny happy. A couple of weeks ago, I wanted to make pickles, without him. Danny was gone for the day and the baby was in her bouncy chair in the doorway behind me, so I started toasting spices for the pickling spice.

pickling spice

You probably have your own recipe for pickling spice. Each of us has a different taste. So I'm not going to tell you that this is the only recipe you should use.

I just think that its mix of warmth and heat, slight sweetness and puckery flavors mean that it's the only recipe for this house, right now.

(I love that this jar once held our friend Nina's superb blackberry jam, then became a water glass, and then held chicken stock — chix is Danny's shortcut for chicken stock — and now holds pickling spice. I don't know what it will be next.)

cucumbers waiting in the light

Slowing down means I see more. That's probably part of the reason I like cooking, as well as taking photographs, and writing. Just after I had stuffed the cucumber slices in the jars, the sun flitted out from behind the clouds. While the light darted back and forth between flat grey and illumined, I stood there, waiting. And then I took this shot.

pickling station

Little Bean giggled when I tickled her under her chin. With a board book propped up in front of her, she was engrossed. This gave me time to survey the scene and really begin.

There was something so satisfying about being systematic here. Dill on the bottom of the jars, cucumbers stuffed in, picking spice sprinkled, more dill on top. I was building pickles.

I felt like dancing.

That light helped.

stuff in jars

I like any recipe that requires you to stuff food into jars, pell mell, without worrying if it looks pretty.

time to put the lids on

With the brine poured in, the cucumber slices looked even more green. (I always think of Kermit.) All I had to do was put the lids on loosely, slide the jars to a dark corner of the kitchen, and wait.

Oh, the waiting. It's the waiting that makes the pickles.

And yesterday, we ate the pickles for the first time. A crunch, a crisp layer, a bit of heat from the red pepper flakes, a sour fermented taste that works great in pickles (but not so much in milk). They tasted like thin slivers of the pickles I used to suck on when I was a kid at Disneyland.


I'm so happy I made pickles. After we've eaten these, I'm going to put up quarts of them this summer, to be able to crunch down on them all winter long.

I know, of course, that people have been making pickles for generations. But I like how so many of us are starting to learn these old traditions, of pickling, preserving, and canning.

Are you starting to grow food for yourself? Have you pickled anything for the first time? Made jam? I'd love to know what your latest kitchen project is.

and the pickles are done

Dill Pickles, adapted from David Lebovitz, who adapted them from Arthur Schwartz

Pickling is a community event, even though I was standing in the kitchen with only a baby to keep me company when I made these. Reading this question and answer with Eugenia Bone started me thinking about pickling and preserving in earnest. Visiting Food in Jars almost obsessively, looking for new ideas, compelled me to stop talking and start chopping. (And Marisa just linked to this piece on preserving cherries that has me thinking about the weekend.) Then I ordered The Joy of Pickling and Well-Preserved and The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving from the library. I could pickle and preserve all summer and still not be done.

For this pickle recipe, I studied Tea's recipe for refrigerator pickles and the beautiful narrative recipe that Margaret Roach transcribed from a railway conductor and organic gardener from Long Island. They both called to me, of course. But in the end, I went with a recipe that David Lebovitz adapted from Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited. Mostly because I trust David. And also, this recipe doesn't require vinegar. Danny grows persnickety about the way food looks. Adding vinegar can make green foods a little grey. And so, here it is, only slightly adapted. But that's what we do, right? Pass foods from one to the other.

Have a pickle.

8 pint jars with lids
4 quarts water
6 tablespoons kosher or pickling salt
8 cloves fresh spring garlic, peeled (you can also use storage garlic)
2 tablespoons pickling spice (see above)
8 fresh bay leaves (or dried if you don't have fresh)
1 large bunch fresh dill

Run the jars and lids through the dishwasher to sterilize them. Or, you can put them in a 250° oven and keep them warm until you are ready to work with them.

Slice the cucumbers into the size of pickle spears you want.

Heat 1 quart of the water with the salt. When the salt has dissolved, add the remaining water. Bring to a simmer and then turn off the heat.

Put a generous clump of dill on the bottom of each of the jars. Stuff the jars with cucumbers, tightly. (Don't stuff them so high that the tops will stick up above the brine when you are done.)

Divide the garlic cloves, pickling spices, and remaining dill into the jars.

Pour the salted water (brine) into the jars so the cucumbers are completely covered. Put the lids on loosely. (Or, you can use cheesecloth and rubber bands.) Shove the jars into a dark part of the kitchen and wait.

You can check the fermenting pickles three days after you make the pickles. Taste. Want them more sour and fermented? Wait. We liked our pickles after six days of fermenting.

Like your pickles? Screw the lids on tightly and put the pickles into the refrigerator. Eat to your delight. You should probably eat them all within the month. You will.

Yields 8 pints of dill pickles.