a slice of autumn light in the encroaching winter darkness


late autumn scene, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

Yesterday afternoon, the sunlight broke through the clouds.

After days of being in the house, I had to go outside. Oh, I had been to the island on Saturday, and spent the afternoon with the nephew, which buoyed my spirits enormously. (Especially when we were playing the sniffing game, and he insisted on taking each nutmeg out of the bottle, holding the weight of it in his hands, hefting it, then smelling it, before setting it aside to examine the next one. He’ll be a cook someday.) And a wonderful dinner with my friends Tita and John, in honor of Meri’s birthday. Lovely braised chicken, peppers, and rice. There was a funny moment when Tita unveiled the lovingly prepared carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for Meri. Feeling bad for me, Tita had set some frosting aside and plopped a bowl of white frosting at my placemat. This is the gluten-free girl’s dessert. But no matter how wonderful the day, I was exhausted. All Sunday morning, I lay on the couch, nursing the bad ankle, wishing for more sleep.

But then the sun broke through, and I could no longer lie down. It’s becoming winter around here, without a doubt. In fact, it turned winter a couple of weeks ago, when I stood on 3rd Avenue. After relatively warm days, the weather whirled into ferocity in a moment. The wind whipped down the street, suddenly. The rain slashed down. And I looked in the bleak grey sky above me and saw clutches of cluttering, clattering black birds, scattering in a dozen different directions, scurrying from the wind. At that moment, I knew it was winter now. No longer autumn.

I have the heater on almost every evening now. And it’s dark by 5:30. Or tonight, by 5:15. Golden light, that gorgeous heartbreaking light just before the sun sets, and enflames all the building in burnished reds and golds, was at 4:10 today. Oh my. Here comes the darkness.

But yesterday, early afternoon, I had to see the light. After all that darkness, the clear, liquid light of winter called to me. Even though I can’t walk far, walk I did. And then I saw this slash of light, on the last, upturned autumn leaves, darkness encroaching on both sides. I had to take a photograph, as a way of really looking at it. And here it is, a visual representation of the season.

It’s winter. We want to hibernate. Did you know that your body starts producing melatonin as soon as the natural light fades outside? And that melatonin is what sends your body the signal that it’s time to sleep? No wonder we’re all so sleepy in these crisp, winter months. And if we can’t go to bed at 5:30, then we can listen to another call. Homecooked meals. Simple. Nourishing. Starchy. Sweet. And in this case, gluten-free.

So here’s this week’s roundup of the best gluten-free recipes on the web this week:

When the weather turns cold, my stomach cries out for soup. I made one yesterday that I’m going to reveal to you tomorrow. But in the meantime, I’m looking forward to making these:

°POTATO LEEK SOUP. The lovely SoCal Foodie made a potato leek soup the other day that made me buy a dozen Yukon Gold potatoes in preparation. There are, of course, dozens of variations on this theme, but her version caught my eye, especially because she was brave enough to make it in the Southern California sun!

°MUSHROOM-THYME SOUP

Lyn of Lex Culinaria has been gallivanting around on her vacation, relaxing in British Columbia and taking in the Salt Springs spa. But she returned to her blog in time to make this beauty. Simple and gorgeous. I have to make it soon.

°SOCCA

With all this soup, we’re going to need something to sop it up. The lovely Stef at Da Xiang (with some help from Santos at The Scent of Green Bananas) recommends we try the Italian snack, Socca. I’ve never eaten it before, but since it’s made with chickpea flour, I will soon.

With all these lovely cream soups and starches, we should probably try some fruits and vegetables next.

°PERSIMMON-POMEGRANATE SALAD
Over at Eggbeater, the indubitable Shuna guides us to her latest write-up for KQED, featuring persimmons. Have you ever eaten persimmons? If not, seek them out. They are a singular experience. Shuna suggests persimmons and pomegranate seeds. Take a look at that vibrant photo, and you’ll want to make some too. (And maybe a bit of the persimmon pudding, as well.) And by the way, Shuna is selling Eggbeater shirts! I’m buying one. So should you.

°STANDING SPINACH DIP

Alanna at A Veggie Venture set herself quite the task this year. She decided to make a new vegetable dish every day of the year. My goodness, this woman is dedicated! On November 5th, she made a lush, verdant spinach dip to go with cut-up veggies. Not only is the photograph lovely, but the dip also includes smoked Spanish paprika, my new favorite condiment.

°GARLICKY BRAISED CAULIFLOWER WITH CAPERS

One of my favorite new blog discoveries is Wednesday Chef. Luisa takes on the food sections of the New York Times and LA Times, which are published on Wednesdays, and actually makes the recipes for us, so we know which ones to make. Her photographs are stunning, and the recipes all look stalwart. Since I’ve recently discovered the joys of roasted cauliflower, I’m especially eager to try this recipe she featured. Good job, Luisa.

°DULCE DE LECHE

With all these healthy foods, we have to indulge in a few decadences. I know I featured David Lebovitz’s blog last week, but I have to point you toward it again. This week, he showed us how to make homemade dulce de leche. I swear, the top photograph, with the creamy brown goodness about to spill out of the glass, was enough to stop me in my tracks today. If I could drive, I’d be headed to the store right now to buy condensed milk. (Maybe it’s a good think I hurt my ankle. I’d probably eat the entire batch in one sitting.)

GLUTEN-FREE PUMPKIN CUPCAKES

And finally, I’m thrilled to guide you toward Elise’s delectable gluten-free pumpkin cupcakes. I’m honored that Elise featured me in her write-up (thanks, Elise), but that’s not the reason I’m pointing this out. Elise knows how to celebrate with food, even though she had to avoid gluten for ten years. Her website is an encylopediac compendium of nearly every type of recipe you could need. And these cupcakes look divine! (Amy, if you’re reading, I’m going to make them for you soon.)

Okay, that should give you all plenty to cook this week. It’s officially dark outside now. I must turn to the kitchen.

9 comments on “a slice of autumn light in the encroaching winter darkness

  1. shuna fish lydon

    thank you thank you thank you!! How wondrous to be on your site, especially under that perfect photo. It is the “hot white” light of winter, as the photographers say.

    And I love that you seek out who’s making these sort of desserts. It’s like a great game where everyone gets to be ‘it’!

  2. Luisa

    Shauna — thank you so much for the very kind words and the sweet mention! It totally made my day. I hope the cauliflower tides you over for a bit while your ankle heals.

  3. Dawn

    Shauna thanks for the recognition. I can’t wait to hear what you think of this soup. I am happy to hear that you have people around to entertain you. There is something so sweet and simple about a child exploring something new.

  4. lisaSD

    Shauna–I totally understand about winter and the light. Every afternoon I go out and sit and try to soak in some sunshine and grieve as it sets. And I’m in San Diego! Imagine what I’d be like somewhere cloudy!

  5. michelle

    A perfect picture and a perfect description of how the days are progressing. It’s definitely winter here too…chilly wind cutting sharply through the trees and corridors on the walk to school, darkness encroaching even before I leave work everyday, and lots and lots of rain. Thanks for another fabulous round-up. I’m glad you’ve finally got your diagnosis for your ankle (ouch!)…I’m sending you lots and lots of get well wishes all the time!

  6. Shauna

    Travis–

    What a cool photograph. I’ve never seen it before. I want a copy of that on my wall!

    Shuna–

    So good to see you here. Of course I was happy to feature your blog. I can’t wait for my Eggbeater t-shirt!

    Luisa–

    I’m so happy I made your day. You certainly make mine with your site.

    socalfoodie–

    I know. I feel like I’m learning everything anew by being around Elliott. And now he’s learning how to tell jokes!

    Lisasd–

    Every year I mourn the fading light. But I also sort of like the gloomy grey. It’s like our bodies know it’s winter, and we have no other choice but to dive in. It’s just the transition that’s hard! And by the way, welcome to the food blogging world.

    Michelle–

    Thanks so much your good wishes, my dear. I can feel them all the way from Eugene. And that’s a beautiful description of the light fading, the sharp shadows. I love your writing, my dear.

    Anonymous–

    I’m so glad I can make you hungry! Now, who are you?

  7. Alanna

    Hi Shauna — Thanks for featuring the “standing veggies” for your readers, it’s such a simple presentation, very do-able! Must say, too, that reading your blog has sensitized me to how challenging it is to cook when so many things are off limits. Thanks for sharing the odyssey … I’m sure your site is a real resource for those who’re similarly (and especially) newly challenged. Thanks again! AK