trying to be inspired in the middle of winter

lemon curd tart II

Everywhere I have been outside in the past two days, people have been shivering and shrugging. The man who opened the car in front of the restaurant made a guttural noise, and then said, “It’s cold.”
I laughed and said, “It’s January.”
“True,” he said, and then drove away.

It really isn’t that cold, folks. It’s in the upper 30s, and it’s spitting cold rain. But we usually enjoy much milder winters around here. However, this really is not that cold. Every morning, the Chef reads me the low temperatures of every place we have been in the past two years. Everywhere but Rome and Los Angeles is colder than Seattle. Poor Gunnison, Colorado (several of the Chef’s nieces and nephews went to college there). It consistently ranks as the record low in the country that day. In terms of winter, we’re pretty lucky in Seattle.

It’s not the cold that leaves me shrugging. Instead, it’s just that….it’s still winter.

Oh, winter. Why do you last so much longer than any other season? Spring flashes upon us and turns to summer in a moment. Summer seems to pass in the time it takes to sneeze. Autumn fades a bit more slowly, but look up and all the trees are suddenly bare. But winter? Oh winter. You stick around forever.

For the first couple of months, I enjoy winter. The crisp air. The decadent pleasure of slipping on a sweater for the first time that year. The roar of the heater beneath my feet. But let’s face it — winter slips into us far earlier than it says on the calendar. Since early November, it has been grey and sodden and silent around here. And there are still two more months to go.

I like the silence. It reminds me to slow down. Summer rushes through me and I just want to move. We probably need to hibernate, hunker down, and hum at a lower tone. I love being inside, and winter compels me to stay in and make my home.

Still, there’s one part of winter that frustrates me no end.

It’s harder and harder to be inspired by food.

Oh, we still eat well. Two nights ago, for dinner, we ate pork chops roasted with apples, sage, and Taleggio cheese. Last night brought black cod and mashed potatoes, with a tamari-butter sauce and some of Brandon’s pickled sunchokes. We don’t eat leftovers (the Chef isn’t fond of them). Every day brings something delicious.

But in every other season, I bubble with ideas of foods. One walk around the farmers’ market in summer, and I scrawl pages in my food notebook with meals to create.

Last week, we went to the farmers’ market, as we do every Saturday, and the Chef and I were both sad to see only seven stands, huddled together, in that nearly empty parking lot. Even the potato guy had gone home.

There just isn’t much this time of the year.

Alfred Portale refers to spring as the true start of the year. It’s when the world returns to full bloom. Maybe that’s why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. People are trying for fresh starts in the deadest part of the year.

But there is still so much aliveness. I just have to look harder to find it.

OM in watery winter light

This morning, it rained all morning, an unceasing patter of splattering drops in already overfull puddles. The morning felt long, the sky loomed low. When I left the bed to get the Chef another cup of coffee, I turned idly toward the front door. A sudden burst of sunlight shattered through the rain. And this watery light, bouncing off the puddles on the side porch, illuminated the OM sign above the door. The light stopped me. I grabbed the camera.

I hadn’t taken any photographs in days. Today, I took them everywhere I went.

Beauty hides in bare trees and bowls of guacamole. The world doesn’t have to be lush to deserve our attention.

Later in the morning, I went to wash the dishes. Another flash of sunlight shone through the window and landed on my skin. Suddenly, I felt warm. For a moment, it felt like spring in the small of my back. I stayed in the kitchen for awhile, stirring scrambled eggs more slowly than I had in weeks.

And in the quiet cold season, there is more time for perusing cookbooks. Lately, after breakfast, I’ve been sitting on the couch, my feet propped up on the coffee table, reading Jamie Oliver’s How to Cook. (That’s where the pork chops with sage and apples arrived.) The Chef checks his email, and looks over and smiles at me when I shout out a new idea, like warmed olives with lemon zest and garlic from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food. The words becomes dinner in a matter of hours.

During the summer, I don’t adapt that many recipes. They simply appear beneath my hands from the bounty of long sunny days.

In the winter, I go back to the craftings of people who know much more than me. I have so much to learn.

It’s good to be humbled by winter. To remind myself to try harder, to dig beneath the surface of puddles to find the earth again.


Announcements

* This weekend, I will be in Los Angeles. It’s just me, this time. The Chef has to stay here, to keep the restaurant running. Oh, I’ll miss him, but Sharon will be happy. We haven’t had a girls’ weekend alone since the long days ago when I didn’t know the Chef.

I’d love to meet you, if you want to come out for gluten-free food and community.

Sunday, February 3rd, 1 to 3

The Sensitive Baker
10836 1/2 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
(310)815‑1800

Eugenie and the good folks who run this lovely bakery will be providing gluten-free brownies for everyone who wants to come along. Okay, okay, it’s during the Super Bowl, but surely there must be plenty of you who want to avoid that spectacle. We’ll be laughing and eating, and I’ll be giving a reading. I hope to see you there.

Monday, February 4th, 12 to 2

Whole Foods on Fairfax
6350 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.964.6800

Here, I’ll be giving a talk about gluten-free living, a love affair with food, and how to eat well (even during winter). Books will be for sale, and I’ll be signing them. There will be fresh chocolate banana bread for everyone who makes it. Stop by during your lunch hour and be part of the community.

I hope to meet so many of you this weekend that my face will hurt from smiling.

* The Chef, god bless him, continues to be inspired by food, in spite of the dearth of fresh produce in the winter. On Valentine’s Day, he’s serving a special menu, one he worked on for weeks. He wanted to make it celebratory and seasonal at the same time.

And of course, everything will be gluten-free.

Impromptu Bistro
Valentine’s Day Menu 2008

First Course

Mache Salad
hazelnuts, blue cheese, & raspberry vinaigrette

Shrimp Bisque
salmon roe caviar

Seared Foie Gras
toast points, blood oranges, & Port wine

Second Course

Lobster Risotto
saffron & endive

Third Course

Pan-Roasted Beef Medallions
mashed celeriac, fried oysters & baby carrots

Pan-Seared Colorado Lamb Chops
baby artichokes, white beans, & warmed olives

Vegetarian Platter
winter root vegetable risotto, roasted potatoes, & creamed spinach

Pan-Seared Prosciutto-Wrapped Sea Scallops
Napa cabbage, heirloom navel oranges, & wild rice

Dessert

Blood Orange Cake

with Chantilly cream

Chocolate Mousse

with Grand Marnier

Ice cream or sorbet

Cheese platter

If you live in Seattle, and you want to come in, I’d make a reservation right away. (206.860.1569)

* I find this hard to believe, but ostensibly Martha Stewart is letting the people decide what her next big project should be. Several of her top enployees pitched ideas, and she couldn’t decide. So it’s open to the public fray.

One of the top seven ideas is a magazine for people with food allergies. This would, of course, be the most mainstream, consistent coverage seen so far of those of us who have to avoid certain foods. (And clearly, we are gaining strength.) I wouldn’t have thought I would suggest that people visit Martha Stewart’s blog, but if you go and vote, perhaps we can beat out the other top contender: a magazine devoted to crafts for your pet.

Please, people. Go vote by clicking here.

lemon curd tart

Gluten-Free Lemon Tart with Bittersweet Chocolate, adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques

One of the ways the Chef and I both are inspired most wildly is by eating at other great restaurants. We can’t do this often enough because of the budget — he’s a chef; I’m a freelance writer. But when we go to Crush, or one of Tom Douglas’s restaurants, or Tilth, we come home bursting with ideas.

A year and a half ago, when we were in Los Angeles, the Chef and I took Sharon to Lucques for her birthday. We’re still talking about that meal, this many months later. The seasonal food, exquisitely prepared, danced on our tongues and made us laugh with joy. (And we especially love that when the waiter brought Sharon the surprise birthday cake we had whispered as a suggestion, it came topped with a trick candle that refused to blow out!)

We’re both equally inspired by the Lucques cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques. As elegantly as the food is presented at the restaurant, these meals could easily be made at home. This is food from the hearth, from the heart. And since this is very much the way that the Chef cooks too, we both turn to this book for hits of inspiration.

A couple of months ago, I spotted a recipe for Meyer lemon tart with a layer of chocolate. “Ooh,” I turned to the Chef. “Can we make this?”

He did. He changed it a bit, used a gluten-free tart dough, and served it at the restaurant this month as one of the desserts. People just gobbled it up.

One note about the tart dough. Lately, my favorite combination of gluten-free flours has been equal parts of:

Sorghum
Teff
Sweet rice
Tapioca flour.

In fact, I’m using this combination for nearly everything I’m making. And it’s working. So try this dough recipe, but substitute that flour combination. See if you like it.

1 tart dough, pre-baked at 375° for about 30 minutes

1 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 cup baker’s sugar
1 cup lemon juice (you could also use a mixed citrus juice to make this a citrus curd)
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Melting the chocolate. Melt the chocolate over medium-low heat. (You can use a double boiler, if you have one, or a stainless steel bowl over a pot of boiling water.) When the chocolate has melted, pour it on the bottom of the crust and spread it evenly with a rubber spatula. Chill the dough in the refrigerator until the chocolate has solidified.

Making the curd. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and lemon juice together in a large saucepan, on medium heat. Be sure to stir continuously. (Suzanne Goin suggests starting with a whisk and finishing with a rubber spatula, for a smooth curd.) The curd is done when you can run your finger through the thick curd on the back of the spatula, and it parts like Moses just parted the Red Sea.

Finishing the curd. Remove the curd from the heat. Add the butter to the curd, bit by bit, and stir to make it all smooth. Pinch in the salt and you’re done.

Finishing the tart
. Allow the curd to cool completely. Pour it into the tart shell. Chill the tart in the refrigerator, ideally overnight.

Serve to the delight of many.

Feeds 8.

47 comments on “trying to be inspired in the middle of winter

  1. Janel

    Seattle weather sounds remarkably Dutch weather, so thanks for an inspiring winter post in all this greyness…

  2. E!

    Cold? heh — I’m in Vermont. “Cold” is when it’s 1 deg. or less, and your nose hairs freeze on contact as soon as you step outside! I’ll take 30s & drizzle any day!

    The tart sounds delish, but my question is — are you using that flour mix for your breads too? I’ve been playing with some different combos trying to come up with a standby for regular old sandwich bread. Lately it seems to be brown rice, teff, tapioca & flax seed — but I’m curious about the sweet rice flour. I bought some, but can I use it like regular rice flour? I thought maybe it was more starchy, like tapioca?

  3. Maegan

    Shauna,

    Thank you for all your work in making GF baking accessible to the masses! I refer people with celiac/gluten intolerance to your site often for flour suggestions, etc. I was wondering where you find sweet rice/tapioca/sorghum flour for the best price. Amazon carries teff and offers Super Saver shipping but the other three are offered with pretty steep shipping costs. I have a Whole Foods in the area but haven’t yet visited (new baby is my only excuse:). I would appreciate your advice. I also hope to try the tart soon as the lemon and chocolate combination is a new frontier for me.

  4. cindc

    Have you tried firing up your grill, if you have one, this winter? Lots of people only use theirs during the warmer months, but I love grilling when it’s cold out. During the first snowfall of the year I went outside to grill some salmon terriyaki skewers, and it was so peaceful with the snow falling and the warm fire in front of me. Grilling could be a welcome reprieve from all the roasting and slow cookery that’s indicative of this season.

  5. Shirley

    What a nice winter treat to come here today and see a new entry from you! Winter is definitely very long and it’s gray here on the East Coast, too. It’s 36, but it’s been raining all night so the dampness gets to you. Like you, I enjoy the homebodiness that winter inspires. Love the OM pic and the lemon tart recipe-thanks so much!

    FYI–Martha Stewart is deciding on a new publication and a magazine on food allergies and intolerances is in the running. Martha couldn’t decide which idea to pick from her staff, so everyone can vote online to choose the next big idea. Please vote — the link is below, and you can read the ideas (Alexis, Deputy Food Editor, submitted food allergies/intolerances idea), then scroll to the bottom for the vote. You have until February 7th!

    Here is the link:

    http://blogs1.marthastewart.com/martha/?rsc=ts_Homepage_Homepage

    Such a magazine would obviously spread celiac/gluten intolerance awareness dramatically!

  6. Anonymous

    What a shame you don’t love winter for what it is. Maybe recast your thinking? Winter is my favorite season, home = warmth = love and comfort. I love concocting stews and lasanges and root veges combinations. I love roasting beetroot with balsamic vinegar slowly for 4 hours and eating it hot from the oven. I lvoe apple and rhubarb crumble, with the apples stewed slowly in brown sugar and honey and topped with a hazelnut/almond meal mix. I could go on!

    Winter for me is feeding the ones that I love good hearty food that comes from my soul. So here’s to the soul food for another few months (at least where I am, because I am snowed in!).

  7. Shelby

    We were just hit with a pretty legitimate blizzard here in Chicago, where it has been just oh so miserable this winter, so I totally understand your lack of inspiration — there are just so many soups and stews and root vegetable variations a girl can eat! That tart looks amazing though!

  8. Anonymous

    Where do you find sorghum flour? I have searched and searched, but so far have had to subsitute something else for it.
    Thanks for the recipe and the cookbook suggestion-I love browsing cookbooks!
    Michelle

  9. petite lama

    shauna–i am loving reading about your food experience. gluten or no–your recipes sound absolutely delicious, we’ll see how soon i work up the umph to actually attempt one. as for your traveling schedule, any chance you’ll be coming to salt lake city on your worldwide tour–i’d love to sit in on a reading.

    lama

  10. Julie

    The gluten free pie crust you used for pumpkin pie called for the following:
    1 cup white rice flour
    1/2 sorghum flour
    1/2 cup potato starch
    3 tablespoons sweet rice flour

    But I see you’re now recommending a mix of
    Sorghum
    Teff
    Sweet rice
    and
    Tapioca flour
    Can you recommend amounts for each of those ingredients to make the same pie crust recipe? I’m not sure if you’re trying to recommend equal amounts of each, or disproportional amounts. Thanks for clarifying!

  11. Hillary

    I will have you know that it is has been very cold and snowy here (in Chicago!) :) Great menu though. And by the way, I love Seattle…my brother just moved there and fortunately when I visited him the weather was beautiful (in November).

  12. Annie

    The weather’s about the same here in the SF Bay Area, but it hasn’t gone below freezing, so we’ve had salad greens, sorrel, kale, escarole and chard in our back yard since October and still going strong.
    I’ve been reading your blog for over a year and got your book for Christmas and we don’t even have a problem with gluten. But your recipes are wonderful and so is your writing.
    I knew it was time to comment when I saw your OM. It’s exactly the same one we have.

  13. Meg

    You’re right. The weather isn’t truly that bad. But it’s just so raw and drear. I find myself wishing that the temperature would drop below freezing; the damp chill feels colder to me than snow.

    Lemon and chocolate seem like a good antidote.

  14. Pat

    Yum, yum the lemon tart sounds right up my alley!! From the picture it looks like the chocolate is on top of the crust, though directions say to spread it on the bottom of the crust — which can’t be right, can it?

  15. Allison the Meep

    Wheeee! I’m so happy you’ll be in L.A.! Unfortunately, we’ll be taking our 4 year old son to Disneyland for the first time on Sunday. But Monday I will try my darndest to make it down to Whole Foods!

  16. Becky and the Beanstock

    Oh, now I’m the complete opposite. When winter/cold weather gets here, I start brimming with cooking ideas. True, there’s a real lack of good fresh stuff, and where I am, almost nothing local, and that’s sad. But I love a steaming bowl of something hot — soups, stews, casserole. And I love beans and grains, which seem only fitting this time of year.. Cold weather? Bring it on!

  17. aubrey

    what a beautifully written post. i love your reminder to just slow down in the winter, hunker down and take it slower than normal. thanks. and as of my vote a few minutes ago, the food allergy publication is in the lead by 30%.

  18. Ladyv

    looks like the allergy idea is way in the lead at martha stewarts blog.…yahooooo.…

    i hear you about struggling to be motivated in such rainy weather. its likely not much different between my city (vancouver) and yours!

  19. Jane

    Oh — to be reminded of this in the middle of winter when it seems we see nothing more than gray, wet weather…followed by cold and snow. But the beautiful yellow of the tart — now that is a spot of sunlight in the middle of winter. I can’t wait to try it!

  20. Anonymous

    I think we are making an impression on the Martha stewart competition.…magazine for intolerances up at number 1 spot with about 60%!!!

  21. Jenmarie

    wow — great post — they are all so incredibly long! I’ve been inspired to take up blogging again by reading yours — thanks so much for everything! I have LOVED trying/modifying (i also have a dairy and sugar allergy) some of your recipes recently. Did you know that you can take that almond butter cookie recipe and use any nut butter, and it winds up just as deliscious?? SO good –thanks for that!!!

  22. christianne

    I don’t have any food allergies, but I certainly think there is a market for the magazine. And besides — those other ideas are not nearly as interesting!

  23. Just Some Girl

    Oh my gosh!
    Your blog is amazing!
    I’m gluten-intolerant (yet I eat everything I shouldn’t which probably explains why I never feel well…), and some of your recipes look really awesome. I can’t wait to try them! Thanks!

  24. Catherine

    I wanted to go to The Sensitive Baker while I was home in LA but didn’t make it. I am looking forward to your report back. Safe travels.

  25. nm

    I grew up celebrating Persian New Year on the vernal equinox, so for me, this is the new year. It seems right.

    I will email you my mom’s two cookie recipes that are made of chickpea and rice flour. These treats are traditional for the new year.

    The sun is shining right now for a microsecond, I’m smiling.

    nm

  26. Shane&Erica

    Writing from Baker Lake, Nunavut, Canada, where it is –38 and windy. We can buy bananas for 5.99 a pound at the grocery store or get them flown in through a subsidized program. It’s a fly in community of 1800 people with a few celiacs and no for specialty foods. We buy all of our staples in the summer and use them all year long. It is nice to the read your recipes and long for the summer when we will be down south and we will all be able to go to the farmers market. I read your book over the past few days and it was great. Thanks for the teff source. I haven’t been able to find it anywhere!
    Thanks! Erica

  27. Shane&Erica

    Writing from Baker Lake, Nunavut, Canada, where it is –38 and windy. We can buy bananas for 5.99 a pound at the grocery store or get them flown in through a subsidized program. It’s a fly in community of 1800 people with a few celiacs and no for specialty foods. We buy all of our staples in the summer and use them all year long. It is nice to the read your recipes and long for the summer when we will be down south and we will all be able to go to the farmers market. I read your book over the past few days and it was great. Thanks for the teff source. I haven’t been able to find it anywhere!
    Thanks! Erica

  28. Shane&Erica

    Writing from Baker Lake, Nunavut, Canada, where it is –38 and windy. We can buy bananas for 5.99 a pound at the grocery store or get them flown in through a subsidized program. It’s a fly in community of 1800 people with a few celiacs and no for specialty foods. We buy all of our staples in the summer and use them all year long. It is nice to the read your recipes and long for the summer when we will be down south and we will all be able to go to the farmers market. I read your book over the past few days and it was great. Thanks for the teff source. I haven’t been able to find it anywhere!
    Thanks! Erica

  29. kazzles

    Hi there, since you mentioned LA I was just wondering if anyone can tell me what the food is like in LA airport? I’m coming to the States for the first time since I was a kid and it’s my first flight long haul since I cut out dairy and gluten. I’m not cealiac, but am highly lactose intolerant and I don’t want to get desparate and eat anything.

    I’m going to be travelling for about 20 hours all up so some good food would be nice! Any tips?

    Also what is food like out in Florida? Any tips there? I’ve been reading about all these great gluten free products you can get in the States so I’m hoping I’ll find them and be able to slip them past Customs on the way back!

  30. Ann

    Marvelous post, as always! I do hope the food magazine for people with allergies comes to fruition! And how I’d love to see you writing a column in it!

  31. Cakespy

    Yup, you hit it right on with the weather! But I think that this tart (with chocolate no less! What a treat!) will warm things up. How did things go with Shauna vs the Super Bowl??

  32. shauna

    Jules,

    There’s a good chance we might be in Chicago in April… I’ll keep you posted.

    e!

    I have started playing with that flour mixture for breads. I like it, so far. And the sweet rice flour isn’t necessarily more starchy. Just finer.

    Maegan and Michelle,

    We’re lucky here in Seattle. We have plenty of options. But Bob’s Red Mill is really your best option. They’re fantastic!

    Anonymous,

    I do love winter. To a point. And then I think it’s human nature to start longing for spring!

    Julie,

    Equal amounts. Just add up the total of flour in the original and substitute it with the same amount of the four flours mixed.

    Pat,

    You have that right! i just meant the bottom of the pie (beneath the lemon).

    NM,

    I would love to see the recipes for your mom’s Persian treats!

    Suzanne,

    Thank you for reminding everyone of that. Allergic Living is a wonderful magazine, and I love writing for them!

    Kazzles,

    I’m afraid I don’t know anything about Florida. But I think you might find something to eat in LA if you are lactose intolerant. Airports seem to be easier for that than gluten!

  33. beth

    I was perusing your site after a long absence and when I saw your lemon pie adaptation, I just had to write. I adapted that same recipe last summer (from Sunday Suppers at Lucques). My husband is gluten-free and I’m always looking for good desserts. My counter was over-flowing with plums and I thought the lemon curd would be the perfect match. I made the lemon curd as the recipe directed and stewed the plums for the topping, adding just a bit of cinnamon and sugar. One of the things I really miss are graham cracker crusts and haven’t found a suitable gluten-free alternative. I wasn’t sure where to start, so I cheated :) I ground up some of Pamela’s shortbread cookies, threw in some ground, toasted hazelnuts, added just enough melted butter so it would all stick together and it made a fabulous crust. Taken together, the plums, the lemon curd, and the hazelnut/shortbread crust was divine! Thanks for being such a great resource!

  34. kaysdays

    Hi Shauna,
    I’m new to gluten free eating, and your blog has been a port in the storm. Thanks!
    I saw the recipe for polenta fries and it reminded me of the Christmas breakfast we enjoyed while growing up. My mom called it scrapple. It’s white corn mush with bits of salty pork. She’d make it about two inches deep in a loaf pan. After our presents were opened, she’d fry it up in skillet with shallow hot oil. Then we’d dip the sticks in little cups of warm maple syrup and gobble them down.
    Sadly, I’ve had to give up corn as well as wheat. But maybe you and others can relive this memory for me.
    Kay

  35. Debbie Fister

    Shauna,
    I am in the process of making the tart. The pie crust recipe made enough for a 10″ pie. The chocolate barely covered the bottom. Just how big is this tart? I will look for your reply here.

    debbie

  36. Debbie Fister

    Well, now I am content!. I just ate a piece of the Lemon Tart. Now, I am not one to eat a lot of sweets, but pie and tarts are hard for me to resist. And knowing that the crust was gluten-free made it safe to eat. Ok, the crust is kind of hard and cracker-like and a 10″ pie plate was too big (9″ next time)and I forgot to add the butter to the curd. All of that doesn’t matter. The crust only plays a supporting role to the stars: lemon curd and chocolate. I could taste all the flavors: the bitterness of the chocolate and the tartness of the lemons all came together. It was like listening to my favorite classical music (Bach). Simple, but complex at the same time. The tart is nothing like my sometimes overly sweet fruit pies that taste primarily of sugar.
    Thanks so much.

  37. Jenna Lee

    This is, far and away, the best lemon tart recipe I’ve come across in my (years!) of searching. Thank you, thank you, thank you Shauna!

  38. Homeschooling in a Four Ring Circus

    Hi Shauna,

    I just found your blog after processing your book to add to our library’s collection. I am a public librarian in Maryland. I love your book. It is sooo much more than just a book about gluten. I love your quote from Albert Camus “The only way out is through”.