Gluten Free Girl and the Chef http://glutenfreegirl.com Playing With Our Food Tue, 08 Apr 2014 05:12:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 all this bountyhttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/04/madera/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=madera http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/04/madera/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 05:11:42 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9396 There’s nothing like being on the road. Green hills beside you, flat black pavement stretched out in front of you. Around that bend is a farm stand, selling the first ripe strawberries of the season.…

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There’s nothing like being on the road. Green hills beside you, flat black pavement stretched out in front of you. Around that bend is a farm stand, selling the first ripe strawberries of the season. Maybe there’s a Beatles cd playing, or you’re listening to Kate Winslet read Roald Dahl’s Matilda. The kid’s quiet in the back seat, staring out the window at the world going by, taking it all in. And you realize with a jolt that you are no longer the kid in the back seat but the mom, the one dispensing snacks and answering the inevitable question: are we there yet?

Not yet, my love. Not yet. We’re almost to Madera.

Madera-T & D Willey farms

On our California potluck road trip, we were thrilled to spend the day in Madera, visiting farms and meeting the people who make our food. As one woman said to us, “No one ever comes to Madera on a book tour!” But this wasn’t a book tour, per se. We were on a listening tour, a sharing-food-with-people tour, a visiting-farms tour. We wanted to see the places where the food we eat is grown and shipped. Madera, just outside of Fresno, is right in the heart of what folks there call the Breadbasket of America. There’s no bread growing, of course. Luckily for me, there wasn’t wheat growing either. Instead, this part of central California grows everything in abundance. Almonds, olives, strawberries, grapes, carrots, potatoes, spinach and asparagus —— they flourish in this fertile ground. And most of us benefit from the work happening on farms in central California. According to the latest statistics, 1/2 of all fruits, nuts, and vegetables eaten in the United States is grown in California. The state grows the most of 66 food crops of anywhere in the country. “99 percent of artichokes, 99 percent of walnuts, 97 percent of kiwis, 97 percent of plums, 95 percent of celery, 95 percent of garlic, 89 percent of cauliflower, 71 percent of spinach, and 69 percent of carrots (and the list goes on and on),” according to this piece in Slate. The work of this area is incredible.

And yet, I had never been there.

Thanks to K.C. Pomering, we had a personal tour of some of the best farms in Madera that day. You might remember K.C.‘s gluten-free food club, The GFree Foodies Box Club, one of the sponsors of this site last year. When K.C. and I started writing back and forth, she urged me to come visit her hometown. “If you ever want to meet some of the farmers in central California, just let me know.” How could we resist? K.C. is a force of nature, the kind of woman you listen to and follow. I’m glad we did.

K.C. brought along Nicole from Pinch My Salt, one of my favorite people. She took us first to Tom Willey’s place, T & D Willey Farms. This 75-acre organic farm is renowned in the area for its CSA.

Madera- Lucy picks a carrot

Tom drove us around the farm on a golf cart. Some of his workers were harvesting potatoes. Others were tilling the land to put in more plants. Lucy rode up front with me and Tom, sitting forward on the golf cart bench, excited. “What’s that growing there?” she pointed. Tom would stop the cart and look. “Those are parsnips.“
“I love parsnips!” she shouted. And she wasn’t lying.
She asked about every crop and every green leaf. When we passed the workers pulling carrots from the ground, she begged him to stop and let her pull one. We rinsed off this carrot and she nibbled on it the rest of the ride.

Madera- kale

I wanted to stop and fling myself into this field of kale. Danny teases me but it’s really true: I could marry kale.

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Then again, he’s almost happiest when he’s eating artichokes. Tom Willey’s farm had everything we needed.

Madera- dry field

This year, however, the farm might not be as productive as usual. The California drought has already been bad on this farm, and every farm in the Central Valley. We visited in February and the soil looked like this. Imagine August.

This is the most severe drought California has faced in decades. The governor has called for a voluntary 20% reduction in water usage. Farms have irrigation systems in place, of course. And there is some water given to every farmer in the Central Valley. But in a drought, farmers have to turn to their wells. Tom Willey told us that the last time there was a big drought, they had to go down 60 feet to reach water. This year, in February, they’re having to go down to 120 feet before they hit water.

Of course, there are measures the government and farmers could take in the rainier years. But those plan-ahead measures require money and planning, laws and allocations. As someone in Madera told us, the farmers in this area might grow most of the produce you eat, but they’re still only 2% of the voting populations. Lobbyists don’t care much about that 2%.

For most of us, the effect of the drought in California will be higher produce prices. But most of us won’t know anything beyond that sticker shock. When we were in San Luis Obispo the next day, I heard a young woman complain to her mother about the water cuts, saying, “They want us to take 5-minute showers, but I need a full hour in there.” I wished I could drive her back to Tom Willey’s farm in Madera to look at this soil.

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Look at these potatoes, ready for cleaning, part of a 4-acre yield of organic potatoes that season. You might be eating some of these for dinner tonight.

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And these are the people cleaning the carrots that might be sitting in a plastic bag in the produce section of your grocery store right now.

There’s no way of saying how hard these folks were working. Or how much respect we owe them.

Madera- Ficklin vieeyards

We could have stayed with Tom all day, helping to plant and asking about crops. But K.C. had more places for us to visit.

We spent part of the afternoon at Ficklin Vineyards, the oldest port vineyard in the United States. We had the pleasure of meeting Peter Ficklin, the third-generation of Ficklin to make wine at the vineyard. He graciously gave us a tour of everything, from the gnarled grapevines to the cool brick room where decades’ worth of port was stored. I don’t drink much these days, but these ports were phenomenal. We loved the story of family and weather, careful cultivation, and the joy of grape crushing days. These were good people.

Danny and Lucy and I also had a chance to visit the Rosenthal Olive Ranch, a fourth-generation family farm, growing Spanish and Greek varieties of olives for oil. (Somehow, I don’t have any good photographs of their trees, which disappoints me.) Talking to farmers is so different than talking to food bloggers or fiction writers or policy makers. The conversation centers on weather patterns, frost, the unexpected, and the not-knowing —— grounded in the earth and the uncertainty of life. Every year is a gamble and a chance to learn.

The Rosenthals make wonderful olive oil, plus balsamic vinegar. We’re still enjoying the orange-infused olive oil and white balsamic we bought in the Rosenthal’s kitchen. They’re the easiest combination for a great winter salad vinaigrette. With good ingredients, you don’t have to do much.

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That night, we gathered at the San Joaquin Wine Company for our potluck that night. What a lovely job they did of preparing the space and making us all feel welcome. Thank you so much, Steve and Cindy. And thank you for your wines.

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Thank you to the folks from P*DE*Q, a gluten-free bakery in Fresno that specializes in pao, the Brazilian cheese bread. I’d never thought of cutting them in half and using them as the base for appetizers. These were gone mere moments after I took this photo.

With good food and wine, we gathered, talking. I heard, at every table, the story of growing up in Madera, surrounded by great food and produce. “You’d come home and there’d be a big bag of fresh tomatoes on your doorstep. Your neighbors just couldn’t eat anymore!” The folks at the potluck said they all learned to make fresh salsa as kids, thanks to the Mexican influence in the valley. There aren’t many great restaurants in the area —— people were a little stymied by where to send us for breakfast the next morning —— because everyone cooks and invites people over for dinner.

Nicole told us that it took her going to live in Sicily to appreciate what she had growing up. People love the culture and fresh foods of that area of Italy, and clearly the flavors are quite different than they are in Madera. But the culture is the same: food made simply and in the moment with fresh produce, shared with neighbors and friends.

It’s a good way to grow up, it seems.

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However, not everyone in the area has access to that fresh produce. The next day, as we were driving out of Madera toward the coast, we stopped at this gas station, one of the only businesses open for miles. Inside stood a man with crinkly kind eyes who spoke very little English, surrounded by a sea of packaged food. In the back was a tiny produce section, the slightly wilted iceberg lettuce and older carrots protected from the air of the store by wide plastic strips. There wasn’t much for me to eat, but luckily, we only needed gas and a promised popsicle for Lu before we headed back on the road. But for the folks who live near that gas station, this is the only grocery store around.

The night of our potluck in Madera, a lovely woman who teaches social work at a nearby university talked with us about the social justice issues that folks in the area struggle with as well. There is all this bounty. And then there is terrible poverty and nowhere near to buy the produce that grows everywhere in the Central Valley.

We’re going to need more than stores selling that kale in food deserts to make food a more equal opportunity.

You might think a trip to California would be sunny and light, a blessing of sunlight in February when the rain came down in Seattle once again. And it was, most of the days of that trip. But this day in Madera left us with more to think about the food we eat, with more complexity, than any other trip we have taken. I’m still thinking about it now.

Madera- carrots and parsnips

 

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Cumin and Fennel

Yield: feeds 4 to 6

Inspired by the vegetables we saw growing in Madera — as well as Lucy’s excitement about carrots and parsnips — we came home and made this simple dish. With toasted cumin and fennel seeds, the carrots and parsnips are slightly sweet, with a tiny pungent taste. They’re familiar but a bit unexpected.

This is the kind of dish you make when you’ve pulled the last of the root vegetables out of the garden, waiting for new green vegetables to appear. And this simple yogurt sauce works on any vegetables you might roast up these days, in the time between winter and true spring.

Ingredients

  • for the carrots and parsnips
  • 1 pound fresh medium-sized carrots (the more color, the better!)
  • 1 pound fresh medium-sized parsnips
  • 2 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • for the yogurt sauce
  • 1 cup full-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the oven to 375°.
  2. Peel the carrots and parsnips. Cut the carrots into 2-inch pieces, on the bias. Cut the parsnips in half down the middle. Cut the thick ends into half lengthwise, then cut them into 2-inch pieces, on the bias. Leave the thin ends whole.
  3. Crush the cumin and fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle, or in a spice grinder, until they are a fine powder. Toss the carrots and parsnips with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Lay the carrots and parsnips on a parchment-lined baking sheet and toss them with the cumin and fennel powder.
  4. Roast the carrots and parsnips until they are tender to a knife inserted in the middle of them, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove them from the oven.
  5. While the carrots and parsnips are roasting, combine the yogurt, dill, parsley, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. The longer the sauce sits, the fuller it will taste. (You might even make this the day before.)
  6. Serve the carrots and parsnips and drizzle with the yogurt sauce.

Notes

To toast cumin and fennel seeds, set a small pan over medium-high heat. Put in the seeds. Toast them, shaking frequently, until the smell of the seeds fills the room, about 3 to 4 minutes. Do not burn them!

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life goes on.http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/life-goes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=life-goes http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/life-goes/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 00:26:22 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9472 Years ago now, Danny and I were driving around in the dark. We had just fallen in love a couple of months before. Late in the evening, I had picked him up from the restaurant…

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Years ago now, Danny and I were driving around in the dark. We had just fallen in love a couple of months before. Late in the evening, I had picked him up from the restaurant where he was the chef, a night of dinner-service rush and camaraderie in the kitchen behind him. I had been writing all day, working on a proposal for the first book I wanted to write. Hours apart felt like days, and we were so happy to be in the car together, going home.

As we talked and talked, a song came on the radio turned low. “Wait,” Danny said, as he turned up the volume. Desmond has a barrow in the marketplace… We looked at each other and laughed. The Beatles. Of course. We both loved the Beatles. My yes tattoo was in some part inspired by the story of how John Lennon and Yoko Ono met. He has a drawing of John Lennon, the word imagine, and a tangerine tree tattooed on his arm. Our meeting felt like kismet, with a 1960s soundtrack. We were close to my apartment — now his apartment too — but we drove around the neighborhood in circles, wanting to finish the song. We sang loudly into the darkness, Danny slightly off-key. (I knew from the start that he couldn’t carry a tune and I didn’t care.) Somehow, in that spontaneous singing was all the hopes we had for our sudden new love: the marriage, the two kids we were so eager to meet, the goofy happiness. In that moment of singing Ob la Di Ob la Da was our future together.

Years passed, with many of those moments documented on this site. I wrote a book. Two weeks shy of turning 42, I gave birth to our daughter. She nearly died. She came back to life. We settled into being parents, happier than we had ever been in our lives. Danny left that restaurant. We wrote a cookbook. We moved to Vashon and started small-town life together. Danny started cooking at another restaurant. We wrote another cookbook. I wrote. Danny cooked. He left restaurant life. We took Lucy around the world on book tours and cooking classes tours and potluck gathering tours. We started a third cookbook. There were awards and setbacks, patches of writer’s block, ideas emerging that thrilled us both. Mostly, there were so many hilarious and moving moments with our daughter as she grew from small baby into joyful child that everything else seemed small in comparison. We have been happy, so happy.

And yet, there was this hole. Our family didn’t feel complete.

If we had not been able to have another child, we would have been grateful. But Danny and I both adore our siblings, who are some of our best friends. We both believe that siblings teach you what parents cannot: how to compromise, how to fight, how to defend each other, how to make up secret languages, how to make each other laugh. We wanted Lucy to have a sibling. It was beyond analysis, even though we spent months researching and talking and thinking about it. We wanted to welcome another child into our family.

Over three years ago, we began the process to adopt another child. We started by thinking about international adoption, but within the year realized it wasn’t the right path for us. The same with foster adopt, after lots of heartfelt conversations. We settled on an adoption agency for domestic, open adoption and started filling out mountains of paperwork. We sat through interviews, home studies, wrote 25-page autobiographies (each of us), got fingerprinted, did background checks, and asked many friends for letters of recommendations. We finished it all, triumphant, and turned it in. And then we waited, and waited, and waited, as the agency had no mothers to work with and dozens of waiting families growing ever more impatient. Over the course of a year, we saw only a clutch of profiles, none of them the right connection for us. We grew frustrated and tired, tried to stay hopeful, doubted the entire process, and nearly gave up. After more thought and research, and taking a leap of faith that the extra money we would have to spend would arrive somehow, we switched to working with another adoption agency more suited to us. And we started filling out that mountain of paperwork all over again.

The next time I hear someone say to a couple who cannot have children, “Oh, you can just adopt!” I will refrain from smacking him. Gently, however, I might say, “There’s no easy fix in that option, believe me.” Making a plan for adoption has been the most conscious, thoughtful process Danny and I have ever undergone. People get pregnant without planning it nearly every day. No one ever adopts mindlessly.

At times, I wondered if it was all worth it, this process of hoping and waiting and writing big checks. There were terrible moments when I thought we should give up. I’m not the kind to give up, but it was just so hard, all this uncertainty. Our friends who adopted their children all said the same: “Stay patient. When you meet your child, you’ll know that all these almost-chances and waiting were worth it. It was all the path to meet your child.”

They were right.

Desmond- in Lucy and Danny's hands

Last week, on March 19th, we met our son.

We are over the moon. We are amazed with this little guy, a sweet and patient boy who barely cries. He’s making shapes in the air as he learns to use his arms, dancing in his sleep at my feet as I write this. The gratitude we feel for this little peanut is enormous.

And gratitude for his mother. Our son was born of an amazing woman, kind and strong, who has become like family to us. She chose us to be his family back in January, and we have been writing back and forth ever since, getting to know each other through our words. I’ve never been more grateful for my words, for my ease with writing them, all these years later. It is the most unexpected relationship of our lives.

Her story, and his birth story, are not ours to tell. For years, I have been open with the stories of our life, sometimes too open. This one, however, is private. In the last year, and especially these last two months, as we prepared and hoped for his arrival, Danny and I have been feeling the need to share less, to be more quiet. As we left the hospital with him in his car seat, Danny turned to me and said, “Well, our DNA is different now.” This has all changed us in ways we won’t be able to articulate for a long time.

I will say this, however. When I first heard about open adoption — the mother chooses the family by looking at family books and letters, then communication and learning to trust each other, then a child who moves from one mother to another, and in some cases, letters and meetings in the following years — I was scared. I wanted to be the mother, the only mother. I didn’t want the complexity and ambiguity of it all. But a good friend of ours told me something that changed our minds. She also didn’t want to try open adoption at first. And then she realized this: it’s all about having a story for your child. “Your birth mother loves you, and she realized she couldn’t take care of you the way she wanted you to be cared for. She made the hardest decision she has ever made, for your sake. And she chose us to be your family.”

Desmond-Lucy and Danny hanging over him

This is what we’ll be telling our son. This is why we decided to enter into open adoption with open hearts and full commitment. Because of him. And because of her.

We wanted a second child. And oh, what a fine little baby he is. I can’t wait to watch him grow up. Lucy is besotted with him, in three-minute spurts. She hugs him and touches him and talks about how cute he is. “I’m your big sister!” she tells him every time. And then she goes off to dance or draw again. Babies are supremely boring when you are five.

Desmond-Lucy curled up with him_

We wanted this child. We longed for him. But what we didn’t know is how moved we would be by the relationship we have with his mother, whom we will always honor in his life. We wanted a child and we found more family.

There are all kinds of ways to make a family in this world. But really, I think you just make them, in any shape, with love.

Desmond- hands with grandmother

Oh, and the little guy’s name is Desmond Jeremiah Ahern.

Jeremiah is in honor of Danny’s dad, with whom we are staying in Arizona (and his mother) while we wait for the paperwork to clear so we can climb on a plane home. His name is Jerry and he always wanted someone in the family to be named Jeremiah. When we wrote to this little guy’s mom about the reason for this name, she was moved. When she found out this was a boy, she wrote to us, “It looks like we’ll all have the chance to honor Danny’s dad.”

Desmond is in honor of Desmond Tutu, one of our favorite people in the world, for his fierce work with social justice and forgiveness. Desmond is a good Irish name, to go with the Ahern. But mostly, we named him after that Beatles song we sang together in the darkness so many years ago. We listen to the Beatles in our house every Sunday morning. Whenever Lucy hears Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds on the radio, she shouts, “That’s my song!” We can’t have the second kid feel left out. He has to have his own Beatles song too.

But mostly, we realized after we chose it, that it’s the perfect name for this boy, this longed-for boy, this worth-the-wait, this-product-of-goofy-happy-filled-with-love-singing boy. This boy who completes our family and has already brought us so much joy in only 8 days.

Life goes on.

Desmond- holding me

Thank you to those of you have been sending emails and notes after seeing photos of Desmond on Instagram. Your joy about seeing him has given us such joy. We’re not publishing comments on this post, or any others for awhile. For one, we’re staying in a home without wi fi — I drove to a coffee shop to publish this — and we won’t be able to go home until next week. It will be impossible to read and publish your comments for a bit. But as I wrote, we also want a little more quiet in our public life right now. So we’re going back to the policy we tried last year of no comments. Looking back, it was lovely. What we write and cook is meant to be an offering. If you really want to talk to us, you can reach us by email, on the Facebook page, on Twitter, and on Instagram. We’ll help, if we can.

But we have a newborn, a tiny human who conducts symphonies in his sleep, when he’s sleeping. We’re going to be taking a bit of a break here to snuggle in with him. (Also, we still have a cookbook manuscript due June 1st!) Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be publishing a few more posts about our California trip, with recipes. (They’re already in draft, waiting to be published, to be honest.) And then we’ll be back when we can, to share the food and stories that emerge from the joy of having this boy in our lives. Thank you.

Desmond- curled up on me

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we weren’t expecting thishttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/werent-expecting/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=werent-expecting http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/werent-expecting/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 22:03:30 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9438 Holy sh-t. Our cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, was nominated for the James Beard awards this morning. Since this morning, I have been trying to find more eloquent words than that immediate utterance. But what the…

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Holy sh-t.

Our cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, was nominated for the James Beard awards this morning.

Since this morning, I have been trying to find more eloquent words than that immediate utterance. But what the hell — that immediate utterance is still the most eloquent I can find. A James Beard award.

Normally, we just keep plodding along, one dish at a time, one set of paragraphs after another. I have a few more pieces about our California trip to share, and I was just going to keep publishing them without mentioning this. But seriously? This is the James Beard awards.

James Beard still inspires me with the work he did decades ago. His enormous curiosity and force-of-nature personality are well documented. But fact is, he was a darned good writer. I keep dipping into my copy of his American Cookery as a touchstone for the cookbook we’re creating, American Classics: Reinvented. (We’re coming up on the deadline for the manuscript soon.) Beard’s influence keeps going, like ripples in the water, in the imaginations of chefs and food writers everywhere. The James Beard awards are a little like the Oscars of the food world.

Danny and I are gobsmacked.

We’re happy for the recognition, of course. But we’re also both happy that gluten-free food as a whole is now recognized as just as worthy of celebration as traditional American cuisine. Danny and I are both proud of this book. The focus we found on everyday food for people who like to cook, for a more balanced recipe list than simply cupcakes and other baked goods, the diversity of flavors from around the world, and the constant inspiration of what’s in season — that’s still our focus today, in every meal we eat. The cookbook we are finishing soon is celebration food, holiday food, food to be shared with your family on special occasions. (Splurge food, to be honest.) It has been a blast to create this cookbook. We’re proud of it too. But daily, we return to the kind of food we shared in Gluten-Free Girl Every Day. There’s more to gluten-free food than cookies.

If you haven’t found yourself a copy yet, you might want to try it.

Whenever someone compliments Lucy on her kind eyes or a new outfit, she usually remembers what to say. But occasionally, I still lean down and whisper in her ear: “What do you say when someone gives you a compliment?”

“Thank you!” she shouts.

Thank you, James Beard foundation. But more, thanks to all of you who have cooked out of our book and enjoyed your meals. We’re going to keep making food for you.

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Meet Our Sponsors: Schärhttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/meet-sponsors-schar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=meet-sponsors-schar http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/meet-sponsors-schar/#comments Sat, 15 Mar 2014 17:50:01 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9422 When Danny and I spent our honeymoon in Italy (man, was that really 7 years ago?), I was happily shocked to find that nearly every farmacia in Umbria stocked gluten-free pastas, breads, and chocolate croissants. I…

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Schar- breadsticks

When Danny and I spent our honeymoon in Italy (man, was that really 7 years ago?), I was happily shocked to find that nearly every farmacia in Umbria stocked gluten-free pastas, breads, and chocolate croissants. I never expected to eat gluten-free chocolate croissants on a honeymoon in Italy. And they were good.

All those products were made by Schär, our latest sponsor.

Schar- baguettes

Seven years ago, when we returned home, I had a hard time finding Schär products here in the United States. There were far fewer gluten-free products on the market then. I’m happy to say that not only is the entire line of Schär gluten-free foods available in the US now, but also those foods have improved since then.

These par-baked baguettes (ready for you to finish baking them in your own home oven) are just right for that hot garlic bread you want to make, the one with the shattery crisp crust.

Schar- ciabatta_

Most exciting, to me, is the fact that the new Schär breads do not contain xanthan and guar gum. Instead, they use psyllium husk powder, which is what we have found to make the best gluten-free breads. We’re testing bread recipes so often that we don’t buy packaged bread often. But we have a bag of these multi-grain ciabatta rolls in the freezer now, always, so we can make a quick sandwich for Lu’s lunch if we’re between loaves at home.

Schar- honeygrams

The big hit in our house right now is these Honeygrams, which are delicious gluten-free graham crackers. Lucy is particularly happy about these, since they make it possible to have s’mores in the house. (We have taken her camping a couple of times, and she wants to camp all the time now. Even in the house. Mostly for the s’mores.) They’re mildly sweet and hold together well when dunked in milk. Lu asked for one in her lunch every day until they disappeared. We have more on order right now.

Schär makes some of the best gluten-free packaged food I have ever tasted. (And Danny and I have tasted a lot of gluten-free packaged food in the past seven years.) Their breads, crackers, crisp breads, cookies, and graham crackers are really a tremendous boon for those of us who have to avoid gluten. We recommend them to you wholeheartedly. That’s why we’re thrilled to have Schar as our latest sponsor.

Schär would like to give a big basket of their cookies — chocolate hazelnut bars, lemon wafers, ladyfingers, cocoa-dipped wafers, shortbread cookies, honey grams, and more! — to one lucky reader here. Just leave a comment letting us know why you would like to try these products. 

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a tremendous diversityhttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/gluten-free-bay-area/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gluten-free-bay-area http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/gluten-free-bay-area/#comments Sat, 15 Mar 2014 05:30:40 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9411 It was a peculiar moment in San Francisco when my online life met my real life. Thanks to a visit with our friend Steve who works there, I was at Twitter headquarters, writing on Twitter…

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Oakland- Twitter

It was a peculiar moment in San Francisco when my online life met my real life.

Thanks to a visit with our friend Steve who works there, I was at Twitter headquarters, writing on Twitter about being at Twitter.

It cracked me up to see a giant sign at the cafeteria: #comfort.

(The bus tubs had signs too: #mugs, #tumblers, #plates. You know, like you do.)

Oakland- Twitter, made without gluten

As much as the ubiquity of hashtags on throw pillows and conference rooms cracked me up, I loved the food labeling signs at the Twitter cafeteria. Now this is specific. (I like the “well-being” label, food that matches that month’s featured nutrition topic.) And I have to say I appreciate the “Made Without Gluten” label as well. It’s not gluten-free. It’s made without gluten ingredients. That means take care and have a lot of conversations about the protocol in making the food. (Steve says he has eaten safely at that cafeteria, that the cooks have taken care of him well.)

Oakland- ham and cheese croissants

We were back from Napa, on our way to Oakland for a potluck at Mariposa Baking Company. Back in 2007, Danny and I made an appearance at their bakery for my first book, Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back…And How You Can Too. How much has changed since we were there last? In our lives — a lot. And for the bakery? It has expanded into more spaciousness. And the bakery’s founder, Patti Furrey Crane, has figured out how to make good gluten-free ham and cheese croissants.

These disappeared fast.

Oakland- mariposa potlucks

It was a great gathering of happy people and several tables full of food. Kids ran around the room, chasing each other, then stopping for cupcakes. We met old friends and new friends from our time in Italy in September and people we had never met before. Best yet, we had the chance to ask people about food from the Bay Area. (I was pretty happy to see that asparagus and the roasted sweet potato salad with pomegranate seeds.) This was one happy celebration.

Oakland- deli meat

We were happy that the folks who run the company Fork in the Road brought some of their deli meats to the party. Sustainably raised beef, heirloom pork, and free-roaming chickens raised on small family make some truly tasty luncheon meats. (They’re also gluten-free, of course.) Look for these at a store near you.

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It was a good night.

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The next day, after spending the night and long morning with our friends in their sunny kitchen, we drove back into San Francisco. “Turn left at Castro,” the GPS told us. So we did.

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We were on Castro to meet a clutch of friends at a private potluck at Contigo, our favorite restaurant in San Francisco. Brett and Elan, thank you for your hospitality. It was joy to be in your restaurant during prep for dinner service, talking and laughing with friends while we stood around this table of food.

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After years of waiting, Lucy and Tilden finally had the chance to meet, on a red-checked blanket, in the sunlit room of Contigo.

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Thank you to our friend, Sean Timberlake, who runs Punk Domestics, for bringing this spread of homemade pickles and relishes.

This was a representation of the food of the Bay Area —— a tremendous diversity of Asian-style ribs, Catalan cuisine, Vietnamese beef, lots of fresh vegetables, homemade barbecue sauce made with ingredients grown or made only in the Bay Area, broccolini with tahnini-tamari sauce, whole-grain cereals, homemade breads, and a fascinating array of kimchi, bread and butter pickles, and pickled tomatoes and cherries.

I could never grow bored eating in the Bay Area.

 

This piece is part of our ongoing American potluck road trip series, where we travel around the country, eating great food, meeting farmers and chefs, and meeting people where they live. We know that not everyone can afford to stay at inns in Napa or visit gluten-free bakeries in Oakland. Heck, we can’t do it very often either. But we’re sharing our adventures here so everyone reading can know: it can be a good life, gluten-free. We hope our adventures give you recommendations for places to stay and eat, should you travel here. And we hope we inspire you to explore your corner of the world too. 

We’d like to send out a huge acknowledgment and thank you to Erewhon Organic for sponsoring this California tour. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to meet you and gather material for our next cookbook. Erewhon Organic makes some of our favorite foods in the world, including their new quinoa-chia cereal and their buckwheat-hemp cereal, which was our favorite breakfast on this tour. They do things right. 

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in Napahttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/gluten-free-napa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gluten-free-napa http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/gluten-free-napa/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 02:26:11 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9380 During our California road trip, after our stay in Sacramento, the three of us drove to Napa. Eating extraordinary meals in one of the best places for food I know reminded me of the beginning again.…

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Napa- macarons

During our California road trip, after our stay in Sacramento, the three of us drove to Napa. Eating extraordinary meals in one of the best places for food I know reminded me of the beginning again. When you are first diagnosed with celiac — or figure out for yourself that gluten is not your friend — you might think that life is going to be drab and without interest.

Grab yourself some macarons from Bouchon Bakery and those dreary preconceptions will disappear.

(Now let me say what might need saying: Bouchon is definitively not a gluten-free bakery. These macarons are made separately, away from the other baked goods. This time, when we were in Napa, I could watch a young woman making them through the bakery window. The folks at Bouchon know about gluten-free, since everyone in the Thomas Keller restaurant group seems to know how to take care of folks with food allergies. And this is the third time I have eaten them — I’m not sure how I’m lucky enough to write that statement — and I have never been made sick. Still, proceed at your own caution.)

There is nothing drab about Napa.

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The last time we ate at Bouchon Bistro in Yountville, Lu was only 14 months old. She sat in a chair clamped to the table, eating scallops and boudin blanc. Her expressive faces made everyone around us laugh. One older woman was so astonished by the food Lu was eating that she asked if she could take a photo of the “gourmet baby.” Lu was a delight. (We still have that photo of the two of us on our refrigerator.

Napa- bouchon fries

This time, Lu was mostly focused on the french fries. (New parents, this is the difference between 1 and 5.) I understand. The french fries at Bouchon are the most perfect french fries I have ever eaten: crisp and hot and all of them equally cooked. Best of all, they are gluten-free, since they are made in a separate fryer from anything else. So few restaurants have dedicated fryers for french fries that I end up eating them only three or four times a year. To eat them at Bouchon? Makes it even better.

Eating at Bouchon reminded me again: find the restaurant that truly respects food and wants to be of service to the diner. That place can feed you gluten-free, safely.

Napa- cup4cup

All the restaurants in the Thomas Keller group know how to feed us gluten-free folks. After all, they’re the people who make Cup4Cup, the wonderful gluten-free flour mix. (Here are some of the good people responsible for bringing Cup4Cup’s flour mix, pizza mix, pancake and waffle mix, and brownie mix to the market.)

We were meant to bake with Lena Kwak, the research and development chef for The French Laundry who imagined Cup4Cup. However, an emergency root canal prevented us from sharing that experience. Someday.

Napa- inn on randolph

If you happen to find yourself in Napa, California, you’re in luck. It’s a place of such abundance, of fresh food, of chefs whose talents and enthusiasms match the possibilities of ingredients that grow there naturally. This part of the world is phenomenal.

And if you are gluten-free, then you have a new home in Napa.

The Inn on Randolph is located in the small town of Napa, within driving distance of hundreds of vineyards and restaurants. Karen Lynch had a dream of opening a high-quality inn in Napa Valley. She also has celiac. She decided to not bring gluten into the place, on matter of principle. But it’s only recently that she has realized what she has created: an entirely gluten-free inn, right in the center of Napa Valley.

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We were lucky enough to stay at Inn on Randolph the night we stayed in Napa, in our own private cottage. Karen offered us the cottage, in hopes that we might like the place and tell our readers about it. And oh yes, we did.

Not only does the inn have comfortable beds, jacuzzi tubs, fireplaces, and every amenity, but it also has the friendliest innkeeper I’ve met. Karen knows every restaurant and winery in the area that can accommodate gluten-free guests. She knew where to send us for dinner that night. And she truly loves the chance to make gluten-free customers feel at home.

She told us the story of one couple who came to stay recently. The woman left her biscuit untouched at breakfast. When Karen came over to ask her if everything was okay, the woman reluctantly said she didn’t want to bother anyone, but she can’t eat gluten, so she couldn’t eat the biscuit. Karen ran into the kitchen and asked the chef to fill a plate with biscuits. When Karen put the plate in front of her customer, the woman blanched. When Karen said they were gluten-free, she burst into tears.

It’s clear that Karen loves the joy she can give people by serving them well at her gluten-free inn.

Napa- Inn on Randolph chef

This is Ethan Speizer, the chef at Inn on Randolph. He comes in every morning to make entirely gluten-free breakfasts for the guests. What I particularly liked is that he didn’t make the requisite and expected pancakes and waffles. The morning we ate there, he made us quinoa cakes with garlic lemon aioli and bacon jam. (Ethan has kindly shared his recipe with us, which we’re giving you below.) And there were little parmesan gougeres as well.

This place is something else. You can follow Ethan’s cooking at their Instagram feed, @innonrandolph. When I posted this photo on Instagram, some women were making marriage proposals to the guy!

If I were getting married to Danny again, I’d have my honeymoon at Inn on Randolph.

Napa- baguettes

When we asked Karen where we should go for dinner that night in Napa, she told us about Cate and Co in the Oxbow Market. People, trust Karen.

Cate and Co is run by Catherine Bergen, who also owns C Casa, another extraordinary gluten-free option at the Oxbow Market. C Casa’s fresh, local Mexican-inspired food looked great. But how often can I order a Bahn Mi sandwich on a gluten-free baguette? Or a tartine with smoked salmon, goat cheese, and capers? Our lovely friend Sabrina joined us for dinner, as did my cousin and her husband, who live nearby. Since four of us at the gathered tables have to eat gluten-free, we bought a bit from Cate and Co, some from C Casa, arepas from Pica Pica, and a gluten-free pizza from another stand. Everyone put his or her dish down and we shared. We didn’t even hit the cheese possibilities, or charcuterie, or ice cream. There was so much gluten-free goodness in that place that we could only giggle a little at the sight of our laden table. Who knew, Napa?

Napa- inside of baguette

The gluten-free sourdough baguettes at Cate and Co are the best I have ever eaten. As much as I was looking forward to the rest of our California trip, the sight of this crumb made me want to run home to start baking again.

Napa- fatted calf

Honestly, the Oxbow Public Market has more density of good food than nearly any place I’ve ever visited. Around the corner is The Fatted Calf, one of our favorite butchers and charcuterie makers in the country. And just down the street, Rancho Gordo, our favorite source for heirloom beans. Honestly, we only buy our beans from Steve Sando. And after we visited, we had banana vinegar in the car. Banana vinegar!

You can’t go to Napa and leave with your hands or belly empty.

Napa- Kara's cupcakes

There’s even a cupcake place in Oxbow Public Market named Kara’s Cupcakes that takes great care to make gluten-free cupcakes, first thing in the morning, on cleaned lines with separate utensils. Again, having a restaurant or bakery that has a protocol in place to feed us safely? That makes me far happier than any frosting can.

Napa- gluten-free cupcakes

It’s now ridiculously easy to find gluten-free Napa and eat well there. If you are thinking about a trip? Go.

 

This piece is part of our ongoing American potluck road trip series, where we travel around the country, eating great food, meeting farmers and chefs, and meeting people where they live. We know that not everyone can afford to stay at inns in Napa or make a trek to Bouchon. Heck, we can’t do it very often either. But we’re sharing our adventures here so everyone reading can know: it can be a good life, gluten-free. We hope our adventures give you recommendations for places to stay and eat, should you travel here. And we hope we inspire you to explore your corner of the world too. 

We’d like to send out a huge acknowledgment and thank you to Erewhon Organic for sponsoring this California tour. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to meet you and gather material for our next cookbook. Erewhon Organic makes some of our favorite foods in the world, including their new quinoa-chia cereal and their buckwheat-hemp cereal, which was our favorite breakfast on this tour. They do things right. 

Napa- Inn on Randolph breakfast

Quinoa Cakes with Garlic-Lemon Aioli, thanks to Ethan Speizer

Yield: Feeds 4 to 6

These quinoa cakes are crispy, thanks to the addition of mozzarella and parmesan cheese, as well as eggs. Rather than being grain-heavy and dense, these are light and satisfying.

We haven’t tried making the recipe at home yet but we loved the quinoa cakes we ate the morning we made them. This recipe is written in Ethan’s words. Try them. You’ll see that he has worked flexibility in here, so you can make these your own.

Ingredients

  • For the Quinoa Cakes
  • 3 C uncooked Quinoa
  • 1.5 C grated Mozzarella or Gruyere or Fontina
  • 1 C Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 8 eggs, lightly beaten (you might need more or less, depending on size of eggs)
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 8 T. Olive Oil for cooking
  • For the Aioli
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 clove minced garlic
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • Neutral oil for emulsifying
  • Salt to taste
  1. for the cakes
  2. Bring quinoa and 6 cups of salted water to a boil in a saucepan. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and cover. After 20 minutes, the quinoa will have cooked.
  3. Place all ingredients (except oil) in a bowl and stir together until well mixed.
  4. Pour olive oil in a large sauté pan and place over medium heat.
  5. Form small patties with the quinoa mixture and place in the heated pan. If the cakes do not hold their shape well, add another egg to mixture.
  6. Cook cakes for about 4 minutes on each side, or until crispy and golden brown.
  7. Repeat with remaining patties.
  8. for the aioli
  9. In a food processor, combine egg yolks, garlic, lemon juice and cayenne. Pulse to combine.
  10. With the food processor on, slowly drizzle in oil until a thick emulsion has formed. Add lemon zest and season with salt.
  11. Place 3–4 quinoa cakes on a plate. Drizzle with aioli and garnish with fresh herbs and/or fresh greens.

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that golden lighthttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/gluten-free-sacramento/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gluten-free-sacramento http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/gluten-free-sacramento/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 01:41:19 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9341 It’s always the light I notice first. We left Seattle in the middle of a February rainstorm, the only time that Seattle looks the way you imagine Seattle to look. It was drippy dark grey…

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It’s always the light I notice first.

We left Seattle in the middle of a February rainstorm, the only time that Seattle looks the way you imagine Seattle to look. It was drippy dark grey gloomy, the sky seemingly a ceiling only 100 feet above our heads. Seattle light, even in the best of conditions, is tinted toward blue. In July, when the sky spreads wide and high, that blue is radiant, like liquid, the best kind of light I know. In February, that blue light can feel oppressive, like depression or muffled sounds in the middle of a dark wood.

When we landed in San Francisco, I saw it again. Golden light. That northern California light is like looking through a jar of golden honey.

The next morning, when we woke up at a friend’s home in Oakland, we walked into the kitchen to find this light streaming through the door.

We were clearly no longer in Seattle in February.

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It was lovely to pause in the home of our dear friends, the ones who had just moved from Seattle to Oakland the month before. We talked and talked more while the kids imagined and played together, one talking incessantly of Neverland and the other reciting the eating habits of the capybara. We lingered at the table, sharing this frittata and another cup of coffee. (And how decadent it felt to be in the home of another gluten-free family, so we didn’t have to worry about cross-contamination.) Danny and I both felt like cats curled up in the sun, not wanting to move.

But move we must. We were on our way to Sacramento for a potluck.

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Only ten minutes on the road, I was hit by a physical wave of nostalgia so strong that I almost wanted to pull over to the side of the road. I grew up in Southern California, in Claremont. (After we finished the official business part of this California trip, we three spent a couple of days in my old hometown, which did me good.) Southern and Northern California sometimes feel like such different places that they might as well be two states. But this section of the freeway, that swirling grey, the road signs, it all felt like home.

Growing up, I never appreciated California. I grew up in smog and heat and too much cement. Now, as an adult, I could see it new, especially with the eyes of someone fascinated by food and how it is made. California, you are something else.

Oakland and Sacramento- the cookbook

Our friend Garrett, generous mensch that he is, volunteered his home for our Sacramento potluck. We kept the invite list small, intimate, to make sure we could talk with everyone. (And not overwhelm Garrett’s home, as well.) He’s the co-author of one of our favorite cookbooks of 2013, Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese. If you love cheese, love to cook, and you have gluten-free pasta in your home, you’re going to love this book.

Oakland and Sacramento- macaroni and cheese

In fact, look at the gluten-free macaroni and cheese (with smoked pimenton) that Garrett made for the potluck. How lucky were we?

Oakland and Sacramento- food at the potluck

One of Garrett’s friends, a trained pastry chef, showed up with a plate of homemade fudge and a plate of individually wrapped caramels she had made that day. Those caramels were evil. So good. (Thank goodness for the fruit salad.) Quickly, the entire table filled with good food and the room filled with even better people. Guy brought garlicky anchovies cured in fresh herbs and peppery olive oil, which he included in a memorable salad. We heard about local beef, farmers and chefs that people loved, and the latest farm-to-table event in town. Proudly, without hearing each other say it, every pocket of the room told me the same phrase: “We are the farm-to-table capital of the world!”

It makes sense. The land from Sacramento, through Davis, down to the Central Valley of California, is some of the most fertile in the country. It seemed, at times, that nearly every square foot of land that was not houses or stores was a farm. At least here on the west coast, most of the produce we eat comes from this region of California. (Especially in February, where nothing but kale and celery root seems to be growing here.) The abundance of this area of the world is enormous. In Sacramento, however, the folks who came to our gathering loved talking about local chefs and the restaurants they loved best, all of which had favorite local farms they loved to support. Eating local is not a trend in Sacramento. It’s just a way of life.

(If you’d like to know more about the restaurants in Sacramento, take a look at Beth Pladson’s blog, SacTown Wino and Foodie. Beth, thank you for your help in organizing this gathering!)

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We talked and laughed while Lucy and another young girl ran through the room with kumquats in their hands, having just picked them off the tree in Garrett’s backyard. (As he said, “Go right ahead. I’ll never be able to pick them all.”)

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Look at this golden light gleaming off the citrus in our friend Elise’s enchanted garden.  I will never get over it, the citrus trees in every backyard. I grew up with a pomegranate tree and avocado tree in our backyard, with lemon trees up and down the block. I didn’t appreciate it then.

“It smells like Italy here,” Lucy kept saying as she raced through this magic place of light. She was right.

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Of course, there’s a price to pay for all that sunlight and warmth. This year, the drought in California is alarming. Everywhere we went, we saw signs of a terrible year. This is the American River, which we saw on an early evening walk with Elise. “Usually, we don’t see these rocks and islands until August,” she told us. “I’ve never seen it this low in February before.”

I regretted complaining about the rainfall in Seattle.

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Our heads full of stories from the new people we had met, and our hearts full of gratitude for Elise’s hospitality, we walked back toward her home. There was an evening in the garden, and a dinner of flank steak and Elise’s chimichurri ahead of us. But for a moment, I stopped walking, letting everyone else go ahead. I just needed a moment to take in the day in Sacramento and offer up my thanks toward that glowing northern California light.

We’d like to send out a huge acknowledgment and thank you to Erewhon Organic for sponsoring this California tour. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to meet you and gather material for our next cookbook. Erewhon Organic makes some of our favorite foods in the world, including their new quinoa-chia cereal and their buckwheat-hemp cereal, which was our favorite breakfast on this tour. They do things right. 

Oakland and Sacramento- flank steak

Marinated Flank Steak

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Yield: feeds 4.

After a day of traveling, gathering, laughing, and eating, we just wanted a quiet evening with our friend. Luckily, she felt the same. Good food doesn’t have to be complicated, especially when there are ingredients as fresh as those we found in Sacramento. We roasted up some potatoes, made a big green salad, and marinated flank steak to go with the chimichurri Danny threw together with Elise’s recipe.

The only secret to this flank steak is letting go of fear of burning down the house. When you sear the steak, you’re going to create smoke. Turn the fan on its highest setting. Or, you can do as Elise and I did and run around the house, opening all the windows. Don’t worry. It’s just the sugars in the marinade burning off in that hot oil. Oh, and it’s worth it.

This steak goes so well with chimichurri. (And any leftover chimichurri goes well with roasted chicken, over white rice, or stirred into a potato salad.) But you could also use it to make a great steak salad. After a few days of eating food on the road, I started craving this steak. We made it again as soon as we reached home.

Ingredients

  • Marinade for the flank steak
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic (use the grocery-store balsamic, not the aged balsamic)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • For the flank steak
  • 1 pound flank
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  1. To make the marinade, put the apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic powder, mustard, and rosemary into a blender. Blend until everything has emulsified, about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Put the flank steak into a large bowl. Pour the marinade over the steak. Let it marinade for at least 30 minutes but no more than an hour. (After an hour, the vinegars will begin to “cook” the meat.)
  3. Heat the oven to 450°.
  4. Take the flank steak out of the marinade and pat it dry. Season it with salt and pepper. Cut the flank steak in half, vertically. (Make sure each piece is the right size to fit into the skillet you are using. You might cut the steak into three pieces.)
  5. Set a large skillet (preferably cast-iron) over high heat. Turn on all the fans and open the windows. Get the skillet scorching hot. Add the olive oil. As soon as it is hot (that will be immediate), put one piece of the flank steak into the hot oil. Sear the steak until it is dark brown but not burnt, about 3 to 4 minutes. Be careful and watch the steak carefully. You don’t want the sugars from the apple cider vinegar and balsamic to burn. Flip the steak and sear the other side the same way.
  6. Put the skillet in the oven. Repeat the searing process with another skillet, the remaining oil, and the remaining piece of steak. Put that piece of steak in the oven.
  7. If you want your steak rare, take it out of the oven when it has reached an internal temperature of 135°. If you want your steak medium-rare, take it out of the oven when it has reached an internal temperature of 145°. Medium is 155° and well-done is 165 and over. (Danny and I both prefer our flank steak at rare to medium-rare.)
  8. Turn a saucer upside down on a larger plate. Take the steaks out of the oven and drape them over the saucer. Let them rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
  9. Slice the steaks against the grain into the thinnest slices you can make.
  10. Serve.

Notes

You can use another oil, such as avocado oil, if you don’t want to use olive oil here. Coconut oil or butter would both burn too fast, so be careful of that.

Be sure to discard the marinade, since it has all the remnants of raw meat.

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Meet Our Sponsors: Pascha Chocolatehttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/meet-sponsors-pascha-chocolate-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=meet-sponsors-pascha-chocolate-2 http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/meet-sponsors-pascha-chocolate-2/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 04:15:04 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9350 When people bemoan the fact that they can’t eat gluten, I like to remind them about chocolate. We still have chocolate. Except, it’s not that simple. The cacao bean is gluten-free, of course. However, some…

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pascha chocolate

When people bemoan the fact that they can’t eat gluten, I like to remind them about chocolate. We still have chocolate. Except, it’s not that simple.

The cacao bean is gluten-free, of course. However, some good chocolates might be cross-contaminated with gluten from other sources in the factory. (I’m still mourning the fact that the Valrhona website suggests that people for whom gluten is a health issue not eat their chocolate.) I have to check the label of every chocolate bar to ensure I won’t grow sick with one bite of that dark luscious stuff.

And of course, many of us who are gluten-free also have other food intolerances or allergies. I can’t imagine how hard it must feel to be allergic to soy and want some chocolate. So many chocolates contain soy lecithin. And frankly, almost all the “allergy-free” chocolates I have tasted have been lifeless versions of their intended ideal.

This is why we love PASCHA chocolate. We’d like to introduce you to our latest sponsor.

PASCHA makes truly good chocolate, dark and sensuous, full of cacao bean flavor, ranging from 55% to 80% dark chocolate. This chocolate is organic, fair-trade, and contains no GMO products. Best yet, it is free from gluten, nuts, dairy, soy, and even potential allergens such as fish and eggs. It’s produced in an entirely allergen-free facility. And you have to love a chocolate company that has a clearly expressed chocolate philosophy.

We are big fans of PASCHA chocolate.

We’d like to let you hear more from PASCHA Founder, Simon Lester.

Why chocolate?

I started my working life in the chocolate business in the UK. Chocolate has always been a passion of mine. I wanted to created PASCHA to offer ultra-pure delicious chocolate that is safe for anyone to eat. I was also intrigued by the health aspects which dark chocolate offers (very high antioxidants) with many reported benefits (blood pressure, positive moods, etc) which people are looking for. I felt chocolate should be made without unnecessary ingredients like soy lecithin. I wanted people with allergies or without to enjoy a pure, terrific piece of ORGANIC, NON-GMO chocolate.

Why have you taken the care to make these chocolates allergy free?

I realized how life threatening and altering food allergies can be when one of my daughters had an anaphylactic reaction to food. Then the penny dropped that someone really needed to come out with a completely allergen-free, great-tasting organic chocolate. While most people don’t think of chocolate and allergies, the reality is that almost every chocolate plant in the western world uses milk, various tree nuts, peanuts, soy and often wheat, gluten and egg. Because of the difficulties of cleaning a chocolate manufacturing plant once these ingredients are inside the plant, a residual amount is left behind — which is the danger point for people with food allergies.

Did you have to sacrifice anything to make the chocolates allergy free?

Absolutely not! The more impurity you take out of chocolate the purer it becomes and the more you just taste the cocoa bean. That’s what makes fantastic chocolate.

Can you tell us a story of a customer who was excited to find your chocolates?

Talking with our passionate customers is amazing. At a gluten-free show in Chicago, a woman came up to me and said that she had not eaten chocolate for 3 years because of food allergies. There was literally nothing on the market that she could eat. She just thanked me for creating PASCHA. Everyday, people email us their list of food allergies, fearful that they will not be able to eat our bars. It is a great feeling to email them back — PASCHA is safe and please enjoy it!

Do you have a recipe you love using these chocolates?

Chocolate Chunk Rhubarb Cookies

These soft cookies serve up a delicious pairing of sweet and tart can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature. You can adjust the level of tartness by adding/removing some of the rhubarb. The cookies are most delicious when eaten within 2 days; but don’t worry they will be gone long before that!

Yields: 36 teaspoon size cookies

1/2 cup organic palm oil shortening
1/4 cup granulated organic sugar
1 teaspoon organic vanilla
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
1 cup all-purpose gluten free flour (must include xanthan gum)
1 bar of Pascha’s 55% cacao, roughly chopped
1 cup of chopped organic rhubarb

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Using an electric mixer, whip the shortening, sugar, vanilla, maple syrup and applesauce.
3. Next, mix in your gluten free flour. Blend on low until mixed throughly.
4. In a small saucepan over very low heat, slowly melt 1⁄2 of the Pascha chocolate. When fully
melted add chocolate to the mixer. Blend.
5. Gently, by hand, fold in remaining chocolate chunks and rhubarb.
6. Using a teaspoon, scoop dough balls onto a lightly oiled baking sheet or baking mat.
7. Bake for 12 minutes or until toothpick can be inserted into the center of a cookie and it comes
out clean.
8. Let cookies rest 5 minutes on the cookie sheet before moving.
9. Enjoy!

This recipe has a lot of flexibility. You can chop the rhubarb finely so that its not as chewy or to make it more discrete looking when your kids grab a cookie. You can also do the same for the chocolate, if you prefer a less chunky cookie. You can shape the cookies round or flat.

PASCHA chocolate is offering chocolate to three lucky readers of our site. Please leave a comment about why you would like to try PASCHA chocolate.

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California, coming home.http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/california-coming-home/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=california-coming-home http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/03/california-coming-home/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 06:00:34 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9323 We came home from California bedraggled and happy. We carried our bags to our car in the rain, somehow strange after 12 days of blue skies and warm air, but also welcome after seeing the…

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palm trees in CA_

We came home from California bedraggled and happy. We carried our bags to our car in the rain, somehow strange after 12 days of blue skies and warm air, but also welcome after seeing the effects of the California drought. It has taken us days to unpack and gather memories to us coherently. We’re still lingering in the beauty of this trip.

We came from California with a few mementos. A jar of elderberry jelly, made by our friend Elise last summer, so kindly handed to us after an extraordinary visit with her in Sacramento. A copy of The Harvey House Cookbook: Memories of Dining Along the Santa Fe Railroad, a book we found at the California State Railroad Museum. Danny and I marveled over the recipes for cheese straws, guacamole monterey, albondigas soup, and New England scallop salad, while Lu just wanted to run from the real-life sleeping car to the dining car, over and over. Five bags of Cup4Cup flour mixes — pizza! brownies! pancakes! — given to us by the good folks in Napa, the team who created these flours for gluten-free folks to feel good about their baked goods again. And after a stop at Rancho Gordo to hug our friend Steve Sando, we added banana vinegar, midnight black beans, and dark chocolate tablets to our bags. Only a few days into our trip, our rented minivan was starting to fill.

From a private potluck lunch with friends at Contigo in San Francisco, there were dried persimmons and a case of SFQ, our very favorite barbecue sauce in the world. (Michele and Danny made a bet when the Seahawks played the 49ers. Lucky for us, the Seahawks won.) Lucy skipped to the car draped in wildly colored pop beads after playing with Tilden all afternoon. She also clutched the tiny AAA tow truck flashlight Anita had given her earlier. By the end of the evening, there was a small jar of tomato confit, made by our friends Tracy and Kim, who asked us to stay in their new home in San Jose.

The next day in Madera, we had walked through the rows of olive trees with the man who ran the Rosenthal Olive Ranch, then stood in his kitchen, sipping orange-flavored olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. Both bottles made it home safely, thankfully. We ate a salad of endive and romaine, goat cheese, and walnuts this evening with that olive oil and balsamic.

After a stop at the Santa Barbara farmers’ market, Lucy owned a copy of The Royal Treasure Measure (Math Is Fun!), a lovely book that the even lovelier Amanda brought her. We met Amanda and a handful of other people in front of the Harry’s Berries stand, laughing in the Saturday sunlight. Lucy insisted we buy a jar of pickled dilly beans and another of strawberry preserves. She walked back to the car with them all in her hands, set them down on the floor of the car, and put on the Groucho glasses our friend Leela had given her the night before. (This photo of her wearing them might be my favorite one of the hundreds and hundreds left on my phone after driving down California.)

After the potluck we held in Los Angeles, in a park by a playground, I took home a pair of earrings made by a reader, earrings the color of the Pacific Ocean we had swum in the day before. And after the next to last day in California, Lu came home with a pair of Minnie Mouse ears. Danny and I both wore our Mickey Mouse t-shirts on the plane back home.

It was, without a doubt, the best trip we have ever taken together, the three of us.

Of course, there were far more memories than tangible mementos. Those memories — of the good people with whom we shared food, of driving past dusty fields still being planted by farmers, of friends feeding us and taking us in for the night, of Disneyland and Oakland and hotel pools in Los Angeles, of meals with friends in restaurants — will stay with us for a long time.

We’ll be sharing the stories of our time in California with you, here, over the next couple of weeks. There will be recipes too, inspired by our time in San Luis Obisbo and Sacramento and Santa Barbara. There will also be recipes in our next cookbook, which will have a good number of comfort food dishes and another good number of meals inspired by the fresh produce and healthy celebration of California. We will share photos and stories of the places we have gone, which might inspire you to visit them too.

Mostly, though, I’m left with a wave of gratitude for the state that was my childhood home. California, I underestimated you as a kid. I choked through smog and wondered why we lived in a place with skies so perpetually brown. The vapidity of Hollywood and the desperate need to appear beautiful all the time drove me away. (I was a bespectacled bookworm brunette in southern California in the late 1970s and 1980s. I never stood a chance.) But now, as an adult, firmly rooted with Danny and Lu on this island we call home, I fell in love with California in a way I never could as a child. The entire trip, I hummed Joni Mitchell in my mind:

“California I’m coming home
I’m going to see the folks I dig
I’ll even kiss a Sunset pig
California I’m coming home.”

It was a good trip home.

We can’t wait to share it with you here.

 

 

We’d like to send out a huge acknowledgment and thank you to Erewhon Organic for sponsoring this California tour. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to meet you and gather material for our next cookbook. Erewhon Organic makes some of our favorite foods in the world, including their new quinoa-chia cereal and their buckwheat-hemp cereal, which was our favorite breakfast on this tour. They do things right. 

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the next adventurehttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/02/gluten-free-california/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gluten-free-california http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/02/gluten-free-california/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 06:36:02 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9310 We’re off on another adventure. And we’d love to meet you along the way. As many of you might remember, we spent much of September in a minivan, driving around New England, holding potlucks and…

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another adventure!_

We’re off on another adventure. And we’d love to meet you along the way.

As many of you might remember, we spent much of September in a minivan, driving around New England, holding potlucks and meeting so many of you lovely people. (If you want to take a look at some of those experiences, here are the posts for your perusal.) Those gatherings and the laughter we shared with so many of you have fueled the recipe development and testing we have been doing in our kitchen studio since then. Now, it’s time to hit the road again.

On Saturday, we’re flying down to San Francisco to start our California road trip.

Why California? There is so much good food there. Think of how California chefs and restaurants have set the trends for meals and ingredients these past 50 years: Chez Panisse, farmers’ markets, Wolfgang Puck, Zuni Cafe, Lucques, Bar Tartine. California supplies so much of this country with fresh produce, particularly those farmers in the central part of the state. And I grew up in California, in Claremont (where we are going), but I never appreciated those miles we drove when we went up to Washington to visit my grandparents. To really understand the food of that state and its importance to American cuisine, I want to go back as an adult.

Danny, Lu, and I would like to meet you.

Here’s where we are going to be.

Sacramento, Sunday February 16th

On Sunday, we’re having an afternoon potluck party at the home of a friend in Sacramento. This one is an invite-only potluck as we can only have so many people there. If you would like to attend, email me at shauna@glutenfreegirl.com, telling me why you’d like to be there. I’ll let you know the address and details in the return email.

 

Oakland, Tuesday February 18th — Mariposa Bakery, 7 to 8:30 pm

We’re big fans of Mariposa, one of the best gluten-free bakeries in the Bay Area. Years ago, we had a small event in honor of my first book. Now, we’re going back to their new space in Oakland. We’d love to meet you there.

Bring a potluck dish to the party, a food that really feels like the cuisine of the Bay Area to you. (This is a dedicated gluten-free baking space so please do not bring any gluten!)

Mariposa Baking
5427 Telegraph Ave, Unit D3
Oakland, CA 94609

Come on out!

San Carlos, Wednesday February 19th — Zest Bakery, 3 pm

We can’t go to the Bay Area without visiting our friends Charissa and Patrick at Zest Bakery. Lucy still talks about their baked goods. We’ll be making a stop there for tea and treats. If you’d like to join us, come on by at 3 pm.

 

Madera, Thursday February 20th — San Joaquin Wine Company, 6 to 8 pm 

We’re very excited to meet the farmers of central California and meet you at the lovely San Joaquin Wine Company in Madera. They have generously volunteered the space for our party. Let’s gather with great food that feels like that part of California to you. Bring a potluck dish, with gluten or without. We want to hear your food stories!

San Joaquin Wine Company
21801 Avenue 16,
Madera, CA 93637

(Thank you so much to K.C. Pomering for organizing this for us!)

 

Santa Barbara, Saturday February 22nd — Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market, 11 am 

We won’t be having an official potluck here, but we’ll be heading to the farmers’ market to meet farmers and gather armfuls of the produce we won’t be able to find in Washington for months still. If you’re in the area, and you’d like to say hello and share some food, come on by.

 

Los Angeles, Sunday February 23rd — Silverlake Park, 1 to 3 pm

Years ago now, we had a potluck picnic in Central Park. Everyone who attended either had the word YES or IMAGINE somewhere. That lovely afternoon in New York was really something else. And that experience taught us how much we love potlucks. There’s something wonderfully relaxed and inviting about a potluck. Instead of the perfect table glowing with candles, white plates and wine glasses? There is green grass, dozens of different dishes, and laughter.

It’s time for another picnic in the park.

This year, we’re having a potluck at Silver Lake Park in Los Angeles. As our friend Catherine said, it has a  ”…huge grassy flat area with hipsters, kids and kites on a windy day.” There seems to be a open expanse of grass right in front of a reservoir. We’ll meet you there at 1.

Bring ‎the food that really feels like Los Angeles to you. (If you want to bring the gluten version, feel free to do so! Just mark it clearly.) We can’t wait to feast with you.

(We’ve looked at the weather forecast and it’s supposed to be in the mid-60s and reasonably sunny. I remember from when I grew up in southern California, 63° still felt like we needed parkas. But think of the people on the East Coast and their 5 feet of snow right now. They’d love to be in 63° weather. Go ahead. Brave the weather. Come out to meet us.)

Silver Lake Park
1850 W Silver Lake Dr
Los Angeles, CA ‎

 

As you can see, we’ll be in plenty of places. But we learned our lessons from the trip in September. We won’t be doing a potluck every day this time. Instead, we’ll be meeting with farmers, friends, chefs, bakers, and savoring the tastes of California. (And also, driving. There will be plenty of driving.) To follow along with our adventures, feel free to check out my photographs on Instagram, see what we’re saying on Twitter, and hear everyone’s suggestions for places to eat on our Facebook page.

Speaking of that, if you have suggestions for great restaurants, farms you feel we must visit, places to stay, farmers’ markets where we should shop, or gluten-free bakeries we should try, please leave your suggestions in the comments section of this post. Everyone who wants to visit California someday — make your lists.

We can’t wait to meet you, to eat with you, and to hear your food stories, California.

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