the light, how it dances

Mostly, these past few weeks, I’ve been sitting here, typing. Breathing. Then moving to the kitchen to cook. Cleaning. And typing again.

Thank goodness for Lucy. She keeps me grounded. When she’s around, I can’t think about the cookbook. I push her in the swing at the playground and listen to her giggle. “Faster, Mama!” she says, and then she throws her head back and laughs as the wind moves through her hair. Without those hours of being with her — and yes, playing Candyland again — I think I might go mad with all this work.

Last night, she stood on our kitchen counter, ready to look into the blender to see if the miso-ginger dressing was done. She looked up at me and smiled and said, “I’m cooking with my Mommy!”

And I remembered again why I’m doing all this work.

Still, there’s something singular about the time of finishing a cookbook. Everything is moving toward one goal.

(Well, I wish. My energies are also going to filling out paperwork for the adoption and purging the house and packing for our move soon. Really, this is a pretty crazy time.)

And in that one-pointedness, I have no time to waste. Not going anywhere much, I have more stillness. And I can feel what is tugging me more than ever.

Here’s some of what I have fallen in love with lately.

— Collard greens. I swear, I don’t know how I lived without these. Before this year, I had never eaten a collard green. I thought they had to be boiled to within an inch of their lives, with the slimy texture to prove it, before they could be eaten. While I’ve always been intrigued by the phrase “pot likker,” I’ve never liked the look of collard greens prepared in the traditional fashion. But around here, we get Northern collard greens, which are more tender than their Southern counterparts. When I slice them off the stem, then make ribbons of them with my white-handled knife, they are my favorite ingredient of the moment. A hot pan, some olive oil, a mound of collard greens, some apple cider vinegar, a few chile flakes and salt. Shake that pan. This, with a fried egg on top, is all I need for breakfast.

— My Polaroid Land Camera 110a. I found this on the island. A local photographer was selling his older cameras and I drove as fast as I could to buy this one. It’s an ancient thing, nothing sleek or technological. The lens moves back and forth on giant bellows, like I’m quietly fanning flames to make a train run instead of taking a photograph. I must admit that I was scared of it at first — the lens is so good, the camera so different than the quick and fast digital — but now I have moved past my fear. Luckily, Fuji now makes instant film that fits this camera. (Thanks, Molly, for letting me know.) I’m taking a lot of bad shots, learning. Once in awhile, however, this low-light shot comes out that actually makes me gasp when I see it emerge from behind the black paper.

— All this sunlight. People, we have luxuriated in six straight days of sunlight here in the Seattle area. Sun! On our faces! The other day, Danny, Lu, and I sat on the front porch of the coffee roasterie here on the island, drinking coffee and hot chocolate, nowhere to go for at least an hour. We watched people go in and out of the old screen door. One man clutched a mug the shape of a young woman’s graceful face. Neighbors greeted each other with grins. We listened for a few minutes to our Congressman speak near the rows of herbal teas. (We would have listened more but three-year-olds don’t have much time for Congressmen.) We talked. We sat in silence. Danny lifted Lucy high in the air, over and over, until his back could stand no more. All against the backdrop of a bright blue sky. I could feel warmth on my neck.

Sure, it’s going to go back to raining soon. We’ll have another two months of winter. But this week, the sun has felt like a gift. I’ve accepted it.

— Eggs. As some of you have mentioned — and been asking me about — I’ve been eating eggs again. To my great joy, I found that I am not allergic to them at all.

When I took an ELISA test this summer, it registered that I was highly allergic to eggs and almonds. I was pretty devastated. Damn, I love eggs. But I was also confused. Eggs always make me feel good. You know how your body knows that certain foods don’t do you much good, but you eat them anyway? Like Halloween candy or too many pancakes. Eggs were never like that for me. When I ate eggs, I felt clean. Healthy. Energized. So when this test came back with a high allergic reaction to eggs, I was shocked. But, I paid attention.

I went without eggs for a few weeks, dutifully. And I had some reactions that I thought must have been to eggs. For the three weeks I didn’t eat eggs, I started to feel better. A little lighter. The occasional mild headache gone. Some bloating and other loveliness seeming to disappear. Energy higher. I almost relegated myself to a life without eggs.

Notice the word almost. Something just didn’t feel right. I just couldn’t believe it would be eggs. So I had a long conversation with my regular doctor, in Seattle. He’s such a wise and lovely person that sometimes you just want to book an appointment with him to sit in the lamplight of his wisdom. He told me that true allergic reactions — as opposed to food intolerances or sensitivities — have only a few very specific symptoms. That he has had a number of patients and family members come to him with results from those tests and none of them turned out to be allergic to those foods. That he has never seen that test register an absence of allergic reactions to foods. That it’s almost impossible to do a scientific study on yourself, gauging your reaction to a food by how you feel that day. My symptoms that made me suspect another food was bothering me? Mild headaches. Some troubles sleeping. Digestive issues. Lower energy. I was never that sick. Just off by 5%.

The celiac has me so sensitized to food issues that it never occurred to me it could be something else.

So we started to talk about it. What had been happening when I ate the aioli and seemed to have a reaction: a bad headache and some wheezy breathing? Well, we had been traveling all summer. When we weren’t on an airplane or in a hotel, we were at home madly preparing for the photoshoot for our cookbook. This happened the night before we began, after a long day of preparation and no sleep the night before. I had a headache after eating? Yes. I hadn’t eaten all day. I believe now I started having some wheezy breathing because I ate aioli and suddenly remembered, “Oh damn! I’m not supposed to be eating eggs!” Small panic.

And had anything changed those days after we returned from all the traveling and photo shoots? The weeks I felt suddenly better? Well, I was in my own bed again. I was sleeping. I was eating better than I do on the road. I was taking long walks every day again. I was at peace. Hm. That could certainly have a lot to do with why I felt better.

Then, I realized. With all the tumult and travel, I had forgotten to renew my prescription for Tamoxifen. This drug, which blocks estrogen production, seemed to be treating me just fine. I didn’t think I was having any side effects. After that conversation, I realized I had been. I know them now.

Also, I’m 45. I’m getting old.

After I hung up the phone, I drove right to the restaurant where Danny is a chef. I sat at the counter and said, “Make me a poached egg.” (I also knew the fire station was down the street if anything happened.) Damn, that egg tasted good.

I’ve been fine ever since.

I learned a lot in that time without eggs. I’m trying to put some of it into our cookbook. But I can eat eggs again. And that makes me happier than this sudden sunlight.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have more recipes to write.

p.s. Oh, one more. Downton Abbey. Oh yes.

COLLARD GREENS AND TOMATO CLAFOUTIS, adapted from La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life

Something else I’ve been loving lately is Bea’s new book, La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life. If you have ever seen the website La Tartine Gourmande, you know that Bea makes beautiful food and even more beautiful photographs. You might not have known, however, that almost everything she makes is gluten-free. This is a gloriously sunny day of a cookbook, filled with inventive flavor combinations and an impeccable French sensibility. Just flipping through it the first time inspired me.

And when I read and looked, I noticed Bea had a recipe for a savory clafoutis. Savory clafoutis? I’ve only ever heard of light-as-air clafoutis, with ripe summer fruits, dusted with sugar. Savory? Well, let me tell you, that Bea knows what she is doing. I took her recipe as a template and threw in my new-found favorite: collard greens. Danny and I ate this for dinner, happily. He didn’t miss the meat.

(As I said, I’m still learning that camera. This shot’s a little out of focus. Don’t let that stop you from making this dish or buying Bea’s book.)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons fine-chopped fresh thyme
1 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes (we like the Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ bunch collard greens, cut into ribbons
40 grams gluten-free AP flour mix
1/2 cup whole milk (you can sub in a dairy-free milk here)
3/4 cup cashew cream
1/4 cup water
3 eggs
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
90 grams grated Parmesan

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 400°. Grease a 10-inch baking dish with your favorite oil and set aside.

Cooking the onions and tomatoes. Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil. When it is hot, add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion has softened but not begun to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the thyme and cook until the fragrance of the herb releases into the room, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes have begun to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook until everything has combined and the tomatoes are really softening, about 3 minutes.

Transfer this mixture to a plate.

Cooking the collard greens. In the same skillet, add the remaining olive oil. When the oil is hot to the point of almost smoking, throw in the collard greens. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens have turned bright green and begun to wilt, just a bit, about 3 minutes.

Put the collard greens on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with the onion-tomato mixture. Spread it out evenly in the dish.

Making the batter. In a blender combine the gluten-free flour, milk, cashew cream, water, eggs, and the salt until they are silky smooth.

Pour the egg batter over the vegetables. Top with the Parmesan.

Bake the clafoutis until the eggs are set and top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.


Feeds 4.

54 comments on “the light, how it dances

  1. Gabby @ Gabby's Gluten-Free

    This clafoutis looks absolutely delicious. I’m also loving the new camera photos – there is just something about older cameras that gives photos so much soul.

  2. Emilah DeToro

    Thanks, Shauna, for another lovely recipe! I love collard greens and am always looking for other ways to make them. My current favorite…sauteed in ghee with cumin, salt, onion and garlic. I add frozen corn right at the end for color and texture. To make it a main dish, I sautee chicken before I toss in the corn. Quite yummy!

  3. Courtney@Translating Nutrition

    Very interesting to hear about your egg non-allergy experience. I think it is great that you have a doctor who can look at the bigger picture and help you sort through it – what a blessing!

    p.s. I am OBsessed with downton abbey. I relished that little p.s. you snuck in there 🙂

  4. Ann B

    I am so glad that you are finding so much cause for happiness, amongst all the hard work. I missed your voice during January, and am happy to have you back. And YAY for eggs.

  5. Elisa

    I routinely do this with vegetables… Every year I find more that I’ve never given a fair shake. Chard, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, okra… These things I never dared eat because I’d smelled them once, horribly overcooked, and decided they were never to pass my lips. I’ve discovered that this formerly-incredibly-picky-child in reality dislikes very few foods, if cooked properly. 🙂 Also – I’m so glad you figured out the source of your icky feelings, and that it wasn’t eggs! Food sensitivities are so tricky because, like you said, there’s no way to actually know whether you’re reacting to something you ate or something else. But it’s always good to rule them out! (Also I wish my doctor were as good as yours!). 🙂

  6. Sherri

    Hooray on the eggs! this recipe looks really good ~ I am not familiar with cashew cream I will have to go searching! 🙂 Glad even though things are crazy busy that you are well … take care 🙂

  7. Christina

    So happy you’re back! I have had the experience of eliminating and reintroducing foods. Great description of the journey and looking at life holistically. And yes, Downton is amazing. It’s pretty much like crack. 🙂

    1. shauna

      Oh, you can use regular cream! We don’t use cream around here anymore, since Danny is lactose intolerant. And I’ve grown to love cashew cream.

  8. Clea Danaan Edelblute

    Lovely! I’m also glad to hear the roaster is still there. But I’m sentimentally sorry to hear you are moving… if I lived where I grew up we’d be neighbors. I miss GB. Thanks for the lovely recipe! Enjoy the sun.

  9. Beth @ Tasty Yummies

    These photos are all so beautiful! And this clafoutis looks incredible. Are you making your own cashew cream or buying it? I make cashew cream based sauces and dips by soaking cashews and then processing them, is that all that is in this recipe?
    Thanks for this recipe, it looks delicious!

    1. shauna

      Hey Beth, I do make my own cashew milk and cream. I’m doing a big piece about it in the book, but here I wanted people to feel free to buy the cashew cream to save time, if they wanted!

  10. Ada

    Congrats on being able to eat eggs again! I know (or think I know) that I’m intolerant to some degree, but I thought I’d have a couple for breakfast yesterday since I was craving devilled eggs and it had been a while since the last time I had eggs of any sort. Nope, didn’t work; I almost instantly had a foggy brain and a buildup of mucus/phlegm. Thankfully it passed in about 45 minutes, but it’s disappointing nonetheless as eggs are truly a delicious food. So, have an extra poached egg for me. 😉

  11. Urban Wife

    Such a lovely recipe! And that camera…oh my. It makes me want to get my hands on one. It’s nice to have sunshine so do enjoy it while it’s there.

  12. gluten free gift

    Shauna – have been missing your posts! So happy to hear that your egg saga has ended well… celiac often travels with other intolerances… not abnormal for us to find ourselves constantly deleting ingredients in an effort feel better. I’m the same age as you – sometimes I have to accept that the body just needs more loving care to feel good (sadly, less wine and chocolate). Like so many who read your blog, wish you were just down the street (so I could have a cup of tea with you – and maybe catch an episode of Downton!).

  13. Suze

    I was really hoping that first pic was lacinato kale. I don’t even like the sound of the work “collards.” 🙂 Beautiful pics. And so glad you’re not allergic to eggs. They’re one of my comfort foods, either poached or scrambled. Yum.

  14. clara

    Great looking recipe – is any milk required? Directions say something about adding milk (along w/eggs cashew cream etc.) but there is no milk in the ingredients list.

    Very excited to try out cashew cream!


  15. Rachel

    Collard greens?? I have been afraid to cook collard greens as well, but perhaps I will try your “breakfast” recipe sometime, because it sounds lovely. Also, I love your photos.

  16. Jane

    I think it’s good of you to let people know about the eggs. Unfortunately, there are so many people who believe they are allergic to various foods, animals, plants…and they simply are not. My aunt is convinced that she is allergic to lime and has consumed things unknowingly that contain lime, without any kind of negative effect. However, if she thinks that a recipe has lime in it and she has consumed it, she will have a panic attack that she attributes to the lime. Such “reactions” (and I see them all the time in both my traditional and natural health practice) are not physiological, but largely based on psychological factors. I see many people who are skeptical about others’ allergies, and I’m starting to understand that perspective. I hate to say it, but as a society we have become so obsessed with labeling and diagnosing that we fail to look at the big picture.

  17. jas @ the gluten free scallywag

    what fantastic news about not being allergic to eggs! I, like you, love my eggs and don’t know what I’d do without them, but then I once would have thought the same about gluten (if I’d have known what it was before my diagnoses) and yet, I adapted, I flowed, I felt better. I survived without!

    I can’t wait to get hold of Bea’s book, her photography is inspirational, yet I love your blurry clafoutis just as much, both evoke an emotion, both make me want to do two things; get in the kitchen and then grab my camera.

    Thank you for sitting. For writing. For cooking and cleaning. For spending glorious moments with your Lucy who makes your heart sing. Thank you for sharing.

  18. Brianne

    I LOVE fruit clafouti, so I have to try this savory version. And I have to try to make some cashew cream. Sounds like a great way to add some healthy fats instead of cream.

  19. Caneel

    What an awesome camera! And this recipe looks so good. I’m so glad to hear you are able to eat eggs again, Shauna! Hooray! Best wishes to you as you wrap up everything and go forward with the adoption (HOW exciting!) and house move!

  20. sarah

    Glad I’m not the only one obsessed with Downton Abbey 🙂

    I learned that “pot likker” refers to the water left behind after boiling greens (collard, often), or “pot liquor.” The water is nutritious, so people drink it after preparing their greens. (I could be wrong!)

  21. Melissa

    So glad to see you back Shauna. Now you’ve got me thinking about eggs. My 5yo daughter had a rash on her face around the holidays and the doctor said it was “food related”–so we had our naturopath test her for allergies b/c even without the rash she often says she has a stomachache after meals and has occasional other such issues.

    The test came back last week and said on a scale of 1-5 she had a 3.5 reaction to eggs and a 2.5 reaction to wheat. Nothing else stood out. Ugh. We’ve decided to start with removing the eggs. At least for now. After a few weeks we’ll give them a try and see how she responds.

    We just weren’t ready to get rid of both the wheat and eggs. And…I’m hoping, like you, she doesn’t actually have the problem the test showed–or she grows out of it. She’s been taking it like a trooper though. When I told her that cake and cookies have eggs she said, “Well, if someone brings cupcakes for their birthday I’ll just say no, thank you.” Almost made me cry how great she was.

    Anyway, We’ll see! Eggs are a staple for us for sure but we hate to eat them if she can’t.

    We don’t live GF, but I just love your writing and great recipes so been following for awhile. So glad for you that eggs aren’t an issue and can’t wait to see the new cookbook!

  22. Ivy Croake

    Would love to try the recipe but I have the same question as someone else about one ingredient not mentioned in the list of ingredients, but shows up in the text – milk.

  23. LSL

    Perfect- I got collard greens in my veggie delivery this week!
    And I also love the La Tartine Gourmande cook which I got this week. Looking forward to your next book as well.
    All the best on the move and the adoption journey.

  24. Jackie

    Hi Shauna, this was lovely.
    I also have a newfound adoration of collard greens–we keep getting them in my co-op box–unfortunately, my husbaand has waged war against them. I’ve only prepared them sautéed so I’m giving this recipe a try tonight. Fingers crossed I can make a liar of him yet! Haha.
    Bay leaf? In the procedure, but not ingredients list.
    Very excited about your new book.

    1. shauna

      fixed! Oh goodness, you can tell I’m tired and in the thick of it. sorry about that. I bet your husband might like this one.

  25. molly

    1. have you ever had niloufor ichaporia king’s greens with garlic and chili? it’s in her book, my bombay kitchen, and also in alice waters’ in the green kitchn. made it tonight with amaranth greens, and ginger, and HOT damn, it was good. fantastic. not sure if it would work with collards. but it would definitely work with a fried egg. we had it with luisa’s indian chicken.
    2. love the title, love the light, love camera.
    3. someday our paths will cross. looking forward to that.
    4. i’m avoiding a deadline, and really ought to make a jailbreak, so…

  26. Kathryn

    I went through allergy testing about 4 years ago, however, this was what the doctor called bubble testing. They actually raise little bubbles on your arms. They also use straight, pure histamine to do an initial reaction to see what it looks like. It took 2 or 3 hours as I recall. They also had me check my arms for 2 or 3 days afterward to see if I had a slow reaction to anything that didn’t occur immediately. So, my recommendation is that if you have to have testing, try to find a doctor that does this kind of testing.

  27. The Cozy Herbivore

    I’m so with you on the collard greens. Growing up a Yankee, the only experience I had with them was the over-cooked, limp versions served in “Southern” restaurants. When I tried them lightly sauteed, it was quite a revelation.

    And a huge congratulations to you for listening to your body, having a wonderful and nurturing doctor and for being able to eat a favorite food again. Sometimes it’s the little things that bring the most amount sunshine into our lives, right?

  28. Ann from Montana

    Another who has fallen in love with all kinds of greens I’d never thought I’d go near unless blended beyond recognition in a smoothie. Love the thought of a savory clafouti and will gather ingredients this weekend to try.

    As others said, kudos for listening and thinking and questioning and so very happy that the egg thing turned out well.

    As for Downton, I watched the first season in a back to back viewing orgy (streaming) while down with a bug and fell in love with all of it. But this second season is so disappointing to me…seems to have turned into a BBC version of Dallas albeit better actors and beautiful backdrops.

  29. Carol

    Glad you’re back! I’m really happy for you about the eggs. I don’t eat plain eggs, but can’t imagine baking regularly without them. Downton is just wonderful, but a friend feels they jumped the shark with the apparent return of a disfigured Patrick.

  30. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    I’m delighted to hear you’re not allergic to eggs, and also that you’ve cozied up to collard greens. Thanks to chickens and a weirdly warm winter, eggs and collards are the two things our little proto-farm is producing, so I naturally had to try Francis Lam’s faux carbonara recipe:
    I know you’re not big into pasta, but the next time you’re in the mood, give it a go.

    On the book front, moral support vibes are coming through the ether from Cape Cod.

  31. Jody

    I am new to GF cooking and your website has been an incredible wealth of information. Being 8 months pregnant and living with a gluten-eating family has made it incredibly difficult to resist temptation, however, your lovely recipes give me hope. I actually have a question regarding one of your previous posts though. I have been trying to put together my own AP flour mix and love the idea of cooking using weights and ratios, but it is still a bit confusing. I noticed that you said you use a 70% whole grain/30% starch mixture but also one that is 40%/60%. Is one or the other better for baking vs. cooking? Thank you!

  32. Suzan McMann

    So happy that you don’t have to go without eggs. Very excited about cashew milk and cream. And finally, 45 is so NOT old. Had to throw this in – as I am 44 1/2. 🙂 Do know what you mean about the changes as we mature, though – good and not-so good.

  33. Jessica @ Hungrygems

    I’m slowly moving up the greens ladder. Spinach captivated me first, then swiss chard showed me its seductive presence in soups and I believe it is now time, with your assistance, to be introduced to the southern king, collard greens. It’s a pleasure to meet you…

  34. Kristina

    Oh, I love collard greens! I usually eat them in stews, using them like cabbage. One of my favorite dishes is African groundnut stew with collard greens. As for potlikker, just bake a pan of cornbread and sop it right up; or crumble the cornbread into it and spoon up the mixture like soup. It’s ambrosial (and full of good green nutrition!).

  35. Jessica W

    I love collards. I usually make them in the Southern way (either with a smoked hock and chili flakes or with bacon and brown sugar) or I do the Ethiopian Gomen method with ginger and onion and garlic. But this looks fascinating. I’m hung up on the cashew cream though. What is it, where do you find it, and is there an alternative (peanut butter, milk some combo?)

    1. shauna

      Jessica, you can use regular cream! we just use cashew cream here because Danny is lactose intolerant.

  36. Heda

    No need to post this. I’m apologizing in advance because I’m going to say something fairly challenging. It’s great that you can eggs and it makes me wonder if you can eat gluten as well? Within 3 hours of eating either egg yolks or gluten I have severe stomach cramps and exceedingly urgent diarrhea. Life is short. If I could eat either eggs or gluten I’d do so in a heart beat. But even if you do eat gluten, please keep posting your wonderful gluten free recipes because not only do they enrich my diet but they enrich my life. All the very best and wonderful news about the eggs!

    1. shauna

      Heda, they are completely different animals. I have celiac. And my reaction to gluten is unbelievably clear.

  37. Eileen

    I’m so happy that you can eat eggs again- for you as it’s clear how much you relish them, and for us because that means more recipes with them- yay! As for the amazing collard greens, take it from a long time devotee that they have many variations and nuances. Getting them younger/smaller, fresher and/or after a freeze or three (much likelier up North) makes a huge difference to their tenderness & sweetness. Here down South many regular grocery stores only have the massively large older bunches that’ve been picked & held, and that age, size & pre-freeze picking yields a very tough leaf that needs a long, slow, wet prep (though not the boiling that leads to the slimy, overcooked results you and so many others sadly encounter). Since we started getting our veggies through a CSA we’ve seen collards in all stages of size & ripeness, all so fresh the leaves still squeak when rubbed together. With the crazy warm weather we’ve been having we do still have to stash them briefly in the freezer to get the best flavor & texture, but we’re delighting in their flavor & versatility.

    PS- Downton Abbey is our delight, too. Yay for PBS!

  38. Vincci

    Loved that section on the egg non-allergy. It’s so great that your doctor was able to put things into perspective, and you were able to step back and see all the different things that affect how we feel!

  39. Thandiwe Diego

    hi ,I am 12 years old and i have been living with celiac disease for a little more than a year, I visit your website alot but here in Belize wich is a small country in Central America its very hard to find gluten free material that gives you that wonderful light texture.I have modified many recipies but i still can’t enjoy cupcakes or freashly baked bread.What can i use instead of xanthan gum or any other gum i do have access to rice and corn flour do you have any ideas?

  40. gothic jeans

    Great blog here! Also your web site loads up fast!
    What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

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