Once upon a time, I happened upon a blog. I used to read the food section of the Seattle Times regularly each week and one day they featured a woman who went by the name of Gluten Free Girl. I clicked on the link to her site and was captivated by her writing and her story. This was long ago, long before food blogs were as common and ubiquitous as pennies. And long before I truly understood what it meant to eat gluten free. I didn’t know how to bookmark, deli.ci.ous didn’t exist and so once I clicked away, I lost her.
Later, once food blogging became more common and I started reading more and more amazing sites, I rediscovered Shauna’s blog. And I went all the way back to the beginning and read every single one of her posts. I loved her conversational style and the way she wrote so tantalizingly about food. She has that rare ability to make people want to jump out of their chairs and get in the kitchen. I also loved how she approached her inability to eat gluten as a challenge and a celebration. Rather than bemoan all the things she couldn’t eat, she celebrated the things she could. I saw some similarities in how I approach vegetarianism (although I get it that my diet is a choice and hers is not.)
Fast forward and insert some conversations on Twitter, and I got an invitation to visit her, her wonderful husband Danny and adorable daughter on the idyllic island they call home. Whenever I go to meet a new friend, I always bring something from my kitchen. Because I love to bake, and because I often have treats lying around, it is usually something sweet. But almost everything I bake has gluten in it. I thought about making some coconut macaroons but I imagined she has had her fill of those. Instead I brought my fool-proof toffee and a recipe that was new to me. Spicy Tomato Jam.
I decided to make it because it comes from a trusted cookbook and is something I have thought of making on many different occasions. I imagine it would be good with goat cheese on top of crostini. I’m sure it would make a good omelet filling. But I also think it would be really good with meat – pork most likely – and I know that Shauna and Danny love pork. So I filled my kitchen with the intoxicating smell of cherry tomatoes cooking down with sugar and spices and then spooned it up into a jar for them to enjoy.
My boys and I shared a wonderful morning with that sweet family. It was a gorgeous day and that island is more beautiful than I could have imagined. Danny made us a lunch I have been dreaming about every since – black quinoa with incredibly flavorful lentils, celery root, and cashews all topped with red cabbage. It was a perfectly balanced meal both in terms of flavor and health. I could eat that every day.
The amazing day was capped off by a Santa Claus siting on the ferry. No joke. We were sitting and looking out the window when we heard bells and up the stairs he came. The boys’ eyes got as big as saucers and then they had a lengthy discussion with him about Bob the Builder hats and cement mixers. We imagined that his sleigh was somewhere on the ferry and the boys talked about nothing else the whole ride home.
One Year Ago: Seitan Bourguignonne
Spicy Tomato Jam
Adapted from Everyday Greens
Makes about 2 cups
There is quite a bit more sugar in the original recipe but I think the amount listed below is plenty sweet. You could probably even scale back more.
1 pound ripe cherry tomatoes, about 3 cups
4 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. light brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 lemon, sliced into thin half moons
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 tbsp. unfiltered cider vinegar
Salt and cayenne pepper
Combine the tomatoes, sugars, ginger, lemon, spices, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the vinegar ina medium-size, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of cayenne and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the tomatoes cook down to a jam and the sugars are bubbly and caramelized, 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon vinegar to taste.