Monday, October 13, 2008

Simple, gluten-free pleasures

At the heart of my relationship with Ben is a shared life philosophy. We agree on basic values, what is really important in life, and how we want to live our lives.

Beyond that, I believe what makes our relationship so enjoyable is the pleasure we take in the little things we share - things like our morning coffee, our love of food, our simple appreciation of one another, laughing at our cats' strange behavior, and dancing together in our living room.

This weekend, Ben and I celebrated my birthday, taking pleasure in simple activities together and in sharing small, simple food. Well, with the exception of breakfast, that is. For breakfast, Ben made coconut pancakes, chicken apple sausage, and scrambled eggs made our favorite way (with a sprinkling of turmeric). With this large meal behind us, we wandered through the farmer's market together, picking out several types of winter squash, a large bundle of apples, some grapes, and a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

We stopped for lunch at Andina, a Peruvian restaurant that also has a large gluten-free menu, and our experience here nearly brought me to tears. To start things off, our server saw we requested gluten free menus and she confirmed we were both gluten-free while informing us she would get the cooks to start up the Yucca right away (in place of the bread basket). I felt a pang of deep appreciation knowing they had an automatic alternative for the gluten-free diners. When you spend so much time at restaurants literally omitting things in order to eat gluten free (“I'll have the salad without the croutons”) and then hoping they listen, it's an amazing experience to dine somewhere like this. Almost like two giddy teenagers, we shared several small plates from their tapas menu: grilled asparagus, a quinoa salad with cucumber-mint dressing, Parmesan-encrusted scallops, and chorizo. Each one was more delicious than we imagined. To top it all off, our server brought out a caramel-chocolate mousse complete with two small fresh flowers on top and a single green candle. She apparently overheard Ben mentioning it was my birthday and brought me her favorite dessert, wishing me a happy birthday and hoping I enjoy the dessert as much as she did. And I didn't even have to ask – I knew it was gluten free.

For the remainder of the sunny afternoon, we spend time poking around in shops in Northwest Portland before it was time to stop by the grocery store to pick up dinner.

That night we listened to Miles Davis and dined on a good wine, a variety of cheeses, several types of olives, two types of gluten-free baguettes, sliced zucchini and hummus, and gluten-free kibbeh. We savored small bites of good, rich tastes; some cheeses were strong, some were delicate. Some of the olives had a more sweet flavor, while others were more salty. It couldn't have been more simple, or more enjoyable.

See, gluten-free food can be complex - several types of flours and yeast and gums and seasonings to make a great loaf of bread - but, at its best, gluten-free food is simple. It is simple, whole ingredients, which is one reason it is so special.

And, for dessert, we curled up on the couch with our homemade chocolate peppermint ice cream. (We joke that this is one big reason we are perfect for one another – chocolate peppermint ice cream happens to be both our favorite ice cream flavor.) In this picture, I am chopping up a dark chocolate Dagoba chocolate bar.

Reflecting on the day, we both felt incredibly grateful for our time together and the wonderful things we shared. Remarkably, we also both felt very refreshed. After spending the last few weekends organizing our things and getting settled, it felt great to get out of the apartment without care for what work remained at home. It was amazing how energetic we felt Sunday, ready to get our errands and housework taken care of. And ready to start another week. We agreed to continue activities like this, now that we have the apartment almost settled, savoring our time together and sharing small indulgences.

Gluten-free Kibbeh:

Ben has all the credit for the gluten-free kibbeh. I had actually never heard of it before, so I was excited to try it, and it turned out delicious! To make it most simply, he omitted the breading around the meat (though we could have taken the time to make it with gluten-free ingredients, we didn't want to).

We forgot to take a picture of these, so unfortunately there is no visual for you to see, but they turn out like small meatballs. Ben is a lot like me in the kitchen and measures little (actually I think he doesn't measure at all, while I measure infrequently), so there isn't much of a recipe here, but guidelines with which you can play. Feel out the portions to your liking.

½ pound ground lamb



about ¼ small sweet onion, diced finely

about ¼ to 1/3 cup pine nuts

Mix all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and form small balls with the mixture, about 1 ½ inches across. Place in a glass baking dish and bake at 350F for about 20-30 minutes.



glutenfreeforgood said...

Hey Lauren — thanks for the agreement on HFCS. I was starting to worry that maybe I've gone over the edge with this stuff! I love this post of yours, but I have to admit, I couldn't even finish it before going to your coconut pancake link. I LOVE anything coconut, so I definitely took that recipe of yours. It's even dairy free. Yippee!

Oh my gosh, your cupboard is so organized! I'll never have a photo of mine out there for the world to see.

Happy late birthday!

Anonymous said...

I have been enjoying your website and recipes. I stumbled on this post within hours of writing my wedding vows, and have to say what you wrote about your relationship with Ben really struck home with me. I could not have said it better! I'm happy to know another couple out there "gets" each other and the simple pleasures of life.

Lauren Denneson said...

Michelle - congratulations on your wedding! It is indeed wonderful to know other couples out there who can stay focused on the simple things when life can get so crazy sometimes. Thank you so much for your comment!

Hannah Azevedo said...

Lauren, your description of your dinner at Andina DID bring me to tears! I've been gluten-free for almost a year and am always expecting to have to explain, and then pick off the croutons. I am planning a trip to Portland because my husband and I are celebrating our anniversary soon, so I couldn't have found your post at a more perfect time. Thanks for the restaurant recommendation!