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Bigger and fuller and brighter

Today I want to tell you about a friend of mine. You’ve heard of her, I’ll bet, and if not from me, then because of her own site. Her name is Shauna, and people, the lady knows how to live.

I first met Shauna a couple of years ago, in September, I think, when, after a series of long, chatty e-mail exchanges, we decided to sit down for some tea at Mr. Spots Chai House, a little hippie haven of sorts in Ballard, a neighborhood about halfway between our apartments at the time. I should tell you at this point that I have a terrible fear of chai, due to the fact that after having my first mug of the stuff about ten years ago, I went home and had horrible, horrible dreams - like, he’s-chasing-me-with-a-chainsaw kind of dreams, the sort that make you never want to sleep again. But Shauna and I sat down one Sunday afternoon and shared a cup or two, and both the conversation and the chai were delicious. Then we went to the Ballard farmers’ market and strolled around in the early autumn light, and watching Shauna swoon over a crate of red onions, I knew she was somebody I wanted to keep around.

(In case you’re wondering, though, I did have nightmares again that night, awful ones about ex-boyfriends and drive-by shootings - both of them utterly terrifying in their way - and needless to say, I haven’t had chai since. Don’t ask. Shauna and I have since moved on to coffee, other teas, or, preferably, wine. Lots of wine.)

I want to tell you about my friend Shauna today because her first book, titled Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back . . . & How You Can Too, has just been released, only ten days ago today. I know I’m biased - oh and how - but hers is a story that everyone should hear. You don’t have to have celiac disease to read Shauna’s book, or to care about what she has to say - about how she went from a childhood of processed foods and frequent illness to a diagnosis that could have devastated her; about how she chose instead to see it as a gift, a chance to start over, to live bigger and fuller and brighter, the way she does today: in good health, in love, up to her elbows in good food.

Shauna is passionate about celiac awareness, but she’s even more passionate about this dirty business we call life. I always thought I was pretty good at appreciating things, at scraping every drop of sauce, so to speak, from my dinner plate. But this lady, I swear. If I’m scraping the plate, she’s licking the darn thing. She’s going after life with both hands.

My friend Shauna lights up the room. I’ve never met someone who could make obstacles disappear the way she does, like magic. And though she may seem sweet on her website, the girl can be downright gritty in real life, which I secretly love. She’s a terrific partner for watching the Oscars, when lots of catty commentary is required. And for someone with such an open, ready smile, she can swear like a seasoned sailor. You should have seen how hard she laughed at me when she saw the chair I used to sit in at my desk. I’d chosen it because my desk at the time was an old Hoosier-style hutch, and it was a funny, too-tall height, so this was the best solution, albeit a somewhat uncomfortable one. Shauna howled when she saw it. (Needless to say, I’ve since moved on to real, big-people chairs.)

Really, there’s nobody with whom I’d rather share a dinner of pork chops and plum sauce, or a plate of homemade sausage and polenta, or a platter of zucchini carpaccio, or a spur-of-the-moment snack of green olives and hard cheese, or - as we ate a couple of nights ago at Volterra, when she came by to drag me out of the house after a day of writing - an arugula salad with fennel, slices of cucumber smeared with a soft cow’s milk cheese from Italy, and (gluten-free) pasta with stewed wild boar and red wine. Hers may be a diet with some serious restrictions, but to sit at her table, it doesn’t feel that way.

I thought about sharing a recipe from Shauna’s book today. Maybe the lemon olive oil cookies or the chocolate banana bread? It seemed only fitting. But in truth, I’d rather that you read them in her words, from the pages of her book. And anyway, a week or two ago, while perusing the October issue of Gourmet, I came upon a recipe that I know she would love, a recipe for bratwurst served with a compote of apples stewed in white wine and cream. Really, that recipe all but sat up on the page and said, HELLOOOOO SHAUNA. Not only was it naturally gluten-free, but I happen to know that the lady loves sausage, not to mention other forms of pork - like I said, she’s a good one - and she has more than once sung for me the praises of the humble apple.

So yesterday, come lunchtime, I browned a bratwurst in her honor and ate it with a cream-cloaked jumble of apples and onions. Given a good simmer in white wine, the apples soften and the onions relax, and with finishing dashes of sugar and vinegar and a lashing of cream, the combined effect is both sweet and savory, rich and tart, like something you might find on a farmhouse table in Normandy or Alsace. It’s a lusty, rib-sticking, delicious mess, perfect Sunday fare for a cool October day. I have a feeling that Shauna would approve.

Bratwurst with Creamy Apple Compote
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2007

The original version of this recipe calls for the bratwurst to be split and broiled, but I usually pan-cook mine, so that’s what I chose to do here. I like the look better, anyway, of a whole, nicely browned brat.

Also, the original version calls for 8 brats for 4 people, but given the richness of the compote – serious and seriously delicious richness – I don’t know about that. I’m more inclined to steer you toward 1 brat per person, and then a green salad alongside.

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, quartered from root to stem, sliced
2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 wedges
1 Turkish bay leaf
½ tsp. salt
1 cup dry white
4 bratwurst (see note above)
Vegetable oil
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Combine butter and oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet, and warm over medium-high heat until the butter is melted. Add onion, apples, bay leaf, and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add the wine, cover, and simmer gently until the apples are tender but still hold their shape, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the lid and briskly simmer until the wine is reduced by about half, 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, while the apple mixture cooks, prepare the bratwurst. Place a large heavy skillet – I like cast-iron for this – over medium heat, and let it get nice and hot. Then add a small glug of vegetable oil: preferably safflower or grapeseed, since they have a higher smoke point than other types. Then add the bratwurst. They should sizzle nicely. Cover the pan and cook, flipping the bratwurst a couple of times, until they are evenly browned and cooked through. (I usually have to cut into one of mine to check for doneness, but it doesn’t really bother me: the juices that run out help to coat the pan a bit more and give the brats a nice sheen.)

While the brats are cooking, finish the apple compote. When the wine is reduced, stir in the cream, brown sugar, and cider vinegar. Briskly simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Serve the compote alongside the bratwurst.

Yield: 4 servings

P.S. Fellow Seattlite and blogger Sarah Jio interviewed me on her site last week. (Thanks, Sarah!) Click here to see what I had to say.


Blogger Erin said...

What a wonderful post. She sounds like quite a lady! I just ordered her book at our local book store and can't wait to have it in my hands. I've been gluten-free for over a year now (along with dairy and soy)and am thrilled to find a hip gluten-free cookbook!

5:18 PM, October 22, 2007  
Blogger Jules said...

Sounds delicious!

House of Jules

6:09 PM, October 22, 2007  
Blogger Katelyn said...

Just finished Shauna's book five minutes ago -- what an absolutely beautiful story. I cried at least once per chapter. (Mkay, so I'm weepy. Whatever.) AND I met her and The Chef at the UD Farmers Market on Saturday!! She's awesome! Thanks for hosting her online book tour, and I'm looking forward to reading YOUR book too.

7:02 PM, October 22, 2007  
Anonymous Lindsay said...

I loved this post! What a wonderful friend Shauna has in you, and how lucky you two are to have found each other to share your culinary passions. Friends are the the best things in life, next to wine and chocolate, haha! I have an aunt with celiac disease and I know just what I'm getting her for Christmas!!
Speaking of wonderful books, have you read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? Halfway through and it's woooooonderful!! Just picked it up at Powell's last week and I can't put it down!
Good luck chugging away at your book - we're all rooting for you and can't wait to read it! :)

11:29 PM, October 22, 2007  
Blogger Alice Q. said...

Damn girly girl - you can write! I just came back from the Gourmet Institute in New York this weekend - I totally thought about you - especially during the photography class, where they talked about the new "messy" aesthetic. Totally up your alley.

If you're a fan of the magazine, you really should go. It was phenomenal. I will be writing more about it this week (assuming our house doesn't burn down in these crazy fires!) I am also a fan of Shauna's incidentally, and I think you guys both sound like a lot of fun to hang out with!

12:41 AM, October 23, 2007  
Anonymous Tracy Harris said...

I love Shauna's love of life and food, and plan to read her book shortly. I love this post, and the recipe sounds divine!

6:00 AM, October 23, 2007  
Anonymous Leah said...

I think everyone needs a friend like Shauna - and you! Congrats to both of you. Can't wait to read each of your books, lady! xoxo

7:57 AM, October 23, 2007  
Anonymous Marvin said...

Great post Molly. I'm looking forward to picking up Shauna's new book.

8:04 AM, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Carrie said...

What a beautiful post! Thank you for commenting on Shauna's beautiful book! I wish I knew her in person! I can't wait to read your book too! Congratulations!!

8:19 AM, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Meryl said...

What a nice post! It sounds like a lovely book - I'll look forward to reading it! And the recipe you offered up is perfect - I was just staring at the seemingly endless pile of apples in my fruit basket scratching my head!

Thanks Molly.

8:20 AM, October 23, 2007  
Anonymous radish said...

I can't wait to read Shauna's book - it's in my queue of books to read - it sounds so beautiful. Great interview by you.

8:31 AM, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Casey said...

Ordering the book today --and then I'll head to Amazon reviews.(They really do help sales; trust me) Meanwhile that bratwurst recipe will enchant my German/Danish husband.

8:47 AM, October 23, 2007  
Blogger kickpleat said...

i can't wait to read her book and i also can't wait to dig into a pile of sausage-apple goodness! lovely.

9:00 AM, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Victoria said...

This is such a GREAT post. I have a really good glutan-free friend, who happens to be an excellent cook, so I am recommending this book immediately. Plus I can't want to make the bratwurst recipe next Saturday. It sounds positively fabulous and perfect for fall weather, which must (I hope) be coming - even though it's 78 degrees in NYC today. Thanks, Molly.

9:18 AM, October 23, 2007  
Anonymous Maxine said...

I just recommended Shauna's blog to someone today! I'm an editor for a recipe website and a user emailed me asking for gluten-free recipes. Unfortunately, we don't have a ton yet, so I referred her to the Gluten Free Girl! :)

10:15 AM, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Thea LaVigna said...

Shauna sounds fun and fabulous, will buy her book AND make your adapted bratwurst with apple compote but instead of pork I'll use turkey...Thank God for WholeFoods Markets where I can easily get a variety of Turkey and chicken sausages...Thanks for the great post. Love your blog, it's always so well written and enjoyable...

10:16 AM, October 23, 2007  
Anonymous Erin of SpiceDish said...

So many people are writing about Shauna's book but I love your take on not only the book, but the author. I haven't had a chance to read yet but if I had any doubts about getting my hands on a copy... you've completely shoo'd them away.

11:31 AM, October 23, 2007  
Anonymous Hillary said...

I want to know what Shauna thought of the bratwurst! :) I'm very jealous of all the close food blogger relationships, heh. I saw AG's post on Shauna's book last week too.

12:27 PM, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Juree said...

She sounds like quite a lady! I love her site as well-- she is so vivacious! An evening with the two of you, wine and great food sounds like quite a time........

6:22 PM, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Sarah Jio | www.sarahjio.com said...

Thanks for linking the interview to your blog, Molly! Loved your post today, too. Shauna sounds like someone I need to meet!

Just for fun: I wrote about the health benefits of orange rinds a few years ago for Health magazine (something that I'd forgotten about until this very minute) that you might find interesting. Who knew they were good for you?! Then again, the researchers didn't say anything about chocolate-covered orange rinds. ;)


Sarah Jio

10:10 PM, October 23, 2007  
Anonymous susan said...

Heidi also has a post up on http://101cookbooks.com/ with a recipe from the book (fig cookies, yum, yum).

Was disappointed, Molly, that you did not choose to feature either the olive oil lemon cookies or the chocolate banana bread you mentioned from The Gluten Free Girl cookbook. They sound great.

11:16 PM, October 23, 2007  
Blogger blogger said...

Finally! After years with stomachache i found out i was intollerant to gluten last spring.... Im ordering it emidiatly!


12:37 AM, October 24, 2007  
Blogger Julie said...

I'm going to have to go get the book. I just rediscovered brats, and boy are they tastier than I remembered. I just did a version of brats and sauerkraut as crostini on my blog. I thought they'd just be cute, but I they were so good this way! Like the two perfect bites that you save for last.

7:47 AM, October 24, 2007  
Blogger Erin said...

This is the first thing I've made from your website and it was amazing. Thanks!

8:05 AM, October 24, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Hi all. Thanks, always, for such lovely, lovely comments! I'm sure Shauna has been thrilled to see them. I know I have.

Lindsay, funny you should ask! I just got a copy of Barbara Kingsolver's new book a couple of months ago! It has, however, joined the stack of woefully unread books on my bedside table. I'm hoping to have more time to read after my book is finished. (Pant, pant, pant.) I can't wait!

Alice Q., I love that - the "messy" aesthetic! Count me in.

Sarah, thanks for the Health magazine link! A very good excuse to go nibble some orangettes, no?

10:50 AM, October 24, 2007  
Blogger janelle said...

Molly: what fun timing to read this, after I just read Heidi's 101. I SO meant to pop by La Spiga Monday to finally meet Shauna... am hoping to swing by Whole Foods tonight and meet her...

Your writing is simply awesome.

1:13 PM, October 24, 2007  
Blogger Rosiecat said...

What a fabulous post, Molly! I absolutely LOVE your blog and cannot wait to buy your book.

I haven't checked out Shauna's blog yet, but now I think I must...

I tried your Banana Bread with Chocolate and Cinnamon Sugar a few weeks ago and thought it was amazing. Would it be acceptable if I posted the recipe on my blog? Pretty please? A bread this good deserves to be shared by many! If I post it, I will of course give credit where credit is due.

Keep on cookin' and writin'!

2:08 PM, October 24, 2007  
Blogger Shauna said...

Oh my dear, I have been so moved by this post -- and the comments accruing for the past two days -- that I have been silent. What do I say to such goodness? Thank you, of course.

Thank you for knowing me the way you do. As you know, you are one of my favorite people in the world. Whether we are sharing wild boar at Volterra, huddling over cups of coffee at Stumptown, striding around Greenlake, or sitting at your kitchen table - I am happy. Your kindness and friendship shines through.

(And yeah! I love to swear. Too bad the blog doesn't really allow me to do that. Can we make a date for the Oscars right now?)

And the bratwurst and apple compote? Oh yes!

Thank you also to everyone else who has left comments. This is a surreal, and lovely, experience, this virtual book tour. honestly, i have tears in my eyes.

4:49 PM, October 24, 2007  
Blogger Faythe, Petite Kitchen Author said...

Wonderful that you're so supportive and enthusiastic. It's so rare to have a true friend in life, and that should be treasured. Can't wait to buy my copy of the book.

5:16 PM, October 24, 2007  
Anonymous Caroline said...

Shortly after reading about your chai-induced nightmares I made some spicy Indian food for dinner. It was so good that I snacked on some more right before going to bed. Can you guess what happened? Fortunately it got to the point where my brain would realize I was having another nightmare and wake me up, but it was difficult to get any sleep that way. So I'm sitting here with a VERY strong cup of coffee researching the correlation between spices and nightmares.

You know, I told myself I wouldn't buy any more cookbooks because I already have too many....but Shauna's book is getting an awful lot of praise and damn, that woman can write.

6:54 AM, October 25, 2007  
Blogger Lael said...

molly, you make any recipe sound worth making! I'm excited to try this deliciously simple combination. thanks for brightening an otherwise weary day with a new post.

10:05 AM, October 25, 2007  
Blogger Cakespy said...

What a lovely post. I am so inspired to have such cool Seattleites around! Making life richer through wonderful food...

4:02 PM, October 25, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Molly,
I really enjoyed this post! Last year, at the end of summer, I had commented to you that my husband and I would be in Seattle and asked for your opinion on great restaurants. I was so thrilled and greatful when you emailed me a page filled with awesome suggestions :) I carried your email in my purse! Anyway, Volterra is still on our list of best ever dinner experiences! Thanks again :)
Can't wait for your book!

4:15 PM, October 25, 2007  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Met her and the Chef at your wedding and was charmed by her vivacity and his shy smile. And your recipe has me drooling - I'd better go make some dinner!

4:39 PM, October 25, 2007  
Blogger Lynn said...

Thanks for posting about Shauna. I now have a gift I can give my friend who has the disease and give me ideas of what to cook for her :-)

4:31 AM, October 26, 2007  
Anonymous swirlingnotions said...

I have brats in the fridge and apples on the tree . . . and now I've got dinner. Thank you! And to Shauna too!

11:06 AM, October 26, 2007  
Anonymous Niall said...

Love the clean simple design of this blog, a lot of people could learn a lot from this! Hate all those other cluttered food blogs that just look generic!

9:00 AM, October 28, 2007  
Blogger Sarah said...

I just started reading your blog a few months ago and love it. I made the brats and apples for some friends last night. They were a huge hit!! My apples turned out much creamier (oops), but it all worked out and got rave reviews. Someone told me about the European Sausage shop on Olympic (if there are any other Angelenos reading) - and their fresh-made sausages were divine. Thanks for the recipe! And all the great stories, photos, inspiration, etc... good luck with your book!

12:51 PM, October 29, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly - do you know you have been mentioned in an article about food blogs in the English magazine The Week ('the best of the British and foreign media') of 1 December? In case you can't get a copy, it says:
'This addictive blog is the work of Molly, a "pretty redhead" from Seattle, who seems to live for food. She has an easy, informal style that is both "witty and eloquent" (she won the best writing category in last year's Food Blog Awards), and her "mouthwatering" recipes are brought to life with "beautiful photography". She is currently hard at work on her own cookbook.

The words in " " are taken from other write-ups, as this magazine is a sort of digest of the world's media.

I was so thrilled to see my favourite food writer at the top of the list, where she surely belongs!

Love from your fan Elizabeth

11:39 AM, December 08, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Oh! No, I hadn't seen that mention, Elizabeth. Thank you so much for calling it to my attention! Wow! I'm blushing...

6:04 PM, December 09, 2007  
Anonymous c2c said...

It has been cold & raining/snowing(!) here the last few days. I made this wonderful recipe again and it was perfect for the weather.

I find eating it with a spoon as well as knife and fork is best - a spoon ensures the scrumptious sauce, compote & brat are present in every bite. I find for two that the compote is enough for two meals.

Thanks Molly!
from your honeymoon Island

10:14 PM, March 28, 2008  
Blogger Lael said...

I have had this recipe tucked into the back of my mind ever since you posted it and, oh, Molly, I finally made it today and it d.licious!

1:33 PM, January 18, 2009  
Blogger m said...

I'm late to the party!

I just wanted to say...I have been cooking my way through your list of recipes for a few months now, and I'm in love with your food perspective. My parents were foodies, but of the brut-hardcore, old-world New England meatasaurus style...lots of finicky French cream sauce bases, 20 lb roast beefs, etc etc...and that is all well and wonderful (childhood holiday memories will attest), but it's, you know, a bit overwhelming when you're first on your own in a tiny apartment kitchen with a limited big city supermarket budget and schedule, and some new-school health and animal well-being concerns. I love your recipes, and your approach in general. I keep singing your praises to anyone who'll listen, and even though I'm late to the party I feel like this is the perfect time to have found ya--I just snapped up your (fairly new) book, and get excited every time I see it in a walk-in bookstore (!), I discovered your marriage story just shortly after getting engaged myself, and I really Spring and Summer are your time to shine (all those wonderful salads boasting fresh flavor and produce bounties!). You talk a couple times about turning to certain food experts with the hope they can make it all better, make it simple, make it foolproof now that you're on your own. I totally hear you, and--ta-da!--you along with Beth Hensperger and Joyce Goldstein have proved to be those kind of comforting resources to me. I have yet to make a single dish you've mentioned that wasn't delicious and easy. I don't have that kind of track record with ANYBODY--not even the Chris Kimball and crew or Mark Bittman. It is awesome, and I salute you.


5:27 PM, June 04, 2009  
Blogger lisa Ryans said...

The recipe from your blog is definitely worth trying. My family loved it. I made it with the recipes I've got from www.gourmandia.com

8:21 AM, May 13, 2012  

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