Legal Sea Foods….Another Lovely Meal (and GF)

My favorite restaurant to eat out at is Legal Sea Foods.  I try to always make it there when I am in Boston visiting family.  This July’s vacation was no different.  I was looking forward to the great service and even greater seafood and their menu has a number of gluten free items.

legal sea foods

We were seated promptly and ordered a bottle of delightful white wine.  The server was knowledgeable and selections were made.  For starters we three shared a dozen oysters on a bed of ice; made up from three different varieties.  They came with two sauces: a champagne vinaigrette and the traditional horseradish cocktail sauce.  I had several, they were small and succulent and I tried both sauces.  Loved them; should say I am only in the last couple of years learning to like raw oysters. I like the really small fat ones; easier for me to swallow.

oysters

Then we shared an order of deep fried calamari.  Gluten free of course! It came with a large dish of tarter sauce and was very tasty; the three of us ate most of it, my sister and her hubby are not celiac although my sister often eats gluten free.  I had a pair of gf tasty muffins which disappeared quickly.  Elaine ate half of a muffin and declared it quite good.

calimari

Then our entrees showed up; all at once and in the arms of our young server.  My sister, being quick on the uptake, queried her; normally gluten free items are delivered by a separate server, usually a manager. The server’s pretty face fell and she admitted she had forgotten to put my entrée in as gluten free.  So I had to wait while they remade my meal. Our server was very apologetic. All their staff is very friendly and helpful as to eating gluten free.

My meal was pretty tasty when it showed up ten minutes later; a surf and turf consisting of a 6 ounce fillet mignon, four sautéed scallops and four shrimps.  The beef was utter perfection, had a sauce on it that really added to the flavor and my scallops were delish!  The shrimps were kinda dried out.  I did eat some of them but not with much delight.   This was the first time they messed up my order in like 4 or 5 visits there and the first time any seafood was even a bit less than perfect.  Every place is allowed a few glitches; don’t let that stop you from heading to Legals.

My sister’s chowder and salad was tasty; chowder gone in a flash!  My brother-in-law enjoyed his fish and chips; it smelled wonderful. Made with haddock and a very healthy serving. We shared a chocolate parfait which was delightfully light and disappeared in moments.  We were all content and quite full when we left Legals.

All in all a very nice dining experience and I thanked my sister for catching their error before I could taste my food and get ill.  Moral of story; double check to make sure your gf food comes via a separate server when you eat at Legal Sea Foods.  Legal has locations all over the mid-Atlantic; two in NJ, two near or in Philadelphia and a couple in New York State as well as two in the Boston area and others in a few more states.  Well worth a drive for the legendary seafood and safe gf food.

Apricot Tart….Summer’s Bounty Perfected

July is apricot season. Whether you say it with a long or a short a (growing up with a whole orchard of them we said a long A) they are wonderful to eat out of hand or in a pie.  I didn’t have enough for a pie but there appeared to be enough for a tart.  These beauties were very large and perfectly ripe; not mushy though.  I got them from the produce store that just closed on Main Street.  I will miss their excellent produce……

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I created this tart recipe to showcase these juicy golden fruits of summer’s height.  My family absolutely adores apricots so I was pretty sure this would go over great.

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I tried to cut it straight across; got kinda wacky warped in the moving to a plate; delicate crust this time but oh so tasty!

The crumb topping was already made and stored in my fridge so I just needed to make the shortbread cookie tart crust and it went together very rapidly. I think it looks fancy but in reality it is very simple to put together; no pie crust rolling either!  My version isn’t overly sweet; you can add a couple tablespoons of sugar; toss the apricot halves in it before you lay them on the crust.  I like it tart because apricots are tart and I wanted to taste that essential apricot flavor and recreate my memory of the zingy apricot pie my mom made many July’s ago. The almonds add to the crunch and they pair perfectly with apricots. It was a memorable dessert this past weekend.

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extreme close up!

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All ready for baking

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Ready for slicing and eating!

Sweet Cookie crust

Place the following in a stand mixer bowl and combine

1 cup GF flour (recipe below)

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp xanthan gum

½ tsp. cinnamon

Add 5 tbsp cold butter, cut into 6-7 chunks.  Mix on low until the butter is all blended in leaving just crumbs.

Add 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 1 tbsp water.  Blend well. I have left out the vanilla and it is fine that way as long as you put in the cinnamon.

Pour the crumbs evenly into a 14×4 inch rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom or a nine inch round tart pan – sprayed with cooking spray.  Spread it up the sides a bit.  Press in gently so it is a cohesive crust but do not push really hard or it will be like concrete when you finish baking it! I like my rectangular tart shape; it gives the result a fancy, almost professional look. And it’s shape makes it so easy to slice for serving.

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Brown Rice Flour Mix  [makes 3 cups] 
2 c brown rice flour (finely ground)

2/3 c potato starch – not potato flour

1/3 c tapioca flour

FYI: this mix is identical to the King Arthur GF all purpose flour but much cheaper if you make it yourself

Crumb topping

¾ c brown rice flour mix

½ c granulated sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

1/3 c cold butter cut into six chunks

Put all four ingredients in the same mixing bowl you made the bottom crust in and mix well with mixer paddle until fat crumbs form.  For this recipe they can be somewhat bigger crumbs: let them get the size of big peas but don’t over-mix or you will be stuck with a squishy dough; not a good thing…

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Filling:

8 to 10 large ripe apricots

1-3 tbsp sugar

¾ cup crumb topping

¼ tsp. almond extract

¼ cup sliced almonds

Directions: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix the crumbs with the almond extract and sliced almonds; I did it in the slightly dirty bowl I made the crust in.  Cut the apricots in half, pit them. Lay the apricots cut side down; in pairs down the top of the crust. I left very little to no space between them. If you do a round tart you can just space them out to fill the circle nicely. If your apricots aren’t large you may well need 4 to 6 more to fill the space.  If you desire extra sweetness gently stir them to coat with 2-3 tbsp. granulated sugar first.  I didn’t use the extra sugar, tart is my preference.

Then sprinkle the crumb topping all over the tart. Try to keep it in the tart:   Finally, sprinkle one tbsp. granulated sugar over the tart.  Bake for 50 to 60 min until bubbly and the crumbs are getting light brown.  Place on a wire rack and cool before slicing.

I think it would be fantastic with vanilla ice cream if you go in for that sort of delightful excess!  I don’t think it will keep more than two days.  I doubt it will last that long at my house. Too delectable for we Drakes; like a siren song; the call of an apricot tart….

Lobster Sandwich = Lovely Luncheon

Lunching out with my sister and dear friend Beth last week during my vacation, we ate at The Cottage, an upscale restaurant in Wellesley, MA.  My sister chose it because it has several gluten free items on the menu.  We had lunch there last year when I was in town visiting, I had a big salad with lobster and crab and hearts of palm.  Didn’t think I could get better than that. Wrong!

cottage

This time I ordered a lobster sandwich and a side salad which I asked for a few slices of avocado on top.  It was served in a round gluten free bun.  They had to leave off the deep fried prosciutto.  Chef didn’t want to pan fry it as I suggested to avoid the deep fryer which was not gf, oh well.  I discovered great flavor in the lobster stuffed bun served with arugula and a touch of lemon flavored mayo.  My salad was wonderful; fresh greens augmented with red onion, European cucumber and cherry tomatoes. I had them add a few slices of avocado; perfection.  I totally forgot to take a picture of this plate of yumminess to remember it by: I was hungry and simply mesmerized by the flavors of both components.  Sorry.  Next time! Honestly, this was the best lunch combo I have eaten in many years and it was gluten free.

And their fruity ice tea was tasty and quite thirst quenching.  We had the best waiter; he was so helpful to me, happily checking on my gf questions with the chef. I love this place!

Pao de Queijo bread

Before that plate came out I was pleasantly surprised by the freshly baked gluten free rolls our server brought just for me.  They were small and oval, a favorite in Brazil.  Called pao de queijo, they are naturally gluten free; made with tapioca flour, cheese, egg and milk.  They are slightly chewy and moist with a flaky exterior, somewhat addictive. This was the first time I enjoyed pao de queijo although I had heard of them.  I ate both rolls and longed for more…will power! My sister tried a bite and was impressed with the flavor and cheesy texture. I have already looked up a recipe for these rolls; so simple; whip it all together in blender and baking in a mini muffin pan.  I must have these!

stuffed avocados

My sister had twin avocado halves full of chicken salad and a lemony quinoa side salad.  Gluten free and very yummy: I tasted a bite…. Beth enjoyed a juicy fat burger with a wheat roll and lots of French fries.  I had to look away; I wanted both the fries and the burger.  Oh well, I was pretty well set up with my delectable meal, so no worries.

flourless cake

We three ladies shared a slice of flour-less chocolate tort served with a tiny drizzle of hot fudge sauce and a few scoops of ice cream. Did I mention the fresh whipped cream topping?  Needless to say this delight did not linger on the plate more than a minute or two.  We scarfed it down with our spoons and someone, not to be named, scraped the plate for the last bit of chocolate sauce! In the spirit of full disclosure, we had the same dessert last year and there was no discussion on what we should have this time around!

All in all, a delightful place for eating, both regular menu for you gluten lovers and the gluten free menu which had several other tasty looking options.  If you are in Wellesley or Brookline MA, where there is another Cottage; stop in for a great meal.

Pretty Tasty Pickles You Can Make in a Big Jar

Some of us adore pickles and some dislike them.  If you are a pickle fan read on.  If not, read anyway as these are far better than the tired flabby canned pickles found at the grocery store.  A good gardening friend gave me this recipe.  It is really easy and rather fun to construct.  Even better is that you can pickle most any veggies. I have tried zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, green peppers and red peppers.  Of course, cucumbers are in there too!

You do need a couple grape leaves.  You might be able to find a neighbor with a grape vine.  I am betting you could use wild grape leaves from a state park or along a country road.   They really add to the authenticity of it so snag a few from somewhere.

Also needed are 3 dill heads (the flowers of a dill plant).  This might be more problematic but if you know a real gardener, aka someone like me, you can beg the dill heads as frankly they are not used much for cooking and I was happy to give some to the friend who gave me this recipe.  Grow your own dill for next summer; it is so easy to do and it does reseed and come back year after year.  Dill is lovely in potato salad and in other salads like my stuffed tomatoes which I plan to blog about later this week!

Refrigerator Pickles

2 cups white vinegar

¼ cup salt;  I used kosher salt in mine

4 cups water (I used 3 as my jar was slightly smaller than a gallon)

¾ cup sugar

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3 garlic cloves cut up

3 dill heads

2 grape leaves

Bring the first four ingredients to a boil in a sauce pan and let cool fully.  Put the other three ingredients in the bottom of a gallon jar.  Cut up your veggies and pile in the jar.  Top with the vinegar mixture. Put on the lid. Put in the fridge and let marinate for 3 days before trying it.

I have used pickling cucumbers, regular cukes, short zucchini spears, broken up cauliflower heads, thin slices of white turnip and pepper strips.  pickle jar  I want to try broccoli next!  Maybe celery?

My grandson who is three and a half clamors for the pickle jar to come out when he eats meals here.  I say, eat your lunch and you can have some pickles! He gobbles up his food and waits expectantly for me to fish out a pickle or two.

I like how fresh they are and how crunchy the pieces still are. Plus they have no additives or preservatives.  Naturally gluten free is important to those of us with celiac or wheat allergies.

You can keep adding veggies as you use them up.  I think the tough part is fishing them out of the jar.  The other day I lost a fork in there but luckily it didn’t go to the bottom of the jar; a cuke round stopped its descent! Now, go pickle fresh veggies and have some fun with it….

Originally posted late in July 2014 but I figured you were ready to make some pickles this summer so I posted it again!

Trader Joe’s and Gluten Free….For Me?

I made my first pilgrimage to Trader Joe’s.  Been wanting to go for years.  I was on vacation in the Boston, MA area, and went to one in Brookline near my sister’s condo.  Saturday morning, crazy busy parking lot; we were thrilled to find a space! I was not so thrilled with what I found inside.  No separate gluten free area.  IT was all mixed in all over the place.  Like a treasure hunt but unfortunately I found cross contamination issues with their products and had to put lots of the treasures back on the shelf.  I also was not happy to have gf stuff right next to all purpose wheat flour based products.

tj cookies

Missed these……next time.

I couldn’t accept foods that were “processed on equipment that may also process wheat, etc.”  Nope.  Been there, tried that and got pretty sick: total waste of money to purchase, waste of time to bake with it and not be able to enjoy and so not good for my digestive system.  Yes, the possibility of a small contamination due to shared equipment for processing food is definitely enough to cause a celiac to not buy a food product. Happens all the time to me when I shop; I read the label and then regretfully put the product back on the shelf.

espresso beans

Now, I hear Trader Joe’s has a reputation for gluten free products and after the fact I discovered that you can get a list of gf foods from the service desk and their staff will help you find it.  Frankly I saw no staff around the store but I can say that they were very friendly at the check out and gave me a free TJ’s bag for it being my first ever TJ experience.  Sweet of them.  Would have been sweeter if I had been able to buy some salad dressing and chocolate covered nuts.  Neither of which was safe consider the cross contamination issue, here-to-for referred to as cc.

tj bag

Today I did find a blog posting giving me some direction on what was great at TJ’s; gonna use it next time, check it out: http://dragonflyglutenfree.blogspot.com/2014/05/trader-joes-gluten-free-love.html

Something else bothered me; the shelving of gluten free products.  Two reasons for my dismay; first: when they are blended together it is frighteningly easy to mistake something and take it home and as you are munching on it you realize it was not gf, just looked a lot like the gf product next to it! Secondly, I hate seeing gf products next to or on a lower shelf than regular products that have loose flour in them; bags of wheat flour for instance.  Before you jump to conclusions of me baking with wheat flour by accident; the problem is those wheat flour boxes and bags do leak at times or even burst.  Then a shower of wheat based product sifts down or over onto the gf boxes/bags.  I might touch that gf bag or box to read the ingredients.  I don’t even have to buy it to get sick.  If I get a small amount of flour which contains gluten on my fingers and then touch my face/lips it is shockingly easy for me to get quite sick.  That brief touch of flour is all it takes to make someone with celiac very ill.  tf english muffins

Smart managers of some grocery stores have a dedicated gf baking area for products so they are not next to wheat based mixes: Wegmans does that.  They have the best gf department in general and the don’t spread their gf stuff all over the store.

wegmans gf

Wegman’s GF aisle

Other stores, at least, put the gf stuff on the top shelf so if the flour leaks; it doesn’t get on the gf stuff which is above it.  Giant does this which I applaud.  Sadly, Whole Foods doesn’t nor do most heath food stores. I have told mangers about this issue but unless they know a celiac well enough to realize how easily products get contaminated, they just don’t get it and can’t be bothered to move the arrangement of products around to make it safer for us celiac sufferers.  I would be curious to know what other grocery store chains do in how they shelve gf products.

coconut oil

I did buy a jar of this!

My friend Josh who is a total TJ addict didn’t understand what I meant by cc and suggested I share some of this in my blog so you understand it when your gf family member freaks out about such stuff.

It may seem minor but when your life depends on you eating consistently safely, then you look at all the little stuff.  I hate getting ill from gluten and if I suffer several bouts in a short period of time I feel so terrible I can barely function and spend weeks feeling nauseated all day long as a result of the multiple glutenings.  So I look at all the ways I can get glutened and avoid food with any possibility of cross contamination as well as outside the package contamination.

fig butter

Finally, I also belong to several celiac support groups and have heard serious rumblings about the authenticity of Trader Joe’s gluten free designations on their products.  I take that gf label very seriously and if they are found to be slapping it on unsafe products you will Never find my personage in a Trader Joe’s again. I hope it is not so, I really do.  Meanwhile I am going to go open my fig butter and indulge in a little fig jam party!

Chicken Stir Fry With Rice Noodles

When time is short, the weather is hot and you are hungry for a real meal I find a stir fry can be a lifesaver of an entree.  It allows me to use whatever is in the fridge and pantry to create a fresh wholesome meal very quickly, less then 30 minutes including prep.

For a starch my go to choice is often rice noodles, they come in skinny to very wide size and are so easy to prepare.  They take on the flavor of the rest of the dish which can be handy; no flavor conflicts here.

This version I am sharing today is a chicken stir fry made with those delightful wide rice noodles you can get these days in most grocery stores.  I soak them in very hot water for ten minutes and drain well before stirring them into the completed dish.  Easy for sure!  This batch was marked as extra wide and they were just that.

Notes: the veggie amounts are very fluid; use more if you like a lot of something or skip if you hate.  Best made in a wok; I have a small one I use all the time.  I guess you can use a fry pan; keep it hot and stir constantly.

I actually ate the leftovers the day after for my supper: served it cold as a salad; added a touch more soy sauce and a swig of sesame oil and it was just delightful: refreshingly different.

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Chicken Stir Fry with Rice Noodles

Ingredients:

Wide rice noodles; enough for 2 people

½ lb of chicken breast cut into bite sized bits

1-2 tbsp. cooking oil (I like mild olive oil)

1 medium onion cut down from the top and then into slices top to bottom

1 big carrot; sliced on the diagonal

1 celery stalk sliced on diagonal

1 cup broccoli chunks

1 baby bok choy; about 1 cup of cut up chunks (2 big stalks works too)

2/3 cup pea pods; either snap or sugar peas

1 big garlic clove minced

About ½ a tsp of grated fresh ginger

1 tsp. corn starch dissolved in 1/3 cup water

1-2 tsp. soy sauce (be sure it is gf)

Directions:

Put the noodles in a bowl half full of very hot water; I heat it in the microwave until almost boiling. I break them in half before putting in water; up to you if you like long strands. Let stand ten minutes.  Meanwhile, cut the chicken up into thin slices or chunks; nothing that can’t fit easily into someone’s mouth.  Heat mini wok, add oil.  Add chicken and stir it after a minute; flipping over; brown all over lightly; 3-4 minutes.  Remove to a plate.  Add onion, celery and carrot, stir a minute or two then add broccoli and bok choy, stir 1-2 minutes.  Add the pea pods and garlic.  Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.  You want the veggies to be a touch crisp but mostly cooked.

Add back the chicken and the ginger, stir well for 30 seconds to a minute.  Pour in the cornstarch water slurry and 1 tsp. soy sauce.  Stir as it cooks for one minute; add more water if not enough sauce to your liking. This last minute is critical to make the sauce clear; cooks the cornstarch. Taste and add more soy sauce if you want, also, season with salt and fresh black pepper to your liking.

I often use fruit juice for some or all of the water.  Pineapple is my favorite but orange juice or even lemon juice works well for some of the fluid; adds a lot of flavor. Add the noodles and stir well before serving.  Should serve 2 people easily, maybe 3 if one isn’t too hungry!

This is a naturally gluten free dish.  If you dislike rice noodles serve it over rice. Enjoy!

Hand Pies – Heaven Comes in Small Portions!

Looking for a small snack, something that is fruity and flaky? Look no further than hand pies.  I make them out of leftover dough from pies or tarts.  I’d been making them long before I went gluten free…I’m still creating different versions in my gf life. They are very simple. Basically roll out a circle of pie dough; plop on some filling; fold over, pinch and bake. They are my secret treat when I bake a pie for company!  A hand pie satisfies that pie craving and is fairly portable.  Can take these treats on a picnic, to the beach or on a hike if you put them in a rigid walled container so they don’t get smushed.

I confess that I generally only make one or two from scraps when I bake a pie or tart but you can just make hand pies and it should make about 6 depending on how big you make them. You might get 7 if on the small side or maybe 5 if they are large!

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blueberry filling in this fat hand pie

Angie’s GF Hand Pies

Crust:

1 c plus 2 tbsp brown rice flour mix (at bottom of recipe)

2 tbsp sweet rice flour

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbsp. cold butter cut into 6 chunks

1 large egg

2 tsp fresh orange or lemon juice

Directions: Mix dry ingredients in bowl of stand electric mixer.  Add butter and mix until crumbly and resembling coarse meal.  Add egg and juice.  Mix until it comes together into big chunks.  Shape into a ball with your hands. Put it on a crust sized piece of wax paper (14 x 14 inches more or less), flatten the crust ball some; put on top of it another piece of wax paper and chill it all in your fridge 15-20 minutes while you do something else.  I use my pie bag; a round piece of plastic connected to another piece of plastic by a zipper; more sturdy than wax paper for rolling out gf dough.

Filling:

½ to 2/3 cup of jam, marmalade or cooked fruit – if you go with cooked fruit; add some sugar; maybe 2 tbsp of it and cook just a few minutes; don’t let it totally break down. Stir it as it cooks on low. I have used blueberries mixed with rhubarb for this fruity filling version; yumm!

I use a tablespoon per hand pie of fruit jam, cooked fruit or marmalade.  I love it with homemade jam or marmalade.  My Meyer lemon marmalade is fantastic in a hand pie.  I sometimes add a tbsp. of almond flour on top of the filling; gives more texture.

Optional: almond flour, cinnamon sugar

Directions: roll out a chunk of dough; about 2-3 tbsp worth; you can divide the big ball of dough into 6 chunks so they are the same size.  Make it a circle or oval shape, try not to get it too thin as it will be very difficult to work with and may break allowing filling to ooze out.  I peel the rolled out dough off the plastic, lay it back down so it will be easy to pick up once filled.  Top it with the jam or cooked fruit on one side; not too close to the edge!  Sprinkle with almond flour or meal if you like. Fold over the crust and pinch it shut all along the edge. You can use a fork to press it shut and make an edging.  If you leave any unsealed the filling will run out and make a mess.  Sometimes I bake them on aluminum foil so I can throw it away and avoid cleaning up the mess of burst out filling that has burnt on the pan.

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar if you like, which I do.  Lay on a baking sheet that you sprayed with cooking spray to cut down on sticking.  You could use parchment paper on it if you like. Repeat with the rest of the dough and fillings.

Bake in 350 oven for about 20 to 25 minutes; until light brown.  Cool before eating.  Easier said than done; I love them still slightly warm from the oven.  Yummers!

Brown Rice Flour Mix  (it is the same as King Arthur’s gf flour mix)
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour