Seafood Cakes

Once at the Springtown Inn I had the most delicious seafood cakes, this was 8-9 years ago.  Well, to be honest, maybe twice I had them. Anyway, they were made with two or three different seafood proteins I think they had shrimp and crab but it was such a length of time that I can’t remember for sure.  Anyway, I had long wanted to create a similar dish.  Searched for a recipe and not finding one that was really close I took one from Food Network and modified it.  The recipe featured small sized cakes with a fresh salsa on top, made by Robert Irvine. I didn’t do the salsa and I made a few changes to the cakes.

I made them two different versions; lobster, shrimp and crab and one with flounder instead of the crab.  Both were easy to construct and delightful. The flavor is delicate and light. I didn’t make a sauce in the interest of that delicacy plus it was easier and included less calories. We agreed they were fine all alone but go right ahead and made a sauce of your choice. Mr. Irvine suggests a sauce of equal parts crème fresh and sour cream.  I might try that next time!

seafood cakes frying

Angie’s Seafood Cakes

¼ lb medium raw shrimp; peeled and no tails

a 4oz. lobster tail, removed from shell and still raw

1/3 lb raw flounder or crabmeat

2 tbsp. finely chopped shallots

2 tsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

1/3 cup gf bread crumbs, preferably panko plus more if desired for coating cakes

1 tsp. garlic powder

Half a lemon, zested

1/3 cup Mayonnaise, might need a tad more….

2 tbsp. finely grated parmesan cheese (I made one version without)

1-2 tbsp. mild olive oil

Directions:

Chop the raw lobster tail into chunks. Put the seafood in a food processor, process briefly until fairly small particles but not even close to a paste.  Dump in a big bowl, add the shallots, parsley, bread crumbs, garlic powder, zest, mayo and cheese, stir to blend well. Don’t overblend; stop as soon as it seems fairly even. If you like; before stirring add salt and pepper to taste; maybe ½ tsp. sea salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Form into 4 cakes. If you want them crunchy on the outside gently press into some more bread crumbs to crumb both sides.  Put on a large plate and chill an hour so they hold their shape.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet to hot and fry them about 3 minutes to a side; do not let burn!  I turned down the heat after a minute so they kept cooking but at a temperature less likely to turn them dark brown. But don’t use low temps or you will get a greasy cake!

seafood cake with risotto

Serve with some rice pilaf and your favorite vegetable; asparagus comes to mind! I made pea risotto which was divine.

1774 Grille & Tap Reboot

Eating out on a Thursday as opposed to a noisy Saturday night can be a very different experience.  I returned to 1774 Grille & Tap in Hellertown, Pennsylvania recently and enjoyed the quiet of the side dining room at the 1774 Grille.  It was nearly deserted when we got there although by the time we left close to eight it was filling up. This lovely small dining room has several windows that look out on birdfeeders and it was just perfect for enjoying a quiet meal. Just outside was a long, narrow herb garden which I am guessing plays a key component in creating their fresh and made to order entrees.

1774 grille 005

We were promptly seated and ordered drinks.  My companion enjoyed his micro brew watermelon beer although he said he didn’t taste much watermelon flavor…maybe a good thing? I had a wonderful glass of Riesling; not the same one as last time but possibly even better. Touches of fruit and an inviting crispness that made me long for a bigger glass!  He was served some warm slices of bread and a plate of dipping olive oil, which I wished I could indulge in…

Our salads arrived promptly; mine was watermelon radish carpaccio with cucumber, pea tendrils, feta cheese and a delicate lemon vinaigrette.  If you never have enjoyed a watermelon radish it is a speckled pink inside and pale green as to the skin. It was sliced very thin. I ate every bite of salad, particularly enjoying the lemony dressing. 1774 grille 001 Josh’s salad was a spinach cobb salad with bacon lardons, hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes and a yummy looking blue cheese dressing.  My friend consumed it with great gusto. I wasn’t sure I could eat the lardons or I would have begged a taste. Among the other salad choices was a wedge salad which a nearby table had ordered and we agreed it looked well worth consuming.  Next time…

cobb salad

My dreamy sounding duck breast was no longer on the menu as this is now the spring/summer choices.  There is a duck leg confit but it was not gluten free so I couldn’t indulge. I went for the lamb chops which came with tri colored roasted tiny potatoes over a pea puree and perfectly sautéed leek on top.  I enjoyed every bite. Not sure when or if I have had better lamb than that evening. It was listed as Australian Lamb rack. Not sure two good sized chops are a rack but that is my quibble (I am still longing for another chop…or two!)

1774 grille 002

Josh had the buttermilk fried chicken which was a substantial looking meal served on a wooden cutting block  Some homemade pickles, slaw and corn fritters accompanied it. His four pieces of dark and light boneless chicken were tender, moist and delicious. The pickled red onions were perfection with the chicken. Those pickle slices disappeared incredibly fast. The corn fritters could have used a bit more corn but were tasty. fried chicken

There still aren’t any gluten free desserts on the menu except sorbet and it was a chilly night so that was a no go. All in all we both enjoyed a delicious meal. The only thing I could have wished was that my radishes had been a touch fresher, they seemed like they had been run through the mandolin slicer much earlier in the day and had lost some of their crispness and juiciness. I am guessing that was a one time error and I might have to try that salad again as it was enjoyable and with freshly sliced radishes it could be fantastic.

This restaurant has several great menu choices and their website says all is created fresh to order. I loved that they had several gluten free choices for me and this writer must confess that nearly a week later I am still dreaming of that lamb. It was so succulent and flavorful. If you love lamb; just do it! Our waiter was very attentive and the service was timed perfectly.  I personally loved the quiet of the side dining room.  But, if you like more bustle and company, the bar is hopping and the big dining room is the place to be seen in town! The staff is still finding their feet on a few small issues but I think the 1774 Grille would be a perfect choice for a celebration dinner.

Gluten Free Chips to Munch

If you follow my blog you might notice I haven’t posted many baked goods in the past month. As I mentioned the other week, I had my right knee replacement surgery the first week of March. Due to that I haven’t been able to do much cooking and even less baking.  Just not able to stand around or work hard at anything other than my recovery which is going pretty well these days. I use a cane but in my house I often just walk all on my own. I’ve had lots of company, mostly siblings who came to help me out and to visit our mom who I normally spend time with each week.  This worked out great and now I am on my own.  While they were here people bought a number of things new to me and so I have been doing some product reviews.  Here are two more, both triangular chips and both organic.  In the interest of honesty I should say that throughout my recovery I have been actively seeking not to eat these sort of treats; too fattening/salty/addictive.  I didn’t buy them but I sure couldn’t help myself to try more than a few of each chip.

pink himalayan chipsI love tortilla chips and was excited when my brother bought a bag of Pink Himalayan Salt Red Rice & Quinoa Tortilla Chips by Lundberg in Ca. Everyone likes them but me and my beef is the salt. I guess my salt cutting back regimen for the past year or so is having a serious effect as I found these chips to be way too salty for my tastes.  No one else felt that way; they were noshed on with joy by several of my visitors so get a bag and test them out! Non GMO, gluten free and whole grain…purchased at Giant Food Stores.

popcorners chips

The other snack item I want to share with you are Popcorners, Crispy & Crunchy Popped Corn Chips, by BFY Brands in Liberty NY.  Darn it, but I just love them! No preservatives, no trans fats, not fried, doubled pressed for extra crunch.  I got the variety with some cheddar for flavoring. Thin, crisp but not hard and lightly cheesy: I could eat the whole bag in a day but I have restrained myself so far. These also came from Giant and I love that they have 7 ounces, the other ones were 5.5 so I got another ounce and a half plus they were a bit cheaper so double score on these triangular treats.

More and more tasty gluten free snacks are popping up out there in regular grocery stores; but do read the packaging carefully if you have allergies or want to limit sodium or other sorts of intake. Best not to eat the whole bag at one munching! Enjoy.

Bland, Boring, Blaa!

Eating out is a scary maneuver for people with celiac disease.  Just a touch of cross contamination from the food cooked on the grill or pan just before my steak or seafood can make me feel pretty sick. Or a careless chef with flour on their hand gets just a few specks on my plate.  Or gf pasta cooked in the same water as regular pasta. That is all it takes to get glutened. But, I love to try new places so occasionally I brave my fears and dine out.  A few weekends ago we ate at Bravo at the Lehigh Valley Mall.  Their staff was really friendly and welcoming.  The place was hopping on a Saturday night at 6 pm. We had reservations but still waited about ten minutes for a table.  Families were all around us chowing down on good looking pasta.  I was hopeful.

There were no appetizers that were marked gluten free.  Bummer.  But I had an okay chopped salad with a decent dressing, the iceberg lettuce had some lumps of saggy pale lettuce but other than that it was tasty.  After a bit of a wait, our entrees were served. Mine was shrimp scampi with a white wine sauce and rotini gf pasta.  There were tiny squares of pallid tomato on top and a few microscopic flecks of fresh parsley.  The nice waitress piled on the freshly grated cheese, anything to improve the looks of this sad dish was my thought in that moment. Diving in, I couldn’t even taste any garlic. None, nadda. The shrimp were on the small side and pretty much flavorless.  The pasta wasn’t half bad even though I have never seen rotini served hot with an entrée: it is mostly used in pasta salads.  The sauce was mildly enjoyable but totally unmemorable. What the flecks of sad tomato were doing there is anyone’s guess.  Maybe a touch of color?

I see this dish as one of those gold standards that every Italian restaurant should be able to knock out of the park.  I make it myself, mine has fleck of fresh rosemary, lemon zest and bread crumbs (gf of course) and I tend to serve it with steaming hot rice. My guy is always enthusiastic when this is what’s for supper. The scampi at Bravo was nothing like homemade.  It was pale, extremely mild in flavor and as bland as you would never want.  Shrimp scampi should have bold flavors of garlic and butter that announce themselves on the first bite.  soup-003The shrimp should be large and plentiful, firm and full of flavor; they are the star of the dish after all!  Sadly, this dish had nothing going for it other than the pasta was not overcooked.

My guy had a lasagna bolognese which was similarly dull in flavor but fairly edible.  Same rule applied to the Italian wedding soup which was his appetizer. Nothing special.

Dessert was the highlight of our visit; a Crème Brulee which was perfectly constructed with a creamy rich custard and a true hard crack brown sugar crust.  There were some pieces of fresh fruit on top.  Naturally gluten free and quite yummy! I wish I had taken a picture of its perfection!

The gluten free menu choices are very bland looking; this was the most exciting thing on the list as far as I could tell.  We folks with celiac love good food just like anyone else.  We don’t want dull mildly flavored meals that could be fed to a toddler.  I wanted true Italian zing and that was totally lacking in the food I was served.  This nationwide chain should be ashamed of itself. I did call the restaurant and ask to speak to the manager, identifying myself as a food blogger. No response was ever given.  If you want bland gluten free; then this is your place. We won’t be going back. Still searching for anything even half as good as Bella’s in Hellertown.

Lemon Custard Bars

Lemon season is right now; they are very fresh and I have a whole box of them my wonderful brother in Texas sent me.  The incredible lemon scent when I opened the box about knocked me over! Besides the venerable lemon meringue pie, lemon marmalade, lemoncello liqueur, lemon velvet pie, lemon chiffon pie and lemonade; what else can be made with them? I use them when I oven bake chicken with small potatoes. I make preserved lemons for use in Moroccan cooking and in sauces. I put the zest in shortbread cookie dough and I love lemon bars.  Recently, I found a new lemon bar recipe that is more of a lemon custard bar you cut into squares. This recipe is so simple. I followed it exactly down to the parchment paper lined baking pan; makes for easy removal of the squares after cooling.  This is a 8×8 square pan; makes 9 big squares or 12 smaller rectanges.

The custard is eggs, gf flour blend, baking powder and a whole lot of lemon juice.  Beat them up and pour on top of a lemon scented shortbread (it has lemon zest in it!) and bake a while.  Then comes the waiting; they have to chill two hours before you can cut into the pan of delicate lemony goodness.  The squares get sprinkled with sifted powdered sugar for a pretty picture of a lemon treat.  They are from Nicole Hunn’s gluten free website.  Since she doesn’t allow bloggers to share her recipes; here’s the link to her amazing lemon bars: http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/gf-lemon-bars-for-dad-plain-lemons-for-me/

lemon-custard-square

They are thicker and more custardy than typical lemon bars and a delicate delight when made using Meyer lemons.  But the recipe is for regular lemons and they make a great dessert using whatever lemons you like.  If you are a lemon lover they can’t be passed by!

Instant Pot Revolution!

I got this amazing kitchen appliance: the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker 6 in 1, six quart size.  It has functions for sautéing, steaming, making rice, porridge, stewing, slow cooking and yes; pressure cooking.  Now, when I was a kid, my mom had a pressure cooker. She used it mostly for canning tomatoes and I remember being told to never ever touch it while in use.  I was terrified of that pressure top thingy; if touched, clouds of boiling hot steam poured out.  Any time I thought of getting a pressure cooker, those memories would come back and it was “nope” to a pressure cooker.  This past year a lovely friend of mine, Jenn, got an Instant Pot and she was always talking about it on facebook.  I asked and got her response of “This thing is wonderful and I use it all the time.”  She is a vegetarian and is totally in to legumes and grains.  Not gluten free like me but she eats very healthy and that IP (as folks call it) seemed to be her best friend in the kitchen.  On Black Friday, the 6 qt Instant Pot went on sale on Amazon 47% off.  I ordered one during my lunch break and it came the following Monday!  Kinda intimidating with all the directions, but I dove in and did the required water pressure test, no issues so next I made my favorite chicken paprikash in it in slow cooker mode.  For this setting, I did get the glass cover that allows one to see the food cooking inside; not for use under pressure but great for sautéing or slow cooking.  It turned out perfectly.  And so it began.  My love affair with my IP….

instant-pot

I made amazing coq au vin; chicken thighs braised in red wine to you! It was done faster than the mashed potatoes I was making in the traditional stove top fashion. The sauté feature is wonderful; the chicken goes in to get a browning, comes out, the onions go in and cook a bit; then garlic and after a minute back goes chicken as well as wine, broth, herbs and the lid is tightened and the manual feature set for the desired minutes.  It takes a few minutes to come to pressure and then my IP beeps and starts the pressure cooking and the count down to zero.  I let it naturally release (read: turn it off and let it stand ten minutes untouched) and then I pushed the pressure valve to release with a kitchen towel over it for any serious steam.  It released for 2-3 minutes and then I added the pan full of sautéed mushroom slices and my luscious and tender chicken with mushrooms and wine was ready to serve.  To recap the time: it took about 5-6 minutes to come to pressure and the time at pressure was like 15 minutes.  That’s a fast way to make excellent dishes. I like it better than a slow cooker; my veggies taste fresher and the meat is cooked better without being over cooked.

instant-pot-controls

Then, I made two different kinds of meat broth; chicken and pork; done in about 30 minutes for chicken and 60 for the pork.  Which is far less than half the usual time for making broth. I love being able to load it with the broth ingredients and start the cycle and walk away to do other stuff.

The other day I made some amazing dulce de leche caramel sauce; so delish and creamy and one ingredient: sweetened condensed milk.  You pour it into canning jars and pressure cook it for 14 minutes. I did two batches of that for gifting.

I expect to make soup in it often; made some cauliflower potato soup last week; so easy.  One item I had that is very helpful is my immersion blender; great for pureed hot soups. I call it the boat motor!

instant-pot-with-soup

Making soup!

So, next time someone starts talking about an IP you will know what they mean.  And maybe you will start thinking about getting one.  It will change how you cook, for the better.

Dark Drizzled Kettle Corn

Aldi’s has something so yummy I am loath to share it with all of you for fear you will buy it all and I will be then crying the blues.  It is their Dark Drizzled Kettle Corn.  Lightly drizzled with dark chocolate, and not that sweet. Perfection in popcorn form. An addictive snack. It combines my deep love for dark chocolate with my frequent enjoyment of kettle corn. A one ounce serving has 140 calories. The label says GF.  It also says limited edition, so get a few bags and tell the staff to tell the boss to keep ordering it and maybe, just maybe Aldi’s will keep it around! kettle-corn-001