I had this bounty of gorgeous sweet white and yellow peaches from the Three Springs’ Fruit Farm stand at my adored Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market. They were under-ripe when I wanted to use them in an heirloom tomato salad, then the threat of a hurricane happened, so they sat there glaring at me, waiting to be eaten, and then today they were almost too ripe to be used. And then, I found this recipe, and adapted it some with what I had in my pantry, adding some ingredients, subtracting some, and alternating flours and fats. I stuck to the basic proportions though, as this writer has been my go-to for many GF creations so far, and I am still extremely amateur in my GF flour-mixing endeavors. The cakes came out of the oven two hours ago and are almost destroyed already – not even by me, by my non-GF boyfriend and his non-GF friend, both chefs – and is probably one the best gluten-free baked goods I’ve created yet. I will stop gloating so you can start baking.

So preheat your oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients:

1 1/4 cup sorghum flour
3/4 cup sweet white rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
2 tsp xantham gum
1/2 tsp finely ground sea salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg

In a standing mixer bowl, beat into a combination of:

2/3 cup light olive oil
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup (agave would probably work, too)
1/2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup peach puree, strained
2 eggs

Stir in as many fresh blueberries as you wish. I added about 3/4 pint.

Spread mixture into two 6″ round greased baking pans (we topped the greased pan with granules of sugar in the raw to further unstick); the dough will be a little gummy, but don’t be turned off. Just get it in there.

Top with sliced peaches and fresh blueberries.

Make a moist crumble topping to put on top of the fruit with a few tablespoons of butter, some light brown sugar, cinnamon, and whatever gluten-free flour you have lying around (I used sweet rice flour).

Before baking.

Bake for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees, but make sure you rotate the pans about halfway through. The cakes will rise to almost twice their height, but will reform once they are removed from the oven.

And, after.

As GF goddess mentions, this cake will be equally delicious with any other stone fruit. I fully intend on utilizing this recipe in the fall when apples and pears are in their prime, adding some cranberries. Go seasonal! Even sweet potatoes or root veg would add an interesting spin on this cake, paired with fresh rosemary or thyme. Enjoy!

Rebirth

August 10, 2011

I spent a little bit of time uninspired. I was gone. I’m not a restaurant reviewer, and I guess I tried to grow some critic sea legs by using this blog space as an experiment. I think it’s time I write in here and just get real, about the food I make and eat, sure, but the reasons why I eat the way I do (usually). Awhile ago, I preached all this commitment to the Paleo diet, and promised myself that I would cut it out with the dairy and certain meats.

I said all of this while simultaneously complaining about being told what I had to eat. There I was, telling myself what I had to eat. I’ve been a dedicated glutenless human since then. I smell a lot of bread. I’ve snuck a couple of bites – godson’s birthday cake, Bibou’s baguette – but otherwise have been going strong. It’s probably the easiest difficult thing I’ve had to do.

Before last October, I just ate food when I wanted to eat it. I had no discretion or filter. I’m a tiny girl with an insanely large appetite and I would eat absolutely anything. Being so conscious of what I put into my body these days feels so rewarding. I am a person who looks at the nutritional information on the side of a box. I count how many grams of saturated fat, sodium, and sugar I’ve had all day – and get a good hearty laugh at myself out of it. I’m that guy now. Ninety percent of the time I eat my veggies raw. Ninety percent of the time I am eating veggies.

HELLO? I QUIT DRINKING COFFEE. I used to drink 4-5 cups a day. At first, it was decaf. Then I did some research and to remain as alkaline as possible (another diet I subscribe loosely to, to be posted about in the future), I had to give up the acidic coffee and move onto green tea. Dan and I used to make fun of tea drinkers – we called them “sleepy tea people” – and now we are them. He’s so sweet to have tea with me and save the La Colombe lattes for when I’m not around.

Who cares? I know I’m really just rambling. But anyway, I’m back on here, with every intention of updating with some great gluten-free recipes (I’ve made some killer cookies, pizza doughs, banana-strawberry bread, etc.) and also some trials and hurdles that might be relate-able to others in my situation. I don’t like to stand on a soapbox in my real life, so this will do. If you’re out there.

Ferdinand, oh, Bar Ferdinand. You are as beautiful as a painting. You had me at week one, with your countless dried roses, vibrant chiaroscuro, artistic novelty, and most importantly, your menu. Spanish food, tapas even, was new and exciting territory to Philly eaters four years ago. As was its neighborhood, which was still the somewhat grimy Northern Liberties. Something sexy came our way when BF opened its doors.

We’ve seen BF evolve over time through a couple of chef transitions, but none so interesting as what is currently going on in the kitchen under the eye of Chef Dave Kane. It’s love, it’s detail, and it’s something new. It’s Basque. Dave uses his classic French understanding and applies it to the rustic simplicity that is Spanish cuisine. The point at which Spain meets France, the language changes, the food becomes a little richer, wines a little zippier, while culinary technique complicates. Dave altered the menu this summer to reflect this marriage, while still adhering to the popular mainstays, the Manchego Frito and Date Empanadas among others.

Traditional tapas such as Spanish Tortilla, olives, Marcona almonds, and anchovies now coexist with raw oysters paired with inventive mignonettes, as well as a large grouping of gastro-challenging beauties.

My favorite dish, and my favorite octopus dish to date, is one of those. Pulpo a la Parilla (below) is rustic and brightness at its best. Spanish octopus is simply sous vide for several hours in olive oil, thyme and rosemary and grilled to order. Tender and flavorful pulpo speaks for itself but is enhanced by fresh peppery arugula, shaved fennel, ruby red grapefruit, and a light citrus vinaigrette. Arguably the most dignified and perfectly prepared octopus, ever.

Another attractive and innovative addition, pictured below, Vieras Salteadas. Two diver scallops are pan seared to a crisp caramelization, and smothered in an airy chorizo emulsion, adding a smoky flavor that only enhances the delicate silky scallop. A touch of squid ink vinaigrette provides the necessary oceanic saltiness, complimenting a fresh and simple English pea puree. How beautiful is this dish? Grabbing a composed bite, with a little bit of roasted garlic confit for that kick, my eyes just closed immediately in savory heaven.

Another noteworthy addition a la Kane are the Chuletas de Cordero: A lamb dish that leaves “Basque” style and moves a little bit toward Southern Spain. I guess you could call this Andalusia. Northern African flavors and style. The chops are lightly marinated in garlic and rosemary and grilled until perfectly juicy. They sit on a bed of “cous cous,” which isn’t actually cous cous but is finely chopped cauliflower studded with (very Spanish) fava beans, Guindilla and Piquillo peppers. All of these very savory flavors are accented by a charming harissa aioli.

Are you hungry? I am. If this isn’t enough, Dave is showcasing some amazing talent and innovation with his tasting menus every Thursday. For $35 comes four courses of ever changing (seasonally and creatively) tapas. The Mezze Plate serves as an amuse bouche of sorts. On this particular Thursday, I was served a Pan con Tomate (sans Pan), which was a delicate tomato pulp topped with Bonito del Norte tuna and crumbled Mojama. Next to that were crisp roasted fingerlings with Salmon roe, herbed creme fraiche, and some microarugula.

Also on said tasting (third course) was a stuffed Quail Breast. The quail was pounded down until super thin, and stuffed with a date wrapped Marcona almond. In true tapas style, one must eat each stuffed-stuffed in one bite to gain the full intended experience. An apricot puree spiced with a little curry and huckleberry coulis blended with the quail to trigger my tastebuds toward a very elevated barbecue flavor. Yum.

We can’t forget about dessert. While I stick to my grounds as declaring chocolate a vegetable, I generally prefer savory desserts. The goat cheese pannacotta at Bar Ferdinand is not to be missed, but on the Chef’s Tasting Menus you will find two unique desserts as your fourth course. Below are red wine poached figs in their poaching liquid, with a goat cheese and rosemary ice cream, finished with Marcona almonds. Sticking to very rustic Spanish flavors, this was definitely the perfect finish.

Wine pairings are also offered to compliment each course of the tastings, moving from light and crisp and usually finishing with Sherry. This is definitely not an opportunity to sleep on. It’s a steal, even.

We’ve got so many new restaurants in this neighborhood. So many new restaurants in Philadelphia itself. So much to try it is absolutely overwhelming. I am proud to be a regular patron at Bar Ferdinand in that they are still doing their special something with integrity, style, passion, and especially love. Ferdinand, consider me your Isabella.

Bar Ferdinand, 1030 N 2nd Street, (215) 923-1313

Breakfast Impossible

December 5, 2010

I am enjoying, so much, experimenting with gluten free living. I am inevitably and gladly hyper-aware of every single thing that goes into my system. I choose healthier, fresher, greener options even if I don’t have to. I fell in love with quinoa. I take vitamins. I am on my way to a more healthy lifestyle.

Great, that’s just fantastic. BUT WHAT THE HELL DO I DO ABOUT BREAKFAST?

I am a monster without coffee or nourishment in the morning. I will remind you that I need caffeine and that I need to eat until the mission has been accomplished. There is no distracting me from this. It was easy when I would just grab a croissant or a bagel while I had my coffee.  I know that breakfast doesn’t revolve around bread, but it kind of does. While scouring most recent brunch menu editions, I am faced with Croque Madames, Chicken and Waffles, Stuffed French Toast, Benedicts, Breakfast Burritos… you get the idea.

I order salads for brunch now, because I’m getting tired of omelets. Truth is, I only like the omelets my mother makes. I don’t really like home fries. What has happened to me? Breakfast used to be the simplest, most effortless meal. Now I am at a loss and have no clue what to do to keep it interesting, because I’m not going to play out quinoa porridge. It’s just too good for that.

It’s winter now, and I guess I am going to start baking my own GF breads and scones. I will stock up on frozen GF waffles and steel cut oats. In the meantime, I wish my local cafes would have just one item that I could have. Just one.

Bar-buzz-o

December 3, 2010

I’m embarrassed to admit that I have never been to Lolita or Bindi. While I know I should, I seldom consider 13th Street when making the always difficult decision as to where we are going to eat. In this town, buzz is everything. A local newspaper declares you as possibly the best new restaurant in Philadelphia? Have fun with your floor plan. You’re going to be booked for awhile. When we arrived last night, Barbuzzo was certainly displaying its shiny new reputation. The cluster at the door made it difficult to get through. Luckily our spots at the chef’s counter were waiting for us.

We got to bother the newest sous chef, who happens to be one of Dan’s oldest friends. The counter is so close to the line that we could have tickled Paul while he was cooking, or reached into his mise en place. Instead we shed our layers (so warm by the burners), and ordered two glasses of Gremona cava and toasted to our anniversary.

Barbuzzo offers a larger menu than I had remembered reading. I suppose it is in the small(er) plates realm, and gives you the option to sort of choose your own adventure. Navigating through the menu, there are snacks and spreads, pizzas and pastas, boards, and composed plates. With compliments we were served a charcuterie board (soppressata, lomo, chorizo picante with housemade apricot mustard and olive tapenade) and the grilled octopus. Octo was KILLER. So many tentacles! So much delicious char! Crunchy celery hearts offset the texture of the pulpo, and at the bottom of the cazuela were crunchy chorizo bits, looking a bit like lardons.

We shared a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and ordered four more items. For me, the Burratta and Bartlett Pear salad, with hazelnut and saba under a blanket of spicy arugula. Simply dressed with the saba and evoo, the salad itself wasn’t mind blowing but everything about it was certainly delicious. Then I had the wood roasted Portuguese sardines. These were big boys, bone-in, with preserved lemon and fennel. Difficult to eat, of course, but these bones were the kind that were acceptable to consume as they were teeny tiny. The sardines were meaty as hell, with a light smokiness that mellowed out their natural fishiness.

Dan got two of last night’s specials, both of which centered upon bone marrow: Osso pizza and housemade black truffle and bone marrow sausage. “Osso” meaning bone, the pizza was topped with the bone marrow and oyster mushrooms. I wish I could have tasted it. It was one of the best looking pizzas I’ve seen. Dan ate the whole thing. And then there was the sausage. OH MY GOD, this juicy, savory, heavenly sausage. The bone marrow rendered off right into the pork. The black truffle was delicate and subtle.

To finish, a glass of tawny, a glass of madeira, and the milk chocolate Budino with sea salted caramel and I cannot say anymore words about this because I am beginning to cry over my keyboard in that I do not have one right now.

We have a lot more ground to cover at Barbuzzo. So much more to try. After the small dent we’ve made in the menu, I can confirm that they are certainly living up to the hype, and I have a feeling we will be back nearly every Wednesday from here on.

Next: Bar Ferdinand

 

Affaire de Coeur: QUINOA

November 20, 2010

I’ve been missing in action. I was writing a lot, and feeling exhilarated in doing so. Writing about just a couple of our food adventures (I still have some great things to share about Incanto, Chris Cosentino’s spot) made me long for vacation again in a bittersweet way.

I’m on this diet now. I decided to take the gluten-free route while still incorporating some dairy into my food choices. I drink soy milk often and am not gorging on ice cream (instead it is “Coconut Bliss” or “Soy Delicious” or “Rice Dream” or “Will Never Taste Like the New York Super Fudge Chunk You Love”), but I don’t think I can give up cheeses. I love wine far too much to deprive it of cheese.

I’ve done a lot of research regarding the effects of a gluten free diet on patients with multiple sclerosis, and I am astounded at the little amount of research that has been done by doctors on this matter. I’m not immobile. My body has not changed suddenly. I’m exactly as I was last year. But, in reading about the long term effects of the gluten free diet on people who were rendered powerless and in time gained back their energy and nerve flow. Wouldn’t you think this would deter researching neurologists from the injectable interferons derived from the sexual organs of small animals? Wouldn’t you think this would move some research in the direction of a focused diet in tandem with these medications?

Either way, I hope to see that this was the right decision for me. I’ve been cooking again and am enjoying every second of it and cannot wait to start posting my recipes, but that’s going to happen once I expand my horizons. I’m on this quinoa thing. I can’t stop it with the quinoa. Quinoa porridge for breakfast. Quinoa on the side. Quinoa salads with veggies for lunch. I am obsessed with quinoa. Quinoa with its versatility and unbelievable amount of amino acids, protein, vitamins. I crave it. I want to manipulate it in every delicious way that I can.

For what it’s worth, these two “meals” are what I am thriving on:

This quinoa porridge, with cooked apples, raisins, milk, honey, and a touch of cinnamon, is superfood breakfast in its most heavenly form. I am making some right now. I’m sad that it is not berry or stonefruit season, but can’t wait to experiment when the time comes. It’s easy as pie. You can use already cooked quinoa and add milk and other ingredients, or simply cook the quinoa in milk for a richer porridge.

Below would be my favorite combination of ingredients: Local kale and mushrooms, cooked together with a little garlic, caramelized onion, raw minced orange bell pepper, baked and cubed sesame tofu, and my beloved little quinoa. Hot or cold, this is probably my favorite thing to eat at the moment.

 

I made a killer potato leek soup and a practice turkey chili. I can’t wait to perfect and share. Thanksgiving just happens to be creeping up this week and of course I am going to be gloating about my mother’s incredible culinary talents, not to mention her tireless and so sweet efforts to adapt our already-s0-good feast to my dietary choice. She promises that no one will know the difference. I can’t wait. I can’t wait. The day of all days!

Once we return from turkey comatose, I will start experimenting with gluten-free baking. I am going to find the perfect alternative flour to suit mine and Dan’s (nut free) needs. When my funds allow, I will be reviewing some more restaurants. The week after Thanksgiving I am going to share some of Bar Ferdinand‘s newest additions to the menu, and perhaps some items from the always innovative and lovely Thursday night tasting menu. Hang tight.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make some quinoa porridge.

San Francisco/Napa: BOUCHON

November 9, 2010

We were going to have dinner at The French Laundry. There was no way around it. We were going to get a reservation, and we were going to have dinner at The French Laundry. We were going to order the $250 tasting menu and a bottle of champagne. I was going to find some long, fancy dress and he was going to get a suit jacket. Right. When it was August 21 (FL requires you to make reservations exactly two months in advance), the phone lines were busy, all day. Then they were booked. 8/22, same. And so on, until our vacation was two months ahead of being over. Alright, so…

Enter Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s French bistro-style digs, also located conveniently in Yountville, CA. This peaked my interest much more, as I am a Francophile who prefers flannels and mocassins to cocktail dresses and stilettos. Making our reservation at Bouchon was painless, and the idea of a Foie Gras Terrine and Petit Plateau had us more than ready.

Something about Yountville screams money. It just looks like money. Even the trees look expensive. This is the town that holds three Thomas Keller restaurants, and borders several wineries, including Domaine Chandon. Yountville itself measures in less than 2 square miles.

Walking into Bouchon, it was almost exactly as we had expected, only much smaller. Much like its hometown, Bouchon was quaint. This was no Parc, certainly no Balthazar. The atmosphere was relaxed and warm. I think I remember hip hop playing.

At the table, every detail is fine-tuned, but Bouchon never aired stuffiness. Just an example of a restaurant with a gargantuan reputation, serving food that looks and tastes good (by good I mean amazing), with full integrity. Olives (below) are something I always have to order, if offered. I wondered if they grew olives in Napa. Of course they do. These were sweet and fruity, balanced perfectly with some lemon zest and fresh rosemary.

A toast of champagne was all we could do with this Petit Plateau sitting between us. Again, flawless. Oysters, fresh and perfectly shucked. I am embarassed to say that I was too wrapped up in well, everything about this night to remember the two varieties we were served. We think they were from Washington. Prawns, perfectly poached and chilled. Lobster meat, delicate, sweet and flaky. This is the kind of thing you never want to end. We probably should have just gotten the Grand Plateau,

Next to arrive, with our bottle of Vire Clesse, was the Pate de Campagne. This was your classic country-style pate, served traditionally with the usual cornichons, dijon mustard, radish, and watercress. What made Bouchon’s pate stand out was the smooth texture. It showcased the flavor of each ingredient and every spice incorporated while still being spreadable and velvety.

Salade de Legumes Marinees. I had to see what this was all about. I’m a sucker for housemade pickles. Also, local veggies. In person, this was the prettiest salad. Just so dainty and so pretty. So feminine, I’m serious. Look at it. Marinated garden cucumber and radishes, with pickled mushrooms,  and crab beignets, which added the perfect contrast of crunchy to the tangy veggies. In the center is a cylinder of light-as-air mint mousse.

Ah, yes. Finally. The moment we were waiting for. The Foie Gras Terrine. Five ounces of delicate, silky foie gras mousse in its own mason jar. This foie spread just like butter, and sits below a layer of moulard duck fat and sea salt crystals. How they have achieved such a decadent and sexy texture is beyond me. So simple and luxurious.

Bouchon, 6534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA (707) 944-8037

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