FOOD FOTO: A Berry Peachy Endeavor

I wrestled with myself over whether to actually leave that title, but I had to.  The truth is, I've made a few fruit crisps in my day - an easily gluten free, widely appealing and adaptable dessert - but I think this combination of strawberries, peaches, and nectarines might be my favorite of all time.

One of the best fruit stands in the neighborhood had a 2-pound assortment of ripe nectarines and yellow peaches for 79 cents TOTAL, so I peeled and diced those along with about a cup of strawberries, and added a tablespoon of honey and the juice of half a lime.  I let this little concoction rest in the fridge overnight, not because I was feeling fancy, but because I simply didn't have time to do anything with it.  So last night around my lunchtime (which, for night shift people is generally just before midnight), I made a mixture of brown sugar, quinoa flakes, gf baking mix, and cut in about 1/3 stick of softened butter for the crisp.  I also made a small slurry (cornstarch mixed with water) so that the accumulated fruit juices would thicken while baking.

Assembly is as easy as spreading half the crisp mixture in the bottom of a prepared souffle (or, deep pie dish if that's what you have), pouring in the fruit, then adding the remainder of the crisp mixture.  Forty minutes in the oven produced a deliciously sweet-tart dessert that I will absolutely make again, and next time I'll take pictures to post with a recipe.  Hello, summer dessert stand-by.


THIS JUST IN: Key Food Supermarkets go Gluten Free!

For those of you unfamiliar with Key Food supermarkets, they're a small chain that serves the 5 boroughs of NYC, as well as points north in New York and Connecticut.  For quite some time they've carried a handful of gf products, like Mary's Gone Crackers, Nature's Path cereals and snack bars, and a few Annie's products.

But LO AND BEHOLD, I was on a quick grocery run a couple of weeks ago when I spotted a brand new gluten free SECTION!  Where the Jellos and instant pudding mixes once stood was now an entire section exclusively devoted to gluten free products - a variety of pastas, great selection of crackers, cookies, flours, gf oats, boxed mixes, cereal, and more.  And best of all, the shelves were flagged with large yellow tags reading "GLUTEN FREE", also scattered around the store to indicate other expressly gluten free products.

So what did I do?  After picking up a celebratory box of Mary's Gone Crackers, I emailed Ben Mandel, the store manager, to give a giant thumbs-up for the initiative.  Mr. Mandel emailed back, not only thank me for the feedback, but also to invite my suggestions of other gluten free products I'd like to see in the store.  WHAT!  If you live near a Key Food, I'd highly recommend swinging by to see if they too have started a similar initiative - if they haven't, consider contacting them to suggest it, and if they have, be sure to send your support!  Progress, my friends!


ON LOCATION: Tabora Farm and Orchard

Greetings, friends!  It's been a minute, and I've missed intrepidly reporting to you all of my gluten free adventures.  Chalk it up to starting a brand new job in a brand new career, in a competitive nurse residency program, no less.  With both classroom theory training and regular 12-hour shifts, cooking has become a little routine - still delicious and healthy, if a little boring.  So I figured I'd catch up with one of my visits ON LOCATION to the incredibly tasty and welcoming Tabora Farm and Orchard, located in Chalfont, PA, about 30 miles north of Philadelphia in my homeland of Bucks County.  Tabora's highlights are seasonal produce (much of it grown on-site), homemade ice cream, and a knock-out, old-fashioned baked goods section, housed in a barn-style building surrounded by miles of farmland. 

At places like this one, I never expect to find things I can eat, considering my figurative butting-of-heads with both gluten and dairy.  And that's one of the many reasons Tabora is exceptional - they offer a growing selection of gluten free baked goods so good that you'll probably be suspicious the first time you try them.  And trust me, you will want to travel there just to try them.


A Different Take on Egg Dyeing

I have a new obsession.  For once, it's not a kitchen appliance.  But rather an egg dyeing technique that ignores the cartoony boxes on the pharmacy shelf and instead looks to the spice rack and scraps on the counter for inspiration.

A few of the more granola sites I follow made various mentions of DIY egg coloring early in the season this year, so my interest was piqued.  I'd read about the technique in the past, but this is the first egg dyeing season in as long as I can remember where I actually had time to think about dyeing eggs at all, much less the technique I'd be using.  What began as a fun little internets research idea became one of the coolest kitchen science projects I'd ever gotten myself into.


FOOD FOTO: Eggcellent

Lady Gaga said it best: We're all born superstars.  After a night of hail storms and freezing temps with the heat conspicuously absent from my apartment, I was feeling a little less like a superstar this morning.  So I made a star-shaped egg, natch.

Making shapes out of food is probably the simplest way to put a smile on your face or the faces of those who are lucky enough to have your cooking at their disposal.  Use your favorite metal cookie cutter, spray the inside generously with cooking spray (make sure it's flour-free spray, gluten free friends) or brush it with a little light-tasting olive oil, place in a prepared pan, and crack an egg or pour some pancake batter in.  And have a better day!


Tostones Gringos (or, Some American's Version of Tostones)

Mmm, tostones.  The cure for the common french fry.  I don't remember the first time I tried these delicious bundles of savory fried plantain, but it was sometime after moving to New York.  In fact, before I knew what a plantain was, I bought a couple at a local bodega, thinking they were enormous, super under-ripe bananas - that was a confusing time.  In my travels to Latin American and Caribbean countries later on, it was impossible to get through a meal without finding some form of plantain, either green or maduro - no complaints from me.

Plantains are an awesome fruit to work with - a green plantain is great for tostones and mofongo (something I have yet to try at home - I prefer Dominican style over Puerto Rican style, but neither is exactly simple to make), or a ripened, yellow-to-black maduro can make an array of delicious, sweet side dishes or desserts.  In my neighborhood, costs range from 25 cents apiece down to 10 cents apiece on sale, so it's an incredibly cost-effective food.  Also?  Tostones are easy to make and incredibly satisfying.


THIS JUST IN: Gluten Free Dumplings by Friedman's Lunch!

Dumplings.  The one favorite food that I haven't eaten nor tried to replicate since cutting out gluten almost two years ago.  Sir Benjamin and I could have bought stock in Vanessa's Dumpling or Prosperity Dumpling up to that point.  Nothing like sinking your teeth into a piping hot pork or veggie dumpling in exchange for a mere quarter, but I also used to buy frozen pot stickers from Sunrise Mart and various groceries in Chinatown, to throw together a quick soup or brown bag lunch. I even made pork dumplings a few times from precut pastry, finishing them in a bamboo steamer.

My friend Caroline has just scooped me on a dumpling revelation of sorts - Friedman's Lunch, a fabulous Westside lunch spot (in Chelsea Market), has changed my dumpling fortune.  The owners launched Feel Good Foods, a line of frozen gluten free foods inspired by owner Vanessa Phillips' own dietary needs.  And (drumroll, please) they've started with DUMPLINGS!  The site also lists the stores where Feel Good Foods can be purchased, including Gluten Free Mall if you're not near one of the locations.  Pick some up for an awesome soup - broth of choice, thinly sliced carrots and mushrooms, your favorite green (I like bok choy or gai lan), and a couple dumplings topped with sliced scallions. Time for a trip to Chelsea....


FOOD FOTO: Crock Pot Love

Not feeling fabulous, yet again, creates a genuine need for uncomplicated cooking.  My eyes shift to the Crock Pot, my $18 little (not really that little, actually) dream investment.  I read a comment on a cooking site the other day, that referred to the Crock Pot as something in which to cook things like Velveeta and Hamburger Helper, natch.  Well, I know mine has never seen either of those, mostly because I can't eat them, but also because of the wealth of wonderful possibilities of this quite laissez-faire method of cooking.  Many refer to this fabulous machine as a slow cooker, which it is, but mine is actually a Crock Pot - not a fancy new space age one, though it is programmable (time by the half hour and high - low - warm), and never gets too hot.

Two things I had yet to cook in Baron Crock Pot: apple butter, which I've never cooked at all, and steel cut oats.  I'd heard chatter over the internets about an overnight oatmeal of sorts, which sounded amazing.  In short, both were cooked over two nights - the apple butter on low for 15 hours then finished in the food processor, and the oats for 9 hours on low.  On the advice of many, rather than cooking the oats directly in the stoneware, I used the Baron instead as a bain-marie, or waterbath, with the oats and liquid in an ovenproof glass bowl.  I added some dried fruit, nuts, and honey to the oats when I woke up, and cooked on high for another hour.  Both were delicious - I'm fine-tuning the recipes, and I'll post next time I give them a go.