Posts Tagged ‘eating’

Gluten-Free Heirloom Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese

I love the abundance of tomatoes this time of year. I only had room to plant one heirloom Paul Robeson tomato plant and an heirloom black cherry tomato plant this year, so whenever I need more tomatoes than what I can produce at home, I just pick some up at the farmers market. This past Saturday I bought 8 quarts of Roma tomatoes and roasted them all. I made sauce out of half of them and froze the other half for soup or sauce later in the fall or winter. I have been wanting to experiment with making an heirloom tomato tart with some of the tomatoes coming from my garden and some from the farmers market. After making the delicious pea and goat cheese tart this spring using Gluten Free Girl’s delicious tart shell recipe, I couldn’t wait to make another beautiful and tasty savory tart with it.

I wanted many layers of fresh flavors, so rather than an egg/dairy based tart like the pea tart I made, I decided to start by roasting a whole head of garlic to spread on the bottom of the tart shell before laying on the tomatoes, I then added a handful of flavorful, freshly cut herbs from the garden (I am trying to use those as much as possible, while I still can). I finished the tomatoes with the light, creamy and tart goodness from the goat cheese, that gets slightly browned and crisp on top, while retaining the soft center (thanks for the wonderful idea David Lebovitz) and I also decided this would be the perfect time to make another balsamic reduction syrup to drizzle over the top of it all. You could also take a tip from David Lebovitz and just drizzle a good honey in place of the balsamic reduction.

The only thing I regret about this tart is that because I made it on a weeknight when I was done with work, by the time I roasted the garlic, blind-baked the shell and finished the tart, it was far too late and dark out, to take a good quality photo of the tart as a whole. I knew that my silly little light box and lighting would never do all the beautiful colors justice, so rather than setting it all up, getting frustrated and delaying dinner, I decided I would have to settle for a photo of a single slice of the tart the next day. Small price to pay, but I think you can see from just that one slice just how beautiful and colorful this tart was and you can also see how deliciously crumbly and flakey the gluten-free tart shell is.

* A note about this tart shell recipe: For those of you that are gluten-free bakers, I know most of these gluten-free baking recipes can at first seem daunting because of the seemingly long list of flours that you have never heard of, compared to a traditional recipe that just has one type of flour and that’s it. That being said, after you start baking more and more, you just learn what flours you like to bake with and those that you will use over and over, so you should always have them on hand in your pantry. I now have my go-to flours and as soon as I run out of one, I pick it up on my next grocery trip, so they are always on hand, it’s as easy as that. It can get pricey the first time you make something and have none of the items on hand, but thereafter they run out at different paces and you are just picking one type of flour up, here and there. No biggy. I actually had all of these flours on hand, since I always do, so this recipe was super simple. Also, in a lot of ways, this tart shell recipe is easier than the traditional since without the gluten you can’t over work it and you can easily mend any tears with your hand, no harm done. I really cannot recommend it enough, even if you don’t make it with this tart recipe, you should try it out.

Gluten-Free Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart
serves 8-10

Tart Shell
adapted Gluten Free Girl and The Chef – A Love Story (I added in the cheese for this particular recipe)

1/2 cup (63.5g) sorghum flour
1/2 cup (60g) tapioca flour
1/2 cup (96g) potato starch
1/2 cup (102g) sweet rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) frozen organic butter
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1 large local farm fresh brown egg
1/4 cup of ice-cold water

(if making a sweet tart, instead of savory, include 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon)

Sift the sorghum flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, and sweet rice flour into a large bowl. Stir in the salt (sugar and cinnamon if making a sweet tart). Sift into another bowl.

Grate the frozen butter directly into the dry ingredients. The butter will fall into the flours in soft swirls and start to melt in as soon as you stir. Add in the Parmigiano Reggiano. Work with your hands to mix everything, until the dough feels like cornmeal or large pieces of sand.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg and water together with a fork. Make a well in the center of the flours. Stir in the liquid, working from the inside out. Feeling the dough for soft suppleness, instead of stiffness or sogginess. Feel free to use your hands at the end.

Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour, or overnight if possible.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Butter and flour an 11-inch tart shell, I used sweet rice flour as the original recipe suggested. Pull the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature, about 1 hour. While your tart dough is coming to room temperature, and your oven is preheated to 375º, roast your garlic. Place garlic on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Wrap to enclose garlic in foil, and place on the rack in the center of your oven. Bake until soft, the outside will be golden brown and the flesh will be soft, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven; set aside.

Roll out the dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper, to the approximate shape of the tart pan. (this way you don’t have to flour your countertop and add more flour to the dough).If the dough falls apart or breaks a bit, don’t worry – there is no danger of the crust becoming tough by overworking it, which can happen with gluten dough. Press the dough into the pie pan and repair it that way.

Place the tart shell into the freezer until the crust is frozen, approximately 1 hour.

Butter a piece of aluminum foil approximately the size of the pie crust. Place it butter side down, onto the tart crust and fit snuggly against the sides. Bake pressing down any puffed up spots with a spoon until the shell has a good color, about 15 minutes. The tart should look and feel flaky, rather than sticky. Prepare the filling while the tart is blind baking.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart Filling

1 large head of garlic
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
2-3 large ripe heirloom tomatoes (I like to use a variety of colored tomatoes, since it is just all so beautiful together)
2 tablespoons olive oil
a large handful of chopped fresh herbs, I used basil, chives and oregano
8 ounces fresh goat cheese, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon organic light brown sugar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven, roast your garlic and blind bake your tart shell, all the details can be found above with the tart recipe. When the garlic is cool enough to touch, with either your hands or a utensil, squeeze the cloves out of their skins and into a small bowl; mash with a fork, and set aside.

In a small saucepan over a medium-high heat bring the balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil, constantly whisking to prevent burning. Continue cooking until it is reduced by half, stirring often. Remove from heat, allow to cool.

After the tart comes out from being blind baked, evenly spread the roasted garlic over the tart shell’s bottom. Sprinkle the Parmigiano Reggiano over the garlic. Slice the tomatoes and arrange them over the garlic and cheese in a single, even layer. Drizzle the olive oil over the top, season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the fresh herbs over the tomatoes, reserving some to put on top. Arrange the slices of goat cheese rounds over the tomatoes. Drizzle the balsamic reduction overtop of everything and sprinkle the remaining herbs on top.

Bake the tart for 30-45 minutes or so, until the dough is fully cooked and slightly browned, the tomatoes are tender, but retain their shape and the cheese on top is nicely browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool for 15-20 minutes, serve warm with a bit more freshly chopped herbs and a bit of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, if you wish.

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White Bean and Chive Patties

Since we’ve closed the store and now work from home, I really look forward to the time of day when I can take a break from working and prepare a healthy dinner for us. Many nights we finish dinner, do up the dishes, feed the pets and then return up to our offices to work for a few hours, which is something we never did before, but somehow it is all so much more relaxing and laid back. Working from home has allowed me to really play with my schedule, make it more flexible and find even more time for yoga, dog walks and other fun and physical activities. I think the pressure of having to be at the studio set hours because of the store really put an unnecessary amount of self-imposed stress on both of us. We were always very happy and content before and we definitely miss the store some days, but I really find myself loving my life and my job more now than ever before. I feel so lucky.

One of my other favorite things about the new schedule is being able to take on more involved dinners during the week, that require more prep time or even down time for things to cool or set, etc. Now during the “wait times” in recipes, I can just walk upstairs and get more work done. Both last night’s dinner, Spring Pizza with Asparagus and Eggs that featured a homemade gluten-free multi-grain pizza crust and tonight’s Spring Pea and Goat Cheese Tart, with a homemade tart dough, are perfect examples of that. (Don’t worry those recipes are coming soon.) This particular recipe isn’t nearly as involved or time-consuming, but having to pan fry the patties in batches can take time and patience and it is certainly something I wouldn’t have made after a long day of work at the store and getting home around 7pm.

These patties are simple, healthy and full of flavor. They have a wonderful crispy crunch on the outside and a nice soft inside. They are naturally gluten-free and vegan, too. The original recipe features them with sage instead of chives and amidst a delicious spring brunch menu topped with a roasted tomato sauce. I thought the sauce would take away from the lovely crisp, so I instead envisioned them atop a lovely mix of baby spring greens salad as a meal in and of itself. I made a quick lime cilantro vinaigrette and served it as dinner.

You could definitely play around with different herbs and even different veggie additions, the big thing to keep in mind is to make sure the patties aren’t too moist or dry to where they will fall apart in the pan and to make sure you have your pan is hot enough to get that initial “searing” to create a nice crust on the outside and to keep the patties together. Use a spatula to look at the face-down side before you flip to make sure it is adequately browned before you flip.

We tossed some baby spring greens with the vinaigrette, put the patties on top and drizzled those with a bit more dressing and topped everything with more fresh chives. A perfect spring-time dinner.

White Bean and Chive Patties

White Bean and Chive Patties
makes 12 patties
Adapted from Whole Living, June 2011

1 19-oz can organic white beans
1 shallot, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely grated
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, plus more for serving
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Drain beans, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid. Transfer to a bowl and mash. Stir in shallot, carrot, cornmeal, and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon reserved liquid. If mixture is too dry, add the other.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil. Form mixture into 12 patties (about 2 1/2 inches diameter each) and saute in batches until golden brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining oil and patties. Serve topped with a tasty dressing, yogurt sauce or atop a salad.

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Happy New Year to you all!! I am so incredibly excited to dive head first into 2011! 2010 was a wonderful, blessed year filled with many great moments and though I experienced a few tough and trying moments in 2010, I have tried my best to look at all of those experiences as times where my strengths are tested and I learn just what I am capable of. I personally decided to make 2010 the year I tried to relax and not take everything so seriously, to take each moment for what it is and to love myself more. I have always made sure to see the positive in things and to realize things could always be worse, 2010 was the year I really made certain to keep that mindset in the forefront. I have also decided to focus on all that I have and how lucky I am to be healthy, happy and loved. I truly feel that each day is special and that I am lucky to have a loving husband, an incredible family, and a job and career that I not only love, but am immensely proud of. For us, both personally and professionally, 2011 is already shaping up to be an incredible year and I am elated for each and every moment to come!

One of the things I accomplished in 2010 that I am quite proud of, besides shedding 30lbs of excess weight, is the ability to be so in tune with my body and my health that I can sense when it is off-balance and needing a clean-up. I kept with my lifestyle and eating habits through the holidays, but it is inevitable that you are just consuming more food and drink than any other stretch of time throughout the year, at least for me anyhow. It is a week of excess, in all facets of life. I knew just before New Year’s eve, when I felt some sniffles coming on and I was feeling a bit more sluggish than usual, that I was in need of a good cleanse. I decided I would do a 2-week cleanse beginning today.

There are many different cleanses and detoxes out there, some are VERY intense and limited to just liquids, others aren’t nearly as strict, still allowing poultry and fish. I think the type of cleanses I practice, fall somewhere in the middle. I always avoid added sugar and salt, meat, fish, dairy, eggs, caffeine, and alcohol. Of course my cleanses also always include my usual no gluten and no processed foods. This time around I am also avoiding soy and corn. To most people this sounds limiting and difficult, but I actually look forward to it and think it is an exciting time. I love the focus on fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, herbs and spices. Life tends to get crazy and meals get rushed and these important elements often get forgotten and overlooked.

I find that these cleanses allow my body to not only detox but to also get back to a clear digestive tract that is able to do its job at it’s fullest. I have also done a bit of reading on Ayurvedic healing and learning to avoid or focus on foods specific to you and your body-mind type (or your dosha) and it’s needs. When I cleanse, I don’t follow the Ayurvedic cleanses per se, I just include that general focus on food types, herbs and spices and the importance of yoga and meditation when cleansing. There is big emphasis on digestion-enhancing, detoxifying spices in Ayurvedic healing such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, clove, ajwain, fenugreek, dried ginger, Chinese cinnamon and fennel. According to Ayurveda, each meal should be a feast for all of your senses. When your plate reflects an appealing variety of colors, textures, flavors and aromas, your digestive juices start freely flowing in anticipation and your body, mind and heart are all fulfilled by the eating experience.

I am by no means an expert on cleansing or Ayurvedic medicine, I simply know my body and have tailored a cleanse to me and what I need, so please don’t take any of what I am doing as “medical advice” or anything more than me keeping a journal of my journey through this cleanse.

I plan to cleanse for 2 weeks, longer if I feel I need it. I will be posting many of the recipes here on my blog as I go. Hope it helps any of you looking to try out a cleanse or maybe you are just looking to add in some very healthy, clean detoxifying recipes! Happy New Year and happy clean eating to you all!


Banana Pom-Berry Smoothie


This recipe will be the first of many smoothie recipes I will feature. I think they make great breakfasts and if you include different ingredients each time, you won’t get bored. I decided to add flax seeds to this smoothie (and will likely do so often through this cleanse) to get some added fiber and healthy omega-3 fats, it is great for adding to smoothies as it tends to keep you a bit more satisfied, a bit longer. Flax seeds are also great sprinkled on salads, cooked vegetable or added to breads or cereals. This smoothie had a ton of flavor and it is now over 3 hours since I drank it and I am still quite satisfied. This is one I will for sure be making again.

Banana Pom-Berry Smoothie
serves 1

1/2 orange, peel and pith removed (I used a cara cara pink navel, any orange will work)
1/2 cup organic 100% pomegranate juice (no additional ingredients and definitely no sugar added)
1 organic banana, halved
1 tbsp ground organic flax seed (I buy them whole and grind them myself)
1/2 cup frozen organic mixed berries

Add all the ingredients to your blender, blend until smooth. Enjoy!

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Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Dried-Cranberry Vinaigrette

This is the final dish from our Thanksgiving dinner that I am able to feature. I really wanted to do a post about the gluten-free stuffing I made, but I realized after it was all gone, that I never took a photo, I swore I had. So, I plan to make that again very soon to share it with you. When thinking about what vegetable I was going to serve with dinner I knew wanted green beans, but I wanted to try something a little different. I came across this recipe while thumbing through my issue of Bon Appétit Magazine and I was thrilled to see a unique take on green beans and it was so easy. I made the vinaigrette a day ahead, which I actually think really gave it a ton of flavor, then all I had to do shortly before dinner was ready, was to cook up the beans and toast the walnuts. Super easy.

I loved the tangy flavor from the cranberries and fresh mint was so refreshing. We hadn’t gotten any major snow then, so I was still able to get fresh mint from our yard. This was a nice light and flavor-packed side dish, on a day full of eating and it was great as lunch the next day.

I am really unhappy with the photo, it doesn’t even begin to show how beautiful this dish was. However, I didn’t want to skip sharing this recipe, because the photo wasn’t perfect.

Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Dried-Cranberry Vinaigrette
adapted from Bon Appétit, November 2010
serves 8

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup minced shallots
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Sherry wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper plus additional (for sprinkling)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 pounds trimmed slender green beans (such as haricots verts)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted , chopped

Whisk first 6 ingredients and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in small bowl. Mix in dried cherries; set aside.
Fill large bowl with water and ice; set aside. Cook green beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain. Transfer to bowl with ice water; cool. Drain.
Toss green beans, walnuts, and vinaigrette in large bowl. Transfer to platter and serve.

If you are preparing for a meal like Thanksgiving or Christmas, these beans are great because you can totally prepare them ahead of time, by a day. You can make the vinaigrette up to one day before. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature; rewhisk before using. You can also make the beans the day before and wrap in paper towels; enclose in resealable plastic bag and chill. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before continuing. You can toast the walnuts 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

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Yesterday, my husband, Mark, and I celebrated our 3 year wedding anniversary and the 7 year anniversary of our first date. Normally we are on the beach, alone, on South Padre Island. This year it wasn’t possible, so instead we decided to celebrate the day by spending it in Toronto. We skipped work, closed up the Boutique and took off in the car for the short drive over the border.


We drove up in the early afternoon and headed first to the St. Lawrence Market. I have wanted to go for a long time and we decided this would be the perfect day to check it out. It is located in the center of the historic Old Town Toronto, very close to the current downtown area. It has been named one of the 25 best markets in the world, by Food & Wine magazine. It was spectacular, there are three buildings in the complex that make it up, but the South Market, which we visited, is open Tuesday-Saturday. It had over 50 vendors, selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, baked goods, dairy and so much more. I would love to go up on a Saturday for the Farmers’ Market that is held in the North Market, weekly. On Sundays, over 80 antique dealers fill the North Market displaying their wares from dawn until 5pm.




We didn’t buy a whole lot, as I didn’t know what the laws were concerning bringing food over the border, I need to look into that for next time.  We did decide to grab lunch while we were at the market, and I am glad we did. It was phenomenal. I found a small takeout cafe called Cruda Cafe, (“cruda” is Spanish for “raw), which specialized in raw and vegan delights. I was so excited to see mentions of gluten-free, and to speak with the owner, Claudia, who assured me there was no gluten in any of their dishes. I ordered the Wild Mushroom Burger. It was a dense and beautiful smoky, wild mushroom and pecan patty served between two thick slices of tomato and topped with shredded carrots, beets and a fresh guacamole (made right in front of me), all on top of a few leafs of the most green Boston Lettuce I have ever seen. This isn’t your typical burger, you cannot pick it up, it is a fork and knife kind of dish. It was fantastic. I couldn’t get over all of the flavors and how wonderfully they went together with each bite. I also ordered a “Clean” juice. It was made completely fresh, while I waited, with apple, carrot, lemon & ginger.



Mark grabbed a Chicken Parmesan sandwich from Mustachio, he was in heaven eating that. Afterwards, he grabbed an Americano from Everyday Gourmet, a cute little cafe and retail store on the lower level, where they roast and sell their fresh coffee beans, daily. And of course, no meal for Mark would be complete without a sweet, so he grabbed a cupcake from Future Bakery on the upper level. I bought a small tasting of chocolate from Aren’t We Sweet, a chocolate and candy shop. The chocolate was a dark chocolate featuring local hemp and topped with sea salt. Unlike anything I have ever tried, earthy and almost a bit spicy. So good.





After our lunch we walked around the market a bit more and then headed over to the Queen St. West neighborhood to window shop. I did buy a couple inexpensive items at H&M to try to outfit my new shape, since all of my clothes are too big now, a great problem to have, but a problem none the less. Ah retail therapy, it always fixes what is ailing.

We had 8:30pm reservations at Splendido on Harbord Street for dinner, so we headed there from Queen St. I read a lot of reviews when I was looking for the perfect restaurant for us to dine at and Splendido continually ranked as one of Toronto’s top fine dining restaurants. The cuisine can be classified as Modern or Eclectic European and they are known for their commitment to fresh, seasonal dishes made with locally sourced foods from family farms. I loved seeing a menu where all of the main dishes had the farm listed where the meat or fish was supplied from. The ambiance in the restaurant was perfect and it was one of the biggest restaurants I have ever been to, in Toronto. The service was great from the minute we walked in.

I started off with a cocktail and since I haven’t been drinking much at all these days I wanted something special. I went with the Anjou Sky, which was Absolut Pear Vodka, Navan Vanilla Cognac, Pear Nectar and Fresh Thyme. Wow, it was completely refreshing and hit the spot. It had a wonderful spring-time aroma and it went down easy. We decided since we hadn’t been out for a nice dinner in a very long time that we would really enjoy ourselves. We started with the Oysters 3 Bays 3 Ways. There were six oysters, two were served with horseradish, two with truffle chili mignonette and the last two with cucumber wasabi. The truffle chili mignonette was far and away our favorite, it had a subtle spice to it and it complimented the oyster perfectly. We also had the Spring Vegetable Salad, which was a mix of Spring greens and vegetables with a spinach puree underneath, a walnut emulsion and a light and tart cider vinaigrette. One of the best salads I have ever had. The perfect size too. Just a few bites.

For our main courses, Mark ordered the Beef Striploin that came with a smoked brisket raviolo and a sweet onion puree. The beef came from George’s Farm in Ontario. That was one of the tastiest and most perfectly cooked cuts of meat I have ever tried. Perfectly tender with a light crust on the outside. I didn’t get to taste the raviolo as that isn’t gluten-free, but the dollop of sweet onion puree was delicious. Mark said the “baby food” was his least favorite part (he is a textural eater), I thought it was great. After a brief description from our server, I went with the Suckling Pig, which came from Nathan’s Farm, in Ontario. It was very slow roasted pork that was so tender and tasty, it had a melt in your mouth, slow cooked taste like no pork I have every eaten. It is served pulled from the bones atop a spiced sweet potato puree, with a roasted shallot and a single spear of white asparagus. The only part I wasn’t crazy about was the two small bites of cracklings on top, that has never been a flavor I enjoy, though Mark loved it. I had a glass of the Pascal Marchand 2006 Bourgogne Rouge ‘Avalon’ Pinot Noir with my meal and it was an impressive, lighter, muted red that had hints of cherry and earth. Perfect with the roast pork. The portions on the entrees were perfectly sized for foods with such rich flavors, we finished them feeling perfectly content and not engorged.

Speaking of not feeling engorged, we opted for dessert, which I almost never do. Mark went with the ice cream sandwich which was Brioche ice cream sandwiched between two Lindt chocolate biscuits. It was a small 3 or 4 bite delight, he loved it. I went with the Rice Pudding which had a white chocolate passion fruit sauce and a tropical fruit salad on top. There were also a couple of bits of caramelized rice cereal on top. Growing up with traditional Greek style rice pudding, this was completely different, but out of this world delicious. A light and fresh finish to the meal. After we finished eating, they brought out an adorable piece of pastry that said “Happy Anniversary” and a card from the chef, Victor Barry, the manager, Carlo Catallo and our server, Steve. A very thoughtful touch and a nice way to finish a fabulous meal.

Overall, this has to be the nicest meal I have ever had at a restaurant, the service was impeccable, the ambiance was welcoming, romantic and perfect for celebrating our special occasion and of course (if you cannot gather) the food was superb. Another thing worth mentioning about Splendido, is that our server Steve, knew the dishes and ingredients well enough to know what had gluten and what did not, they were able to alter my entree and dessert to make sure that it was gluten-free, I love that assurance. I would have liked to take photos of each course, but I left my camera in the car and decided it was far more important to just enjoy the meal. Instead I shot a photo on my iPhone at the start of my meal and at the end. You’ll just have to go to Splendido to experience the rest yourself.



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