Monthly Archives: March 2012

Morton’s The Steakhouse

Morton’s Steakhouse is great for gluten free dinning. They have a separate menu for us too 🙂 All of their steaks and fish dishes can be made gluten free; minus the au jus sauce.  All salads, with a few exceptions (i.e. croutons and salad dressings) are gluten free too. Our waitress was very aware of gluten allergies and was able to accommodate for me. She went out of her way for me and let me pick sides and desserts not offered on the Restaurant Week menu for no extra charge.
Our waitress was extremely friendly and very knowledgeable about the food and the wine list. The wait staff was attentive but not overbearing. But shaking my hand at the beginning of the meal, that was a little much. In the beginning of our meal my water glass was constantly filled, but as the night went on and the restaurant got busier, I was left with an empty water glass a few times, which shocks me
We all started out with the Morton’s Salad – eggs, anchovies. All salads are gluten free (minus the crotons) but none of the dressings are gluten free. I was a little shocked that the blue cheese dressing was not gluten free. So instead I had olive oil and vinegar.
(Morton’s Salad with eggs and anchovies on the side)
For my entrée I had the Broiled Salmon Filet with beurre blanc sauce. I didn’t ask for it, but the sauce came on the side. I always ask for it on the side, I am not sure why I didn’t here, but I love that they did that. I actually did not like this sauce at all. But I did really like the Hollandaise sauce that came with the broccoli and used this instead. It was so delicious! I tried a bit of my mom’s filet mignon and it was delicious; s o tender, it just melted in my mouth! 
They also put the sauces for the vegetables on the side. Our waitress suggested that we all choose a different side because they are big enough to share. Only two of the four vegetables offered on the Restaurant Week menu were gluten free, and since there was 3 of us, our waitress let us choose one from the regular menu, with no extra charge. We had the broccoli, garlic green beans (perfect amount of garlic that didn’t give you garlic breathe) and asparagus. The asparagus comes with a balsamic glaze, which she put on the side so my mom and her friend could enjoy. I know they are just vegetables but they were cooked to perfection, especially the asparagus. They were so big and fat. I am not usually an asparagus lover, but I realized it’s the way they are cooked is what I like or don’t like about them. The portion size was huge, plenty for three people to share (and have leftovers). 

The two desert options on the restaurant week menu were a Double Chocolate Mousse and Key Lime Pie, both of which were not gluten free. Again I was shocked and disappointed the Mousse was not gluten free, I’ve never heard of putting flour in mousse. On Morton’s gluten free menu online it has the Mousse listed on the gluten free menu but on their gluten free menu in the restaurant it is not. I didn’t want to take any risks, but they should clear this up! Our waitress once again offered me the two gluten free dessert options from their menu – crème brulee or fresh berries with whipped cream and a Sabayon sauce. I choose the crème brulee, which was the best decision. It was the best crème brulee I’ve ever had!! I even tried a bite of my mom’s mousse and the crème brulee was still the best, and this says a lot coming from a chocolate lover!
We enjoyed an amazing meal and had a wonderful 2 hour dinning experience at Morton’s. For $33.12 (and an extra $7 for the filet) you really can’t beat this price for top quality steak and service. The steak was the best steak I’ve ever had. The Steakhouses in Boston, and some of the other upscale dining establishments really do handle food allergies and intolerances well and go out of their way to accommodate me without making me feel like it is a burden (I’m you can relate to this).  Morton also has a soy free menu available for those who can’t eat soy. They would most likely be able to accommodate for any type of food allergy. 
Location: 2 Seaport Lane  Boston, MA 02210

Da Vinci Ristorante

It is Restaurant Week in Boston, so my friend Molly and I decided to check out Da Vinci’s for the  $33.12 3-course meal. This is a good value for the quality and quantity of food we got.  The restaurant is beautiful, very romantic and elegant yet most of the people in there were not couples (including my friend and I), I definitely thought it would be a majority of couples and we would feel out of place, but it was not like that at all.
(picture from DaVinci website)
Da Vinci’s is fabulous for a gluten free diet. The gluten free penne can be substituted in almost any pasta dish. I’m not sure what kind of pasta it was (soy or corn maybe) but it was delicious; it tasted just ‘’like the real thing’’.  Almost all of the entrees can be accommodated and changed slightly if needed, to be made gluten free. The only appetizers that have gluten are the Arancini, Indian Fusion Shrimp Salad and the croutons in the Caesar salad.
The interior is one large open dining area and an open kitchen. I love open kitchens because you get to see all the action!  We sat near the kitchen and were able to catch a glimpse of many of the meals being served, each one looked better than the next.
What I liked about Da Vinci’s over the Italian restaurants in the North End is that we didn’t feel like we were sitting on top of the people next to us; we had plenty of space between our table and the next. In the North End you are usually elbow to elbow with the table next to you and your can hear every word of their conversation.
Since it was such a beautiful night (85 degrees in March!) they had the big doors open and seating on the outside patio.  I would definitely go back in the summer time just to sit outside, not that it has a great scenic view but I love al fresco dining. 
The food was absolutely delicious. We both started with the Organic Green Salad; organic greens with red grapes, sliced almonds and shaved Parmiginao Reggiano (a.k.a. Parmesan), tossed in a moscato vinaigrette. It was delicious; I loved the dressing! It was light and sweet yet had a bit of sourness to it. I looked up a recipe (below) and I cannot wait to try it myself.
For my entrée I really wanted the Indian Fusion Masala Ravioli, and I was so disappointed that they did not make gluten free raviolis; but still quite happy that I could eat anything on the menu and have pasta. The Indian Fusion Masala Ravioli is a house made Indian-Italian fusion ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese, English peas, and ginger then coated in a spicy tomato cream sauce and finished with a curry leaf pistachio pesto. I know, your mouth is watering just reading that right? Well this just sounded so good I asked if it was possible to use penne with this sauce and pesto, with ricotta on the side and they were able to do it. Granted it was not the true dish but it was to die for. They didn’t have ricotta that night (bizarre since the food is made fresh daily and it is in the dish…). Instead I was given fresh shaved Parmesan. The best part of the dish, which I would go back just for this, was the pistachio pesto. It was the best pesto I have ever had. The combination of Indian and Italian sauces left me craving more when it was all gone. I wanted to lick my plate. 
For dessert we both had the Chocolate Mousse. It was very light and flavorful. It was a small portion, but I was pretty full from the meal anyways so the size was just right. Everything was perfectly portioned and beautifully presented.
The food was fantastic, the décor is elegant and the service was wonderful and so attentive; top notch. The water glasses were never empty. We weren’t rushed at all, we had a nice leisurely meal and we were there for about two hours. By the time we left at 8pm the place was packed; not an empty table in the entire restaurant.
They also have a very nice wine list, with very reasonably priced bottles. It’s nice to see such a variety of wines and prices available, especially for those of us who are young and can’t quite afford the $80+ bottle of wines, let alone the $50 bottles. I tried a glass of the Santa Marina Pino Grigio ($8/glass). It was light and refreshing with a note of fruit, pear maybe. I liked the fruity and citrus flavors yet it wasn’t too sweet and not too dry.
The entrees range from $22 – $26 for the pasta dishes, and $29-$39 for the fish, chicken and meat dishes. I would go back any day and try another pasta dish. The prices for the pasta dishes are very reasonable, especially compared to the traditional North End Italian Restaurants, and the quality of food, not to mention the impeccable service, beats most of the restaurants of been to in the North End.
Moscato Vinaigrette: recipe from this blog.
¾ cup Moscato vinegar (if moscato vinegar is not available, white balsamic vinegar is a good substitute)
1 teaspoon shallots, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon (or whole-grain) mustard
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper
Combine the first four ingredients in a mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste.

Easy Red Lentil Soup

I’ve really been into lentils lately, especially red and black. I never really ate lentils before recently, and I definitely did not cook them. But they are so good and super easy to make. 
I’m anemic and I am always trying to figure out ways of how I can get more protein in my diet. Lentils are high in protein; third highest level of protein, by weight, of any legume or nut, after soybeans and hemp. Not only high in protein, but also a good source of fiber, folate, and vitamin B – all things I am trying to fit more into my diet.
There are thousands of lentil recipes out there, and sometimes I just like to keep it simple. I looked through my cookbooks and combined a few of the recipes I saw and came up with the following recipe, which turned out to be delicious and full of flavor! I love experimenting in the kitchen, playing around with ingredients, and trying new things, and soup is the perfect for this.
Ingredients:  (serves 4)
1 ¼ cup red lentils
1 onion, diced
2 cups carrots, sliced
2 celery stocks, sliced
4 ½ cups vegetable or chicken stock or water* (I suggest using a stock to give it more flavor)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice (I used fresh lime because it was all I had)
½ teaspoon garlic
½ teaspoon ginger – I didn’t have this on hand but will certainty give it more flavor, I love cooking with ginger (hence why I am out)
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon coriander  
1 ½ teaspoon cumin
1 ½ teaspoon tumeric
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
* I used up leftover pho soup base instead of chicken stock, still came out great!
Optional add ins

 

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper – if you like it hot
1 teaspoon curry power
tomatoes – because let’s face it tomatoes are my favorite food and I will add them to any dish I can.
spinach add in at end
fresh parsley – add in at end
Directions:
                               1.     Place all ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil.

                                       2.     Reduce heat and cook, covered, for 40 minutes.
                                       3.     Ladle into 4 soup bowls and add spinach or fresh parsley
                                       4.     Serve and enjoy!

I told you it was easy!
You can really use any kind of lentils – red, green, yellow, pink. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time as some take longer to soften.
            Red – 30-35 minute
            Green – 45 minutes
            Brown 20-30 minutes
If you are using any of the other add-ins, just add them into the pot along with all the other ingredients.
The consistency of the soup changes depending on what you add and how long you cook it for. As it sits, more liquid is absorbed. So if you like it thick use less liquid and if you want more broth I would add another ½ – 1 cups of broth. 

Mini Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are delicious. I used an old oatmeal raisin recipe I had gotten from the top of a Quaker Oats container and made a few changes. I always add more vanilla extract and cinnamon to recipes when I bake, and I love using bananas. Replacing some of the butter with bananas gives the cookies just a hint of banana flavor, while reducing the amount of fat (not a bad trade off). Replacing butter with bananas doesn’t always work in cookies (be ware!) but if you replace only a little, sometimes you get amazing results, just like these cookies below. I say this with a little hesitation because I know not everyone will think these are amazing. For one, they are very small, which means you can have two or three 🙂 and I know there are hundreds of delicious cookie recipes out there I have yet to make, but for now these are still one of my all time favorite cookies.

I also used mini chocolate chips for the first time, and I think I like this so much better. The chocolate chips are more evenly spread out throughout the cookies.

The outsides are nice and crispy and the insides are soft and chewy, just the way I like them. 

Recipe: (makes 24 mini cookies)

3 Tablespoons butter, softened
½ small banana
½ cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ cups Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
½ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, beat butter, banana, and sugars on medium speed until creamy.
3. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.

4. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, and cinnamon; mix well.
5. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; mix well.
6. Add in oats and mini chocolate chips; mix well.
7. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
8. Bake 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown.
9. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet then transfer to wire rack. Cool completely.

Black Bean Brownies

I know what you are thinking, black bean brownies, what the heck?! But before you pass this up, let me tell you that they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The brownies pack in so much flavor, dense chocolate, a hint of coffee, and have a super smooth fudge like texture. If you didn’t know they were made with black beans I don’t think you’d ever be able to tell.
What inspired me to make these? Well they had no flour for one. And two, I was just so curious how a black bean brownie could have such great reviews. I saw this recipe advertised at Whole Foods, and it is originally from the cookbook Baking with Agave Nectar.
My advice would be to add more walnuts. One cup is not enough; it seems too scarce. Also, you can definitely taste the coffee flavor (others told me it wasn’t as strong as I thought). So if you are not a coffee love, I would reduce the amount of coffee by half. I also used 2½ cups of black beans (not on purpose) but they came out just fine!
Black Bean Brownie Recipe 

     4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
     1 cup unsalted butter
     2 cups canned black beans, drained
     1 cup walnuts, chopped
     1 tablespoon vanilla extract
     ¼ cup granulated instant coffee
     ¼ teaspoon sea salt
     4 large eggs
     1½ cups light agave nectar

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F. 
  • Line a 9in x 13in baking pan with parchment paper and lightly oil with canola oil spary. 
  • Melt the chocolate and butter togehter in the microwave for 1½ to 2 minutes. Stir with a spoon to melt the chocolate completely. 
  • Place the beans, ½ cup of the walnuts, vanilla extract, and a couple spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture into a food processor. Blend until thick and smooth. Set aside.
  •  In a large bowl, mix together the remaining walnuts, melted chocolate mixture, instant coffee, and salt. Combine with pureed bean mixture. 
  •  In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the eggs until light and creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Add the agave nectar and beat well.  
  •  Reserving about ½ cup of the egg mixture, mix egg mixture and bean mixture together, then pour the batter into the prepared pan. Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 cup egg mixture again until light and fluffy. Drizzle over the brownie batter and use a knife or toothpick to pull the egg mixture through the batter, creating a marbled effect. 
  • Bake for 30 to 40 minutes (38 minutes for me!), until the brownies are set. Let cool in the pan completely before cutting into squares. (They will be soft until refrigerated.)

The brownies take a while to settle. Let cool completely in the pan before attempting to cut them. If you try to cut them before they have cooled completely they will fall apart. I would suggest putting them in the fridge before trying to cut them at all.
At first I didn’t think the brownies were done because they were gooey and not holding together. This is normal. After refrigerating over night the brownies held together perfectly and tasted even better than they did straight out of the oven.
My Dad loved these brownies, and they were a hit with my coworkers. Next time I make them I am going to use a round cake dish and cut them into cake-like pieces and serve with a chocolate ganache frosting. Again I can not take credit for this, it was my bosses idea, but it’s a great idea!

Jimmy’s Bar and Oven

I’ve been wanting to go to Jimmy’s since it opened this past summer and I found out they served gluten free pizza. Well, we finally went.
I like the atmosphere here, it’s modern, very different from anywhere else in Washington Square. Great place to watch a game, have a drink, and enjoy a ‘classic’ bar appetizer or better yet, a pizza. I don’t think they are known for their entrees, the pizzas yes, but I’m not so sure about the other gluten free items. (Jimmy’s has received rave reviews about the pasta dishes and chicken parm, BUT we can’t eat these). 
We had a groupon so we needed to spend $40. We ordered two pizzas and the grilled marinated chicken with vegetables. The gluten free pizzas reminded me more of a flatbread than pizza, and the white pizza lacked a certain ‘’pizza’ flavor, but I still enjoyed it very much. The pizzas are more gourmet and [seem] healthier than the typical pizza you find at Upper Crust or Papa Gino’s.
My favorite was The White Pizza with goat cheese, pears, figs and arugula. Our waiter said it was their most popular pizza and I can understand why, it was delicious! The crust was cooked to perfection. It could have been a little crispier, but now I’m just being super picky. But besides that, this is by far one of the best gluten free pizzas I’ve ever had (Bill’s Pizzeria, although expensive, is my all time favorite). The combination of figs, goat cheese and arugula is classic. The creamy goat cheese and spicy arugula pair nicely with the sweetness of the figs and pear. The figs were so soft and it was easy to tell that all the ingredients were fresh. And they do not skimp on the toppings at all! This is the best part, the pizza’s were loaded with toppings!

We also ordered the Grilled Chicken Pizza; chicken, mushrooms, spinach and red sauce. I liked the combination, it had a nice flavor, but the dough was so undercooked. It was rubbery and chewy, kind of gross. I don’t get how one crust could be cooked so great and the other not at all?
We each only had one piece, no one being fond of the dough, so the next day I decided to cook it a little more, to see if it would help, and it did. The crust tasted much better; much crispier and not rubbery at all. Before I put it in the oven I took off the chicken, so it wouldn’t over cook and dry out.
The third dish we ordered was the Marinated Grilled Chicken and vegetables. Both my dad and his girlfriend like it, but I thought it was way too buttery. The first bite I took, of a piece of broccoli, I got a mouthful of butter and oil. I was completely disgusted and turned off. The chicken itself was actually good; not overcooked and nicely seasoned with spices and herbs. But the dish itself, the actual plate, was oozing with butter and the vegetables were drenched. I would never order this again.
The presentation was lacking as well.
I am definitely going back once the weather is nice and they open up the front windows. I did love the arugula pizza and I can’t wait to try some of the others while enjoying one of their signature cocktails with the windows open, and maybe a game on tv.
The prices are reasonable. Pizzas range from $12-$14, entrees $9-$18.
My one disappointment is a few months ago I was told they would soon be offering gluten free pasta. Well, they have decided not to carry it at all.

Other gluten free menu options:
Steak
Salmon
Potato Fries (**fried in the same fryer as everything else)
Salads
Eggplant Appetizer
Most pizzas, excluding pepperoni 
Location 1653 Beacon St. Brookline (Washington Square, C Green Line)