What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: New Asparagus Spears! Every once in awhile I have an “Ah-ha” moment when I come across fresh produce that I haven’t seen in awhile. This was one of those times. New asparagus smells clean and earthy. It also looks incredibly bright green with splashes of purple on the tips, which should be tightly closed. Make sure the stalks are firm and straight. If they seem to bend quite easily, they’ve already begun to wilt. Put them back. Personally, I prefer the thinner stalks simply because they cook much faster.
NEW ASPARAGUS SPEARS
15-16 asparagus spears
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/2 cup caper berries, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste
Fennel stalks, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400°. Wash and trim asparagus spears. Place into an iron skillet. Arrange the red onion slices and caper berries. Brush generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly charred. Remove from oven and garnish with fennel stalks. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Monkey Cinnamon Bread! Cutting corners can be a good thing, especially on a lazy day when I gotta have a breakfast pastry and really don’t want all the fuss. I mean, I know I can make this from scratch and allow time for the dough to rise while scrolling through social media, but honestly…I don’t wanna. I’d rather sip my morning cuppa joe, talk to my husband, and inhale the bakery aromas that drift through the house. Maybe you would, too.
MONKEY CINNAMON BREAD
3 (8-ounce) tubes of buttermilk biscuit dough
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a Bundt pan with butter. Set aside. In a bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Cut each biscuit into four equal pieces. Roll each piece in the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat. Arrange in the prepared Bundt pan. Continue layering until all the dough is used. Transfer the excess cinnamon sugar (about 1/2 cup) to a medium saucepan. Add brown sugar and butter. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Immediately remove from heat. Drizzle the mixture over the dough in the Bundt pan. Bake 30 minutes or until the tops are crisp and turning golden brown. Remove from oven. Rest 5 minutes. Cover the Bundt pan with a large plate. Invert pan. Carefully, left the pan to expose the gooey sweet Monkey Cinnamon Bread.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Lime Cilantro Dressing! The first time I tasted this unique dressing with a southwestern kick, I wanted to put down my fork and literally guzzle it by the spoonful. Then again, I’m a fan of fresh cilantro. It’s one of those herbs, I’ve discovered, people either love it or hate it. If you can’t handle it….well, I’ll see you tomorrow when I bake something sweet and decadent. For those who choose to remain, grab a spoon and hang on!
LIME CILANTRO DRESSING
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and cut in quarters
1 garlic clove
3/4 teaspoon fresh ginger root
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup natural honey
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, packed
1/2 cup olive oil
Combine the jalapeño pepper, garlic clove, and ginger root into a mini chopper. Pulse until finely chopped. Add lime juice, natural honey, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt. Pulse to mix. Add cilantro leaves. Pulse a little longer to blend. With the mini chopper on Low, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the dressing until it is completely blended. It is now ready to serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Ketchup From Scratch! Many gourmet burger joints are joining the health revolution by opting out with in-house condiments. For those who truly appreciate knowing exactly what’s in the food they eat, here is a novel recipe for homemade ketchup without high fructose corn syrup and extra preservatives. It’s incredibly simple to make and can be prepared in about 30 minutes. The taste, you ask? OMG! I never thought I’d actually consider ketchup a veggie, but now I do. Enough said.
KETCHUP FROM SCRATCH
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
28-ounce can whole Italian Roma tomatoes in juice
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Warm olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onions. Cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add chopped garlic, chopped ginger, red pepper flakes, and allspice. Cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste; stir for 2 minutes. Add the Italian Roma tomatoes in juice, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and black pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The ketchup will thicken and appear shiny. Remove from heat. Blend until smooth. Cool to room temperature and then store in the refrigerator.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Juicy Peach Rose Tarts! With the holidays around the corner, take a moment to consider this star attraction on the dessert table. Talk about the “WOW” factor! Peach Rose Tarts work well for morning coffee, family pitch-ins, office parties, social gatherings, birthday celebrations, Date Night, and more. Since they are made in a muffin tin with a few simple ingredients, it’s practically effortless. Once again, the crust is made with prepared puff pastry. You choose the fruit: apples, peaches, plums, pears, or nectarines. No matter the season, no matter the occasion, you’ll come away feeling like a pastry chef.
JUICY PEACH ROSE TARTS
1 box puff pastry, thawed and each sheet cut lengthwise into strips, finishing with 6 strips per sheet
1/3 cup apricot jam
5-6 ripe peaches, thinly sliced into half moons with skin on
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick oil. Set aside. Slice the peaches as thin as possible. Transfer to a microwave-safe dish. Sprinkle with a few drops of water. Cover dish with plastic wrap. Microwave on High for 15 seconds. This makes the peaches flexible enough to roll. Take one strip of puffed pastry dough. Spread it with a thin layer of apricot jam. It acts as an adhesive. Layer peaches on left side of each strip, slightly overlapping with the skin edge off the pastry. It will resemble half moons. Fold the other side of the pastry to seal. Beginning at the bottom, tightly roll the stuffed peach pastry into a flower. Transfer to the prepared muffin tin. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly before dusting with powdered sugar.
“Rocks and waters, etc., are
words of God, and so are men.
We all flow from one fountain Soul.
All are expressions of one Love.”
~ John Muir
“There is a time
in the last few days of Summer
when the ripeness of Autumn
fills the air.”
~ Rudolfo Anaya
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Iceberg Lettuce Cranberry Pecan Salad! Make today an easy day. Throw together a tossed salad that will satisfy hunger pangs with the crunch of lettuce, the natural sweetness of fruit, lean meat, the salty mix of pecans, protein-packed eggs, and heart-healthy bleu cheese. Bonus points include a natural source of fiber, weight control, plus super-convenience. Not only is salad a time-saver, it is also a money-saver. Most of all, you’re worth it.
ICEBERG LETTUCE CRANBERRY PECAN SALAD
2 cups iceberg lettuce, shredded
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup mandarin orange slices
1/3 cup sugared pecans
1 cup grilled chicken, cut-up
1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese
2 soft-boiled eggs, halved
Balsamic vinaigrette, to taste
Divide iceberg lettuce between salad bowls. Top with dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, sugared pecans, cut-up grilled chicken, and bleu cheese crumbles. Place soft boiled egg half on top. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette, to taste.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Havarti Habanero Handful! You’re probably thinking, “Not another grilled cheese sandwich!” Anyone who knows me understands I can’t leave well enough alone. So…when I came across this “heated” rich, semi-soft version of havarti cheese, I knew I had to have it. Habaneros, as you may recall, are like dynamite in your mouth. The cheese itself is creamy and mild which makes it a perfect match for the testy habanero pepper, or orange lantern as some people call them. When layered with cherrywood smoked ham and grilled artisan bread, the end result is nothing short of Fire and Ice. Are you up for the challenge?
HAVARTI HABANERO HANDFUL
4 thick slices of artisan bread
3 tablespoons butter
8 ounces cherrywood smoked ham, deli sliced
4 ounces havarti habanero cheese, sliced
Preheat an iron skillet over medium low heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place two slices in skillet, buttered side down. Divide cherrywood smoked ham between them. Replace tops, buttered side up. Heat sandwiches until bread is lightly browned, then carefully flip over. Layer havarti habanero cheese over toasted tops of sandwiches. Reduce heat to low setting. Place a glass lid over the pan so the cheese will melt as the bottoms turn golden brown, approximately 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.