Dining Outside the Home: Old Town Tavern & Beer Garden in Key West, Florida! When the heat becomes stifling on a humid island day, duck inside the threshold for cooling shade of Old Town Tavern. This is real southern hospitality. Crafted cocktails and other nice drinks invite relaxation and conversation. Mixed greens and hearty portions encourage shared plates, if you’re into that sort of thing. The friendly staff makes this location a stopping point on a busy street. Drop in and stay awhile.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Date Bread with Walnuts! Treat yourself to remarkable flavors leaning toward exotic ingredients with a gourmet twist. Naturally dried dates have this amazing quality of satisfying a sweet tooth that needs a bit of nurturing any time of day. By adding the salty crunch of walnuts combined in a loaf pan, the results are more cake than bread. Perhaps it’s the splash of cognac that makes all the difference.
DATE BREAD WITH WALNUTS
2 eggs, room temperature; beaten
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon cognac
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces pitted dates, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 325°. Slowly combine beaten eggs with boiling water, stirring constantly. Add cognac, baking soda, and chopped dates. Mix well. Set aside for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cream together butter and sugar. Blend with date mixture. Mix flour and baking powder. Stir into date mixture. Fold in chopped walnuts. Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan. Bake for one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Dining Outside the Home: Willie T’s in Key West, Florida. Pull out a chair at an open air table, where lively music sets the mood, dollar bills cover every square inch with messages scribbled in jest, and the smell of conch fritters makes your mouth water. Try not to gape too much at your neighbor’s food or you may end up ordering everything on the menu. Tropical drinks go down smooth and easy, especially mint mojitos. When the succulent lobster salad, stuffed with celery stalks and crispy leaves, overflows from the warm, buttery bun, simply grab a fork to spear the chunky mounds of lobster meat before gripping the roll with two hands. Wipe your chin. No one is watching.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Cheesy Burrata! For those of you who are unfamiliar with Burrata cheese, allow me to tell you a little bit about it. Imagine a soft delicate layer of mozzarella cheese stretched thin like a piece of hand-formed pie dough. It is placed into a bowl so the center can be filled like a porcelain white water balloon. Inside is heavy cream as rich as butter and luscious cheese curds. The pouch is then tightly tied at the top to ensure maximum freshness. The taste is extraordinary. It’s enough to make you roll your eyes and swoon.
8 ounce Burrata cheese
Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil
Herbs de Provence
Sea salt to taste
Place the Burrata cheese on a platter surrounded by fresh basil and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Add a sprinkling of Herbs de Provence and sea salt to taste. Serve with crusty artisan breads or crackers.
“On coming to the house, they saw the Child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
~ Matthew 2:11
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Burrata Meatballs! Time is of the essence. You can either make your own homemade meatballs, or you can bypass one step and use a store bought variety like I did. I put my energy into the homemade marinara sauce simply because the results are between night and day, in my opinion. If you choose to use your favorite pasta sauce, be my guest. The focus today is actually on that incredible Burrata cheese! I think I could drown in a bathtub of Burrata and happily eat my way out of it. Don’t judge me.
1 pound Italian sausage-style meatballs, precooked
2 cups San Marzano crushed tomatoes*
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/8 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
7 ounces mushrooms, sliced and drained
6 ounces Burrata cheese, chunks
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, combine crushed tomatoes, basil, marjoram, oregano, garlic powder, and mushrooms. Simmer until sauce thickens. Add meatballs. Spoon marinara sauce generously over meatballs. Transfer portions to individual serving casseroles. Randomly place Burrata cheese between meatballs. Bake 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve Burrata Meatballs with garlic bread or spoon over pasta.
* I receive no recompense for the suggestion of San Marzano Certified Italian Tomatoes.
“We are all broken,
that’s how the light
~ Ernest Hemingway
“Hope smiles from the threshold
of the year to come, whispering,
‘It will be happier.’”
~ Alfred Lord Tennyson
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Apricot-Glazed Apple Galette! It’s apple-picking time of year. Pay a visit to the nearest orchard for an afternoon of relaxation and sipping cider slushes. Local farmers encourage and invite visitors to catch a glimpse of the family farm in celebration of Harvest. Not only can you nibble on caramel-dipped apples and warm apple dumplings, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself taking a hayride to the corn maze or pumpkin patch. Me? I grab my French market bag and load up on Galas and Granny Smith apples!
APRICOT-GLAZED APPLE GALETTE
Ingredients for crust:
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, cold
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons ice water
Ingredients for filling:
2 large gala apples, core removed, peeled, and sliced
Scant lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup apricot jam
1-2 tablespoons apricot brandy
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg yolk
This recipe makes two individual galettes. Preheat oven to 425°. Using a food processor, pulse cold butter, flour, and salt to the size of small peas. Sprinkle in ice water one tablespoon at a time until dough forms a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1/2 an hour. Remove wrap and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut in half. Roll each half into an 8″ circle. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Beginning in the center, spiral apple slices like a fan. Be sure to leave a border. Fold edges of dough toward the center, creating a rustic crust. Press gently to seal. Repeat for second galette. Sprinkle apples with lemon juice. Cover apples with sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Spread apricot jam over apples. Pour apricot brandy over all. Dot with butter. Whisk together egg yolk and water. Brush the egg wash along the edges of the dough. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° but do not remove the galettes. Bake an additional 45 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer the galettes from the baking sheet by lifting with the parchment paper. Cool on wire rack to keep the bottoms from getting soggy. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.