Nutty Cherry Crostini

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Nutty Cherry Crostini! Go international with an Italian appetizer that has become a timeless classic. Crostini is a fancy word for “little crusts”, according to Wikipedia. Did you know during medieval times it was pretty normal for Italian peasants to eat their meals on slices of bread instead of using pottery? Lucky for us, the idea caught on. I can’t think of a better way to socialize before dinner.

NUTTY CHERRY CROSTINI

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved

4 baguette slices, toasted

4 ounces Danish bleu cheese, room temperature

1-2 tablespoons pistachio nuts, chopped

Fresh sprigs if lemon thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

In an iron skillet over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Add sliced cherries, stirring gently to soften. Meanwhile toast baguette slices. Spread on bleu cheese. Add a spoonful of cherries. Sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts. Garnish with fresh lemon thyme leaves.

Mediterranean Summertime Tomatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Mediterranean Summertime Tomatoes! Do you say “to-may-toe” or “to-mah-toe”? Like it really matters when you sink your teeth into its meaty flesh as the juice runs down your chin. Face it, summer is all about the luscious tomato. Gardeners go crazy planting, watering, weeding, and coaxing the plants’ climbing tendrils to wind within the wire baskets so when the vine becomes heavy with fruit (yes, actually the tomato IS a fruit) you’ll reap the harvest. After all, everyone loves a neighbor who grows, and shares, garden tomatoes.

MEDITERRANEAN SUMMERTIME TOMATOES

Ingredients:

3 Roma tomatoes, sliced

2 Campari tomatoes, sliced

1 cup yellow mini tomatoes, halved

1 red onion, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence, crushed

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Sea salt to taste

Anchovy-stuffed olives (optional)

Fresh basil for garnish

1 loaf French bread

Instructions:

Core and slice tomatoes. Arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle red onion over the tomatoes. Whisk together the olive oil, Herbes de Provence, garlic powder, and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over the tomatoes and onions. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with anchovy-stuffed green olives and fresh basil. Dip French bread in the marinade and eat with the tomatoes.*

*Serving Suggestion: Begin with a bed of baby spinach leaves for a complete meal.

X-tra Virgin Olive Oil Dipping Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: X-tra Virgin Olive Oil Dipping Sauce! It’s no secret I’m a bread-lover. Just like chocolate, wine, and cheese….the key is moderation. I look to the French culture for validation. Their motto seems to be “use quality ingredients and fresh foods” for the best flavor. And I believe it. During my visit to Paris and the south of France, I noticed open markets everywhere and held often. Preservatives are pretty much absent. Nutrition rules. Grow an herb garden. Crush dried herbs to release flavor. That being said, go ahead and reach for the bread basket, just don’t eat the whole thing!

X-TRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL DIPPING SAUCE

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon parsley

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated

1 tablespoon red wine or balsamic vinegar

Bakery baguette, sliced

Instructions:

Pour olive oil into a measuring cup. Add garlic powder, black pepper, parsley, oregano, marjoram, basil, and kosher salt. Whisk to blend flavors. Add parmesan cheese. Stir. Marinate at room temperature for one hour to enhance flavors. Stir and pour onto a plate or shallow bowl. “Dot” oil with balsamic vinegar. Serve with baguette bread.

Zinfandel Pairings

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Zinfandel Pairings! Just when I thought I’d seen it all, there in the produce department perched on the bottom shelf below its green and red cousins, was a small bin of larger-than-life black seedless grapes. Immediately I was intrigued. The hand-scribbled sign boasted sweet and tart beyond your wildest dreams. That’s it. Nothing more than “Product of USA” on the package. It didn’t matter. It was love-at-first-sight. I knew immediately that a Zinfandel wine and tangy cheese would join the impromptu Date Night that was forming in my mind. Later on, after I got home, I read all kinds of powerful benefits these precious little gems do for the body, mind, and soul. What a perfect prologue for guilt-free delicacies.

ZINFANDEL PAIRINGS

Ingredients:

1 pound black seedless grapes

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4 ounces feta cheese, block

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 cup honeycomb

Multigrain French Bread slices, lightly toasted

Raw Honey, for drizzling

Lemon Thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. In a small dish, combine olive oil, sugar, kosher salt, and black pepper. Wash cluster of black grapes; pat dry. Place grapes on the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, generously coat the grapes with the olive oil mixture. Roast for 30 minutes. Grapes will release juice and begin to wrinkle. Remove pan from oven to cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Break the feta cheese into rough chunks. Transfer to a baking dish sprayed with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon zest. Drizzle with raw honey. Bake for 15 minutes until softened. Broil until slightly golden. Watch carefully. To serve, spread warm cheese on toasted baguette slices. Top with a piece of honeycomb. Place a roasted grape over the cheese. Drizzle with raw honey. Garnish with lemon thyme. Serve with a slightly chilled glass of red Zinfandel.

Vegetarian Bread ‘n Butter Pudding

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Vegetarian Bread ‘n Butter Pudding! If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times. One of the privileges of being part of the blogosphere is benefiting from the vast friendships beyond my little corner of the world. Not only is it a creative outlet for expressing my love of food, it also challenges me to stretch my palate and try new things. Today’s recipe comes from Corrie, a Brit, who thrives on a vegetarian diet. She has a fabulous blog entitled http://corriesrabbitfood.com where food looks so amazing it makes you forget about being a meat-lover. To clear up any confusion, “bread pudding” is more commonly known as a dessert. But “bread and butter pudding” is made by buttering the bread before adding any liquid. Now you see the difference, which is why this makes a fabulous breakfast dish. Are you ready to eat more? Then let’s get started.

VEGETARIAN BREAD ‘N BUTTER PUDDING

Ingredients:

1/2 loaf baguette bread, sliced

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup red onion, sliced

3 gloves garlic, sliced

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

1/3 cup gruyère cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, shredded

3 eggs

1 cup skim milk

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, shredded

Thyme sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Butter a 5”x7” baking dish with softened butter. Set aside. Lightly butter both sides of a baguette slice, then place in the baking dish. Repeat until all pieces of baguette are buttered. When placing them in the baking dish, arrange in a zigzag pattern. This leaves room for the spaces to be filled in with ingredients. Next evenly divide the red onion slices and garlic pieces between the bread. Generously sprinkle the entire loaf with shredded parmesan, gruyère, and 2 tablespoons of cheddar cheese, with attention given to lightly packing the cheese in areas where spaces exist. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, skim milk, seasoned salt, basil, marjoram, and oregano. Slowly pour over the pudding, soaking each slice of bread. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven for 25-30, or until set Remove from oven. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs. Serve warm.

Pea and Radish Crostini

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Pea and Radish Crostini! There’s something decadent about bite-size grilled toast. It could be the olive oil that transports you to the central region of Tuscany where rows of timeless Italian vineyards parade alongside twisted trunks of enduring olive trees. Or perhaps it’s the exotic radish with a history dating back to pre-Roman times. Maybe you just like smaller bites. A smudge of this, a smidge of that. Whether you find food tantalizing, adventurous, or hopefully romantic, the appetizer is here to stay. You may as well make it healthy and visually appealing at the same time.

PEA AND RADISH CROSTINI

Ingredients:

1 baguette, sliced into 1/4” slices

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 large avocado, pitted and sliced

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup frozen baby peas, thawed

4-5 radishes, sliced thin

2 mint sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush each side of the baguette slices with olive oil and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with Himalayan pink salt, oregano, marjoram, and garlic powder. Bake 5-7 minutes until slightly toasted. Let cool. Transfer to a platter. Drizzle the sliced avocado with lime juice. Sprinkle with garlic powder and sea salt. Mash a few slices of avocado to spread a thin layer of guacamole on each piece of baguette. Place 2-3 slices of avocado in the center of each toast. Lightly press the peas in place onto the mashed avocado on each end. Arrange sliced radishes on top. Garnish with mint leaves. Buon Appetito!

Mon Ami Gabi in Las Vegas, Nevada

Dining Outside the Home: Mon Ami Gabi in Las Vegas, Nevada! An afternoon shower can provide a welcome respite from constant motion along the Las Vegas Strip. Slip through the French turquoise doors of Mon Ami Gabi at Paris for a sip of this and a nibble of that. Might I suggest an unpretentious Aperol Spritz to accompany the “Fruit de Mer” succulent Shrimp Cocktail platter. The magnificent essence of orange moscato is aromatic with citrus notes, which makes it perfect for any afternoon.

Jambon de Bayonne Baguette

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Jambon de Bayonne Baguette! If you don’t have time to run by the local artisan bakery, consider this option. By using ingredients you may already have on hand from the local supermarket deli, this homemade version of a Parisian favorite can be done in minutes. It’s basically a ham and cheese sandwich stepped up a notch.

JAMBON DE BAYONNE BAGUETTE

Ingredients:

1 baguette, cut in half (serves 2)

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Herbs de Provence

1-2 Roma tomatoes, sliced

3 ounces Jambon de Bayonne, or aged prosciutto

2 romaine lettuce leaves

2 slices espresso/lavender rubbed cheese

8 cornichon gherkins

Instructions:

Slice baguette lengthwise, without cutting all the way through to create a submarine sandwich. Spread a fine layer of Dijon mustard over each baguette half. In a small bowl, combine olive oil and herbs de Provence. Add slices tomatoes to coat, reserving olive oil mixture. Place one layer of tomatoes in each baguette. Next divide prosciutto, romaine lettuce, and gourmet cheese between baguette sandwiches. Top with cornichon gherkins. Drizzle with remaining herbed olive oil. Close and serve. Bon Appétit!

Fondue Pizza Party

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Fondue Pizza Party! Revitalize the 1970s by throwing a fondue party. Gather up the dipping forks, where everyone chooses their favorite color. Remember, these forks are for spearing and dipping only. Never allow your guests to eat from the sharp pointed ends. Another reason eating from the fondue forks is a no-no is to avoid adding germs to the fondue sauce. So, set the table and let the fun begin!

FONDUE PIZZA PARTY

Ingredients:

1 pound Italian meatballs, pre-cooked and ready-to-serve

8 ounces bite size dry salami or pepperoni slices

1 green pepper, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1 pound cherry tomatoes

8 ounces mozzarella sticks, cut into chunks

28-30 ounce jar pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce

Breadsticks

Bagel chips

Rosemary sprigs

Instructions:

Heat pizza sauce to boiling, then reduce to simmer, stirring constantly. Keep warm. Transfer to a fondue pot when ready to serve. Set on low heat to maintain a constant temperature. Arrange meatballs, pepperoni slices, green pepper, onion, cherry tomatoes, and cheese chunks on one or two serving platters. Include breadsticks, crostini, or bagel chips as another option. Spear dippers with fondue forks or rosemary sprigs. Dip ingredients into the fondue sauce for pizza party magic.