Utmost Prosciutto Plate

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Utmost Prosciutto Plate! Treat yourself right by going the extra mile in gourmet treats. Something so simple, yet sublime, can change a mood from sour to exciting. We all need something to look forward to. Am I right? Fresh mozzarella is usually sold in a brine or water solution to retain its moisture, texture, and soft shape. Let it drain for a few minutes on paper towels; then dab dry and slice. By drizzling a rich olive oil over the mozzarella to enhance that delicate milky flavor, the buttery essence peeks through. Add a leaf or two of fresh basil to enrich the nutritive value. As you sit there nibbling on a slice of prosciutto, pat yourself on the back for enduring the tough times we’ve been through recently. Our home is a safe haven and we can get through whatever storm is next.

UTMOST PROSCIUTTO PLATE

Ingredients:

4 ounces fresh mozzarella, room temperature

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon dried basil

3 ounces old world prosciutto, sliced

7 ounces rustic crostini crackers

4 ounces organic green olives, pitted

Instructions:

Drain mozzarella cheese for a few minutes on paper towels; then dab dry and slice. Transfer to a platter. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with dried basil. Arrange sliced prosciutto and crostini crackers around cheese. Add pitted green olives. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve with Pinot Grigio.

Neapolitan Tomato Cheese Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Neapolitan Tomato Cheese Pizza! Before you roll your eyes, let me explain about Neapolitan pizza. The dough itself is made of four basic ingredients. I like that. The Italian flour makes the dough stretchy and easy to work into shape with your fingers. If you cannot find Italian flour, bread flour is an acceptable substitute. I went on a quest to find it, though. A Neapolitan pizza is made to be eaten with a knife and fork as a personal pan pizza. And it is not precut, simply because the center of the bottom crust is soft and chewy. Trust me, it’s worth every bite. This dough recipe will make six individual servings of thin crust pizza. Bellissimo!

NEAPOLITAN TOMATO CHEESE PIZZA

Ingredients:

4 cups Italian “00” flour plus extra flour for dusting

2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon yeast

1 1/3 cups water

1/2 cup tomato sauce

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced rounds

6 basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions:

Combine flour, sea salt, yeast, and water into a Bread Machine. Set to “Dough”. When finished, divide dough into 6 portions, cover each in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 72 hours. Remove 45 minutes prior to preparation for dough to come to room temperature. Transfer one ball of dough to a medium bowl that has a handful of flour in it. Flip to coat. Pat off excess flour and transfer it to a floured surface. Gently stretch dough, with fingertips, into a circle. Pick it up and place it on a sheet of parchment paper. With one hand in the center of the dough round, use the other hand to stretch the edge outward without tearing, rotating as needed. Place the oven rack on its highest setting. You should still be able to place an iron skillet on it. If not, lower the rack. Preheat the Broiler on High. Dust the iron skillet with flour; tap out excess. Heat the empty skillet until it is smoking lightly, approximately 3 minutes. Transfer dough to the skillet. Moving quickly, top the dough with tomato sauce, mozzarella slices, and fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle with kosher salt and drizzle with olive oil. Transfer skillet back to the broiler and cook until pizza is puffed and charred in spots, up to 4 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove from oven. Serve immediately. For more than one pizza, repeat process.

Italian Bread Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Italian Bread Salad! Panzanella. Travel with me to Tuscany for a delightful dinner on a gardened terrace. Indulge in a bountiful salad of artisan bread, juicy tomatoes, sweet onions, and green bell peppers. Appreciate the herbs de Provence perfectly blended with garlic wine vinegar whisked in extra-virgin olive oil. It’s enough to make you swoon. The ingredients are very forgiving. Tomatoes a little soft? Has the bread gone stale? No worries. This classic Italian meal was originally meant to be eaten that way. It’s truly amazing!

ITALIAN BREAD SALAD

Ingredients:

1-pound loaf artisan bread

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence, crushed

8 Roma tomatoes, sliced

1 medium green bell pepper, cut into strips

1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine garlic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

Cracked black pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 300°. Slice and cube the bread in bite-size pieces, leaving crusts on. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Form a single layer of bread cubes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with Herbs de Provence. Bake 10 minutes; flip over and bake 10 minutes longer. Cool. For dressing, whisk together olive oil, red wine garlic vinegar, and sea salt. In a large salad bowl, combine bread with tomatoes, green pepper, and onion. Pour vinaigrette over all and toss to coat. Refrigerate for one hour before serving. Stir occasionally to blend flavors. Just before serving, gently toss with fresh basil. Add cracked black pepper to taste.

* Serving suggestion: Italian Bread Salad is best eaten the day it is made.

Cheesy Burrata

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.

CHEESY BURRATA

Ingredients:

8 ounce Burrata cheese

Fresh basil

Cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon olive oil

Herbs de Provence

Sea salt to taste

Instructions:

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.

Splatter Pan Roasted Peppers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Splatter Pan Roasted Peppers! There’s something comforting about roasted vegetables. Perhaps it’s the amazing flavor as a result of dry oven heat. Ever notice that slightly caramelized texture? Sometimes it results in a toasted nutty-like flavor. Sweetness piques, especially in tomatoes. The soft brown garlic bulbs surprised me most of all. I mashed one against the roof of my mouth. The raw bitterness had been replaced with a savory sweetness that brought sheer pleasure to my taste buds. No wonder people say food can produce a seductive spark. Am I the last one to discover this about roasted garlic?

SPLATTER PAN ROASTED PEPPERS

Ingredients:

3 green bell peppers, seeded and halved lengthwise

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

24 ripe cherry tomatoes, halved

3 cloves garlic, halved

2 tablespoons capers

1 teaspoon basil, crushed

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a splatter pan with nonstick oil. Arrange green peppers, cut side up to fit. Brush the peppers, inside and out with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Divide mozzarella cheese between peppers. Arrange cherry tomatoes so they fill each pepper “boat” to overflowing. As they roast the tomatoes will shrink in size. Tuck garlic cloves in between the tomatoes. Finish with capers. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Sprinkle crushed basil over all. Bake 40-45 minutes. Allow roasted peppers to cool to room temperature before serving.

End-of-Season Tomato Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: End-of-Season Tomato Salad! Going, going, gone. Ever wonder why homegrown, backyard, garden tomatoes taste so good? Is it because we invest our own blood, sweat, and tears fighting weeds and combating annoying insects? Surely not. Perhaps it’s because we allow them to ripen naturally on their own schedule, rather than picking them early to allow for transporting and packaging purposes. Whatever the reason, pat yourself on the back and enjoy. It’ll have to hold you til the next planting season rolls around again.

END-OF-SEASON TOMATO SALAD

Ingredients:

5/6 Roma tomatoes, sliced

6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup basil, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

Instructions:

Arrange sliced Roma tomatoes and halved cherry tomatoes on a shallow platter. Tuck red onion strips between layers. Top with fresh basil pieces. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes. Repeat with balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle salad with kosher salt and Everything But Bagel seasoning. Serve immediately.

Basil Pesto Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Basil Pesto Pasta! I’m tired. And I’m hungry. What in the world can I cook for dinner that doesn’t take forever? But I want the taste to make me feel like I’m someone special. First of all, go over to the wine rack and open a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Pour a little into a stemmed glass. Swirl and take a sip. This will put you in the mood. The wonderfully sweet herbal notes of the fresh basil will complement the flavor of the wine. Plus, the olive oil and parmesan cheese in the pesto sauce enhance the richness of fruit in the Cab. Take another sip. Now let’s get started. (Footnote: Obviously if you already have a jar of your favorite Basil Pesto in the kitchen pantry, you’re one step ahead.)

BASIL PESTO PASTA

Ingredients:

10.5 ounce package of cherry tomatoes

12 large basil leaves

1/3 cup almonds, slightly toasted

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup olive oil

1 pound spaghetti

1 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, toasted almonds, garlic clove, and kosher salt in a food processor. Pulse to blend into a fine purée. Scrape the sides and turn the processor on Low setting. Slowly pour the olive oil into the mixture in a continuous stream. The pesto will thicken nicely. Set aside. Cook the spaghetti in salted water, according to package directions. Drain well. Transfer spaghetti to a bowl. Quickly toss with pesto sauce. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over all. Garnish with basil leaves.

Vine-Ripened Tomato Pie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Vine-Ripened Tomato Pie! Oddly enough, I’ve had a couple people tell me they’ve never heard of tomato pie. It may be more of a southern dish, or perhaps its more familiar to those of us who live in the country and can’t figure out what to do with the abundance of garden tomatoes. Who knows? I must admit there is a secret ingredient that I discovered from the Savannah restauranteur and popular chef, Paula Deen. Maybe you can pick it out, too.

VINE-RIPENED TOMATO PIE

Ingredients:

1 prepared deep-dish pie shell

4-6 Roma tomatoes, sliced

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 cup mayonnaise

Cherry tomatoes, for garnish

Basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake the pie shell according to package directions. Remove from oven and set aside. In a bowl, combine sliced tomatoes, kosher salt, oregano, marjoram, basil, and garlic powder. Allow tomatoes to “weep” for 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer seasoned tomatoes to the pie shell. Layer sweet onion over tomatoes. In another bowl, combine mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, pepper jack cheese, and parmesan cheese with mayonnaise. Mix well. Spread cheese mixture over top of tomatoes and onions. Bake 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Garnish with cherry tomatoes and basil leaves.

Presto, Pesto

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Presto, Pesto! The garden went wild this year with an abundance of basil. I mean, you can only dry so much. Granted, I happen to like fresh basil with anything tomato, but not everyone agrees. So, this time I threw together a couple cups of basil leaves with my favorite pairing: parmesan cheese! Pesto freezes well, so it can be stored in an airtight container, or initially, ice cube trays. Once it’s frozen, transfer the cubes to airtight freezer bags for later on. Always defrost in advance. Pesto tastes best served at room temperature or only slightly warmed. Keep in mind, a little goes a long way. Mix it into salad dressing or guacamole; the olive oil creates a smooth texture. Add a dollop to your evening vegetables, pasta noodles, or meat dish. Get creative and go Pesto!

PRESTO, PESTO

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1/3 cup pine nuts, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/3 cup olive oil

Instructions:

In a mini chopper, combine basil leaves, chopped garlic, pine nuts, sea salt, black pepper, and parmesan cheese. Pulse to blend; approximately 30 seconds. Slowly pour the olive oil into the top of the lid while the blade is on the Low setting. The olive oil will drizzle through the little hole for smooth results. Remove the lid and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Stir. Transfer pesto to a covered jar. Store in the refrigerator.