Uber Hasselback Caprese Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Uber Hasselback Caprese Salad! Want to do something fancy-schmancy? Take ordinary garden Roma tomatoes (the oval kind) and cut them in such a way that they fan out a little bit like an accordion. Then, using your fingers, tuck slices of cheese and fresh herbs in between. It’s so simple, yet looks incredibly delish as a side salad. This is why we like food so much. It becomes a dining experience versus chowing down.

UBER HASSELBACK CAPRESE SALAD

Ingredients:

3 Roma tomatoes

3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

13-16 fresh basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette

Instructions:

Judging by the size of each tomato, make 4-5 slices, stopping before the knife cuts completely through. Transfer tomatoes to a serving dish. Fill each slit with a mozzarella slice. Tuck in spaces with fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle Everything But Bagel seasoning over all. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.

Original Marinara Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Original Marinara Sauce! Marinara isn’t just a fancy name for spaghetti sauce, it actually lacks one key ingredient that sets it apart. You guessed it: MEAT. Basically, marinara is a tomato-based sauce infused with herbs and spices. It can be prepared very easily in less than half an hour. Personally, I find it perfect for a meatless meal. I like chunks of tomatoes, the hint of garlic, and a slight kick of red pepper spice. Look again at the snapshot. Perhaps it’s time to make marinara at your house.

ORIGINAL MARINARA SAUCE

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

28-ounce can Italian Roma tomatoes, diced with sauce

2 tablespoons fresh oregano

1/4 cup basil, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm olive oil. Add minced garlic; sauté for one minute until slightly brown, stirring occasionally. Add diced Roma tomatoes with sauce, fresh oregano, chopped basil, sea salt, marjoram, agave nectar, and red pepper flakes. Simmer sauce until thickened, approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Marinara sauce will be chunky and thick. Serve with cooked pasta.

Havarti Habanero Handful

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

Ingredients:

4 thick slices of artisan bread

3 tablespoons butter

8 ounces cherrywood smoked ham, deli sliced

4 ounces havarti habanero cheese, sliced

Instructions:

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.

Yellow Pepper Spaghetti

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Yellow Pepper Spaghetti! You know how spaghetti always tastes better the second day? There’s something about those savory spices intensifying the sauce and melding it with the pasta. Some of it has to do with starch, I’m told, but I don’t want to get too scientific. I’ll trust my taste buds to go with the flow. Because my garden has a bounty of peppers right now, this seemed like a natural progression. Stuff ‘em. Not only did the leftover spaghetti taste amazing, but the yellow pepper added it’s own smoother mild flavoring. Not bitter. Not sweet. Just right. Maybe you’ll come to the same conclusion.

YELLOW PEPPER SPAGHETTI

Ingredients:

4 yellow peppers, whole

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 cups of leftover cooked spaghetti in marinara sauce

Chopped tomatoes, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cut off the top of each yellow pepper and remove the insides. Rinse and drain. Stand peppers upright in a baking dish. Put a heaping tablespoon of mozzarella cheese in the bottom of each yellow pepper. Then stuff each pepper with the leftover cooked spaghetti in marinara sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil, divide remaining cheese over the tops. Garnish with chopped tomatoes and bake 15 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

Tomato Burrata Crostini

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Tomato Burrata Crostini! One look, one whiff, and one bite is all you need to be satisfied with this gastronomic appetizer. The intensity of slow-roasted tomatoes releases a tangy sweetness that marries well with the luscious creaminess of burrata cheese. Now balance that out with the subtle smokiness of paper-thin hard salami intermingling with aromatic basil leaves. You have just been transported to seventh heaven, inspired by the taste of Italy. Need I say more?

TOMATO BURRATA CROSTINI

Ingredients:

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 bakery flatbread, plain

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

8 ounces burrata cheese

8 thin slices of hard salami

Fresh basil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss tomatoes in olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Warm an iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add seasoned tomatoes. Roast tomatoes 15-20 minutes until they blacken slightly and begin to burst. Brush both sides of flatbread with olive oil. Cut flatbread into 8 pieces and place on a pizza pan. Sprinkle with oregano, marjoram, basil, and garlic powder. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove. Place burrata in a shallow dish. Divide it into 8 portions, cutting slowly to keep the creamy filling in the mozzarella shell. Transfer each portion to the flatbread, spreading burrata cheese as needed. Layer thin salami over burrata. Tear or fold to fit the shape of the flatbread. Add roasted tomatoes. Bake 5-8 minutes until edges begin to char. Remove crostini from oven. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve warm.

Manicotti Pasta Bowl

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Manicotti Pasta Bowl! Comfort food. We all have our favorites. Some include melted cheese, rich chocolate, home made soups, or peanut butter sandwiches. And then there’s pasta; guardian of the energy boost. Not only is pasta a healthy option, it satisfies by keeping hunger pangs at bay. Being affordable, versatile, and nutritious make it even more enjoyable. And a little pasta goes a long way. We all know that. Sure, pasta is a carb…but in a good way. It partners well with low fat protein and veggies. Go, Team Pasta!

MANICOTTI PASTA BOWL

Ingredients:

6 manicotti shells

3/4 pound lean ground beef

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

3 cups prepared spaghetti sauce, chunky

1 ounce cream cheese, softened

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh basil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook manicotti shells according to package directions. Drain shells; rinse in cold water. Set aside. In a large skillet, brown ground beef until cooked and crumbled. Remove from heat. Drain liquid. Add sea salt, oregano, marjoram, basil, and garlic powder. Pour prepared spaghetti sauce over meat. Mix well. Spoon 1/3 of meat mixture into the bottom of two single-serving casserole dishes. Add softened creamed cheese and mozzarella cheese to the remaining meat mixture. Stuff each shell with filling. Arrange three filled manicotti shells in a row over sauce. Repeat in second casserole dish. Spread remaining filling over the tops of the stuffed shells. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15 minutes longer until cheese is melted. Remove from oven; serve in casserole dish. Garnish with fresh basil.

Tuscan Tomato Bisque

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Tuscan Tomato Bisque! Picture this. Autumn has set in, the air emits a crisp chill, and a warm fire is enough to make you snuggle inside for the night. For the robust concentrated flavor of tomatoes, slow-roasting them brings it all home. Earthy Italian herbs and spices add a little mystery to every bite. Cozy up to a bowl with your favorite afghan and reap the harvest.

TUSCAN TOMATO BISQUE

Ingredients:

6-8 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon basil

1 cup water

Fresh basil leaves

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Line baking sheet with foil. Arrange tomatoes, cut side up. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast tomatoes until they are soft, approximately 30 minutes. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Sauté onion and garlic until fragrant and soft, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 8 minutes longer. Add paprika, oregano, marjoram, and basil. Increase heat to medium-high and add roasted tomatoes. Add water. Stir. Reduce heat slightly to medium, cover, and simmer for another 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully transfer portions to a food processor. Pulse tomatoes until somewhat smooth. Repeat. Transfer soup back into the pan to reheat. Divide tomato bisque into soup bowls. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately with toasted bagels, crackers, or crusty bread.

Italian Stewed Tomatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Italian Stewed Tomatoes! Before the weather turns chilly, grab up all those garden tomatoes at the peak of ripeness. You’ll appreciate a little extra effort now for that rich intense flavor in the middle of winter. Slow-cooked and simmered to perfection, stewed tomatoes are the secret ingredient for tailgating chili, flavorful stews, and Italian pasta dishes. Go ahead, score big with the best-tasting slightly sweet firm texture of harvest stewed tomatoes.

ITALIAN STEWED TOMATOES

Ingredients:

19-20 Roma tomatoes

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon parsley

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 green pepper, chopped

Instructions:

Make a small X in the stem end of each Roma tomato. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for one minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of ice water for an ice bath. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and discard. Chop the tomatoes, removing the core, and place tomatoes in a large skillet. Add kosher salt, agave nectar, parsley, oregano, basil, marjoram, garlic powder, and green pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve fresh or freeze for later.

Dijon Deviled Eggs

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Dijon Deviled Eggs! Those who know me well fondly refer to me as a Francophile, someone who loves everything French. It goes all the way back to my school days when a sixth grade Social Studies teacher introduced the class to France, after having traveled there herself. From that moment on, it became a dream of mine to take a trip there someday. I studied the French language and Impressionist art. I admired the historical connection, the romantic countryside, and most of all the incredible food! Is it any surprise I chose to share today’s recipe of something a little French?

DIJON DEVILED EGGS

Ingredients:

6 hard boiled eggs

1 tablespoon French Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon light cream

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

1-2 tablespoons red onion, thinly sliced and chopped

Fresh Basil for garnish

Instructions:

Once the eggs have cooled, remove the shells, and slice each egg in half lengthwise. Gently remove yolk and place in a bowl. Arrange the egg on a plate. Repeat until all eggs are divided. Lightly mash the egg yolks until crumbly, leaving a few chunks. Add Dijon mustard, Greek yogurt, light cream, mayonnaise, sea salt, and white pepper. Mix until almost smooth. Fold in a few red onion pieces. Spoon yolk mixture into egg halves. Garnish with chopped red onion and fresh basil snips. Refrigerate until ready to serve.