Red Pepper Bruschetta Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food With Soul: Red Pepper Bruschetta Pasta! I truly enjoy perusing Italian gourmet markets. There’s something charming and romantic about choosing a jar of private-label olive oil, flavored balsamic vinegar, house roasted red pepper bruschetta, or four-fruit jam. An extensive collection of imported products can send my mind spinning as I begin to salivate with serving ideas. There are often aromas of freshly baked bread, smoked and cured meats, unique deli offerings, an antipasto bar, pizza nook, and fresh burrata station. San Marzano tomatoes always seem to make it into my cart as well as olive tapenades and basil pesto or marinated artichoke hearts. Before you leave, don’t forget a nice bottle of Chianti.

RED PEPPER BRUSCHETTA PASTA

Ingredients:

8 ounces spaghetti pasta

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/3-1/2 cup red pepper bruschetta, prepared

Basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta in salted water for 8-10 minutes or until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta in a colander. Transfer cooked pasta back to the pot. Add prepared red pepper bruschetta mixture. Gently toss; heat through. Using tongs, place spaghetti clusters into a serving bowl. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Legendary Pizza Burger

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food With Soul: Legendary Pizza Burger! I’ll never forget my first experience eating a pizza burger. I was probably 16 years old at the time. I worked in a ladies retail clothing store downtown. On my dinner break, I walked across the street where a drugstore had a lunch counter with a grill and fryer. Being a crazy kid who loved anything pizza, I ordered it off the menu. Upon first bite, this white goo began to overflow across my hands to the plate below. My first thought was, “Ohmygosh, this burger is rotten with a slimy white stuff running out of it!” Fortunately my brain kicked in and I realized what I was actually tasting was mozzarella cheese. From that day on, I was a champion for anything pizza burger. And the remarkable afterthought is, now I compare every other menu item pizza burger to it. Unexpected, but true.

LEGENDARY PIZZA BURGER

Ingredients:

1 pound lean ground beef

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese

4 brioche buns, split and toasted

1/2 cup prepared pizza sauce, warmed

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat gas grill to 350°. In a large bowl, combine lean ground beef, Italian seasoning, sea salt, and black pepper. Form mixture into 8 patties. Place one slice of fresh mozzarella cheese into the diameter of a patty. Press another patty on top; pinching together to seal. Repeat until all four patties are formed. Cook directly on the grill. Close lid and grill for 6-7 minutes per side. Transfer pizza burgers to a platter. Serve between brioche buns. Top each pizza burger with a dollop of pizza sauce. Enjoy.

Hard Salami Corkscrew Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food With Soul: Hard Salami Corkscrew Pasta! Tricolor pasta always makes me feel like a special occasion. The burst of natural colors in spinach and tomato keep the dish from becoming humdrum, in my opinion. By adding veggies, cheese, or pickles, the salad becomes a meal-in-a-bowl. Mix things up by substituting artichokes, hard-boiled eggs, or cucumbers. It’s really up to your personal preference and cravings of the moment. Any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days. As if. (smile)

HARD SALAMI CORKSCREW PASTA

Ingredients for Pasta Salad:

1 1/2 cups rainbow rotini corkscrew pasta, uncooked

4 ounces hard salami, cut into strips

1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup green olives, halved

1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped

1/2 sweet bell pepper, chopped

Ingredients for Dressing:

3 tablespoons garlic wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions:

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Rinse under cold water. In a serving bowl, combine cooked pasta, hard salami, grape tomatoes, green olives, red onion, and bell pepper. Gently toss. In a small bowl, whisk together garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, sugar, sea salt, black pepper, oregano, basil, marjoram, and garlic powder. Mix well. Pour the dressing over the pasta. Toss to coat. Refrigerate for one hour. Serve.

Zucchini Meatball Bateaux

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Zucchini Meatball Bateaux! Call me “Fancy Shmancy” today since the title of this recipe makes it gourmet all-the-way. Bateaux means Boat. And in the world of food, nothing looks more like a boat than zucchini, especially when it’s sliced horizontally and scooped out. Amirite? Actually, I like this recipe because I always seem to have a bag of frozen Italian meatballs on hand in my freezer. Most days I make my own homemade marinara sauce because I like to stock my pantry with a variety of Italian Roma tomatoes that are imported from Italy. Obviously you can do the same. Recipes are designed to modify in ways that bring accolades to you for the extra effort. If time is of the essence, follow the instructions below. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

ZUCCHINI MEATBALL BATEAUX

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise

16 precooked frozen Italian meatballs, thawed

15-ounce jar prepared marinara sauce

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

8 ounces fresh burrata cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Italian herb blend

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Arrange sliced zucchini halves on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Scoop out the center of each zucchini, using a spoon, to remove seeds and create a well to hold the fillings. Spread a little marinara in each zucchini. Place 4 Italian meatballs in each. Divide the remaining marinara between them. Top with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Bake 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Transfer zucchini boats to a platter. Place fresh basil leaves on each end. Divide the burrata into four sections and arrange dollops as desired. Drizzle each dollop with olive oil and sprinkle with Italian herbs. Serve immediately.

Xalapa Party Punch

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Xalapa Party Punch! Before you read further, I want you to know this is an adult beverage and not intended for those under the age of 21. It does contain alcohol, so drink responsibly. Big-batch cocktails, or party punch, are nice to have on hand for last minute gatherings or friends who drop by unannounced. I keep a pitcher in the refrigerator for just that reason. If you do the same, choose a container that has an airtight lid. There’s nothing worse than sipping on an icy cold cocktail that smells like garlic or grilled leftovers. With the subtle fruity notes of apple, orange, cherry, and apricot, Xalapa Party Punch will get everyone talking. Carry On.

XALAPA PARTY PUNCH

Ingredients:

1 cup hot black tea

1/2 cup Tupelo honey

1 orange rind, grated

2 cups dark rum

2 cups apple brandy

2 cups dry red wine

Orange rind, grated

Crushed Ice

Instructions:

In a saucepan over low heat, combine hot black tea, Tupelo honey, and grated orange rind. Heat for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat; set aside to cool. Add dark rum, apple brandy, and dry red wine. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Pour into glasses filled with crushed ice. Garnish with fresh basil or mint.

Vodka Sauce Shrimp Fettuccine

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Vodka Sauce Shrimp Fettuccine! Here’s something a little different for you to try instead of the usual fettuccine alfredo. Now, wait a sec to hear me out. Don’t get me wrong. I love alfredo sauce as much as the next one, but sometimes you gotta think about limiting calories and fat just to squeeze into that favorite outfit. Marinara sauces might be just the answer you’re looking for on “Pasta Night”. You won’t sacrifice taste because there’s still butter, light cream, and vodka. Some alcohol does evaporate as it is simmering, but only about 15%. (However, it will completely burn off if the sauce cooks for long periods of time.) Because vodka is somewhat tasteless, it basically enhances all the other flavors of the dish without overpowering it. Try it, you may like it.

VODKA SAUCE SHRIMP FETTUCCINE

Ingredients:

6 ounces fettuccine pasta

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 tablespoon butter

3/4 cup onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

15-ounce Italian tomatoes, crushed

2 tablespoons vodka

3 tablespoons light cream

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 pound precooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

In a large pan, add sea salt to 2 quarts boiling water. Cook pasta 10 minutes. Drain, cover, and set aside. For the vodka sauce, in a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Lower heat to medium. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook one minute longer. Add the crushed tomatoes to the onions. Stir in vodka, light cream, and lemon zest. Simmer 5 minutes. Add the precooked shrimp, simmering 5 minutes longer. Gently fold the fettuccine noodles into the vodka sauce. Heat through. Divide portions into pasta bowls. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately.

Greek Oven Potatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Greek Oven Potatoes! This sounds crazy, but these potatoes are baked and steamed at the same time. The end result is tenderness and flavorful, an extraordinary combination. It sounds like a lot of liquid, but trust me, the potatoes literally soak up the moisture. They can handle it. The spice mix does a great job of penetrating the potatoes while teasing the senses with a whiff of aromatic pleasantness. For a side dish that is anything but hum-drum, give this one a whirl. No regrets.

GREEK OVEN POTATOES

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon smoky paprika

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

4 red potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

2/3 cup vegetable broth

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a small baking dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine seasoned salt, black pepper, smoky paprika, and dried rosemary. Set aside. Arrange red potato wedges in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with spice mix. Toss briefly to cover all. In a bowl, whisk together garlic cloves, olive oil, lemon juice, and vegetable broth. Pour over potatoes. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Carefully take the baking dish from the oven, remove the foil, and sprinkle the potatoes with parmesan cheese. Return dish to oven and bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes longer. Potatoes will be cooked through and golden brown in color. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately.

Nosh Crostini and Oranges

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Nosh Crostini and Oranges! When you’re not exactly hungry, but could use a snack between meals or to satisfy a late night craving for “something”….crostini fits the bill, so to speak. Crostini adds the crunch of potato chips and the flavor of croutons, only better. Fresh mozzarella melts incredibly well because it contains less moisture. You can thank fresh mozzarella for those ah-mazing cheese pulls that become gooey strands of seductiveness. Uh-huh, I see you nodding your head in total agreement. Better grab a napkin.

NOSH CROSTINI AND ORANGES

Ingredients:

1 large tomato, diced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/2 loaf baguette bread, sliced

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

6 slices fresh mozzarella cheese

1 navel orange, peeled with each segment cut in half

Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange diced tomatoes in a single layer on the cutting board. Sprinkle with kosher salt and oregano. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place baguette slices on a baking sheet. Brush each slice with olive oil. Sprinkle garlic powder on top. Place one slice of fresh mozzarella on each piece of baguette. Spoon diced tomatoes over cheese. Bake for 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven. Garnish crostini with fresh basil. Serve with navel orange segments.

Meatball Lollipops

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Meatball Lollipops! This is such a wonderful prelude to a pizza party. It’s simple, delicious, takes minutes to prepare, and makes life easy for the host or hostess. Whether you’re making pizza from scratch or ordering it for delivery, this is a great appetizer to keep things festive. Just remember to make enough to share. You won’t regret it.

MEATBALL LOLLIPOPS

Ingredients:

10 precooked frozen Italian meatballs, thawed

15 ounces of prepared marina sauce

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

10 party picks

Instructions:

Cook meatballs in a microwave-safe dish, with lid, according to package directions. Drain. Add prepared marina sauce. Cook on 40% power in microwave-safe covered dish for 10 minutes. Pierce each meatball with a party pick and transfer to a platter, or 5 per serving. Spoon marinara sauce over meatballs. Sprinkle with oregano, basil, marjoram, and garlic powder. Divide the shredded mozzarella cheese between portions. Serve immediately.