What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Ultra Charcuterie Board! Feel gourmet at home by creating your own charcuterie board the next time you want to serve appetizers. Choose any smoked, dry-cured, or cooked meat to accompany a couple of mellow cheese selections. I like the Edam cheese for its sweet, nutty flavor. It’s nice to have fruit in the form of fresh, dried, or even preserves to balance out the saltiness of the meats. Don’t forget the pickles or olives, which provide a little tang to the palate. Keep the crackers or bread as plain as possible. You want everyone to focus on the flavor explosion going on in every bite. You can go all out and add chocolate morsels and nuts for nibbling. The best part is everyone wins! People pick and choose their own combinations and give you high praise for being such a genius!
ULTRA CHARCUTERIE BOARD
5 ounces Old World pepperoni, sliced
3 ounces Old World prosciutto, sliced
7 ounce wheel of Edam cheese
8 ounces dried pitted dates
6 ounces mixed olives
10 ounces smoked almonds
1 bag of multi grain baguette slices
Arrange everything on one or two charcuterie boards. The pairing is up to each guest. As long as it is appealing, it definitely promotes conversation. Depending on how large a group you have will determine the number of options you choose. For larger groups I suggest crackers, jam, and spreadable cheeses as a nice complement to smoked meats and fresh fruit. Be creative. Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh herbs.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Onion Basil Bread! You have got to try this! Tasty Vidalia onions are unbelievably sweet and mild. They are grown locally in the state of Georgia, yet recognized all over the world. You begin to see them pop up in the neighborhood markets from mid-April to mid-June. Their unique fresh taste makes them an outstanding option for eating raw or cooking in recipes. Packed with nutritional value makes them a bonus. Become a believer; discover why Vidalia onions are all the buzz!
ONION BASIL BREAD
Loaf of sesame artisan bread
1/3 cup olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 large size Vidalia onion, sliced
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 cup Jarlsberg cheese, shredded
2-3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with foil. Cut the bread in half, then length-wise, and quarters. Dredge the cut sides in 1/3 cup olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder, marjoram, and sea salt. In a skillet on medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add onion slices and seasoned salt. Cover and cook one minute. Stir, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the onions are caramelized, about 12 minutes. Watch carefully to reduce scorching and stir if necessary. Meanwhile divide Jarlsberg cheese equally over the face of the bread. Top with caramelized onions. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and garnish with fresh basil.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Creamed Honey on Toast! Begin today at the Farmers Market on a quest for liquid gold. This version of natural honey is thicker in consistency, lighter in color, and creamier than ordinary honey varieties. For one, it does not contain the noticeable sugar crystals that can often leave a grainy aftertaste. Trained beekeepers put more effort into this little delicacy but, in my opinion, it is worth the extra time and effort. Pick up a couple jars this summer. Store them at room temperature and they will be good until you scrape the bottom of the jars.
CREAMED HONEY ON TOAST
Artisan bread, sliced
Sea salt French butter
Choose a nice artisan bread for toasting. Slather on a tablespoon of sea salt French butter and watch it melt. Next, drizzle a generous swirl of creamed honey over the butter layer. Finally, top it off with a sprinkling of cinnamon.
Dining Outside the Home: Solunto Restaurant & Bakery in San Diego, California. You may as well throw any semblance of willpower out the window when you cross the threshold into Solunto’s Ristorante in the heart of Little Italy. Especially if you’re hungry. Close your eyes for a moment. Inhale. The aromas alone of handcrafted breads, decadent pastries, napoletana pizzas, flavorful gelatos, and artisan coffees can mean only one thing. You’re going to be here awhile. But that’s okay. Solunto is all about family and friends socializing over a meal. Savor every bite; just leave room for more. The crisp Italian dessert shells, known as Cannolis, are filled with sweet, creamy filling. But don’t take my word for it. The pastry case is a feast for the eyes. Try one of everything. Solunto’s Bakery has “to-go” boxes.
Dining Outside the Home: Bobby V’s Italian Restaurant in Kapaa, Kauai. Happy Hour is always a good place to start, especially if you’re on vacation. Choose between Bobby V’s Hawaiian Mai Tai or the salt-rimmed Margarita to enjoy on the outside patio. Before you hit the default button and order pizza, consider other Italian favorites like the hearty Fettuccine Alfredo or the cheese-laden Classic Lasagna. A side of savory meatballs swimming in thick homemade marinara sauce does not disappoint. It’s okay to sprinkle on a little crushed oregano or grated parmesan cheese. Just saying. Word of warning: the portions are generous, so don’t fill up on the bread basket. Otherwise, I see leftover portions in your future.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Yeast Cinnamon Rolls! Don’t you just love modern kitchen appliances? My husband already owned a countertop Bread Machine when we got married seven years ago, so today I decided to try it out. (First I had to find it. When combining two households, things get shuffled around.) The recipe booklet boasted the best glazed cinnamon rolls and the photo bolstered my confidence enough to put it to the test. I’m glad I did. The house smelled like a family-owned bakery and the warm, gooey cinnamon buns were phenomenal. The challenge came at only eating one.
YEAST CINNAMON ROLLS
Ingredients for Dough:
1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Ingredients for Filling:
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Ingredients for Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
Measure all dough ingredients carefully and place in the bread machine in the order they are listed: water, butter, flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Select “Dough” cycle and “Start”. When the timer rings, remove the dough and flatten with a rolling pin into a 9-inch square on a lightly floured surface. Spread with 2 tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon filling over the buttered dough. Roll the dough up tightly; pinch the ends to seal. Cut the dough into 1-inch slices. Place in a 9″x9″ square pan. Cover with a wet tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until double. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown. Combine Glaze ingredients mixing powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk until smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Remove from pan to wire rack. Drizzle glaze over warm rolls. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Xenial Spinach Dip! Take a trip down Memory Lane with this hip 1970s all-star party staple. “I called it!”, shouted my best friend when asked to bring an appetizer to share. Maybe it was the presentation of carrying an artisan bread bowl into the room, or perhaps it was the “healthy” alternative to potato chips and onion dip, or it could have been the standing ovation it got from everyone who tasted it. Think about it….how fun is that to tear off a piece of crusty bread and slather it in creamy spinach mingled with a spicy crunch of water chestnuts. “I called it!”
XENIAL SPINACH DIP
1 pound artisan bread bowl
1 pint Greek yogurt
3 ounces Neufchâtel cheese
10 ounces mayonnaise
8 ounce can of water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 package Swiss vegetable dry soup mix
10 ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed, drained, and chopped
In a medium bowl, mix Greek yogurt, Neufchâtel cheese, and mayonnaise. Chill one hour. Add water chestnuts, package of Swiss vegetable dry soup mix, and uncooked spinach. Mix well. Chill one hour longer. Hollow out center of bread bowl. Fill with spinach dip. Serve with raw vegetables.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Irish Soda Bread with Whiskey Sauce! In honor of an Irish tradition, this classic staple is made with simple ingredients. The hard crust and dense center is very filling and meant to be eaten often with meals. The sign of the cross on top symbolized protection of the family. Since yeast is not used, preparation comes easily and on short notice for unexpected guests who pop in. Make this bread today and the aromas linger to keep your home smelling nice in the days ahead.
IRISH SODA BREAD WITH WHISKEY GLAZE
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup Irish Whiskey, or water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup buttermilk
Irish Whiskey Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon butter, softened
3 teaspoons Irish Whiskey*
*For nonalcoholic glaze, substitute with 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and 2 1/2 teaspoons milk.
Preheat oven to 375°. Grease baking sheet. In a small saucepan, combine raisins, Irish whiskey or water, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and then reduce to a simmer until the raisins are plump and the liquid is almost evaporated. Remove from heat. Do not drain. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles fine crumbs. Add raisins plus liquid. Stir to blend. Gradually stir in buttermilk until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead 2 minutes until smooth. Shape into a round loaf. Transfer to baking sheet. Cut an “X” in the top before baking. Bake 35 minutes or until golden brown. While the bread is is in the oven, combine powdered sugar, butter, and Irish whiskey. Stir until creamy. When the bread is finished, brush with glaze. Serve warm.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Festive Foods: Leeks and Wild Mushroom Stuffing! With the holiday season on the horizon, here’s a tasty side dish that is sure to please. If you have the time, I suggest substituting homemade breadcrumbs (which is about one loaf of day-old bread) for the stuffing mix. I split the difference and added homemade croutons on top of the casserole.
LEEKS AND WILD MUSHROOM STUFFING
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 ounces shiitake wild
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large leeks, sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
6 ounce box chicken stuffing
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a covered casserole dish. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the wild mushrooms and sauté until browned, approximately 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; set aside. Using the same pan, add one tablespoon olive oil. Sauté leeks and celery until translucent, approximately 7-8 minutes. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat chicken broth, butter, and parsley flakes. Bring to a boil. Stir in contents of stuffing mix. Remove from heat; cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Fold in wild mushrooms, leeks, and celery. Stir until well combined. Transfer stuffing mixture to the prepared casserole dish. Bake covered for 20 minutes; remove lid and bake 20 minutes longer. Serve warm.