Focaccia Herb Bread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Focaccia Herb Bread! I love bread. Don’t hate me. Besides, if the Italians and the French can make it a guilt-free pleasure, that’s good enough for me. Focaccia Bread is a flatter version than a loaf and actually resembles the texture of pizza dough and breadsticks. Are you with me now? At first glance you may think there is too much olive oil in this recipe. Not true. Actually, that is the secret to keeping the bread soft or preventing it from drying out. Feel free to begin imagining focaccia bread as an appetizer, sandwich bread, or healthy snack. Permission granted.

FOCACCIA HERB BREAD

Ingredients:

1 cup water

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 cups bread flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

1-2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated

Dipping Olive Oil

Instructions:

Using a bread machine, follow this order: add water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, sea salt, bread flour, and sugar. Make a small well in the dry ingredients. Pour the active dry yeast in the well. Select Dough/Manual cycle. When cycle is complete, coat a 10”x15” baking pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil. This will make the bottom crispy. Press the dough into the pan, stretching it to fit the pan. Be sure to turn the dough over to coat both sides with olive oil. Once the dough is stretched, take a wooden spoon and press it, handle side down, to make impressions in the dough, similar to dimples. Be careful. DO NOT make holes in the dough. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in a warm area, free of drafts. Let the dough rise for one hour. Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the plastic wrap and discard. Sprinkle the top of the focaccia dough with rosemary leaves and parmesan cheese. Drizzle enough olive oil to pool in the indentations. Bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes. Remove the focaccia bread and let it cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Cut into squares. Serve with herbed olive oil or enjoy as is.

Avocado Breakfast Toast

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Avocado Breakfast Toast! Nothing looks more appealing in the morning than an open face breakfast sandwich, in my opinion. Avocado and salmon step things up a notch when paired with a nice yolk-drenched piece of artisan toast. I love French butter, but if you choose to omit slathering the toast with it, I’ll understand. My husband and I don’t mind a little taste sensuality in the morning. You choose.

AVOCADO BREAKFAST TOAST

Ingredients:

2 slices artisan bread, toasted

1-2 tablespoons sea salt butter

1 avocado; halved, pitted, peeled, and chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

2 eggs, cooked over easy or poached

1/2 cup grilled salmon, flaked

1 teaspoon capers

Pinch Herbes de Provence

Fresh thyme for garnish

Instructions:

Take the chopped avocado and mash it until chunky. Fold in the lemon juice and garlic powder. Set aside. Toast bread as desired. Spread with sea salt butter and keep warm. Cook the eggs over easy so the yolks are still runny. Place one piece of buttered toast on a plate. Spoon a thick layer of avocado over toast. Next divide flaked salmon between the two servings. Sprinkle with capers. Place one egg on top. Garnish with Herbes de Provence and fresh tarragon.

Quinoa BLTE Sandwich

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Quinoa BLTE Sandwich! What exactly is quinoa; does anyone know for sure? I took a trip down Wikipedia Lane and discovered “it is an experimental crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration human occupied space flights.” It’s also gluten-free and easy to digest. That’s pretty important stuff in my book. Oh yeah, it’s been around for human consumption for at least 3,000 years. Maybe it’s time to give it a whirl.

QUINOA BLTE SANDWICH

Ingredients:

2 slices organic quinoa multigrain bread, toasted

1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 slices tomato

2 romaine lettuce leaves

2-4 slices thick bacon, cooked crisp

1 large egg, cooked over-easy

Pinch seasoned salt

Black pepper to taste

Garnish with parsley

Instructions:

Microwave bacon on paper-towel-lined plate for 5 minutes on High or until crisp. Set aside. In a small skillet sprayed with nonstick oil, crack an egg over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and black pepper. Fry until set, then carefully flip over. Turn off heat. Continue cooking until white is set, but yolk is still runny. To assemble sandwich, slather both pieces of quinoa toast with mayonnaise. Layer ripe tomatoes, romaine lettuce leaves, and bacon strips on one slice. Slide the fried egg onto the bacon. Top the sandwich with the remaining slice of quinoa toast. Garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

Old Mexico Street Poppers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Old Mexico Street Poppers! As the garden brings forth a bounty of jalapeños, variety becomes the spice of life. Stuffed with cheese and veggies makes sinking your teeth into this spicy popper feel like eating from a Mexican cobblestone street vendor in Puerto Vallarta. Anything goes! Give your taste buds an “old town” vacation and then go shopping afterwards!

OLD MEXICO STREET POPPERS

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano, snipped

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion salt

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 cup organic black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup sweet corn, whole kernel

1/3 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/8 teaspoon taco seasoning

12 jalapeño peppers, cut lengthwise and seeded

1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet. Spray with nonso like. Set aside. In a bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese, Mexican oregano, garlic powder, onion salt, cumin powder, black beans, sweet corn, and Monterey Jack cheese. Mix well. Set aside. In another bowl, combine panko bread crumbs, Mexican cheese, melted butter, and taco seasoning. Mix well. Set aside. To prepare jalapeños, wear rubber gloves. Leaving the stem on, slice the upper third portion lengthwise. Discard top. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Divide filling evenly between jalapeños. Place on wire rack. Cover top of jalapeños with crumb topping. Press gently into cream cheese mixture. Bake 30-35 minutes or until tops are golden brown and jalapeños are tender. Garnish with cilantro. Serve warm.

Mountainous Meatball

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Mountainous Meatball! It doesn’t have to be National Meatball Day to indulge in authentic cuisine found in Little Italy. By using everyday ingredients, mix and shape a giant meatball with your own two hands to feel like a gourmet chef. Smother the meatballs in a jar of marinara sauce, store-bought or made-from-scratch for perfection. And my secret, you ask? Tucked in the top of the meatball, like snow on a mountaintop, is a creamy mozzarella ball. Bet you can’t wait to bite into that!

MOUNTAINOUS MEATBALL

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup Italian bread, soaked in milk and squeezed out

1 pound ground sirloin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 eggs

1/4 cup dry Italian breadcrumbs

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

3 sprigs Italian parsley, chopped

3 Ciliegine mozzarella balls (cherry size)

2 cups marinara sauce

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

3/4 cup ricotta

Fresh basil for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat. Set aside. Tear Italian bread into chunks. Add enough milk to cover. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine ground sirloin, garlic powder, eggs, dry Italian breadcrumbs, sea salt, black pepper, Italian parsley, and the milk-soaked breadcrumbs (with the liquid squeezed out). Mix well. Form into three meatballs the size of a tennis ball. Make an indentation in the top of each meatball. Stuff with a Ciliegine mozzarella ball. Press meat around the cheese leaving only a small bit visible. Place meatballs on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake 30 minutes until brown and firm. Remove from oven and place each meatball in an individual oven-proof serving dish. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Spoon marinara sauce over meatballs, dividing it equally between the serving dishes. Top with 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, between the three dishes. Bake 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Sprinkle on the remaining parmesan cheese. Add a dollop of ricotta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh basil. Serve with garlic toast.

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.

Yummy Parmesan Alfredo Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Yummy Parmesan Alfredo Sauce! If ever there was a universal sauce, this is it. Alfredo sauce isn’t just for pasta any more. Pizzerias began using it to substitute the tomato base on pizzas, pairing it with bacon, spinach, artichokes, and chicken. It makes a creamy addition to grilled seafood, poultry, or pork dishes, as well. Some enthusiasts even slather alfredo sauce on baked potatoes. It’s pure genius to pour it into a freshly baked bread bowl for dipping crudités, if you’re into that sort of thing. No matter how you spin it…butter, cream, and cheese are the star attractions. These are the ways to a woman’s heart. That, and a bouquet of fresh flowers.

YUMMY PARMESAN ALFREDO SAUCE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, unsalted

1 1/2 cups light cream

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons Neufchâtel cheese, softened

2 cups parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm butter. Add light cream. Reduce heat and simmer over Low heat for 2 minutes, stirring gently. Whisk in minced garlic, Italian seasoning, sea salt, and black pepper. Add Neufchâtel cheese; stir to incorporate. Slowly add parmesan cheese; whisk until completely melted. Keep warm prior to serving.