What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Zucchini Zoup! Here’s a delicious way to warm your tummy as the days turn cooler and leaves begin to fall. Try this savory thick and hearty soup made with zucchini. It’s a one-pot meal filled with nutrition. But that’s not all. It can be made from scratch in a matter of minutes. You have the option of a smooth flavorful finish, or allowing chunks of vegetables here and there. I puréed about 3/4 of it so I could still spoon bits of zucchini, onions, and garlic in my mouth to savor. If you like to crumble crackers in the soup, be my guest. From time to time, that’s the only way that’ll do.
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, stem removed and roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large zucchini squash, ends cut but skin on, then chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/4-1/2 cup light cream
Colby Jack cheese, grated for garnish
In a large saucepan, warm olive oil. Sauté sweet onion, jalapeño pepper, garlic cloves, and zucchini squash over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Cover and allow vegetables to cook down until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Using a mini chopper, purée mixture in batches, returning soup to the pan. Over low heat, add chopped cilantro and light cream, stirring constantly until heated through. For a thinner soup, add more light cream. Ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle with grated Colby Jack cheese. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Wacho Nachos! What do you get when you mix sweet potato waffle fries and savory nacho toppings? Wacho Nachos! The grilled chicken, vine-ripe tomatoes, and spicy jalapeños provide a familiar face, but it’s all about the base. By choosing a healthy serving of sweet potato waffle fries, the crispy crunch offers an appealing meal instead of a junk food snack. Step aside tortilla chips, waffle fries are taking center stage!
19-ounce bag frozen sweet potato fries
2 cups precooked grilled chicken strips, cut into chunks
2 cups Colby and Monterey Jack Cheese, finely shredded
1 large vine-ripe tomato, chopped
1/4 cup sliced jalapeños
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup green onion snips
Bake the waffle fries according to package directions. Arrange individual casserole dishes with a single layer of crispy sweet potato waffle fries, lining the edges to hold in the toppings. Divide the grilled chicken chunks and shredded cheese equally. Top with tomatoes and jalapeño slices. Return to the oven until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Remove casseroles from the oven. Top with Greek yogurt and green onions. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Vichyssoise Cold Creamier Soup! Just hearing the word “soup” during the summer months can make someone rolls their eyes enough to make people pay no attention to what is being said. But hear me out. Let me remind you that the silky consistency of melted ice cream actually brings out the flavor more than its frozen counterpart. Right? Well, “vichyssoise” is a French word for velvety smooth potato and leek soup, usually served chilled. When eaten slightly cold, the sheer creaminess is truly divine. Leeks are mild fancy onions, so if you prefer to use yellow sweet onions, permission granted. Personally, for this recipe, I went all out and used both. I also chose Yukon potatoes for their sweet flavor and moist flesh making them fluffy in texture. Make sense? Obviously you can make modifications to suit your palate. Be creative and send me your thoughts.
VICHYSSOISE COLD CREAMIER SOUP
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
3 leeks, thoroughly rinsed and sliced; green and white parts only
2 Yukon potatoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
14 ounces chicken broth
1/2 cup light cream
Fresh chives, for garnish
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm olive oil and butter over medium heat. Sauté the yellow onion for 2 minutes until translucent. Add the leeks and sauté 5 minutes longer until soft. Add the diced potatoes and sauté for 2-3 minutes longer. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to Simmer for 30 minutes until potatoes are tender. Carefully transfer small batches of soup to a blender. Purée until smooth. Repeat process until no lumps remain. Pour the smooth texture back into the saucepan. Heat to medium. Add light cream and stir. Soup will thicken within 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature and then chill for one hour before serving. Pour into bowls and garnish with chopped chives. Serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream! Years ago my best friend was a specialty brand of Turkish coffee ice cream. I was working two jobs, averaging mostly 70-hour work weeks, seven days nonstop to support myself, and help my kids through college. I also admit I was hiding out from “Life”. Many evenings I’d come home, crash on the sofa, and open a pint of the creamiest concoction laced with butterscotch topping I’d ever tasted. It was bliss. Since then, the company stopped making it in favor of more popular flavors like banana chocolate chunk and coconut almond chip. Seriously? Oh well, that left me with no recourse but to make it myself. Between you and me…I think I knocked it out of the park!*
NO-CHURN COFFEE ICE CREAM
2 1/2 tablespoons espresso instant coffee
2 tablespoons warm water
2 cups heavy cream
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dark chocolate covered espresso beans, chopped
Butterscotch Ice Cream Topping
In a small bowl, dissolve instant coffee in warm water. Stir well. Set aside. Using a stand mixer, beat the heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla extract on High speed for 4 minutes until smooth and thick. Reduce speed to Low. Add the prepared coffee; continue until blended. Fold in chopped espresso beans. Spoon ice cream into a loaf pan. Cover tightly and freeze overnight. Scoop into bowls and sprinkle with espresso before serving. Drizzle with butterscotch topping, to taste.
*The secret to my success was chilling the utensils overnight in the freezer and making sure all the ingredients were refrigerator cold.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Quattro Formaggio Ravioli! Four different cheeses in one dish make me think I died and went to Heaven. Or at the very least, I did something right. Let me share with you a little secret. It doesn’t matter that you use store-bought ravioli because it’s the cheese sauce you practically slurp with a spoon!
QUATTRO FORMAGGIO RAVIOLI
2 tablespoons Bleu cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup butter
1 cup light cream
4 ounces Neufchâtel cream cheese
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1 cup marinara sauce
Stuffed Ravioli, any variety
Combine Bleu, Parmesan, and Mozzarella cheeses in a bowl. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, over low heat, melt butter. Do not scorch. Add light cream and bring to boil. Slowly add Neufchâtel cream cheese in chunks, stirring until melted. Reduce heat to medium-low. Gradually add remaining cheeses, stirring constantly until smooth. While stirring return to boil for one minute. Add herbs de Provence. Reduce to simmer. Warm marinara sauce in another pan or microwave-safe dish. Cook ravioli as directed on package. Drain ravioli and divide into portions. Spoon cheese sauce and marinara sauce over cooked ravioli. Sprinkle with extra cheese. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve with garlic bread drizzled with olive oil.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Spicy Poblano Sauce! Try to avoid slurping this sauce by the spoonful straight out of the jar. Poblano peppers are a whole other animal, so to speak. Compared to its fiery cousins, the habanero or jalapeño, poblanos are mild and earthy, especially when roasted. Most of the time they are either stuffed (like the chile relleno you find on restaurant menus) or served as a sauce over roasted chicken enchiladas. Still confused? Think Mexican green sauce with chicken and spicy red sauce with beef or cheese.
SPICY POBLANO SAUCE
4 poblano peppers
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 cup light cream
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Space poblano peppers two inches apart. Roast poblano peppers in broiler oven on High setting until the skins are blistered and charred, 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven. Transfer to a bowl and cover for 15 minutes. When cool, peel off the skin and chop the peppers, discarding seeds and stems. Warm butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onions. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and light cream. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring often. Add chopped poblanos. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer poblano mixture to a food processor. Pulse to purée. Season with cumin powder, sea salt, and white pepper. Pulse again. Add Greek yogurt. Blend until smooth. Serve warm over burritos or other Mexican dishes.
“Poetry and music are very good friends.
Like mommies and daddies and
strawberries and cream…
they go together.”
~ Nikki Giovanni
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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Espresso Obsession! You can be a master barista in the comfort of your own kitchen. Some essential items make all the difference in the results; a good coffee bean grinder and a reliable espresso machine, for instance. Always use quality ingredients. Begin with a premium blend of whole roasted coffee beans to grind yourself. A very fine ground is necessary in order to brew classic Italian roast espresso beverages. Drink it hot or turn it into an iced coffee version. Grazie!
Fresh roasted espresso beans
After the coffee beans are ground to a consistency of sugar, use 1/4 ounce per shot, an one ounce serving. (If it is too coarse, water will run straight through it leaving the coffee lacking a robust flavor.) Pack the grinds into the espresso handle and press down with a tamper, but not too hard. You’ll know when you see the cream-like foam finish. Make sure the water is not boiling. An espresso machine will keep the temperature at 90C degrees. Perfection. Serve immediately.
I choose a dollop of whipped cream on top making my signature coffee drink an “Espresso Con Panna”.