Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Pizza in Estero, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Pizza in Estero, Florida! You’re probably wondering what the big deal is about mentioning “coal oven” in the name of this pizza joint. Basically, it boils down to the deliciousness of a charred crust enclosing a chewy center without overcooking the toppings. You get this from very high, dry heat contained within the oven walls. The coal oven is a little larger than the others, so it holds more pizzas. Makes sense, amirite? There’s nothing worse than sinking your teeth into a pizza pie loaded with extra cheese only to discover the bottom crust is a bit soggy. That’s not going to happen at Tony Sacco’s. In fact, customize your creation like I do. For cheese-lovers, request shredded mozzarella, smoky provolone, grated parmesan, and fresh mozzarella over authentic Italian marinara. The cheese pulls will practically make your mouth drool in public. Slowly wipe your chin. Then garnish a pizza slice with freshly chopped basil and dig in.

Joey’s Pizza & Pasta House on Marco Island, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Joey’s Pizza & Pasta House on Marco Island, Florida! My husband always says, “It’s more fun to eat at a bar than drink in a restaurant.” At Joey’s you can do both… or choose to eat and drink outdoors in their welcoming patio area. No matter where you settle in, the mood is contagious. Everyone seems to be having a good time. The drinks are cold and thirst-quenching, the food is definitely spot on. That’s probably due to the fact that Italian pasta dinners, specialty pizzas, and sweet desserts are made from family recipes. Pace yourself by sharing appetizers. Pizza is the main attraction offered in the New York style of thin-crust, which can be folded in half to eat, or the popular Sicilian thick-crust version covered in olive oil. Either way, go overboard. Leftovers can be taken home and eaten later when the cravings return.

Dulce De Leche Turtle Bars

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Dulce de Leche Turtle Bars! So today we learn that Dulce de Leche is another name for slow-cooked caramelized milk. And before you scroll down, I assure you it’s one of the easiest toppings you’ll ever make, and certainly worth your time. It’s Heaven in a jar….lusciously sweet and creamy. However, if you make it too far in advance, the most difficult challenge will come when you get the urge to dip a spoon into the jar to drizzle the decadent sauce over a scoop of ice cream. I know what you’re thinking…..but, Gail, it’s only one spoonful. Amirite? Don’t do it. Otherwise you’ll need another can of sweetened condensed milk for these turtle bars.

DULCE DE LECHE TURTLE BARS

Ingredients for the Crust:

2 cups flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Ingredients for the Toppings:

1 1/4 cups Dulce de Leche*

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

3/4 cup pecans, chopped

*NOTE:

Dulce de Leche must be made in advance. Preheat oven to 425°. Pour a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk into a 9” pie pan. (This will equal 1 1/4 cups.) Cover with foil. Carefully place the pie pan into a larger shallow pan. Fill the larger pan with 1/2” hot water to surround the pie pan. Bake 2 hours or until sauce is thick and caramel in color. Remove larger pan from oven. Carefully remove the pie pan; set aside for 15 minutes to cool. Pour Dulce de Leche into a jar until ready to use. Store in the refrigerator, if made days in advance.

Instructions for the Crust:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9” square baking dish with parchment paper, leaving extra over the edges for easier removal of the dessert. Spray the parchment paper with nonstick oil. Set aside. Using a mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, butter, and sea salt. Stir well until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture into the bottom of prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven; allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Instructions for the Toppings:

In a mixing bowl, combine Dulce de Leche, heavy whipping cream, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Stir well; pour mixture over crust. Sprinkle chocolate morsels and chopped pecans over filling. Bake 20 minutes, or until set. Remove pan from oven. Cool completely before cutting onto bars.

Jam Pockets

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Jam Pockets! Here’s a versatile quick recipe that makes a wonderful dessert, breakfast pastry, or afternoon snack. Prepared pie crusts or pizza dough from the dairy case in the supermarket can be used. Plus, any flavor of fruit jam will complement the smooth creamy filing inside. Although I didn’t add them here, I think sliced almonds would make a nice addition as well. The buttery crust serves as a nice “pocket” for the burst of fruity sweetness inside. Try as I might, it’s a challenge to stop at just one. Perhaps I won’t.

JAM POCKETS

Ingredients:

1 refrigerated pie crust, softened as directed on package

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup four-fruit jam

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup sugar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll out refrigerated pie crust to 1/4-inch. Cut into twelve 3-inch rounds. Set aside. In a bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese, almond extract, and powdered sugar. Stir until smooth. Drop a teaspoon of cheese mixture into the center of each round. Top with a dollop of fruit jam. Brush the inside edges with beaten egg; fold in half. Crimp edges with a fork to seal. Brush top and bottom with more egg wash; dust both sides with sugar. Pierce the top of each pocket. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat steps for remaining jam pockets. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheet. Cool slightly. Serve the reserve creamed cheese mixture as a dipping sauce.

Quasi Cherry Almond Macaroon Slab Pie

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Quasi Cherry Almond Macaroon Slab Pie! Now that’s a mouthful. But truth-be-told when you’re talking about a dessert with mounds of plump cherry clusters, flaked coconut, and sliced nuts…well, nothing else will do. By transforming it all into a slab pie, portions become more manageable over traditional sliced servings. The crust is still flaky, even if there is less of it. Focus instead on a sweet treat with a single shot of Italian espresso or scoop of ice cream. It’s a perfect balance for the taste buds.

QUASI CHERRY ALMOND MACAROON SLAB PIE

Ingredients:

1 prepared pie crust

Ingredients for filling:

21-ounce can cherry pie filling

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Ingredients for topping:

1 cup coconut, shredded

1/2 cup almonds, sliced

1/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon coconut extract

1 egg, beaten

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Roll the prepared pie crust to fit the baking sheet. Trim the dough to only fit the bottom of the pan. If necessary, use the extra dough pieces to fill in the corners. Pinch to seal. In a large bowl, combine the cherry pie filling, cinnamon, sea salt, and lemon juice. Mix thoroughly. Spoon the filling onto the pie crust. Spread in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, for the topping, fill a mixing bowl with the shredded coconut, sliced almonds, sugar, sea salt, milk, melted butter, almond extract, coconut extract, and beaten egg. Remove the slab pie from the oven. Spread macaroon topping over all. Return slab pie to oven, bake 25 minutes longer, or until bubbly and golden brown. Cut into slices. Serve with vanilla bean ice cream.

Zwieback Crust Peach Pie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Zwieback Crust Peach Pie! Icebox dessert pies conjure up sweet memories of dog-day afternoons, sun-burned shoulders, and aluminum tumblers of cherry Kool-Aid that left a bright red mustache stain. Following a stifling afternoon of playing in the yard that made sweaty bangs plaster to my sticky forehead, my brothers and I would run inside, slamming the screen door for what probably seemed like the umpteenth time to Mother who rang the dinner bell. “Wash your hands before you sit down,” she coaxed. “Dessert is something special, if you clean your plate.” Those words alone were enough to turn youthful minds into obedient offspring. Dessert defined those adolescent years. Everyone enjoyed them, guilt-free. Ah, the good old days.

ZWIEBACK CRUST PEACH PIE

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups zwieback cracker crumbs

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup water

3 ounce-package orange gelatin

3 cups ripe peaches, peeled and sliced; stone removed

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine zwieback crumbs, 1/3 cup sugar, and melted butter. Stir well. Reserve one tablespoon for crumb garnish. Press remaining crumbs firmly over the bottom and up the sides of a 9”-inch pie plate. Bake 10 minutes. Cool. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, and water until smooth. Cook until thick and bubbly, 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in flavored gelatin until dissolved. Cool. Arrange sliced peaches in crust. Pour filling over peaches. Sprinkle reserve crumbs on top. Chill for 2 hours, or until set. Serve cold.

Rhubarb Strawberry Galette

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Rhubarb Strawberry Galette! It’s rhubarb season when the long slender reddish-green stalks shoot up from the garden soil. Rhubarb also appears at the Farmers Markets where it is snatched up with ferocity. When I was fortunate enough to snag a couple stalks myself, I already knew they would be paired with fresh-cut strawberries to create a buttery galette. My friend, Ray, must’ve sensed my intention. He promptly arrived at my doorstep as I pulled the piping hot rustic pastry out of the oven. The sugary brown crust and bubbling juices were invitation enough. After all, that’s what friends are for.

RHUBARB STRAWBERRY GALETTE

Ingredients:

1 prepared pie crust

2-3 stalks rhubarb, discard leaves; cut stalks into batons

1 pint strawberries, hulled, washed, and sliced

2/3 cup sugar, divided

3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons sanding sugar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Line with parchment paper. Roll out pastry shell to form a circle. Set aside. In one bowl, combine rhubarb batons with 1/3 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch. Toss to coat. In the second bowl, combine sliced strawberries, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch. Toss gently to coat. Beginning with the rhubarb, arrange batons to form a circle leaving a 2-inch border. Finish with strawberries over top. Sprinkle with lemon zest. Fold the border over the filling, overlapping the dough where necessary. Press gently to seal the folds. Lightly brush the edge of the dough with the beaten egg. Sprinkle crust with sanding sugar. Bake galette for one hour or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Transfer galette on parchment paper to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Impromptu Pretzel Crust Pecan Pie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Impromptu Pretzel Crust Pecan Pie! Sometimes a crunchy pie crust satisfies primal needs. After all, it’s second nature to crave foods that sound good when you bite into them. Admit it, we like different tastes. The desire for crispy and crunchy foods never seems to grow old. Because we associate tastes and aromas with feelings, our brain is already satisfied before the first bite. Combine sweet and salty for the ultimate dessert experience. Crunch away.

IMPROMPTU PRETZEL CRUST PECAN PIE

Ingredients for Crust:

1 1/4 cups pretzel crumbs

2 tablespoons corn starch

3 tablespoons sugar

7 tablespoons butter, melted

Ingredients for Filling:

6 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks

1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

1 cup light corn syrup

1 tablespoon sea salt

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups pecans, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine pretzel crumbs, corn starch, sugar, and melted butter in a medium bowl. Stir well. Press evenly into a 9” pie plate, making sure the sides and bottom are covered. Put pie plate on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes until crust is firm. To prepare filling, take a medium saucepan. Combine butter chunks, brown sugar, corn syrup, and sea salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool. Whisk in beaten eggs. Fold in chopped pecans. Pour mixture into pretzel crust. Bake 50 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

Buttered Plum Galette

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Buttered Plum Galette! You don’t have to be a perfectionist to create the perfect galette. The whole idea is to make it appear rustic and charming. By forming an irregular pie crust, it conjures images of the bucolic countryside we often yearn for in an unpolished way. This is how plain country kitchens capture that homey feeling. You can, too. Indeed, the Buttered Plum Galette is as delicious as it sounds.

BUTTERED PLUM GALETTE

Ingredients for Crust:

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, cold

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons ice water

Ingredients for Plum Filling:

4 medium-size plums, stone removed and sliced thin

1/3-1/2 cup mulberries, or blackberries

Scant lemon juice

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cardamom

1/3 cup plum jam, slightly warmed

3 tablespoons butter

1 egg yolk

Instructions:

Recipe makes two individual galettes. Preheat oven to 425°. Using a food processor, pulse cold butter, flour, and salt to the size of small peas. Sprinkle in ice water one tablespoon at a time until dough forms a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1/2 hour. Remove wrap and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut in half. Roll each half into an 8” circle. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Beginning in the center, spiral plums like a fan. Be sure to leave a border. Top with berries. Fold edges of dough toward the center, creating a rustic crust. Press gently to seal. Repeat for second galette. Sprinkle fruit with lemon juice. Cover fruit with sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom. Spread plum jam over fruit. Dot with butter. Whisk together egg yolk and a little water. Brush the egg wash along the edges of the dough. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° but do not remove galettes. Bake an additional 45 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer the buttered plum galettes from the baking sheet by lifting with the parchment paper. Cool on wire rack to keep the bottoms from getting soggy. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.