What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Cucumber Strawberry Sandwiches! Here’s a combination you will truly enjoy: crisp sliced cucumbers with juicy sweet strawberries. Together they come across as eye candy. Whip up a creamy spread of sea salt butter, Neufchâtel cheese, and Italian seasonings to slather across the top of a toasted slice of artisan rye bread. Add a sprig of dill, sprinkled with tiny thyme leaves to crown things off. The results may find you believing you embarked on a journey through the charming countryside of Tuscany.
CUCUMBER STRAWBERRY SANDWICH
8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons sea salt butter, softened
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1 large cucumber, sliced
1 pint strawberries, stems removed and halved
2-4 slices rye bread, toasted
Fresh dill sprig, for garnish
Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish
Cream together Neufchâtel cheese, butter, and yogurt until smooth. Fold in Italian seasoning and dill to blend. Refrigerate one hour. Slice cucumber; halve strawberries. Toast rye bread; slather with seasoned cheese spread. Top with cucumber slices and strawberries. Add dill sprig and thyme leaves for garnish.
Dining Outside the Home: La Spezia Restaurant and Wine Bar in Koloa, Kauai. An Old World Italian dinner is as priceless as the family recipes that brave the test of time. At La Spezia, the customer becomes the guest of honor with classics “like Grandma used to make” that include house-made pastas, rich creamy sauces, and seafood specialties. They also understand the importance of island heritage to include local land and sea favorites. Put down the cell phone, sit back, and sip on a citrus Aperol Spritz. Taste the Prosecco? Now that’s refreshing. Nibble on focaccia bread and linger over conversation. This is a long-established Italian tradition and one you won’t want to miss.
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.
Dining Outside the Home: Toscana Cafe and Wine Bar in San Diego, California. After a day of walking around downtown in the bustling Gaslamp District, rest your feet at a corner table where the music is soft and the romantic mood is perfect for sharing. This is Toscana Cafe and Wine Bar, an authentic Italian ristorante, which features amazing dishes like fresh burrata and beet salad, for starters. If you have yet to try burrata cheese, it is a semi-soft cheese that is formed into a pouch, then filled with soft curd and cream. Once it is sliced open, the luscious cream spills out. Act like this is no surprise to you, but try not to lick your fingers. That’s amore.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Veal Parmesan! Actually, this recipe works really well with chicken, if you choose to substitute. Either way, it’s a gourmet dinner entrée that deserves a friendly nod of approval. By first browning the coated veal in a skillet, the crust seals in the rustic Italian flavor. Top it with Muenster cheese instead of mozzarella for a tangy smooth complement to the savory tomato sauce.
1 pound veal cutlets or chicken breasts
1/3 cup Italian dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup Panko seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups Italian tomato pasta sauce, chunky
2 cups Muenster cheese, sliced
Preheat oven to 350°. Between plastic wrap, flatten each cutlet to a disc. In a shallow dish, whisk egg and milk together to blend. On a sheet of waxed paper, combine Italian bread crumbs, Panko bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese. Dip veal into egg mixture, then coat with bread crumb mixture. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the veal 4-5 minutes per side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. In a greased baking dish spoon half the pasta sauce on the bottom. Next layer the veal cutlets. Spoon remaining sauce over veal. Top with Muenster cheese overlapping the meat. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes until sauce is bubbly and cheese is golden brown in spots. Garnish with fresh basil.
Dining Outside the Home: Trevi Italian Restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada. At the foot of a Romanesque fountain, so close you can hear the water splashing against the marble, tables for two make dining cozy on an indoor patio at Trevi Italian Restaurant. Feel free to take your time with a signature cocktail and tantalizingly delicious appetizer. Might I suggest the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail. Grab one by the tail, swirl it in the tangy sauce, and then take a bite of the thick juicy flesh. Repeat. Finally, pinch the top and bottom of the shell until it cracks. The tail meat easily slides out so you can pierce it with a fork and slather it in more cocktail sauce. That’s amore.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Lasagna Lovers! Move over, ho-hum lasagna; Baby Kale Lasagna Roll-ups are here. This dish is fast and easy to prepare, while managing portion-control at the same time. If you are looking for a meatless meal, simply adjust the recipe to suit your needs. The taste is unbelievable and leftovers will have you looking forward to a savory dinner later in the week. Mama Mia, that’s amazing!
1 pound Italian sausage, bulk
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fennel
1/8 teaspoon basil
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon marjoram
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
24 ounces pasta sauce
1 cup water
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
16 ounces lasagna noodles
Baby Kale Leaves, stems removed
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large skillet brown Italian sausage until crumbly. Drain. Add onion, garlic, fennel, basil, oregano, marjoram, and mushrooms. Mix well. Add pasta sauce and water to the browned meat mixture. Simmer 10 minutes. Set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, and parsley. Prepare lasagna noodles per package directions. Drain. When cooked, place the noodles lengthwise in a single layer on two sheets of aluminum foil. This makes it very easy to fill and roll up. Grease a 9″x13″ baking dish. Spread one half of the meat mixture on the bottom of the dish. To assemble lasagna rolls, spread 2-3 heaping tablespoons of ricotta cheese filling along noodle. Top with baby kale leaves. Beginning at one end, roll the noodle up. Transfer to baking dish. Repeat until all ingredients are assembled and arranged. Finish by pouring the remaining pasta sauce over lasagna rolls. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese over top. Cover with foil. Bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes longer until hot and bubbly. Serve immediately.
Dining Outside the Home: Café Portofino in Lihue, Kauai! Feel the romantic rhythm of northern Italy in a tropical destination overlooking the beach. This is paradise on the island of Kauai. The food is true Italian cuisine, the wine from cellars across the world. Café Portofino, a family-owned business, offers fresh seafood and locally sourced vegetables as well as classic dishes. Notice the Red Beet Salad and Grilled Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo, both celebration-worthy. Chat with the wait staff. Their friendly reception is warm and connected with deep-felt hospitality. For a memorable evening, especially bringing in the New Year, treat yourself to a taste of Italy.
Dining Outside the Home: Pizzeria Portofino in Lihue, Kauai! If the aromas of Italian tomato, roasted garlic, and fresh basil waft through the air the second you raise the lid of the takeout box, you already know the pizza inside is going to taste good. The Americano combination of savory sauce, salty pepperoni, and gooey mozzarella cheese make chowing down come easy. Whether the crust is chewy soft or charred crisp, everyone wins at Pizzeria Portofino. That’s the beauty of ordering to please. Spend all day at the beach, then save some serious dough. Dine-in or carry out. For me? With a view like this with a private balcony, it was an easy choice to make.