Original Marinara Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Original Marinara Sauce! Marinara isn’t just a fancy name for spaghetti sauce, it actually lacks one key ingredient that sets it apart. You guessed it: MEAT. Basically, marinara is a tomato-based sauce infused with herbs and spices. It can be prepared very easily in less than half an hour. Personally, I find it perfect for a meatless meal. I like chunks of tomatoes, the hint of garlic, and a slight kick of red pepper spice. Look again at the snapshot. Perhaps it’s time to make marinara at your house.

ORIGINAL MARINARA SAUCE

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

28-ounce can Italian Roma tomatoes, diced with sauce

2 tablespoons fresh oregano

1/4 cup basil, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm olive oil. Add minced garlic; sauté for one minute until slightly brown, stirring occasionally. Add diced Roma tomatoes with sauce, fresh oregano, chopped basil, sea salt, marjoram, agave nectar, and red pepper flakes. Simmer sauce until thickened, approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Marinara sauce will be chunky and thick. Serve with cooked pasta.

Tomato Burrata Crostini

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Tomato Burrata Crostini! One look, one whiff, and one bite is all you need to be satisfied with this gastronomic appetizer. The intensity of slow-roasted tomatoes releases a tangy sweetness that marries well with the luscious creaminess of burrata cheese. Now balance that out with the subtle smokiness of paper-thin hard salami intermingling with aromatic basil leaves. You have just been transported to seventh heaven, inspired by the taste of Italy. Need I say more?

TOMATO BURRATA CROSTINI

Ingredients:

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 bakery flatbread, plain

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

8 ounces burrata cheese

8 thin slices of hard salami

Fresh basil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss tomatoes in olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Warm an iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add seasoned tomatoes. Roast tomatoes 15-20 minutes until they blacken slightly and begin to burst. Brush both sides of flatbread with olive oil. Cut flatbread into 8 pieces and place on a pizza pan. Sprinkle with oregano, marjoram, basil, and garlic powder. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove. Place burrata in a shallow dish. Divide it into 8 portions, cutting slowly to keep the creamy filling in the mozzarella shell. Transfer each portion to the flatbread, spreading burrata cheese as needed. Layer thin salami over burrata. Tear or fold to fit the shape of the flatbread. Add roasted tomatoes. Bake 5-8 minutes until edges begin to char. Remove crostini from oven. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve warm.

Tuscan Tomato Bisque

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Tuscan Tomato Bisque! Picture this. Autumn has set in, the air emits a crisp chill, and a warm fire is enough to make you snuggle inside for the night. For the robust concentrated flavor of tomatoes, slow-roasting them brings it all home. Earthy Italian herbs and spices add a little mystery to every bite. Cozy up to a bowl with your favorite afghan and reap the harvest.

TUSCAN TOMATO BISQUE

Ingredients:

6-8 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon basil

1 cup water

Fresh basil leaves

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Line baking sheet with foil. Arrange tomatoes, cut side up. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast tomatoes until they are soft, approximately 30 minutes. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Sauté onion and garlic until fragrant and soft, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 8 minutes longer. Add paprika, oregano, marjoram, and basil. Increase heat to medium-high and add roasted tomatoes. Add water. Stir. Reduce heat slightly to medium, cover, and simmer for another 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully transfer portions to a food processor. Pulse tomatoes until somewhat smooth. Repeat. Transfer soup back into the pan to reheat. Divide tomato bisque into soup bowls. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately with toasted bagels, crackers, or crusty bread.

Italian Stewed Tomatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Italian Stewed Tomatoes! Before the weather turns chilly, grab up all those garden tomatoes at the peak of ripeness. You’ll appreciate a little extra effort now for that rich intense flavor in the middle of winter. Slow-cooked and simmered to perfection, stewed tomatoes are the secret ingredient for tailgating chili, flavorful stews, and Italian pasta dishes. Go ahead, score big with the best-tasting slightly sweet firm texture of harvest stewed tomatoes.

ITALIAN STEWED TOMATOES

Ingredients:

19-20 Roma tomatoes

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon parsley

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 green pepper, chopped

Instructions:

Make a small X in the stem end of each Roma tomato. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for one minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of ice water for an ice bath. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and discard. Chop the tomatoes, removing the core, and place tomatoes in a large skillet. Add kosher salt, agave nectar, parsley, oregano, basil, marjoram, garlic powder, and green pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve fresh or freeze for later.

Roma Tomato Marinara

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Roma Tomato Marinara! Now here is a sauce that is as versatile as your food cravings. I like to make up a jar to keep on hand in the refrigerator. You never know when you’ll want it. Roma tomatoes have a texture that leaves your mouth yearning for yet another spoonful. Slather it on flatbread and add cheese for a late-night snack. Or use it as a base in a skillet lasagna. The balance of thick tomatoes, rich olive oil, and hint of basil make it my favorite for dunking buttery breadsticks. For kid-pleasing families as well as empty nesters, say “Yes” to homemade marinara.

ROMA TOMATO MARINARA

Ingredients:

1 sweet onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

28-ounce can Italian tomatoes, whole and peeled in basil sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder*

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon Herbs de Provence

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon olive oil

Instructions:

In an iron skillet over medium heat, warm two tablespoons olive oil. Add chopped onions and sauté until soft, approximately 5 minutes. Add Italian tomatoes. Gently, using the back of a wooden spoon, press the tomatoes to crush. Sprinkle with garlic powder, oregano, marjoram, basil, Herbes de Provence, sea salt, cracked black pepper, agave nectar, and one teaspoon olive oil. Stir to blend. Bring to a boil; reduce to simmer. Cook for 20 minutes on Simmer or until sauce becomes thicker. Spoon over pasta, chicken, meatballs, or bread. Top with cheese of choice.

*Four minced garlic cloves may be substituted for garlic powder.

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.

Za’atar Avocado Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Za’atar Avocado Salad! Za’atar is one of those words that sounds mystical and magical to me, like “Abracadabra” or “Shazaam”. Sprinkling this Middle Eastern spice on fresh salads, meat dishes, or even homemade hummus guarantees to mysteriously transport you to faraway lands. Open the jar and sprinkle a little bit onto the palm of your hand. Dip your tongue into the blend of spices. Taste that earthiness? It’s cumin and toasted sesame. You already detect the savory flavors of oregano, marjoram, and thyme. But what is that unexpected tanginess? Can you guess? It’s sumac, the secret ingredient. Za’atar is a one-spice wonder you may want to sprinkle into olive oil to slather onto focaccia bread. Do it. Once you try it, watch it disappear. It’s that good.

ZA’ATAR AVOCADO SALAD

Ingredients:

1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon lime juice

3 hearts of palm, cut into thin rounds

1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed

2 radishes, sliced thin

1 tablespoon za’atar seasoning

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon raw honey

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Grated zest of lemon, for garnish

Instructions:

Arrange the avocado slices in a single layer on a platter. Drizzle lemon juice over slices. Scatter the hearts of palm over the avocados. Top with shelled edamame. Insert sliced radishes throughout. Sprinkle za’atar seasoning over all. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, rice vinegar, and raw honey until blended. Season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Spoon the dressing over the salad. Garnish with lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Pinto Bean Cottage Ham Stew

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Pinto Bean Cottage Ham Stew! Whenever I make a main course meat, I usually have enough excess to freeze a portion or two for recipes down the road. It keeps us from growing weary of eating the same thing over and over until it’s gone. This recipe is one of those “second meals” from the cottage ham dinner recently. It can easily be substituted with ham or completely omitted for a vegetarian meal. It’s nice to have options, isn’t it?

PINTO BEAN COTTAGE HAM STEW

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1/4 cup celery, diced

6 mini carrots, sliced

15-ounce can pinto beans, with liquid

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon thyme

2 teaspoons liquid smoke

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups water or broth from cottage ham*

1 cup cottage ham, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces

1-2 bay leaves

Instructions:

In an iron skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion, diced celery, and sliced carrots. Cook 10 minutes, or until tender. Add the pinto beans with liquid, garlic powder, marjoram, thyme, liquid smoke, and black pepper. Stir. Slowly add water and cottage ham pieces. Stir to combine. Place the bay leaves on top. Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover. Cook for 30 minutes. For a thicker stew, lightly mash some of the pinto beans. Remove bay leaves before serving.

*Broth was saved from the original preparation of the cottage ham.

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Yogurt Tomato Bisque

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Yogurt Tomato Bisque! Before you turn up your nose at the sound of yogurt, hear me out. Here’s a couple of facts you may not have heard about yogurt. Number One, it’s healthy. Number Two, it makes the soup creamier, which is always a plus in my opinion. Number Three, Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as regular yogurt. And, Number Four, it has about half as many carbs, if that’s something that is important to you. All together, that makes it a Superfood. Yada-yada-yada. In the end, what it all comes down to is flavor. Tomatoes can be sweet, so the yogurt adds a little tang, which goes well with a dab of butter. Add herbs and cheese with a slice of garlic toast and you have the “pièce de résistance”. Nicely done.

YOGURT TOMATO BISQUE

Ingredients:

10-12 plum tomatoes, cut in half

1 sweet onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup Greek yogurt

Dab of butter

Colby cheese, finely shredded

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Place plum tomatoes and chopped onions in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with black pepper, sea salt, basil, oregano, and garlic powder. Spread onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Roast 30 minutes until browned. Remove from oven. Cool slightly. Transfer roasted vegetables to a food processor to purée. In a stock pot, combine vegetable broth and puréed tomatoes. Stir well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Gently fold in Greek yogurt. Divide into soup bowls. Garnish with a dab of butter and finely shredded Colby cheese. Sprinkle with marjoram. Serve with garlic toast.