What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Utmost Prosciutto Plate! Treat yourself right by going the extra mile in gourmet treats. Something so simple, yet sublime, can change a mood from sour to exciting. We all need something to look forward to. Am I right? Fresh mozzarella is usually sold in a brine or water solution to retain its moisture, texture, and soft shape. Let it drain for a few minutes on paper towels; then dab dry and slice. By drizzling a rich olive oil over the mozzarella to enhance that delicate milky flavor, the buttery essence peeks through. Add a leaf or two of fresh basil to enrich the nutritive value. As you sit there nibbling on a slice of prosciutto, pat yourself on the back for enduring the tough times we’ve been through recently. Our home is a safe haven and we can get through whatever storm is next.
UTMOST PROSCIUTTO PLATE
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, room temperature
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon dried basil
3 ounces old world prosciutto, sliced
7 ounces rustic crostini crackers
4 ounces organic green olives, pitted
Drain mozzarella cheese for a few minutes on paper towels; then dab dry and slice. Transfer to a platter. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with dried basil. Arrange sliced prosciutto and crostini crackers around cheese. Add pitted green olives. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve with Pinot Grigio.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Hummus in Hindsight (without tahini)! Let’s spread the news: rules are meant to be broken. I put off making hummus because I had no tahini, sesame seed paste, in my kitchen. The last time I needed it I became frustrated because I couldn’t find it in the grocery stores. So I made it myself. The trouble is homemade tahini can be pricey as well as wasteful if you don’t use it all before it becomes bitter. Not cool. Now you have an alternative. Lose the tahini without sacrificing the taste. By adding sesame oil and spices, you still end up with a smooth, creamy paste to smear onto pita bread. And isn’t that the point?
HUMMUS IN HINDSIGHT (without tahini)
15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Drizzle of sesame oil, for topping
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Red pepper bits, for garnish
Chives, for garnish
Using a food processor, pulse the chickpeas until coarse. With the machine running, add the olive oil, sesame oil, and lemon juice until smooth and creamy. Fold in the ground cumin, Himalayan pink salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Stir well to combine. Transfer to a shallow dish. Drizzle hummus with sesame oil. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Garnish with red pepper bits and sliced chives. Serve with celery sticks, red pepper strips, and pita bread.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Neapolitan Tomato Cheese Pizza! Before you roll your eyes, let me explain about Neapolitan pizza. The dough itself is made of four basic ingredients. I like that. The Italian flour makes the dough stretchy and easy to work into shape with your fingers. If you cannot find Italian flour, bread flour is an acceptable substitute. I went on a quest to find it, though. A Neapolitan pizza is made to be eaten with a knife and fork as a personal pan pizza. And it is not precut, simply because the center of the bottom crust is soft and chewy. Trust me, it’s worth every bite. This dough recipe will make six individual servings of thin crust pizza. Bellissimo!
NEAPOLITAN TOMATO CHEESE PIZZA
4 cups Italian “00” flour plus extra flour for dusting
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/3 cups water
1/2 cup tomato sauce
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced rounds
6 basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Combine flour, sea salt, yeast, and water into a Bread Machine. Set to “Dough”. When finished, divide dough into 6 portions, cover each in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 72 hours. Remove 45 minutes prior to preparation for dough to come to room temperature. Transfer one ball of dough to a medium bowl that has a handful of flour in it. Flip to coat. Pat off excess flour and transfer it to a floured surface. Gently stretch dough, with fingertips, into a circle. Pick it up and place it on a sheet of parchment paper. With one hand in the center of the dough round, use the other hand to stretch the edge outward without tearing, rotating as needed. Place the oven rack on its highest setting. You should still be able to place an iron skillet on it. If not, lower the rack. Preheat the Broiler on High. Dust the iron skillet with flour; tap out excess. Heat the empty skillet until it is smoking lightly, approximately 3 minutes. Transfer dough to the skillet. Moving quickly, top the dough with tomato sauce, mozzarella slices, and fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle with kosher salt and drizzle with olive oil. Transfer skillet back to the broiler and cook until pizza is puffed and charred in spots, up to 4 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove from oven. Serve immediately. For more than one pizza, repeat process.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Quickly-Grilled Pork Loin Chops! Uncover the grill for another mouth-watering main course that is sure to please. Imagine the sound of a sizzle soon followed by an aroma-filled cloud of char-grilled pork that is enough to make your stomach growl. Within minutes, a tender moist slice is tested and savored before anything else.
QUICKLY-GRILLED PORK LOIN CHOPS
4 bone-in pork loin chops, center cut 3/4″ thick
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Herb and Garlic seasoning*
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 tablespoon butter, unsalted
Rosemary sprigs to garnish
Place 2 tablespoons olive oil in a shallow dish. Sprinkle with half the Mrs. Dash Herb and Garlic seasoning plus the seasoned salt. Place pork loin chops in a single layer, pressing down slightly to absorb the spices. Pour remaining olive oil over top; sprinkle with seasonings. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour. Remove dish from refrigerator 15 minutes before grilling. Preheat grill on medium-high heat, about 375°. Cook pork loins for 6 minutes per side for 3/4″ chops. Turn only once. Cut time in half for thinner chops. Discard marinade. Do not over cook. The internal color of cooked pork is white fading to light pink in the center. Transfer pork loin chops to a serving platter; let rest for 10 minutes before serving. This results in juicier meat. Garnish with a dab of butter and rosemary sprigs.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Oil & Vinegar Herbed Tomatoes! Be amazed at the rich and vibrant colors of autumn in this tantalizing harvest side dish of slow-roasted tomatoes. It may become love at first bite. Inspired by herbs from the south of France, first-press olive oil from the Italian countryside, and garden fresh tomatoes from local farms, this dish is sure to please. Don’t take my word for it. Be transformed.
OIL & VINEGAR HERBED TOMATOES
2 pints of tomatoes, assorted sizes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins sauce
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 375°. In a shallow dish, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Lee & Perrins sauce, herbs de Provence, kosher salt, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Whisk until incorporated. Cut the tomatoes in half from end to end. Place cut side down in the olive oil mixture. After a few minutes, turning cut side up, transfer tomatoes to an iron skillet. Arrange in a single layer. Drizzle extra olive oil mixture over all the tomatoes. Bake 20 minutes. Remove iron skillet from oven and snip fresh basil over the tomatoes. Bake 10 minutes longer or until tomatoes are soft and fragrant. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Italian Bread Salad! Panzanella. Travel with me to Tuscany for a delightful dinner on a gardened terrace. Indulge in a bountiful salad of artisan bread, juicy tomatoes, sweet onions, and green bell peppers. Appreciate the herbs de Provence perfectly blended with garlic wine vinegar whisked in extra-virgin olive oil. It’s enough to make you swoon. The ingredients are very forgiving. Tomatoes a little soft? Has the bread gone stale? No worries. This classic Italian meal was originally meant to be eaten that way. It’s truly amazing!
ITALIAN BREAD SALAD
1-pound loaf artisan bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence, crushed
8 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into strips
1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine garlic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
Cracked black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 300°. Slice and cube the bread in bite-size pieces, leaving crusts on. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Form a single layer of bread cubes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with Herbs de Provence. Bake 10 minutes; flip over and bake 10 minutes longer. Cool. For dressing, whisk together olive oil, red wine garlic vinegar, and sea salt. In a large salad bowl, combine bread with tomatoes, green pepper, and onion. Pour vinaigrette over all and toss to coat. Refrigerate for one hour before serving. Stir occasionally to blend flavors. Just before serving, gently toss with fresh basil. Add cracked black pepper to taste.
* Serving suggestion: Italian Bread Salad is best eaten the day it is made.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Cheesy Burrata! For those of you who are unfamiliar with Burrata cheese, allow me to tell you a little bit about it. Imagine a soft delicate layer of mozzarella cheese stretched thin like a piece of hand-formed pie dough. It is placed into a bowl so the center can be filled like a porcelain white water balloon. Inside is heavy cream as rich as butter and luscious cheese curds. The pouch is then tightly tied at the top to ensure maximum freshness. The taste is extraordinary. It’s enough to make you roll your eyes and swoon.
8 ounce Burrata cheese
Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil
Herbs de Provence
Sea salt to taste
Place the Burrata cheese on a platter surrounded by fresh basil and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Add a sprinkling of Herbs de Provence and sea salt to taste. Serve with crusty artisan breads or crackers.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Splatter Pan Roasted Peppers! There’s something comforting about roasted vegetables. Perhaps it’s the amazing flavor as a result of dry oven heat. Ever notice that slightly caramelized texture? Sometimes it results in a toasted nutty-like flavor. Sweetness piques, especially in tomatoes. The soft brown garlic bulbs surprised me most of all. I mashed one against the roof of my mouth. The raw bitterness had been replaced with a savory sweetness that brought sheer pleasure to my taste buds. No wonder people say food can produce a seductive spark. Am I the last one to discover this about roasted garlic?
SPLATTER PAN ROASTED PEPPERS
3 green bell peppers, seeded and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
24 ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, halved
2 tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon basil, crushed
Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a splatter pan with nonstick oil. Arrange green peppers, cut side up to fit. Brush the peppers, inside and out with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Divide mozzarella cheese between peppers. Arrange cherry tomatoes so they fill each pepper “boat” to overflowing. As they roast the tomatoes will shrink in size. Tuck garlic cloves in between the tomatoes. Finish with capers. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Sprinkle crushed basil over all. Bake 40-45 minutes. Allow roasted peppers to cool to room temperature before serving.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Kid-Friendly Breadsticks & Knots! Here’s a treat that will get your kids involved in cooking for a tasty after school snack. I learned a long time ago, when the kids get cooking, they get pretty excited about the results. By choosing a prepared pizza crust from the dairy section of the grocery store, there’s no time needed for the dough to rise. Plus, moms and dads can be particular about the ingredients. I chose a European bakery-style dough that had no artificial flavors or colors, no high fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, and no bleach flour. It was made with olive oil and suitable for vegetarians. It even came with parchment paper for baking. Now you’re talking!
KID-FRIENDLY BREADSTICKS & KNOTS
14-ounce package of refrigerated classic pizza dough, family-style crust
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Everything But Bagel seasoning
1 teaspoon dill weed
1-2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with a silpat mat or parchment paper. Unroll pizza dough. Cut into 12 strips. Twist the dough into ropes before laying them on the baking sheet. If you prefer knots, tie the dough as you would a pretzel; over, under, and through. Place them on the baking sheet. Lightly brush breadsticks and knots with olive oil. Sprinkle on Everything But Bagel seasoning and dill weed. Bake 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over all. Serve warm.