Yummy Spud Fries

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Yummy Spud Fries! Choose a healthier way to have your fries and eat them, too. Take regular potatoes, preferably russet, cut them into thick strips leaving the skin on, and bake until crispy before adding a mound of toppings. I use both grated and shaved Parmesan cheese. You’ll know perfection when the outside is a lovely sunset golden color. One bite reveals a fluffy potato within. Now dunk them in sour cream and chives or slather on thick tomato ketchup. Mmmmm.

YUMMY SPUD FRIES

Ingredients:

4 russet potatoes, washed and cut into thick strips

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Garnish with bacon crumbles

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Put potato strips in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat. Season with garlic powder, thyme, and seasoned salt. Coat well. Transfer potatoes to a nonstick baking sheet. Spread into a single layer. Reserve oil in bowl. Bake 15 minutes. Turn potatoes and bake 15 minutes longer. Transfer potatoes back into the bowl with reserved olive oil. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. Coat well. Layer fries onto baking sheet. Return to oven for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Before serving sprinkle spud fries with shaved Parmesan cheese and bacon crumbles. Serve immediately.

Xavier Grilled Steak

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Xavier Grilled Steak! Just when you thought a juicy New York Strip steak couldn’t get any better, here you go. Grilled to taste, smothered in gooey Swiss cheese and crowned with fresh asparagus spears is a meal-in-one guaranteed to make anyone feel like royalty. For those who love onions, take it one step further. Sprinkle crispy French-fried onions over all before serving. Looks good, doesn’t it? Try not to stare.

XAVIER GRILLED STEAK

Ingredients:

2 New York Strip steaks, 1 1/2 inches thick

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

10 asparagus spears, ends trimmed

4 slices Swiss cheese

1/4 cup French-fried onions

Instructions:

Rub both sides of the New York Strip steak with olive oil. Season to taste with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place in a shallow dish. Marinate steak for 45 minutes in the refrigerator, turning once. Remove from refrigerator to allow meat to come to room temperature, approximately 15 minutes. Preheat outdoor grill. Cook steaks over medium heat 4-5 minutes until slightly charred. Turn the steaks over and grill 3 minutes longer for medium-rare, 5 minutes longer for medium, or 8 minutes longer for medium-well. Meanwhile to steam asparagus spears, bring water to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Place asparagus spears into the steamer basket. Cover and steam approximately 3-5 minutes until asparagus turns bright green, but is still tender. Remove from steamer. When steaks are cooked to perfection, place them on a platter to rest so the juices are absorbed. (This is the secret to juicy steak.) While the meat is resting, place two slices of Swiss cheese on each. Divide asparagus spears between them. Tent with foil. Let rest 5-7 minutes. Top with crispy French-fried onions before serving.

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.

New Potato Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: New Potato Salad! If I said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: the French have it going on! The more I explore their recipes, the more I feel like a gourmet chef. You can, too. Trust me. When I tell you I’m going to have you make potato salad by skipping the mayo, just pretend you didn’t hear me and forge ahead. The results are worth it. Don’t make a big deal when you serve it as a side dish. You’re husband will do that for you. Husband-tested, rave reviews!

NEW POTATO SALAD

1 pound red-skinned new potatoes

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons garlic red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Cracked black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup celery hearts, thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh chervil, coarsely chopped

Instructions:

Place quartered potatoes, skin on, in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Add sea salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium-low, and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15-20 minutes. For dressing, combine olive oil, garlic red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper. Whisk until blended. When potatoes are cooked, drain well. Transfer them to a bowl to cool. Pour the dressing over the potatoes. Add celery and chervil, gently folding to blend flavors. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mediterranean Summertime Tomatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Mediterranean Summertime Tomatoes! Do you say “to-may-toe” or “to-mah-toe”? Like it really matters when you sink your teeth into its meaty flesh as the juice runs down your chin. Face it, summer is all about the luscious tomato. Gardeners go crazy planting, watering, weeding, and coaxing the plants’ climbing tendrils to wind within the wire baskets so when the vine becomes heavy with fruit (yes, actually the tomato IS a fruit) you’ll reap the harvest. After all, everyone loves a neighbor who grows, and shares, garden tomatoes.

MEDITERRANEAN SUMMERTIME TOMATOES

Ingredients:

3 Roma tomatoes, sliced

2 Campari tomatoes, sliced

1 cup yellow mini tomatoes, halved

1 red onion, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence, crushed

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Sea salt to taste

Anchovy-stuffed olives (optional)

Fresh basil for garnish

1 loaf French bread

Instructions:

Core and slice tomatoes. Arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle red onion over the tomatoes. Whisk together the olive oil, Herbes de Provence, garlic powder, and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over the tomatoes and onions. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with anchovy-stuffed green olives and fresh basil. Dip French bread in the marinade and eat with the tomatoes.*

*Serving Suggestion: Begin with a bed of baby spinach leaves for a complete meal.

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.

Urban Taco Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Urban Taco Pizza! If you’re caught between the Taco/Pizza dilemma of what to have for dinner, simply combine the two for a taste extravaganza. Everyone wins. By using a prepared crust, taco seasoning packet, and bottled salsa, dinner can be ready in as fast as 30 minutes. For the cooking enthusiast, I know you already have all the homemade ingredients on hand. Either way, time is valuable in a life of constant motion. Do yourself a favor and prepare a healthy option at home. It’s easy, delicious, and most of all kid-friendly!

URBAN TACO PIZZA

Ingredients:

1 prepared pizza crust, any variety

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1 pound lean ground beef

1-ounce packet taco seasoning mix

1 cup salsa plus more for topping

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 cup Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup Spring Mix salad greens

1-2 tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup slices black olives

Crushed tortilla chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a pizza pan with nonstick oil. Sprinkle cornmeal on pan. Cover with pizza dough. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. In a skillet, cook ground beef until crumbly. Add taco seasoning mix. Mix well. Cover pizza dough with 1 cup salsa. Layer ground beef mixture, spreading almost to the edge. Top with both cheeses. Bake 15-18 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is completely melted. Remove from oven. Top with mixed salad greens, chopped tomatoes, and sliced black olives. Spoon on more salsa, to taste.

Zinfandel Pairings

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Zinfandel Pairings! Just when I thought I’d seen it all, there in the produce department perched on the bottom shelf below its green and red cousins, was a small bin of larger-than-life black seedless grapes. Immediately I was intrigued. The hand-scribbled sign boasted sweet and tart beyond your wildest dreams. That’s it. Nothing more than “Product of USA” on the package. It didn’t matter. It was love-at-first-sight. I knew immediately that a Zinfandel wine and tangy cheese would join the impromptu Date Night that was forming in my mind. Later on, after I got home, I read all kinds of powerful benefits these precious little gems do for the body, mind, and soul. What a perfect prologue for guilt-free delicacies.

ZINFANDEL PAIRINGS

Ingredients:

1 pound black seedless grapes

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4 ounces feta cheese, block

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 cup honeycomb

Multigrain French Bread slices, lightly toasted

Raw Honey, for drizzling

Lemon Thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. In a small dish, combine olive oil, sugar, kosher salt, and black pepper. Wash cluster of black grapes; pat dry. Place grapes on the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, generously coat the grapes with the olive oil mixture. Roast for 30 minutes. Grapes will release juice and begin to wrinkle. Remove pan from oven to cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Break the feta cheese into rough chunks. Transfer to a baking dish sprayed with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon zest. Drizzle with raw honey. Bake for 15 minutes until softened. Broil until slightly golden. Watch carefully. To serve, spread warm cheese on toasted baguette slices. Top with a piece of honeycomb. Place a roasted grape over the cheese. Drizzle with raw honey. Garnish with lemon thyme. Serve with a slightly chilled glass of red Zinfandel.

Kielbasa Grilled Romaine

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Kielbasa Grilled Romaine! When the sun comes out and the wind dies down, it’s not unusual to see Northerners uncover the gas grill for a momentary glimpse of Summer. Everyone needs a reprieve from the winter doldrums, right? Nothing works better than a protein-rich complex carbohydrate meal, in my opinion. And grilled foods definitely lift the mood like a breath of fresh air. Sound painless? It pretty much is. Even the birds are chirping louder than usual.

KIELBASA GRILLED ROMAINE

Ingredients:

1 pound kielbasa sausage link

2 romaine hearts

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

4 ounces parmesan cheese, crumbled

Instructions:

Remove kielbasa sausage link from package. Rinse and pat dry. Transfer to a platter. Rinse romaine lettuce hearts. Pat dry. Trim the end stalks, leaving enough to keep the bunches intact. Transfer to a platter. In a small dish, combine olive oil, seasoned salt, garlic and herb seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Using a silicone brush, coat the leaves of the romaine hearts, inside and out with the olive mixture. Halve the cherry tomatoes; place in a serving bowl. Preheat the outdoor grill on High setting. Using tongs, transfer the seasoned romaine lettuce hearts directly to the grill. Repeat with kielbasa sausage link. Grill for 3 minutes. Flip the romaine lettuce and grill 2 minutes longer. Rotate the kielbasa sausage for even browning. Remove all to clean platters. To serve, place charred romaine lettuce hearts on a dinner plate. Divide the kielbasa sausage between plates. Add cherry tomato halves. Top with crumbled parmesan cheese. Drizzle with remaining olive oil mixture. Serve immediately.