Vinaigrette Vendetta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Vinaigrette Vendetta! Every once in awhile it’s nice to step up your game at mealtime. So often we go out to a restaurant and then feel like everything at home is just humdrum and boring. Not true. By changing the ingredients, a completely different flavor is born. Take advantage of the olive oil gourmet shoppes popping up all over. Consultants are eager to have you taste flavored olive oils paired with specialty balsamic vinegars. They will astound you. Flavors like lemon with pomegranate or lime with strawberry are only the beginning. Think about bacon olive oil with maple balsamic. Mmmm. Have I piqued your curiosity?

VINAIGRETTE VENDETTA

Ingredients:

1/4 cup lime olive oil

1/4 cup strawberry balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon red onion, minced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons wildflower honey

1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Instructions:

Combine lime olive oil, strawberry balsamic vinegar, red onion, Dijon mustard, wildflower honey, minced garlic, kosher salt, and white pepper in a small bowl. Whisk together until mixed. Pour into a cruet with a stopper. Store in the refrigerator.

Uber Hasselback Caprese Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Uber Hasselback Caprese Salad! Want to do something fancy-schmancy? Take ordinary garden Roma tomatoes (the oval kind) and cut them in such a way that they fan out a little bit like an accordion. Then, using your fingers, tuck slices of cheese and fresh herbs in between. It’s so simple, yet looks incredibly delish as a side salad. This is why we like food so much. It becomes a dining experience versus chowing down.

UBER HASSELBACK CAPRESE SALAD

Ingredients:

3 Roma tomatoes

3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

13-16 fresh basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette

Instructions:

Judging by the size of each tomato, make 4-5 slices, stopping before the knife cuts completely through. Transfer tomatoes to a serving dish. Fill each slit with a mozzarella slice. Tuck in spaces with fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle Everything But Bagel seasoning over all. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.

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.

Lime Cilantro Dressing

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Lime Cilantro Dressing! The first time I tasted this unique dressing with a southwestern kick, I wanted to put down my fork and literally guzzle it by the spoonful. Then again, I’m a fan of fresh cilantro. It’s one of those herbs, I’ve discovered, people either love it or hate it. If you can’t handle it….well, I’ll see you tomorrow when I bake something sweet and decadent. For those who choose to remain, grab a spoon and hang on!

LIME CILANTRO DRESSING

Ingredients:

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and cut in quarters

1 garlic clove

3/4 teaspoon fresh ginger root

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/3 cup natural honey

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, packed

1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions:

Combine the jalapeño pepper, garlic clove, and ginger root into a mini chopper. Pulse until finely chopped. Add lime juice, natural honey, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt. Pulse to mix. Add cilantro leaves. Pulse a little longer to blend. With the mini chopper on Low, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the dressing until it is completely blended. It is now ready to serve.

Ketchup From Scratch

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Ketchup From Scratch! Many gourmet burger joints are joining the health revolution by opting out with in-house condiments. For those who truly appreciate knowing exactly what’s in the food they eat, here is a novel recipe for homemade ketchup without high fructose corn syrup and extra preservatives. It’s incredibly simple to make and can be prepared in about 30 minutes. The taste, you ask? OMG! I never thought I’d actually consider ketchup a veggie, but now I do. Enough said.

KETCHUP FROM SCRATCH

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon ginger, peeled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

28-ounce can whole Italian Roma tomatoes in juice

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Warm olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onions. Cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add chopped garlic, chopped ginger, red pepper flakes, and allspice. Cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste; stir for 2 minutes. Add the Italian Roma tomatoes in juice, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and black pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The ketchup will thicken and appear shiny. Remove from heat. Blend until smooth. Cool to room temperature and then store in the refrigerator.

Garlic Roasted Thyme Tomatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Garlic Roasted Thyme Tomatoes! Turn ordinary tomatoes into a savory side dish with earthy vigor. Have you experienced roasted garlic lately? Don’t hate me if I describe it as smooth and sweet as a dab of butter. Having said that, I can tell by the look in your eye, you’re gonna roast more garlic cloves than I pictured here. Go for it. By quick-roasting vegetables on high heat in the oven, you’ll notice a natural hint of smokiness that satisfies the palate. Although they turn from shiny smooth to a dull luster when finished, the taste is what will win you over. I promise you this, here’s a down-home recipe that will not disappoint.

GARLIC ROASTED THYME TOMATOES

Ingredients:

6 medium tomatoes

6 cloves garlic, peeled

5 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 cup olive oil

Kosher salt

Cracked black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Rub tomatoes with olive oil and place in a baking pan. Add garlic cloves and thyme sprigs. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Season, to taste, with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Bake 25-30 minutes, occasionally brushing tomatoes with olive oil from the pan. Skins may split. Remove from oven. Spoon tomatoes, garlic, and thyme into serving bowls. Drizzle with pan juices. Serve warm.

X-Quisite Caesar Salad Dressing

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: X-quisite Caesar Salad Dressing! Ever wonder why restaurants add an upcharge when customers order a Caesar Salad? One of the reasons is the time involved. Fine restaurants will have the server make it table-side for presentation. That’s pretty cool. Another reason is the high quality of ingredients required, especially if you don’t cut corners. Romaine is the lettuce of choice, not iceberg. Anchovies are also a key ingredient, not sardines. Do you see a pattern here? Plus olive oil, parmesan cheese, and homemade croutons are in there. I see you nodding your head in agreement. Naturally, this all adds up for the restaurant so they need to pass it along to you. That’s why I’m here to offer you a tasty alternative. Just like cooking at home is less expensive than eating out, every once in awhile you get the urge to satisfy that food craving right where you live. Make sense?

X-QUISITE CAESAR SALAD DRESSING

Ingredients:

1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 anchovies

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

Romaine lettuce, gently torn

Buttered croutons*

Parmesan cheese, shaved

Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste

Instructions:

Combine grated parmesan cheese, minced garlic, lemon juice, anchovies, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce in a food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides. Run on Low speed. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil another 30 seconds until thick and creamy. Divide the torn romaine lettuce between salad plates. Add buttered croutons. Drizzle Caesar Salad Dressing over all. Top with shaved parmesan cheese. Garnish with a sprinkling of Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste. Serve immediately.

*To make buttered croutons, warm 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce in a medium skillet. Add 3 cups of day-old artisan bread cubes or sliced bagel pieces. Cook over medium heat, gently tossing to coat, until croutons are golden brown and crisp. Transfer to paper towel-lined platter. Lightly season with Everything But Bagel seasoning.

Upside Down Tomato Tart

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Upside Down Tomato Tart! If I were a fairy princess, in the Land of Make Believe, I would wrap myself in puff pastry and nibble my way out. Just so you know…puff pastry is paper-thin layers of buttery dough. It’s like a chef’s all-time secret never-fail pastry dough that practically makes everything look and taste gourmet. When baked, the layers of butter release steam that turns the dough light and flaky. Thank goodness it is sold prepackaged in the freezer section of most grocery stores. All you need to do is let it thaw for about 45 minutes and it’s ready to be transformed into your latest craving. I’ve heard it makes an incredible pizza dough, so I see that on my list of recipes soon. In the meantime, take advantage of tomato season. This recipe can slay dragons.

UPSIDE DOWN TOMATO TART

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 cup yellow sun gold tomatoes, cut in half

4 small green tomatoes, quartered

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon basil

6 ounces provolone cheese, shredded

1 sheet puff pastry, room temperature

1 teaspoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

Basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Reduce to simmer. Add cherry tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, green tomatoes, oregano, marjoram, garlic powder, and basil. Coat well. Cover and cook until tomatoes are slightly softened, about 10 minutes. Set aside. Spray an iron skillet with nonstick oil. Transfer tomato mixture to skillet. Layer with shredded provolone cheese. Place puff pastry on top. Trim extra dough with kitchen knife. Bake 25-30 minutes or until dough is golden brown. Let cool 5-7 minutes. Invert tart onto a plate or pizza stone.* Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Garnish with basil leaves. Serve warm.

*Once inverted onto a pizza stone, I wanted the dough a little charred. I set the oven to Broil, placed it back inside, and let the edges of the tart darken further. Watch carefully!

Ramen Noodle Shrimp and Egg

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Ramen Noodle Shrimp and Egg! So often, in college, a regular diet may consist of ramen noodles in lieu of the standardized meal plan. I remember buying ramen noodles by the case for my son during his freshman and sophomore years. Sure, it stretches the budget for other essentials, but in the long run if you can ditch the salt-laden seasoning packet and add a few veggies, it’ll hike the nutritional value with a burst of flavor as well. Try sautéed shrimp and leeks. (Frozen vegetables are also a cheap option because a little goes a long way.) Add red pepper flakes for spice and toasted sesame seeds for crunch. It transforms the dish into a main course meal.

RAMEN NOODLE SHRIMP AND EGG

Ingredients:

6-10 frozen precooked jumbo shrimp, thawed

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ginger, minced

1/2 cup leeks, sliced

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 package ramen noodles, discard seasoning packet

2 eggs, soft-boiled and cut in half

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Sesame oil, to taste

Garlic and onion chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Warm one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add jumbo shrimp. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Turn to coat both sides. Sauté shrimp 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Warm one more tablespoon olive oil in skillet. Add minced garlic, minced ginger, and sliced leeks. Stir for one minute. Add chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add ramen noodles. Using a fork, break noodles apart after 2 minutes. When done, transfer noodles to two soup bowls. Divide the broth mixture between them. Add sautéed shrimp and sift-boiled eggs. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Drizzle with sesame oil. Garnish with garlic and onion chives. Serve immediately.