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.

Heirloom Tomato Cheese Tart

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Heirloom Tomato Cheese Tart! The secret is in the cheese. I’m a fanatic when it comes to gourmet cheeses. I like the idea of something different and can often imagine the skilled cheesemakers concocting special blends with creamy textures, dried herbs, buttery hints, and natural aging. This cheese in particular has the qualities of cheddar and gruyère giving it a complex buttery nut flavor. Is it any wonder the earthy garden tomatoes pair so well with it. Some might say it’s on its way to becoming a time-honored tradition.

HEIRLOOM TOMATO CHEESE TART

Ingredients:

2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon kosher salt

I sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

1/2 pound gourmet pesto cheese, grated

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped

Olive oil, for drizzling

Instructions:

Arrange tomatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Allow to rest for 20 minutes to release juices. Pat dry. Preheat oven to 400°. On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry into a 10”x13” rectangle. Transfer dough to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Using a paring knife, lightly trace a shallow border one inch from the edge. Do not cut through. Prick the inner rectangle all over with a fork. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Bake until lightly golden, 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven. Scatter cheese over dough, stopping at the perforated edge. Arrange large and small tomatoes over top. Scatter chopped oregano over tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake 20-30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Garlic Bulbs Roasted

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Garlic Bulbs Roasted! Do you like the smell of garlic? Do you find it sweet, alluring, pleasant, pungent, or exciting? If garlic is your friend, get ready for a road trip you will long remember. Roasted garlic cloves could make you feel extra special. Especially slathered across a slice of crusty artisan bread. When garlic bulbs are slow-roasted in the oven, they become soft, caramelized, and almost sweet. The tantalizing aroma will practically drive you crazy. As you wait with anticipation, don’t be surprised if you find your mouth watering just a bit. Be patient. Once done, the tender golden cloves collapse and spread like butter. It is definitely worth the time spent in expectation.

GARLIC BULBS ROASTED

Ingredients:

3 garlic bulbs

3 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon rosemary leaves

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Peel away outside loose layers. Slice 1/4 off the top of each garlic bulb to expose the cloves. Place cut side up on a sheet of foil. Drizzle olive oil over each. Season with sea salt, cracked black pepper, and rosemary leaves. Fold foil overtop the garlic, and place in an ovenproof dish. Roast for 45 minutes. Cloves will begin to soften and turn golden in color. Remove from oven. Cool slightly. Gently squeeze the cloves to push them out or use a pointed butter knife. Spread mashed garlic on crusty artisan breads and crackers.

Utmost Prosciutto Plate

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Hummus in Hindsight (without tahini)

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)

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Neapolitan Tomato Cheese Pizza

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Quickly Grilled Pork Loin Chops

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Oil and Vinegar Herbed Tomatoes

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

Ingredients:

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

Fresh basil

Instructions:

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.