What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Infused-Garlic Olive Oil! If you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit a specialty store that sells infused olive oils and flavored vinegars, you understand the value of the tasting bar within. Tasting is believing, in my opinion, especially when it’s difficult to narrow down the choices. My favorites so far are lemon extra virgin olive oil and strawberry balsamic vinegar or extra virgin lime infused olive oil and pomegranate balsamic vinegar. Of course, Italian balsamic vinegar and garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil are staples in my kitchen. Think about it a minute. Garlic tastes wonderful on crusty breads, drizzled over roasted vegetables, marinated in meats, and stirred into homemade sauces. When making your own infused olive oil, repeat after me, “Always use extra virgin olive oil.” EVOO is made from pure, cold-pressed olives without adding processed oils. The test is proven when olive oil is refrigerated. It will solidify like butter. If it doesn’t, it is unrefined and will remain liquid. Don’t be fooled.
INFUSED-GARLIC OLIVE OIL
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Sterilize a glass jar, with airtight lid, and set aside. Warm olive oil, in a small saucepan, over low heat only. Remove from heat when the oil is barely warm to the touch. Do not boil. Add garlic cloves. Set aside for 24 hours. At that time, pour the olive oil through a fine strainer into the sterilized jar. Discard garlic cloves. Seal the jar. Store infused oil in the refrigerator until ready to use.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Egg & Sweet Potato Boats! Breakfast just got more interesting. And so did you. Because today, this Paleo breakfast may leave you feeling like a superhero, “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”. It not only gives you a nutrient-rich vegetable, it also provides protein in the animal form of bacon and eggs! That fact alone ups your intake of vitamins and minerals without leaving you feeling meh and bloated. Digestion improves as energy levels rise, which leaves me asking one final question: Which superhero are you?
EGG & SWEET POTATO BOATS
1 large sweet potato, halved, washed and patted dry
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs
2 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
Sriracha, to taste
Fresh oregano, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Once the sweet potatoes have been washed and patted dry, rub skins with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and place cut side down in a shallow pan that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Bake for about one hour, or until tender. Remove sweet potatoes from oven. With tongs, flip sweet potatoes over so skin side is down. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the center to form a well for one egg. Crack an egg into each sweet potato boat. Return pan to oven; bake 20 minutes, or until eggs are set. Remove from oven. Crumble bacon over top. Drizzle with sriracha sauce. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Yarrow Bowtie Pasta! Every time I passed by my front porch, I got a pleasant whiff of licorice. It seemed to come and go, but I couldn’t figure out which plant produced it. Imagine my delight when I discovered the previous owners had planted the decorative flowering herb, Yarrow. I pinched off a fern-like leaf, rubbed it between my fingers, and bingo, that was the familiar scent. When it comes to cooking, a little yarrow goes a long way. Because the leaves are feathery and soft, high heat will destroy the flavor. It is very important to wait until the dish is prepared before utilizing the essence of yarrow. The taste is so distinct, it must be used sparingly.
YARROW BOWTIE PASTA
1 teaspoon yarrow leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 ounce dried bowtie pasta
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon truffle oil
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
2 anchovy fillets in oil, rinsed and chopped
2 tablespoons dry white wine
Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Combine yarrow leaves and red pepper flakes. Mince together. Set aside. Cook bowtie pasta in salt water, according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, warm olive oil and truffle in a skillet on low heat. Add chopped garlic and anchovies; cook until fragrant and lightly browned. Do not burn. Remove pan from heat; swirl to cool. Add dry white wine to pan. When pasta is done, drain well. Add pasta to skillet. Toss to coat, cooking on low heat for one minute. Remove from heat; add yarrow mixture. Toss to incorporate. Transfer pasta to individual serving bowls. Garnish with fresh parmesan cheese. Serve with a tossed garden salad.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Tzatziki Ranch Chip Dip! When you shop the produce department of the grocery store, pay close attention to the different kinds of cucumbers. The fancy ones, wrapped in plastic wrap, are known as English cucumbers. There’s a reason for their madness. The skin is extremely thin and tender. The plastic wrap actually serves a purpose of protection against bruising, punctures, and dehydration. Hmmm. The seeds are much smaller, too. Because the skin is thinner and tender, there is no need to peel the tubular vegetable before proceeding with the recipe. I think you’ll be impressed. The English cucumber is less bitter, making it almost sweet and wonderful for transforming into a fabulous party dip. Be kind to others. No double-dipping.
TZATZIKI RANCH CHIP DIP
1 English cucumber, seeded, coarsely grated, and squeezed dry
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 envelope ranch seasoning mix
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons light cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh dill, for garnish
In a bowl, combine grated cucumber, kosher salt, mayonnaise, ranch seasoning mix, Greek yogurt, and light cream. Stir well. Cover and chill one hour, or until ready to serve. Before serving, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill. Serve with crinkle-cut potato chips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Thyme Tomato Toss! Hop aboard the yellow tomato bus for a ride that will take you down a two-lane country road. These golden nuggets, about the size of a cherry, are often less acidic and milder than their popular red cousins. I find them a touch sweeter as well. Their colors can range from pale yellow to sunny gold to bright orange, which makes for a stunning combo in marinated tomatoes or tasty fresh salsa. Just so you know, the skins are pretty tender, if that’s ever been an issue for you. With all that being said, now sit back, and enjoy the ride.
THYME TOMATO TOSS
8 ounces yellow and red cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Thyme sprigs, for garnish
Place yellow and red cherry tomatoes is a bowl. Set aside. In a measure cup, whisk together olive oil, garlic wine vinegar, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, marjoram, sea salt, basil, and sugar. Sprinkle in thyme leaves. Drizzle over tomatoes. Gently toss to coat. Serve immediately. Garnish with thyme sprigs.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Poppyseed Dressing! Behold, the mystical, magical world of poppyseeds. It’s not just for sprinkling on bagels, breads, and lemon muffins. Poppyseeds are kind of like that wild free-spirited girlfriend your mother didn’t really want you hanging around with in high school. She had a dark side that sometimes ditched school to hang out at a local coffee shop to smoke cigarettes and hear stories about the waitress’s latest boyfriend who rode a motorcycle and smoked pot. I’m sure you’ve heard stories about avoiding drug tests that detect a positive result for opiates. Alas, poppyseeds are a source of morphine and codeine. But that doesn’t mean the blueish-black seeds will get you high. Just happy. Their deeply nutty toasted flavor also reveals an enjoyable crunch. Maybe that’s the attraction after all.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon poppyseeds
1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and sugar. Add dried mustard, sea salt, cayenne pepper, and poppyseeds. Stir well. Add garlic wine vinegar; continue stirring. Slowly add olive oil, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Pour into a jar. Allow flavors to enhance at room temperature. Drizzle over prepared salad.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: New Potatoes Smashed! Is it a baked potato? A mashed potato? A fried potato? Or all three?! What it is, is freaking fantastic! Forget about dinner conversation. As soon as you place a platter of these tasty gems on the table, all bets are off. Don’t blame your partner or the kids, they don’t want to talk with their mouths full. These potatoes have a soft, earthy flavor surrounded by a crispy outer skin. Cheese and bacon make them downright irresistible. But don’t get carried away. Repeat after me: “This is meant to be a side dish.”
NEW POTATOES SMASHED
1 pound new red potatoes, skin on
2 teaspoons, plus 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded
2 slices applewood bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 green onions, chopped
Put the red potatoes in a pot. Add enough water to cover by one inch. Add 2 teaspoons sea salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium and cook until potatoes pierce easily with a knife, about 20 minutes. While potatoes cook, preheat oven to 425°. Drizzle one tablespoon olive oil over a rimmed baking sheet. Drain potatoes; allow to cool for 5 minutes. Arrange the cooked potatoes on the prepared baking sheet. Carefully use a fork to gently “smash” the potatoes. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over potatoes. Sprinkle with the remaining sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and cracked black pepper. Bake 30 minutes until potatoes are crispy. Remove from oven, add shredded cheddar cheese and bacon crumbles. Broil for one minute, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven. Garnish with chopped green onions. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Flatbread Gone Wild! Have you ever peeked through the window on the oven door while food is baking? Of course you have. Everyone does. The surprise you’ll find when baking wild ramps is the leaves puff up as though filling with air like a balloon animal at a child’s birthday party. It’s fun to see and totally unexpected. They almost seem to take on a life of their own. If you’re worried about the leaves popping, take a cake tester and pierce them beforehand, just to be sure. Personally, I like to roast wild ramps long enough to char the edges for a subtle hint of smokiness.
FLATBREAD GONE WILD
1 prepared flatbread
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/4 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 pound wild ramps, washed and patted dry
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed oregano
Preheat oven to 400°. Brush the bottom of the flatbread with olive oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Bake for 5 minutes on a pizza stone. Remove from oven, brush the top of the crust with olive oil. Spread on the marinara sauce, stopping before the edges. Layer mozzarella cheese over sauce. Arrange wild ramps lengthwise over cheese. Sprinkle with sea salt and crushed oregano. Bake 20 minutes until the cheese bubbles and the edges are crisp.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Wild Ramps Charbroiled! Whether you stumble upon this coveted crop at your neighborhood Farmers Market, or are fortunate enough to forage them yourself, wild ramps are as rare as hens teeth. You better have a plan. Unless you pickle them or freeze them, the best you can hope for is a 4-5 day shelf life in the refrigerator. At that point they will begin to deteriorate, develop an offensive odor, and you will have lost your window of opportunity for the year. Practice sustainable harvest. Never take more than you intend to eat.
WILD RAMPS CHARBROILED
1/2 pound wild ramps
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed oregano
Preheat oven to 425°. Wash thoroughly every crevice and leaf stem of each ramp. Cut off and discard bulb roots. Rinse again. Gently pat dry with paper towels. Transfer ramps to a baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Arrange ramps in a single layer, alternating ends and extending leaves to lay flat. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and crushed oregano. Bake until bulbs are tender golden, leaves have shrunk, and several spots are charred. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Leftover ramps maybe crushed into a topping for sprinkling over Wild Ramp Bacon Chowder.*
*Follow the link for Wild Ramp Bacon Chowder