What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Hand-Packed Burgers! For a hamburger worthy of a gourmet chef, begin with a low-fat lean meat. Divide the ground beef or sirloin into four equal portions. Form each one a little wider than the bottom bun to allow for shrinkage during grilling. Press your thumb into the center to create a small well, or dimple. If you’re a perfectionist, choose a jar lid slightly larger than the hamburger bun. Line the lid with plastic wrap, press the meat into the shape, flip the patty, and continue on to the next one. That’s way cheaper than buying a hamburger press. The secret’s out. Now you choose.
1 pound ground sirloin or lean ground beef
1 beef bouillon cube
1-2 tablespoons water
1/8 teaspoon steak seasoning mix
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sesame Seed Buns
Cheese of choice
Heat water to boiling. Add beef bouillon cube. Stir to dissolve. Fold into ground beef. Sprinkle steak seasoning into meat. With clean hands, mix gently until all ingredients are combined. Divide into quarter-pounders. Hand-pack ground beef into equal size patties. Rub both sides with olive oil. Refrigerate one hour before grilling. To cook, preheat gas grill on High heat. Place burgers directly on grate; cook for 4-5 minutes; flip and cook 4 minutes longer for medium doneness. Do not press on burger to flatten because it will release all those flavorful juices. Transfer to a platter. Immediately top with cheese of choice. Add sliced onions, tomatoes, and romaine lettuce leaves. Dress up with ketchup, mustard, and mayo. You’ve just made the best backyard burger!
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Spicy Salami Mozzarella Pizza! Whether you choose to use a homemade pizza crust or a store-bought variety, the best part about this Italian favorite is the naturally smoked spicy salami and thick gooey mozzarella rounds. I froze pizza dough when I made a batch of Neapolitan-style crust. You can do the same so it’s only a footstep away to the best pizza crust on the planet! By baking it in an iron skillet, the heat seals in the flavor while creating a crispy crunch that’ll have you rolling your eyes in ultimate satisfaction.
SPICY SALAMI MOZZARELLA PIZZA
1 Neapolitan pizza crust*
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 ounces sliced Lipari Old Tyme Hard Salami**
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced rounds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh basil leaves
Fold each slice of salami in half and then in half again to form a triangle. Set aside. 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 spicy salami triangles. 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. Snip fresh basil over all. Serve immediately. For more than one pizza, repeat process.
*To make your own Neapolitan-style pizza crust, click the following link.
**I receive no recompense for mentioning Lipari Old Tyme Hard Salami.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Pulled Pork BBQ Flatbread! I love prepared flatbreads. In fact, I always pick up a couple from my grocer’s deli to keep on hand. The possibilities are endless for a quick meal without scrambling for the fast-food drive-through. I freeze containers of leftover meats that were slow-cooked earlier, so as to have healthy options at home, such as today’s pork tenderloin. If need be, there are prepackaged resources at your local grocery store as well. Being flexible with time-saving choices is always a “Win”, in my opinion.
PULLED PORK BBQ FLATBREAD
1 prepared flatbread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/2 cup BBQ sauce, any variety
1 pound pork tenderloin, cooked and shredded
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
Dash of white pepper
1/2 cup Spring Mix, chopped
1 green onion, snipped
Preheat oven to 400°. Brush flatbread with olive oil on both sides; sprinkle bottom with cornmeal. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Spoon BBQ sauce evenly over flatbread. Cover all with shredded pork. Create a “well” for each egg. Gently crack an egg into each “well”. Sprinkle eggs with seasoned salt and white pepper. Bake 8-10 minutes until eggs are set. If the crust becomes too brown, cover it with foil, leaving the egg portion uncovered. When eggs are cooked, remove from oven. Add chopped Spring Mix and green onion snips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Mexican Tarragon Turkey Breast! If you’re tired of the “same old, same old”, ways of preparing poultry, try something a little different. Mexican tarragon can easily catapult chicken and turkey to gourmet status. First of all, that slight hint of licorice may go unnoticed in a café chicken salad sandwich. Yet, something tastes extraordinary. If only you could put your finger on it. So, you go on with your day perhaps thinking you were hungrier than usual and would have devoured anything. Until memory flashback, in the form of a craving, stimulates the taste buds for an encore. The quest is on for the heat-loving herb with the green narrow leaves and golden flowers. Who knows, it may end up as a regular plant in your garden herb bed.
MEXICAN TARRAGON TURKEY BREAST
3 tablespoons Mexican tarragon leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
3-pound turkey breast, bone in
Sprigs of Mexican tarragon, for garnish
Preheat oven to 325°. Combine chopped Mexican tarragon leaves, olive oil, poultry seasoning, seasoned salt, and white pepper. Wash turkey breast; pat dry. Using your fingers, loosen skin of turkey breast. Rub half the mixture under the skin. Secure skin to the underside of breast with toothpicks. Brush outside of turkey with remaining mixture. Place turkey breast on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast until a meat thermometer reads 170°, about two hours. Remove from oven; tent with foil. Allow to rest 15 minutes. Remove and discard turkey skin and toothpicks before carving. Transfer turkey slices to a platter. Garnish with sprigs of Mexican tarragon. Serve warm.
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.