What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Ramping Up Breakfast! For a hearty and satisfying way to jumpstart your morning, think outside the box with sautéed ramps. Prepared in minutes with hardly anytime at the stove, you’ll be serving up a “green” feast fit for a king. If you live in the country where farm fresh eggs are as plentiful as the next roadside produce stand, even better. Treat yourself to a scrumptious weekend meal on the back porch in true farmhouse style.
RAMPING UP BREAKFAST
1/4 pound wild ramps
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 smoked sausage links
2 pieces artisan bread, toasted
Crushed oregano, for garnish
Wash thoroughly every crevice and leaf stem of each ramp. Cut off and discard bulb roots. Rinse again. Gently pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. Warm olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Transfer ramps to the skillet. Cook until tender and crispy, gently turning. After 10 minutes, divide ramps between two plates. Cook eggs according to personal preference. Add to each plate. Heat smoked sausage, slicing open to sear. Arrange on plates. Butter toast to complete each breakfast plate. Garnish ramps and eggs with crushed oregano. Serve immediately.
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: Xanadu Pasta Salad! At first glance, this may appear as a five-minute throw-together meal. Think again. In actuality, the magic begins once half the ingredients are combined and tucked away in the refrigerator for a couple days to marinate. At this point, the pasta actually transforms into a gourmet dish you are likely to have tasted at a family-owned sandwich shoppe or small town deli. One forkful may leave you wondering if this is all a dream. Is that music I hear in the background? Xanadu. Quickly, store those thoughts in your memory bank. I have no doubt you’ll return there for more.
XANADU PASTA SALAD
16 ounces vermicelli spaghetti pasta
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons seasoned salt
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 pint red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
8 ounces small mozzarella balls, halved
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
Fresh basil, for garnish
Cook vermicelli according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Combine cooked pasta, kosher salt, seasoned salt, lemon juice, and vegetable oil. Pour mixture into a gallon ziplock bag. Refrigerate for two days, turning a couple times to marinate flavors. Then pour seasoned pasta into a large bowl. Spoon in red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Add small mozzarella balls. Sprinkle with crushed oregano. Gently toss. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.
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
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Oregano Hasselback Sweet Potato! Have you ever stepped foot in a grocery store and been greeted by a warmer filled with foil-wrapped oven-baked sweet potatoes? The naturally sweet, earthy aromas trigger the tastebuds the same way rotisserie chicken and sizzling bacon do. You want it and gotta have it. Wait until you bite into the creamy texture infused with oregano and cinnamon. Sounds like a sensual adventure, doesn’t it?
OREGANO HASSELBACK SWEET POTATO
2 sweet potatoes, skin on
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon oregano, crushed
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°. Leaving skin on potatoes, wash thoroughly and pat dry. Put one potato on a cutting board. Beginning at one end, slice in strips, being careful to stop before slicing the bottom skin. Transfer to a shallow baking dish. Continue until both potatoes are sliced. In a small bowl, mix olive oil, crushed oregano, seasoned salt, and cinnamon. Brush each potato with olive oil mixture, separating slices to coat both sides. Drizzle remaining oil over all. Bake potatoes one hour until crispy, basting occasionally. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Vinaigrette Like the French! I’m all about the creamier versions of salad dressings, yet sometimes I really must stick to a basic oil and vinegar one to appreciate the fabulous herbs the French adore. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, and sometimes lavender are the star attractions. These unique flavors are very typical of the southeastern part of France, known as Provence. As a Francophile, is it any wonder I grow these herbs at home in my garden herb bed? Once dried, they keep very well in a sealed jar. Their shelf life can be up to three years, but I have yet to make that happen. Because the flavor is so distinctive, herbes de Provence may be incorporated into meat or fish recipes, soups, breads, fries, salad dressings, and more. Substitute the need for salt next time with a virtual trip to the French countryside. C’est magnifique!
VINAIGRETTE LIKE THE FRENCH
5 tablespoons garlic wine vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Whisk together garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, herbes de Provence, minced garlic, and cracked black pepper. Blend well. Let stand 10 minutes to infuse flavors. Whisk again before serving.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Sea Salt-Rubbed Baked Potato! When my sister-in-law worked in a fine dining restaurant years ago, she shared with me an amazing secret for perfectly seasoned baked potatoes. “Wash the skins, then butter them up before sprinkling with sea salt,” she instructed. The skins become as tasty as a savory cracker. I thanked her and with enthusiasm have been making them that way ever since. It’s pretty much fool-proof. There’s no need for extra butter or salt since they are baked into the skin. She went on to share another tidbit of information with me. “Leftover baked potatoes prepared this way become the best shredded hash browns.” Bonus!
SEA SALT-RUBBED BAKED POTATOES
2 russet potatoes, washed and pierced
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon sea salt
Dollop of sour cream
Green onions, for garnish
Sprinkling of crushed oregano
Preheat oven to 350°. Wash potatoes and pat dry. Pierce the top with a paring knife. Holding the potato in one hand, apply softened butter all over the outer skin. Then sprinkle with sea salt. Place the potatoes on a stone, or directly on the oven rack, in the preheated oven. Be sure the pierce mark is facing up. Bake one hour, or until tender. To serve, split the potato open on a plate. Dollop with a generous spoonful of sour cream. Garnish with green onions and sprinkle with crushed oregano.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Caesar Cilantro Steak Salad! Salads can be a good thing or a sinkhole of weight-gain. If you’ve ever gone through a salad bar, you know exactly what I’m talking about. When thinking of lettuce or greens, begin small, as in “fewer”. Otherwise, in the process of adding ingredients, suddenly what started out as a manageable portion can transform into an enormous bowl-of-plenty. Trust me, I know. Sometimes I get so carried away, my husband has to dump everything into a larger bowl just to toss the salad. And it really doesn’t do me any good to start fresh with the larger bowl because…well, I think you’ve got me figured out. Creature of habit.
CAESAR CILANTRO STEAK SALAD
2 cups lettuce leaves, gently torn
1 Roma tomato, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
6 ounces grilled steak, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons Caesar dressing, bottled
2 teaspoons parmesan cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Begin with two salad plates. Divide the lettuce between them. Arrange tomato chunks and chopped green onions over top. Warm the grilled steak in the microwave for 30 seconds on 50% power. Repeat, if necessary. Divide steak between the two salads. Drizzle with Caesar salad dressing. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, oregano, and sea salt. Garnish with cilantro leaves.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Seasoned Shrimp Pineapple Pupus! If you’ve ever needed a simple appetizer that will elevate an evening, think shrimp. By adding fresh ingredients, it definitely kicks things up a notch. When people cram into the kitchen to watch, assign them a minor task such as chopping fruit into chunks or snipping cilantro into small sprigs. Real conversations happen in the kitchen. Everyone benefits and memories are created. After all, being involved is natural and welcoming. It’s how we all stay connected.
SEASONED SHRIMP PINEAPPLE PUPUS
1/2 cup papaya, cut into chunks
1/2 cup pineapple, cut into chunks
12 jumbo frozen shrimp, precooked and thawed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Arrange papaya chunks on a decorative platter. Set aside. Spray a skillet with nonstick oil. Heat pan on medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, arrange pineapple chunks in a single layer. They will sizzle and char. Flip over to darken both sides. Remove and add to the platter. Warm olive oil in the same skillet. Layer shrimp without overlapping. Sprinkle with half the seasoned salt, oregano, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Slightly sear, then flip over. Sprinkle with remaining seasoning. When shrimp is golden brown, transfer to the pupu platter. Garnish with fresh cilantro.