What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Lemon Pepper Pasta! Have you ever had one of those days when things just fall into place and you cook like a gourmet chef? And then, because everyone is starv-ing, you are halfway through the meal before you realize you forgot to take the food photo? Well, this is what an (almost) clean plate looks like! lol Perhaps it’s absent-mindedness, or maybe….yes, maybe…it’s just that good!
LEMON PEPPER PASTA
8-ounces lemon pepper pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1/4 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 green onions, chopped
8-ounces ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
10-ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
Cook pasta as directed on package. Set aside. Meanwhile, warm olive oil and bacon fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shiitake mushrooms sprinkled with garlic powder; cook until soft. Add Roma tomatoes. Sprinkle with Herbes de Provence and kosher salt. Reduce heat and stir gently. Add chopped green onion. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add ricotta cheese and Parmesan cheese. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Fold in spinach and heat on low 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain lemon pepper pasta. Add to spinach mixture. Toss to coat. Heat through and serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Yummy Parmesan Alfredo Sauce! If ever there was a universal sauce, this is it. Alfredo sauce isn’t just for pasta any more. Pizzerias began using it to substitute the tomato base on pizzas, pairing it with bacon, spinach, artichokes, and chicken. It makes a creamy addition to grilled seafood, poultry, or pork dishes, as well. Some enthusiasts even slather alfredo sauce on baked potatoes. It’s pure genius to pour it into a freshly baked bread bowl for dipping crudités, if you’re into that sort of thing. No matter how you spin it…butter, cream, and cheese are the star attractions. These are the ways to a woman’s heart. That, and a bouquet of fresh flowers.
YUMMY PARMESAN ALFREDO SAUCE
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
1 1/2 cups light cream
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons Neufchâtel cheese, softened
2 cups parmesan cheese, grated
In a large skillet over medium heat, warm butter. Add light cream. Reduce heat and simmer over Low heat for 2 minutes, stirring gently. Whisk in minced garlic, Italian seasoning, sea salt, and black pepper. Add Neufchâtel cheese; stir to incorporate. Slowly add parmesan cheese; whisk until completely melted. Keep warm prior to serving.
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? 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: Vegetable Enriched Pasta Meatballs! For a clever way to increase vegetables into your diet, think pasta. The next trip you make to the grocery store could reveal the variety of homemade pasta noodles made with puréed tomatoes, carrots, spinach, and zucchini. Many are cholesterol-free and all-natural, if that sort of thing is important to you. Read the labels carefully. The last thing you want is food coloring instead of the real deal. Chop up fresh onions, green peppers, and garlic, as you normally would. By the time you add marinara sauce and meatballs, I guarantee you the family will be asking for seconds.
VEGETABLE ENRICHED PASTA MEATBALLS
14 ounces vegetable mix homemade noodles
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
24-ounce jar pasta sauce, prepared
26-ounce bag frozen Italian-style meatballs, thawed
Bring 3-4 quarts of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the bag of vegetable in homemade noodles. Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until tender. Rinse and drain. Set aside. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions, green peppers, and minced garlic. Sauté until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add prepared pasta sauce and Italian-style meatballs. Reduce heat and cover. Cook until heated thoroughly, 15-20 minutes. Add drained vegetable pasta. Toss to coat. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Dining Outside the Home: Café Portofino in Lihue, Kauai! Do you need a reason to love lasagna? Might it be the oven-baked pasta bathed in layers of zesty spices, fresh herbs, meat sauce, and Italian cheese? Just thinking about it is mouth-watering. Well, you don’t need to travel to Northern Italy from the Pacific Ocean. Café Portofino, a beachfront restaurant on Kauai, serves up a plate of happiness and satisfaction by bringing the Italian deliciousness right to your table. Their classic lasagna combination features the rich meat sauce of cravings as well as a creamy white sauce to die for. This is not your ordinary lasagna. Taste it to believe it.
Dining Outside the Home: Bocca di Bacco Theater District in New York, New York! Pay attention when a waiter tells you where he goes for dinner when he’s off work. It’s usually one of those best-kept secrets. If you don’t have a reservation, no worries. Snag a seat at the bar. Bartenders are usually pretty friendly, you can linger over drinks, and when you’re ready for dinner…they happily accommodate. Bocca di Bacco in the Theater District is hip, trendy, popular, and within walking distance of a Manhattan hotel. You’ll realize that as soon as you cross the threshold of this neighborhood trattoria, people flock here for a cozy atmosphere. Distant laughter and glasses clinking are cause for celebration. If Italian small plates are more your style, prepare to be amazed. Not everything is pasta, but it is Italian, so sit back and inhale the aromas.
Dining Outside the Home: Frank’s Gourmet Grill in Mystic, Connecticut! There’s something nostalgic about entering a dining room to see couples chatting over half-filled martini glasses. The words “style” and “grace” come to mind. People don’t seem to be in a hurry at Frank’s Gourmet Grill. Appetizers are appreciated. Soups are savored. Although seafood is always popular, it’s not unusual to see a spoon swirling in a bath of Fettuccine Alfredo or a knife cutting into a Rib-Eye Steak smothered in teriyaki glaze. The menu definitely deserves more than one visit. Passion and satisfaction are visibly perceived, understood, and remembered.
Dining Outside the Home: The Mariner in Mystic, Connecticut! In the center of Historic Downtown Mystic enjoy a meal, or two, at this upscale coastal restaurant where the seafood is fresh, food is made from scratch, and the cocktails go down real smooth. Try their version of New England Clam Chowder. Made with the freshest clams, the richest cream, and a secret recipe they’ll take to their grave. Is it any wonder it’s the top favorite in the restaurant? But don’t stop there. The gourmet chef also specializes in Italian cuisine from pastas to gnocchi as well as dry-aged steakhouse attractions that include tender filets and pan roasted rib eyes. Are you getting the picture? Perhaps you need to make The Mariner your regular eating house.