Quick Savory Butter

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Quick Savory Butter! For some time now we’ve gotten pretty spoiled by restaurants, bistros, and cafés serving compound butter with the artisan bread basket. You almost hear us clapping our hands as we sink our teeth into the savory herbs or sweet concoctions. I know it makes me feel special. Chefs have been creating compound butters for years, though. It’s one of the ways they save time and add a level of sophistication for the customer. In my own kitchen, I found it’s best to begin with unsalted butter. That way I can add just enough sea salt to tease the palate. Lemon, believe it or not, adds a hint of flavor that embellishes steak or seafood. I see you nodding your head in agreement. Although I began smearing this combination on rolls and crackers, I couldn’t resist warming it to pour over a bowl of freshly popped popcorn. Talk about gourmet!

QUICK SAVORY BUTTER

Ingredients:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, cream butter with lemon juice. Add garlic powder and sea salt; stir. Fold in fresh rosemary and parsley leaves. Mix until combined. Place a sheet of waxed paper on the counter. Spoon compound butter onto sheet. Roll the waxed paper over butter to form a log. Roll tight and twist both ends. Refrigerate one hour or until firm.

Presto, Pesto

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Presto, Pesto! The garden went wild this year with an abundance of basil. I mean, you can only dry so much. Granted, I happen to like fresh basil with anything tomato, but not everyone agrees. So, this time I threw together a couple cups of basil leaves with my favorite pairing: parmesan cheese! Pesto freezes well, so it can be stored in an airtight container, or initially, ice cube trays. Once it’s frozen, transfer the cubes to airtight freezer bags for later on. Always defrost in advance. Pesto tastes best served at room temperature or only slightly warmed. Keep in mind, a little goes a long way. Mix it into salad dressing or guacamole; the olive oil creates a smooth texture. Add a dollop to your evening vegetables, pasta noodles, or meat dish. Get creative and go Pesto!

PRESTO, PESTO

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1/3 cup pine nuts, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/3 cup olive oil

Instructions:

In a mini chopper, combine basil leaves, chopped garlic, pine nuts, sea salt, black pepper, and parmesan cheese. Pulse to blend; approximately 30 seconds. Slowly pour the olive oil into the top of the lid while the blade is on the Low setting. The olive oil will drizzle through the little hole for smooth results. Remove the lid and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Stir. Transfer pesto to a covered jar. Store in the refrigerator.

Underrated Summertime Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Underrated Summertime Supper! Does anyone have a Himalayan Salt Block besides me? Well, one of the things I like about it is, it can take the guesswork out of adding seasoning to food. It’s a block of pink salt, after all. When serving cold foods like salads, fruits, and cheeses, refrigerate the salt block overnight before using. This helps to keep foods chilled for hours when you need it. Simply arrange the ingredients directly on the block, drizzle on the dressing, and you’re good-to-go. Clean up is easy. Never use soap; salt is naturally antibacterial. Remove food residue with a damp cloth or sponge. Rinse it with a clean swipe, then dab dry. Allow the salt block to air-dry before next use. You’re done.

UNDERRATED SUMMERTIME SUPPER

Ingredients:

4 ounces goat’s milk cheese, plain

1 teaspoon Italian dry mix spice blend

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

8 ounces mixed greens, washed

1 Roma tomato, chopped

4 assorted mini sweet peppers, stems and seeds removed, sliced into rings

2 radishes, sliced very thin

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

Crusty Artisan Bread

Instructions:

On a sheet of waxed paper, sprinkle Italian dry mix spice blend and red pepper flakes. Form the goat’s milk cheese into a ball. Roll it in the spice mix to cover all sides. Place cheese ball on the chilled Himalayan salt block. Next, arrange mixed greens in a single layer. Arrange Roma tomatoes, mini sweet peppers, radish slices, and red onion rings. Sprinkle Herbes de Provence over top. Drizzle balsamic reduction sauce over salad. Serve with crusty artisan bread.

Herbed Watercress Pistachio Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Herbed Watercress Pistachio Salad! Everyone knows leafy greens can supercharge your diet. But not everyone is crazy about kale and arugula. Ask my husband. The strong pungent flavors of the former can step aside, as far as I’m concerned. Watercress is the new sheriff in town. Its delicate leaves reveal a slight hint of horseradish or wasabi, but with a crispier texture. To combat the bitter tang, simply add a nice citrus fruit along with the ancient royal pistachio nut. Did you know the Queen of Sheba found pistachios so delightful, she declared it was forbidden for commoners to harvest pistachio nuts for themselves? Alas, I digress. Watercress is the star attraction. Rich in vitamins, iron, calcium, and folic acid, its roots thrive in creek bottoms where clear running water encourages natural growth. Most farmers cultivate it in very wet ground providing constant moisture. Ask around at the Farmers Markets. It sells quickly to those who desire it.

HERBED WATERCRESS PISTACHIO SALAD

Ingredients:

1 bunch watercress, roots trimmed

8 leaves fresh basil

8-10 leaves fresh mint

20 leaves Mexican tarragon

1/2 cup mandarin orange slices

1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup pistachio nuts, lightly toasted

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 drop orange extract

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions:

Arrange watercress, basil, mint, and Mexican tarragon on a platter. Tuck mandarin orange slices and red onion pieces throughout. Sprinkle toasted pistachio nuts over all. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, orange extract, sea salt, and pepper. Slowly add olive oil while continuing to whisk. Dressing will emulsify. Before serving, drizzle salad dressing evenly over salad.

Vermont Cheddar Multigrain Toast

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Vermont Cheddar Multigrain Toast! Just because you hit the snooze button on the alarm clock does not mean you lose out on a healthy breakfast. Grab a slice of multigrain bread, a hard-boiled egg, and a wedge of white cheddar cheese. Why white, you ask? Um, because I like the deeper flavors of the older extra-sharp varieties. The longer a cheese ages naturally, the more pronounced the flavor. Besides, it tastes incredibly delish with the slightly salty applewood-smoked bacon as its companion. So, while the coffee’s brewing and the toast is browning, get slicing.

VERMONT CHEDDAR MULTIGRAIN TOAST

Ingredients:

1-2 slices multigrain toast

1-2 tablespoons sea salt butter

3-4 slices Vermont White Cheddar cheese

1-2 slices applewood-smoked bacon, precooked

1 hard boiled egg, sliced

Snipped chives for garnish

Chia seeds for garnish

Instructions:

Toast multigrain bread on desired setting. Remove from toaster; place on a plate. Spread sea salt butter over toast. Next, layer with Vermont cheddar cheese, thick bacon, and sliced egg. Top with snippets of fresh chives. Sprinkle chia seeds over all.

Omelet 101

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Omelet 101. You’re having a get-together and need an effortless, but impressive, breakfast. While everyone is huddling in the kitchen, because this is what people do, pour them a cuppa joe and get started. Making the perfect omelet will have you feeling like a gourmet chef. It’s pretty basic. Use an 8-inch sauté pan with slanted edges and plenty of butter. Fresh veggies and shredded cheese are always a good idea. If you’re nervous about the “flip”, simply do what I do. Put a lid on it.

OMELET 101

Ingredients: (per omelet)

2 eggs

Pinch sea salt

Pinch black pepper

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons smokey Swiss cheese, shredded

Sautéed asparagus tips

Sautéed mushrooms

Instructions:

In a mini chopper, combine eggs, sea salt, black pepper, and water. Beat until light yellow in color. Warm butter in pan over medium-low heat. Do not scorch butter. Pour egg mixture into pan. Do not stir. Swirl the pan so eggs cover the edge. Cook until bottom begins to set, about one minute. Tilt the pan to allow liquid to flow underneath. Slide a rubber spatula around the surface to loosen omelet. Arrange shredded cheese, asparagus tips, and sliced mushrooms across the center of the egg, forming a vertical line. Reduce heat to low. Cover pan with a lid to absorb liquid, about 30-45 seconds. The center will remain creamy. Remove lid. Fold one-third of omelet onto itself. Gently transfer omelet to a plate. Serve immediately.

Island Sweet Potato Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Island Sweet Potato Salad! There is nothing wrong with your smart phone screen. The colors of Hawaiian sweet potatoes range from orange to green to purple. Notice the creamy texture. The slightly sweet taste may remind you more of a piece of fruit than a root vegetable. Sure it’s popular among the Asian markets, and it can be a little drier than its American cousin, but didn’t someone once say, “Variety is the spice of life”? Go ahead, add your version of seasonings. The results will amaze you.

ISLAND SWEET POTATO SALAD

Ingredients:

3 sweet potatoes, Hawaiian assortment, cooked with skin on and cubed

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt

3 strips bacon, crumbled

2 green onions, chopped

Instructions:

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, black pepper, and Himalayan sea salt. Place cubed sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Coat with mayonnaise mixture. Fold in bacon crumbles and green onion. Chill for one hour. Serve.

Green Chile Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Green Chile Soup! I was rushing through an airport recently and knew I wanted something to eat. The waitress at the Mexican restaurant recommended the full bodied taste of Green Chile Soup. It hit the spot. From the first tangy spoonful of mild green chiles to the gentle creaminess on my tongue, I knew this wasn’t your typical soup. It may have been a regional delicacy, but by making it at home, I saved myself a round trip ticket to Colorado.

GREEN CHILE SOUP

Ingredients:

20 green chiles, large

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

3 cups chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup Greek yogurt

Monterey Jack cheese and cilantro, for garnish

Instructions:

Place green chiles on a wire rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast on Broil until blistered and charred. Remove from oven. Cool. Discard stems and seeds. In a large pan, warm butter over medium heat. Add chopped onion. Sprinkle with sea salt and garlic powder. Cook until soft. Add roasted chiles and chicken broth. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer mixture back to pan. Stir in cream and Greek yogurt. Gently warm mixture until soup is heated through. Serve with fresh cilantro and Monterey Jack cheese.

Zia Marianna’s Grilled Peppers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Zia Marianna’s Grilled Peppers! Did you know there are three ways to roast peppers? You can use a grill pan over a burner flame, a broiler for fast charring, or roast them in the oven. The results are amazing, compared to raw peppers sliced into a salad. The incredible flavor is so smoky and sweet you may wonder why you don’t take the time more often. Pay attention to your taste buds! This is how we add depth to any dish, I promise you that.

ZIA MARIANNA’S GRILLED PEPPERS

Ingredients:

10 mini sweet peppers, mix of red and orange

5 cloves garlic

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Celery leaves

Instructions:

Heat a grill pan on high heat until hot. Rinse the mini sweet peppers and garlic cloves; pat dry. Place the whole peppers and garlic cloves onto the grill pan, charring the skin completely on all sides until black on the outside and soft on the inside, 5-8 minutes per side. Remove and discard charred skin of peppers, seeds, and stems. Cut the peppers into thin slices about 1/4” thick. Transfer the charred pepper slices and garlic cloves into a container with a lid. Slightly wilt celery leaves on grill pan. Add to pepper mixture. Drizzle with vegetable oil. Add the seasoned salt and cracked black pepper. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Warm slightly before serving.