Dining Outside the Home: Rosati’s Pizza in Estero, Florida! You learn a lot about a business by talking to the owners. Perhaps that is why I sometimes visit a restaurant in the off hours of the day. You are more apt to find the owners working face-to-face with customers. Rosati’s Pizza is owned and operated by a family who not only strives for perfection, but also cares about the people who walk through their door. When they expanded their business in Estero for dine-in service, Covid hit with a vengeance and caused them to shift to delivery and carry-out service only. That takes a chunk out of overhead, which translates to selling a boatload of pizza. Yet, they endured. And thrived because they do things the old-fashioned way: like sourcing local ingredients, fresh mozzarella, and homemade crusts. Their story goes all the way back to the first pizzerias in Chicago; Italian roots to the core. So proud, they live by the motto, “We don’t cut corners, just slices of pizza.” Dine in, smell the aromas, chat with the staff, and over-order so you have extra servings for leftovers. Don’t forget to add a jar of the Hot Giardiniera. It is ah-mazing!
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Marinated Mozzarella Flatbread! You’re probably like everyone else right now and could go to the freezer to pull out a prepared flatbread for supper. Another shortcut is to use marinated mozzarella cheese which already comes sliced in a blend of herbs and olive oil. Oftentimes, I freeze a surplus of cooked meat as well. In this case I already had seasoned Italian sausage, but you could certainly switch things up with pepperoni or sun-dried tomatoes. That’s the beauty of cooking at home. The results bring satisfaction. Just be careful of those piping hot stretchy cheese pulls.
MARINATED MOZZARELLA FLATBREAD
1 prepared naan flatbread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 cup cooked and crumbled Italian sausage
16 ounces marinated mozzarella slices
Crushed basil leaves
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Preheat oven to 400°. Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of the flatbread. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Carefully flip it over onto a pizza stone. Rub the remaining olive oil onto the top of the crust. Make a layer with the crumbled Italian sausage. Arrange marinated mozzarella slices over meat. Bake for 15 -20 minutes for a crispy crust. The longer it bakes, the more gooey the cheese becomes. When finished, remove from the oven and garnish with crushed basil and red pepper flakes.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Himalayan Salt Plate Shrimp Skewers! How to cook with an Himalayan salt plate can be tricky. The key is patience. This can be done on an outdoor gas grill very easily. First make sure the salt block is completely dry. Always begin on a low heat setting. Allow the block to heat at that temperature for 15 minutes. Then switch the heat to medium and let the block warm for another 15 minutes. Finally, turn the heat to high for the last 15 minutes. Then sprinkle a few drops of water on the block. Once it sizzles and immediately evaporates, you may add the prepared food. Let’s do it!
HIMALAYAN SALT PLATE SHRIMP SKEWERS
1 pound shrimp, peel and deveined, tails intact
1 pound smoked sausage, skinless, cut into 1” pieces
2 tablespoons bacon olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning blend
Olive oil for brushing salt plate
Place one shrimp around a piece of smoked sausage. Thread combo onto a skewer and lay in a large baking dish. Repeat until all pieces are used. In a small bowl, whisk together bacon olive oil, lemon juice, and Italian seasoning blend. Brush onto shrimp skewers. Cover and refrigerate while Himalayan salt plate is warming up. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. At this time slowly preheat the Himalayan salt plate over 45 minutes.* See above. The internal grill temperature should be no higher than 450°. When ready, lightly brush the preheated salt plate with regular olive oil. Working in batches, place the shrimp/sausage skewers on the salt plate and cook, turning once, until the shrimp are pink, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Pieces will appear slightly charred. Transfer skewers to a warmed platter to prevent food from becoming too salty. Brush the salt plate with more olive oil between batches. Repeat. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Hoosier Hot Dish! When I moved to Indiana over 30 years ago, it didn’t take me long to hear the term “Hoosier”. I knew it was a nickname for the State’s residents. But, honestly, I wondered how it originated. I had no idea it came into popularity over 200 years ago. The story that was told to me went something like this. Along the Ohio River, in the hills of southern Indiana, settlers lived and worked around the riverfront. As boatmen passed by on barges taking corn to New Orleans, the countrymen would call out, “Who’s Yere?” to assure they were friend, not foe. It happened so often, in time those workers became known as people of the “Hooshier” State. My experience in hearing about this one-pot meal for the first time was just as funny. A coworker said she was making Hoosier Hot Dish for supper. When I asked her for the recipe, she laughed and told me there wasn’t one. She said you just throw everything in a pot on the stove and eat it when it’s done. I narrowed it down a little bit more for you. Go figure.
HOOSIER HOT DISH
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning
15-ounce can cut green beans, with liquid
1 pound potatoes, quartered, skin on
1 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1/2” chunks
Warm olive oil on medium-low setting in the bottom of a stock pot. Add sliced onions, seasoned salt, garlic and herbed seasoning. Sauté 20 minutes until onions are a light brown. Add green beans with liquid, quartered potatoes, and smoked sausage chunks. Cover and Cook 30-40 minutes over medium heat or until potatoes are fork tender. Hot Dish will thicken. Add 1/2 cup water, if necessary, to keep things from boiling dry or scorching. Serve with cornbread.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Zuppa Toscana! The secret to great Italian soups can be found as near as your local Italian restaurant. However if you want to save a little money, now you can create a mouth-watering meal at home in your very own kitchen. Don’t believe me, check your pantry. With basic ingredients plus Italian herbs, you can get outstanding results. Pick up bakery fresh breadsticks or focaccia bread for a hearty meal. Buon Appetito!
1 pound Italian sausage, ground
1 sweet onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 potatoes, washed with peel on and cut into chunks
14-ounce can chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons flour
1 cup heavy cream
2 ounces diced pimentos
2 cups kale, gently torn
4 strips of thick-sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
In a skillet over medium heat, brown Italian sausage until fully cooked and crumbled. Add onion, garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir and continue cooking until onions are soft. Reduce heat to keep warm. In a 2-quart pan, add potato chunks, chicken broth, and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Blend flour with enough water to make a paste. Slowly add flour mixture to potatoes, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Add sausage mixture. Stir to combine. Simmer 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low; add heavy cream, diced pimentos, torn kale, and crumbled bacon. Heat through. Ladle into soup bowls. Serve with breadsticks or focaccia bread.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Kielbasa Sausage Stew! As the outside temperatures continue to rise and fall, there’s comfort in bringing a hearty meal to the dinner table. This is what I call Food for the Soul. Warm up a side of artisan bread from the local bakery, smear on a dab of sweet, creamy butter, and sink your teeth into a heart-warming meal that is sure to please. Rainy days and chilly nights make this an extra-satisfying dish, especially when the sun refuses to shine.
KIELBASA SAUSAGE STEW
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces smoked Kielbasa sausage, sliced into circles
1/2 onion, diced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups chicken broth
1 carrot, pealed and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 small potato, peeled and cubed
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubes
1 cup kale, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and sliced Kielbasa sausage rounds. Brown on both sides. Do not burn. Reduce heat and add diced onion. Sauté together 3 minutes until golden. Add Italian seasoning, paprika, black pepper, seasoned salt, and garlic powder. Stir to combine. Set aside. In a 2-quart pan, combine chicken broth, diced carrots, diced celery potato cubes, and sweet potato cubes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Add contents of skillet. Allow to simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes longer to enhance flavors. Remove from heat. Add kale and chopped parsley. Stir a couple minutes to wilt. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Wild Rice Sausage Stuffing! For those who really crave the taste of stuffing, here’s an idea for a meal-in-one-dish. Some people may call it a “casserole” since it contains crumbled pork sausage, mixed vegetables, bread stuffing, and wild rice grains. Either way, you’re going to want to bookmark and print this recipe. It’s that good. Of course, you can make the serving portions a little smaller and serve it as a side dish with roasted chicken, turkey, or a Cornish hen like I did. Wild Rice Sausage Stuffing can easily be made a day ahead of time and gently reheated when you need it. Leftovers can be frozen up to three months. I believe I just saw your face light up. Trust me, your family will thank you. They may even offer to load the dishwasher.
WILD RICE SAUSAGE STUFFING
6-ounce package long grain and wild rice mix
1 pound bulk sausage
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
4-ounce can mushrooms, stems and pieces, drained
6-ounce package chicken stuffing cubes
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1/8 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9”x13” baking dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook wild rice according to package directions. Set aside. Brown sausage until cooked and crumbled; drain. Set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm butter. Sauté onion and celery pieces until tender, 4-5 minutes. Do not burn. In a large bowl, combine wild rice, sausage crumbles, sautéed onions/celery mixture, and mushrooms. Stir well. Fold in chicken stuffing cubes. Add beaten eggs, chicken broth, seasoned pepper and poultry seasoning. Stir thoroughly. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Bake 45 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160°. Serve warm.
Experience the Holidays: Garlic Clove Little Smokies! I know people often wait for the holidays to serve this spicy little appetizer, but I recently discovered its popularity as a lunch box companion. By making it ahead of time and storing it in a jar, it travels well. Add dill pickle chunks, bite-size cheese cubes, vegetable skewers, fresh fruit, chips, salsa, and double chocolate brownies. You’ll have the perfect portable party food for any occasion. Doesn’t everyone love finger foods?
GARLIC CLOVE LITTLE SMOKIES
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup catsup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
14 ounces little smokies cocktail wieners
Fresh chives for garnish
Preheat oven to 250°. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, honey, catsup, soy sauce, garlic, red pepper flakes, and roasted sesame seeds. Mix well. Add cocktail wieners. Coat evenly. Transfer to a covered casserole dish. Bake for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Garnish with roasted sesame seeds and fresh chives before serving.
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.