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.

Alberto’s on Fifth in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Alberto’s on Fifth in Naples, Florida! There’s nothing that makes me feel more special than dining on white linen tablecloths. Call me crazy, but I simply love it. Now, imagine this table in the mountainous part of Northern Italy where the chef is transforming ordinary food into spectacular dishes. The secret, you wonder? Fresh, local vegetables, pasta, and seafood with fewer processed ingredients. Traditions are important, cutting corners is not. Each dish is a form of art. Creamy mozzarella, salty prosciutto, and fresh basil leaves will literally drive your tastebuds crazy. Listen to the chatter. Crowd-pleasers are everywhere. Linger over the delicious Italian balsamic vinaigrette drizzled over a garden salad. The aromas seduce the palate with a slightly spicy taste. Aging is the secret, of course. But it doesn’t matter what I say, it’s the velvety texture on the tongue that is the judge. Take smaller bites to enjoy the meal longer. It has profound effects that will find you enjoying the meal with satisfying results.

Deep Lagoon Seafood in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Deep Lagoon Seafood in Naples, Florida! What is “Real Florida”, you wonder. Ummm, good seafood. Whenever a restaurant is crowded, we default to a seat at the bar. Rule Number #1, the drinks come faster and Rule Number # 2, you can order food from the menu. Here’s another secret, bar space at most restaurants has become de facto dining. Singles love it, couples are intrigued, and bartenders become your new best friend. That was our first experience at Deep Lagoon. No matter how rushed and harried a bartender may appear, grabbing a drink is easy, ordering a snack is fun, but eating a full dinner is elation. The guy on the stool next to you attests that the Chilean Sea Bass is phenomenal. “You should get it.”, he says. Decision made. Grilled asparagus comes with it; like icing on a cake. Be friendly, but not over eager and you’ll create memories that are worth writing about.

Cibao Grille in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Cibao Grille in Naples, Florida! Don’t let the formality of the fine dining restaurant in the Neapolitan Way Shopping Center intimidate you. There’s a cozy table for two in the bar where you still receive the personal touch for some of the best Caribbean food to cross your lips. Attention to detail, by the master chef, makes every entree frame-worthy for your next social media post. Go ahead, try something out of the ordinary like the pan seared sea scallop medallions. The slightly crunchy outer layer reveals a soft and chewy center that will practically make your eyes roll back. The succulent sweet taste has a tender, buttery flavor some people actually refer to as the “candy of the sea”. Notice the large size. This is good. Keep in mind, though, the larger the scallop, the higher the price. When you want the best dining experience, Cibao Grille is worth every penny.

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.

Dulce De Leche Turtle Bars

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Dulce de Leche Turtle Bars! So today we learn that Dulce de Leche is another name for slow-cooked caramelized milk. And before you scroll down, I assure you it’s one of the easiest toppings you’ll ever make, and certainly worth your time. It’s Heaven in a jar….lusciously sweet and creamy. However, if you make it too far in advance, the most difficult challenge will come when you get the urge to dip a spoon into the jar to drizzle the decadent sauce over a scoop of ice cream. I know what you’re thinking…..but, Gail, it’s only one spoonful. Amirite? Don’t do it. Otherwise you’ll need another can of sweetened condensed milk for these turtle bars.

DULCE DE LECHE TURTLE BARS

Ingredients for the Crust:

2 cups flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Ingredients for the Toppings:

1 1/4 cups Dulce de Leche*

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

3/4 cup pecans, chopped

*NOTE:

Dulce de Leche must be made in advance. Preheat oven to 425°. Pour a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk into a 9” pie pan. (This will equal 1 1/4 cups.) Cover with foil. Carefully place the pie pan into a larger shallow pan. Fill the larger pan with 1/2” hot water to surround the pie pan. Bake 2 hours or until sauce is thick and caramel in color. Remove larger pan from oven. Carefully remove the pie pan; set aside for 15 minutes to cool. Pour Dulce de Leche into a jar until ready to use. Store in the refrigerator, if made days in advance.

Instructions for the Crust:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9” square baking dish with parchment paper, leaving extra over the edges for easier removal of the dessert. Spray the parchment paper with nonstick oil. Set aside. Using a mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, butter, and sea salt. Stir well until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture into the bottom of prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven; allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Instructions for the Toppings:

In a mixing bowl, combine Dulce de Leche, heavy whipping cream, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Stir well; pour mixture over crust. Sprinkle chocolate morsels and chopped pecans over filling. Bake 20 minutes, or until set. Remove pan from oven. Cool completely before cutting onto bars.

Glorious Glazed Pecans

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Glorious Glazed Pecans! Go to any big city or farmers market and you’ll find street vendors roasting sweet and savory candied nuts. The bakery aroma practically has you walking on air. Now you can bring this enticing smell and sugary sweetness right into your very own kitchen. I’ve made it a tradition to bake a couple batches for holiday gift-giving. When mixed with an assortment of smoked almonds, wasabi peas, salty cashews, and honey roasted peanuts, these glazed pecans become a gourmet choice for absolutely anyone on your list. In fact, anticipation creates excitement followed by open delight and thanksgiving.

GLORIOUS GLAZED PECANS

Ingredients:

1 pound pecan halves

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg white, room temperature

1 tablespoon water

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. In a small bowl mix sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Stir well and set aside. In a large bowl beat egg white and water until frothy. Add one pound of pecans and coat well to cover. Pour sugar mixture over nuts. Stir completely to form a coating over pecans. Transfer nuts to the baking sheet. Form a single layer. Bake 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes to form a crystallized finish. Remove from oven. Let cool and then store in an airtight container.

Walnut Brown Sugar Butter

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Walnut Brown Sugar Butter! Ahh, sweet butter. I don’t know if it’s the winter weather or the upcoming holidays that get me in the mood for bakery ideas. Who doesn’t appreciate aromatic cinnamon, sweet nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice? The smell of bread baking in the oven triggers all kinds of emotions. It can lift our mood and impact our behavior. Honestly, it would have been pretty easy to feature today’s compound butter all by itself. But tell me, isn’t it better to imagine slathering it all over those freshly-baked cinnamon rolls?

WALNUT BROWN SUGAR BUTTER

Ingredients:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, combine unsalted butter, brown sugar, and sea salt until smooth. Fold in chopped walnuts. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Spoon compound butter onto plastic wrap. Roll layer of plastic wrap over butter to form a log. Roll tight and place in refrigerator for one hour or until firm. Serve over toast, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, or muffins.

Everything But Bagel Seasoning

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Everything But Bagel Seasoning! Anyone who has trekked to a coffeehouse for their morning cuppa joe has, at one time or another, nibbled on a bakery fresh bagel. That special blend of garlic flakes, minced onions, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and pretzel salt is a coveted secret in some kitchens. Not mine, simply because you probably already have all these spices in your pantry at home. DIY to begin a journey of inspiration on foods beyond the bagel. For example, sprinkle it on everything from mac‘n cheese, avocados, and eggs to chicken, veggies, and popcorn. It’s genius!

EVERYTHING BUT BAGEL SEASONING

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon fried garlic

1 tablespoon dried minced onion

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

2 teaspoons coarse sea salt

Instructions:

Using a mortar and pestle, slightly crush fried garlic and dried minced onion. Add poppy seeds, white sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, and coarse sea salt. Mix well. Store in a spice jar.