What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Nutty Cherry Crostini! Go international with an Italian appetizer that has become a timeless classic. Crostini is a fancy word for “little crusts”, according to Wikipedia. Did you know during medieval times it was pretty normal for Italian peasants to eat their meals on slices of bread instead of using pottery? Lucky for us, the idea caught on. I can’t think of a better way to socialize before dinner.
NUTTY CHERRY CROSTINI
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved
4 baguette slices, toasted
4 ounces Danish bleu cheese, room temperature
1-2 tablespoons pistachio nuts, chopped
Fresh sprigs if lemon thyme, for garnish
In an iron skillet over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Add sliced cherries, stirring gently to soften. Meanwhile toast baguette slices. Spread on bleu cheese. Add a spoonful of cherries. Sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts. Garnish with fresh lemon thyme leaves.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Avocado Breakfast Toast! Nothing looks more appealing in the morning than an open face breakfast sandwich, in my opinion. Avocado and salmon step things up a notch when paired with a nice yolk-drenched piece of artisan toast. I love French butter, but if you choose to omit slathering the toast with it, I’ll understand. My husband and I don’t mind a little taste sensuality in the morning. You choose.
AVOCADO BREAKFAST TOAST
2 slices artisan bread, toasted
1-2 tablespoons sea salt butter
1 avocado; halved, pitted, peeled, and chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 eggs, cooked over easy or poached
1/2 cup grilled salmon, flaked
1 teaspoon capers
Pinch Herbes de Provence
Fresh thyme for garnish
Take the chopped avocado and mash it until chunky. Fold in the lemon juice and garlic powder. Set aside. Toast bread as desired. Spread with sea salt butter and keep warm. Cook the eggs over easy so the yolks are still runny. Place one piece of buttered toast on a plate. Spoon a thick layer of avocado over toast. Next divide flaked salmon between the two servings. Sprinkle with capers. Place one egg on top. Garnish with Herbes de Provence and fresh tarragon.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Zen Himalayan Plate! Go above ordinary ingredients and transform your palate with a meal on the Himalayan salt plate. Foods pick up a delicate saltiness that transcends the flavor and leaves behind monotony. By creating bite-size pieces of fish, shellfish, and cucumber sushi, nourishment balances out the inner peace from within. Good for health-crazed affenciados as well as those soul-searching for expression.
ZEN HIMALAYAN PLATE
3.75-ounce tin Wild Caught Sardines, in olive oil
1 lemon, sliced and quartered
3.75-ounce tin smoked oysters
Fresh lemon thyme
7-ounces prepared crab dip
4 mini cucumbers, seedless
Arrange sardines on a Himalayan salt plate. Drizzle with olive oil from the tin. Place lemon wedges on fish and garnish with fresh lemon thyme. Smoked oysters may be served in individual sea shells. Drizzle with sauce from the tin. Oysters may also be served on a cracker. To assemble the cucumber sushi, slice mini cucumbers into thick rolls. To remove the inside portion of each disc, place the cucumber on a cutting board, use a sharp knife, and rotate the cuke until the center is cut out. Make sure the walls remain. Discard fleshy pulp. Place the cucumber “rings” on the Himalayan salt plate. Spoon prepared crabmeat dip into each ring. Press gently to fill the sushi roll. Garnish with dill.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Thyme for Brie! Serving baked cheese is always a good idea, in my book. It’s like granting permission to have an appetizer as a meal, plus you get to eat with your fingers. By adding fresh herbs and natural honey, suddenly cheese becomes an elegant appetizer that even has men succumbing to its allure and gooey texture. Grab a bottle of wine or sparkling beverage, ease onto the back porch, and watch the sun sink into the shadowy horizon.
THYME FOR BRIE
1 wheel of Brie
2 tablespoons Savannah Bee raw acacia honey*, or natural honey
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
Sea salt crackers
Crispy Parmesan cheese rounds
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a nonstick ovenproof dish with nonstick oil. Slice the rind off the top of the wheel of Brie. Place the wheel in the dish with skin side down. Drizzle acacia honey over the top of the Brie. Place fresh thyme over honey. Bake for 10-12 minutes until cheese is gooey and completely melted. Serve immediately with any assortment of crackers.
*I receive no recompense for recommending Savannah Bee raw acacia honey.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Quiche Fromage! If you’ve ever been to Paris, you can’t help but be charmed by the street vendors near Notre Dame along the Seine River. One in particular featured homemade quiche specialties for picnicking tourists. There’s nothing more charming than grabbing a spot on the nearest bench for a lunchtime picnic in the midst of people-watching, that’s for sure. You can relive the moment with today’s version of cheese quiche made with a puff pastry crust. Ooh là là!
One puff pastry sheet
1/3 cup crème fraîche or Greek yogurt
1/2 cup light cream
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
6-7 ounces Sartori Montamoré cheese, crumbled
Thaw the puff pastry for 40 minutes. Roll out to fit a 10 1/2″ pie plate. Crimp the edges and pierce the bottom with a fork. Place pie plate in the freezer for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425°. Line the pastry with foil and place pastry weights in the bottom. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Remove the foil and pastry weights, pierce dough again if needed, and bake 5 minutes longer until bottom is golden. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, crème fraîche, light cream, Herbes de Provence, seasoned salt, and black pepper. Fold in cheese crumbles. Spoon mixture into the pastry crust. Bake 30 minutes until the filling is golden and the crust is puffed. To test for doneness, insert cake tester. If pick comes out clean, the quiche is baked through. Serve immediately. Enjoy with a glass of Pinot Noir.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Zinfandel Pairings! Just when I thought I’d seen it all, there in the produce department perched on the bottom shelf below its green and red cousins, was a small bin of larger-than-life black seedless grapes. Immediately I was intrigued. The hand-scribbled sign boasted sweet and tart beyond your wildest dreams. That’s it. Nothing more than “Product of USA” on the package. It didn’t matter. It was love-at-first-sight. I knew immediately that a Zinfandel wine and tangy cheese would join the impromptu Date Night that was forming in my mind. Later on, after I got home, I read all kinds of powerful benefits these precious little gems do for the body, mind, and soul. What a perfect prologue for guilt-free delicacies.
1 pound black seedless grapes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces feta cheese, block
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup honeycomb
Multigrain French Bread slices, lightly toasted
Raw Honey, for drizzling
Lemon Thyme, for garnish
Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. In a small dish, combine olive oil, sugar, kosher salt, and black pepper. Wash cluster of black grapes; pat dry. Place grapes on the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, generously coat the grapes with the olive oil mixture. Roast for 30 minutes. Grapes will release juice and begin to wrinkle. Remove pan from oven to cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Break the feta cheese into rough chunks. Transfer to a baking dish sprayed with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon zest. Drizzle with raw honey. Bake for 15 minutes until softened. Broil until slightly golden. Watch carefully. To serve, spread warm cheese on toasted baguette slices. Top with a piece of honeycomb. Place a roasted grape over the cheese. Drizzle with raw honey. Garnish with lemon thyme. Serve with a slightly chilled glass of red Zinfandel.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Fried Cinnamon Sugar Pears! Impulse buys. We all get lambasted as soon as we step through the automated doors of the supermarket. The colorful array of succulent fruit and glistening vegetables appear as lush as if they were grown in the Garden of Eden. Before you know it, the grocery cart is overflowing with a mountain of luxuriant produce. In your mind, you’re already forming mental images of gastronomic creations where you spin around the kitchen like Julia Child waving a wooden spoon in the air. That is until you get home. The fruit is ripening faster than you can say, “go bananas”. Now two weeks in, you’ve already exhausted several different ways of consuming that box of winter pears. Allow me to offer a quick ‘n easy side dish. It goes especially well with pork loin or spiral ham. I promise you, your family will be singing your praises from now on.
FRIED CINNAMON SUGAR PEARS
6 Oregon pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
2-3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Fresh lemon thyme, for garnish
In an iron skillet over low heat, warm butter. Combine sugar, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon in a bowl. Mix well; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together apple cider and cornstarch. Set aside. Add sliced pears to melted butter. Coat well; increase heat to medium setting. Stir gently for about 3 minutes. Sprinkle sugar mixture over pears. Stir. Cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pears are fork tender. Pour apple cider liquid over pears, stirring constantly for 2 minutes longer. Remove iron skillet from heat. Allow fried pears to cool slightly and thicken. Ladle into small bowls. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Vanilla Bee Pollen Ice Cream! What’s all the “buzz” about? The jury is still out on the benefits of bee pollen. Some claim amazing health results while others blame it for side effects. Bee pollen is actually intensified plant pollen picked up by honeybees and brought back to the hive as a source of food for the colony. So obviously, its characteristics depend solely on the geographic location of where it is collected. Just like honey, some say if you struggle with seasonal allergies, the best way to combat that is to take a teaspoon of raw honey every day from the area where you live. Bee pollen is made up of carbs, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You can certainly see why naturalists call it a superfood. As with any herbal supplement, contact your health care provider before beginning something new. Many foodies like to add a teaspoon of bee pollen to their morning smoothie. Here it is sprinkled over no-churn ice cream.
VANILLA BEE POLLEN ICE CREAM
2 cups heavy cream
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 vanilla bean pod, sliced horizontally, seeds extracted
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 teaspoon bee pollen
Agave nectar, for drizzling
Lemon thyme, for garnish
Be sure the mixing bowl, whisk, and loaf pan are chilled before using. (I placed mine in the freezer overnight. If the ingredients are warm, the mixture won’t thicken to desired texture. I also put the can of sweetened condensed milk in the refrigerator the night before.) In the chilled bowl of the stand mixer, combine heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla bean seeds, and raw honey. Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to the chilled loaf pan. Freeze 6 hours or overnight. To serve, place three rounded ice cream scoops in a dish. Sprinkle bee pollen over top. Drizzle with agave nectar ribbons. Garnish with a sprig of lemon thyme.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Kiwi Dessert Pizza! What do you get when you cross a bakery crust with a sweet and creamy fruit topping? At first glance, it appears as though frosting is smeared over the mini flatbread crust. It kinda is. The secret is cream cheese with a hint of sweetened coconut. The rest is simply fresh fruit…until you detect the toasted coconut flakes. Now it’s tough to decide if this dessert is a cookie or a fruit tart. Either way, it’s a delightful change from traditional pies or standard cakes. Not too sweet, not too bland. It’s just right.
KIWI DESSERT PIZZA
2 mini naan prepared flatbreads
4 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon coconut syrup
2 strawberries, tops removed and quartered
1 kiwi, peeled, sliced, and quartered
3 sliced peaches, cubed
10 blueberries, divided
Toasted coconut, for garnish
Lemon thyme, for garnish
Remove naan from packaging. Spritz with water before heating. Place in toaster on medium setting. Transfer to a platter. In a bowl, combine cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, and coconut syrup. Stir until smooth. Spread over surface of the naan. Arrange strawberries, kiwi, peaches, and blueberries. Garnish with toasted coconut and lemon thyme.