Thyme for Brie

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Quiche Fromage

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!

QUICHE FROMAGE

Ingredients:

One puff pastry sheet

5 eggs

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

Instructions:

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.

Zinfandel Pairings

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.

ZINFANDEL PAIRINGS

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Fried Cinnamon Sugar Pears

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Vanilla Bee Pollen Ice Cream

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Kiwi Dessert Pizza

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Velvety Seafood Chowder

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Velvety Seafood Chowder! Everyone who has enrolled a child or grandchild in preschool is probably familiar with the folk tale known as “Stone Soup”. The story goes, a bunch of starving strangers enter a small village to convince the townspeople to share one ingredient from their root cellars to make a fantastic meal. The strangers produce a magic “stone”, which they place into a large cauldron filled with water. As the pot is cooking over a wood fire, one by one, the curious residents walk by. They are told the soup is almost ready but needs a “little of this or a pinch of that”. The villagers happily agree to throw in everything from carrots and onions to meat and potatoes to enhance the flavor. By the time the medley is fully cooked, the stone is removed and the hearty soup is shared among them. What a wonderful tradition.

VELVETY SEAFOOD CHOWDER

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 sweet onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning*

1/8 teaspoon thyme

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 stalk celery, sliced

1/2 carrot, chopped

1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/4 cup corn

5 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup crabmeat, flaked

6 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined

6.5-ounce can clams, drained and chopped

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley

Instructions:

In a heavy pan over medium heat, warm butter. Add diced onion. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add Old Bay seasoning, thyme, and flour. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sliced celery, chopped carrots, cubed potatoes, corn, chicken broth, and white wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add flaked crabmeat, peeled shrimp, chopped clams, and heavy cream. Cook until seafood is fully cooked, heated through, and potatoes are tender, approximately 8-10 minutes. Ladle into bowls; garnish with fresh parsley.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Thyme Tomato Toss

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Thyme Tomato Toss! Hop aboard the yellow tomato bus for a ride that will take you down a two-lane country road. These golden nuggets, about the size of a cherry, are often less acidic and milder than their popular red cousins. I find them a touch sweeter as well. Their colors can range from pale yellow to sunny gold to bright orange, which makes for a stunning combo in marinated tomatoes or tasty fresh salsa. Just so you know, the skins are pretty tender, if that’s ever been an issue for you. With all that being said, now sit back, and enjoy the ride.

THYME TOMATO TOSS

Ingredients:

8 ounces yellow and red cherry tomatoes, cut into halves

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Thyme sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Place yellow and red cherry tomatoes is a bowl. Set aside. In a measure cup, whisk together olive oil, garlic wine vinegar, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, marjoram, sea salt, basil, and sugar. Sprinkle in thyme leaves. Drizzle over tomatoes. Gently toss to coat. Serve immediately. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

Heart-Healthy Honey Cakes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Heart-Healthy Honey Cakes! Way down south, in the Florida panhandle, grows an unusual tree that produces the “Cadillac” of all honey varieties known as raw Tupelo. The tree blossoms are short-lived and delicate, creating a nectar that is nothing short of superbly exquisite. The finespun flavor is buttery, highly distinctive, and almost magical. If you happen to put your hands on a jar of Tupelo honey, first unscrew the lid and place a couple droplets on your tongue. You owe yourself a genuine taste of the liquid amber gold before adding it to your culinary portfolio. Then, by all means, elevate everyday favorites.

HEART-HEALTHY HONEY CAKES

Ingredients:

1 cup flour plus 2 tablespoons

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup Tupelo raw honey, reserving 1 1/2 tablespoons for drizzling over the batter

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup coffee

2 1/2 tablespoons orange juice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Generously grease six mini bundt pans with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Mix well. Add vegetable oil, raw honey, sugar, brown sugar, egg, vanilla extract, coffee, and orange juice. Mix thoroughly until no lumps remain. Pour batter into prepared mini bundt pans, filling each just over halfway. Do not overfill. Drizzle reserved raw honey over batter. Bake 30 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven. Cool 10 minutes, then invert pans to remove honey cakes. Cool on wire rack. Garnish with fresh lemon thyme.