Open-Faced Sammies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Open-Faced Sammie! The popularity of open-faced sandwiches has been brewing since the 15th century, when it was typically eaten for breakfast, lunch, snack, or supper. Although the layers have changed, butter or cheese remain the favorites as spreads, plus any combination of meat and vegetables. This is where your personal palate comes in. Or, perhaps whatever you have on hand in the refrigerator. Gardens abound with peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes. But don’t limit yourself there. I find avocados to be perfectly satisfying, especially with a crispy slab of applewood smoked bacon. Like I said, the choice is yours. One thing is for certain, it’s definitely easier to eat an open faced sandwich with a fork and knife.

OPEN-FACED SAMMIE

Ingredients:

2 slices pumpernickel rye bread, artisan-style

1 tablespoon sea salt butter

3 slices Swiss cheese, divided

3 slices bacon, cooked

1 ripe avocado, pitted and mashed

1 teaspoon lime juice

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tomatillo, chopped

1 tomato, sliced

1 egg, hard-boiled and chopped

1/8 teaspoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

Instructions:

Toast artisan pumpernickel rye bread. Butter with sea salt. Place 1 1/2 slices of Swiss cheese on each piece of toast. Microwave on High 15 seconds to melt cheese. Layer with 1 1/2 slices crisp bacon. In a small bowl, combine mashed avocado, lime juice, and garlic powder. Mix well. Fold in chopped tomatillo. Spread over each sandwich. Place two tomato slices over avocado mixture. Spoon chopped hard-boiled egg pieces over tomatoes. Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Makes two open-face sandwiches.

Yum Yum Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Yum Yum Sauce! Although I got a little creative with the recipe, I’m seriously not making up the name, Yum Yum Sauce. Many of you already know it as the popular condiment found in Japanese hibachi restaurants. With a little tweaking, you now have permission to bathe dinner in it. By pairing it with tilapia fish and adding creamy spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, it literally had me licking my fork after every bite. I suppose you could add a side dish of rice or noodles, but honestly, I never got that far.

YUM YUM SAUCE

Ingredients:

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2-3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, diced

1 teaspoon corn starch

1 cup heavy cream

10-ounce package frozen creamed spinach

3 tilapia fillets

2 tablespoons Italian-style bread crumbs

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter

Instructions:

Combine mayonnaise, melted butter, tomato paste, agave nectar, seasoned salt, and rice vinegar in a bowl. Whisk thoroughly to blend. Fold in sun-dried tomatoes. Whisk together corn starch and heavy cream. Add to sauce. Mix well. Set aside. Microwave creamed spinach according to package directions. Set aside. To prepare tilapia fillets, dust both sides with Italian-style bread crumbs. Warm 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon butter in an iron skillet over medium heat. Fry seasoned fillets until golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined platter. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring Yum Yum Sauce to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cook 5 minutes until thickened and heated through, stirring occasionally. Add creamed spinach. Stir well. To serve, spoon enhanced Yum Yum Sauce onto a plate. Top with tilapia fillets.

Tomato Burrata Crostini

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Tomato Burrata Crostini! One look, one whiff, and one bite is all you need to be satisfied with this gastronomic appetizer. The intensity of slow-roasted tomatoes releases a tangy sweetness that marries well with the luscious creaminess of burrata cheese. Now balance that out with the subtle smokiness of paper-thin hard salami intermingling with aromatic basil leaves. You have just been transported to seventh heaven, inspired by the taste of Italy. Need I say more?

TOMATO BURRATA CROSTINI

Ingredients:

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 bakery flatbread, plain

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

8 ounces burrata cheese

8 thin slices of hard salami

Fresh basil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss tomatoes in olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Warm an iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add seasoned tomatoes. Roast tomatoes 15-20 minutes until they blacken slightly and begin to burst. Brush both sides of flatbread with olive oil. Cut flatbread into 8 pieces and place on a pizza pan. Sprinkle with oregano, marjoram, basil, and garlic powder. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove. Place burrata in a shallow dish. Divide it into 8 portions, cutting slowly to keep the creamy filling in the mozzarella shell. Transfer each portion to the flatbread, spreading burrata cheese as needed. Layer thin salami over burrata. Tear or fold to fit the shape of the flatbread. Add roasted tomatoes. Bake 5-8 minutes until edges begin to char. Remove crostini from oven. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve warm.

Tuscan Tomato Bisque

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Tuscan Tomato Bisque! Picture this. Autumn has set in, the air emits a crisp chill, and a warm fire is enough to make you snuggle inside for the night. For the robust concentrated flavor of tomatoes, slow-roasting them brings it all home. Earthy Italian herbs and spices add a little mystery to every bite. Cozy up to a bowl with your favorite afghan and reap the harvest.

TUSCAN TOMATO BISQUE

Ingredients:

6-8 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon basil

1 cup water

Fresh basil leaves

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Line baking sheet with foil. Arrange tomatoes, cut side up. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast tomatoes until they are soft, approximately 30 minutes. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Sauté onion and garlic until fragrant and soft, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 8 minutes longer. Add paprika, oregano, marjoram, and basil. Increase heat to medium-high and add roasted tomatoes. Add water. Stir. Reduce heat slightly to medium, cover, and simmer for another 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully transfer portions to a food processor. Pulse tomatoes until somewhat smooth. Repeat. Transfer soup back into the pan to reheat. Divide tomato bisque into soup bowls. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately with toasted bagels, crackers, or crusty bread.

Lamb Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Lamb Flatbread! I think I could eat my weight in flatbread simply because of the endless combination of ingredients. When I’m in the mood for something with a Greek twist, I turn to lamb meat permeated with ethnic spices such as oregano, dill, parsley, and coriander. A sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese is nice, especially when it melts around Kalamata olives grown under Grecian sunshine. At least, that’s what I imagine. Maybe you will, too.

LAMB FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 pound organic lamb, ground

1/2 cup water

1-2 beef bouillon cubes

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/4 teaspoons coriander

1 1/4 teaspoons cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 cup prepared ranch dressing

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 teaspoon dill weed

2 baby cucumbers, chopped

1 garlic flatbread

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded

4-5 cherry tomatoes, sliced

1 shallot, sliced

3-4 Kalamata olives, sliced

1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Fresh arugula leaves

1/8 teaspoon oregano

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. In a large skillet, combine ground lamb, water, bouillon cubes, sea salt, coriander, cumin powder, garlic powder, and dried parsley. Bring to boiling, crumbling meat with a fork to cook thoroughly. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until all moisture is absorbed and meat is browned. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix ranch dressing, Greek yogurt, and dill weed. Stir until smooth. Brush bottom of garlic flatbread with one tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Spread half the ranch dressing mixture over the flatbread. Add the chopped cucumbers to the remaining sauce. Set aside. Top flatbread with mozzarella cheese, crumbled lamb mixture (you will have extra to use later on), cherry tomatoes, sliced shallot, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, arugula leaves, and oregano. Bake 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven, slice accordingly, and use reserve cucumber dip as side condiment.

Taqueria Guacamole

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Taqueria Guacamole! Everyone eats out, that’s a fact. It gives us pleasure. Besides, it takes less energy than planning, shopping, and cooking at the end of the day. But have you ever had a taste for one of the vacay restaurant specials and wish you could make it yourself? Well, I do it all the time. That’s why I recreated a popular cantina menu item that takes guacamole to the next level.

TAQUERIA GUACAMOLE

Ingredients:

2 ripe avocados; halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into chunks

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 green tomato, chopped

1 red tomato, chopped

1 tablespoon red onion, chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, sliced

1 roasted red chili pepper, diced

Cilantro to garnish

Instructions:

In a medium mixing bowl, mash avocado chunks with a fork until thick and smooth. Sprinkle in lime juice, garlic powder, and sea salt. Fold in green tomato chunks and red tomato chunks. Transfer to a serving dish. Top with chopped red onion, jalapeño slices, and diced red chilies. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips.

Quinoa BLTE Sandwich

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Quinoa BLTE Sandwich! What exactly is quinoa; does anyone know for sure? I took a trip down Wikipedia Lane and discovered “it is an experimental crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration human occupied space flights.” It’s also gluten-free and easy to digest. That’s pretty important stuff in my book. Oh yeah, it’s been around for human consumption for at least 3,000 years. Maybe it’s time to give it a whirl.

QUINOA BLTE SANDWICH

Ingredients:

2 slices organic quinoa multigrain bread, toasted

1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 slices tomato

2 romaine lettuce leaves

2-4 slices thick bacon, cooked crisp

1 large egg, cooked over-easy

Pinch seasoned salt

Black pepper to taste

Garnish with parsley

Instructions:

Microwave bacon on paper-towel-lined plate for 5 minutes on High or until crisp. Set aside. In a small skillet sprayed with nonstick oil, crack an egg over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and black pepper. Fry until set, then carefully flip over. Turn off heat. Continue cooking until white is set, but yolk is still runny. To assemble sandwich, slather both pieces of quinoa toast with mayonnaise. Layer ripe tomatoes, romaine lettuce leaves, and bacon strips on one slice. Slide the fried egg onto the bacon. Top the sandwich with the remaining slice of quinoa toast. Garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

Nested Scrambled Eggs

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Nested Scrambled Eggs! Tired of the same old breakfast all week long? This grab-and-go option can be yours by investing a little effort on the weekend. Believe me, it’s worth it. By creating a “nest” of cheesy hash browns, the outer edge satisfies the salty crunch before your teeth sink into a creamy middle of scrambled eggs and veggies. The size of a muffin makes it a guilt-free pleasure. Try some. There’s actually a lot to crow about.

NESTED SCRAMBLED EGGS

Ingredients:

20-ounce package refrigerated hash brown potatoes

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

4 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1-2 tablespoons bacon drippings

7 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1/2 bell green pepper, diced

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded, divided

2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 tomato, diced

Fresh basil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Combine hash brown potatoes, seasoned salt, black pepper, olive oil, and cheddar cheese. Mix well. Divide mixture between the 12 cups in a prepared muffin tin. Press potato mixture into sides and bottom of each cup leaving the center hollow. Bake 15-20 minutes until hashbrowns are golden and crispy. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, milk, and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside. Remove “nests” from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350°. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add bacon drippings. Sauté mushrooms, green pepper, and sweet onion. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add egg mixture, stirring constantly, until eggs are set. This will take about 4 minutes. Turn off heat. Fold in 1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese. Fill “nests” with egg mixture. Sprinkle with remaining Monterey Jack cheese, bacon crumbles, and diced tomatoes. Bake 3-4 minutes until the cheese is melted. Garnish with fresh basil before serving.

Kooky Cucumber Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Kooky Cucumber Salad! Does anyone really count the number of daily servings of vegetables recommended for a healthy diet? I know I don’t. And I suspect I’m not in the minority. What I do pay attention to is how appealing food looks on the plate. It’s one of the reasons I have a Spiralizer among my kitchen utensils. Besides, it takes minimal effort to make ordinary foods look this good. The fact that I’m maintaining a low fat, low carb, and low calorie intake just gives me all the more reason to splurge on something sweet later on. Call me crazy, or call me “kooky”.

KOOKY CUCUMBER SALAD

Ingredients:

1 large cucumber, halved

1 tomato, chopped

1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons garlic red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped for garnish

Instructions:

Spiralize half the cucumber with the apple core attachment, for wider strips. Spiralize the remaining cucumber half with the noodle attachment, for spaghetti-like spirals. Arrange cucumbers in a serving bowl. Top with chopped tomatoes and red onion slices. Add Kalamata olives. Whisk together olive oil and garlic red wine vinegar. Drizzle over salad. Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Garnish with fresh oregano.