Uber Hasselback Caprese Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Uber Hasselback Caprese Salad! Want to do something fancy-schmancy? Take ordinary garden Roma tomatoes (the oval kind) and cut them in such a way that they fan out a little bit like an accordion. Then, using your fingers, tuck slices of cheese and fresh herbs in between. It’s so simple, yet looks incredibly delish as a side salad. This is why we like food so much. It becomes a dining experience versus chowing down.

UBER HASSELBACK CAPRESE SALAD

Ingredients:

3 Roma tomatoes

3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

13-16 fresh basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette

Instructions:

Judging by the size of each tomato, make 4-5 slices, stopping before the knife cuts completely through. Transfer tomatoes to a serving dish. Fill each slit with a mozzarella slice. Tuck in spaces with fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle Everything But Bagel seasoning over all. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.

Original Marinara Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Original Marinara Sauce! Marinara isn’t just a fancy name for spaghetti sauce, it actually lacks one key ingredient that sets it apart. You guessed it: MEAT. Basically, marinara is a tomato-based sauce infused with herbs and spices. It can be prepared very easily in less than half an hour. Personally, I find it perfect for a meatless meal. I like chunks of tomatoes, the hint of garlic, and a slight kick of red pepper spice. Look again at the snapshot. Perhaps it’s time to make marinara at your house.

ORIGINAL MARINARA SAUCE

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

28-ounce can Italian Roma tomatoes, diced with sauce

2 tablespoons fresh oregano

1/4 cup basil, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm olive oil. Add minced garlic; sauté for one minute until slightly brown, stirring occasionally. Add diced Roma tomatoes with sauce, fresh oregano, chopped basil, sea salt, marjoram, agave nectar, and red pepper flakes. Simmer sauce until thickened, approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Marinara sauce will be chunky and thick. Serve with cooked pasta.

Ketchup From Scratch

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Ketchup From Scratch! Many gourmet burger joints are joining the health revolution by opting out with in-house condiments. For those who truly appreciate knowing exactly what’s in the food they eat, here is a novel recipe for homemade ketchup without high fructose corn syrup and extra preservatives. It’s incredibly simple to make and can be prepared in about 30 minutes. The taste, you ask? OMG! I never thought I’d actually consider ketchup a veggie, but now I do. Enough said.

KETCHUP FROM SCRATCH

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon ginger, peeled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

28-ounce can whole Italian Roma tomatoes in juice

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Warm olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onions. Cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add chopped garlic, chopped ginger, red pepper flakes, and allspice. Cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste; stir for 2 minutes. Add the Italian Roma tomatoes in juice, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and black pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The ketchup will thicken and appear shiny. Remove from heat. Blend until smooth. Cool to room temperature and then store in the refrigerator.

Garlic Roasted Thyme Tomatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Garlic Roasted Thyme Tomatoes! Turn ordinary tomatoes into a savory side dish with earthy vigor. Have you experienced roasted garlic lately? Don’t hate me if I describe it as smooth and sweet as a dab of butter. Having said that, I can tell by the look in your eye, you’re gonna roast more garlic cloves than I pictured here. Go for it. By quick-roasting vegetables on high heat in the oven, you’ll notice a natural hint of smokiness that satisfies the palate. Although they turn from shiny smooth to a dull luster when finished, the taste is what will win you over. I promise you this, here’s a down-home recipe that will not disappoint.

GARLIC ROASTED THYME TOMATOES

Ingredients:

6 medium tomatoes

6 cloves garlic, peeled

5 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 cup olive oil

Kosher salt

Cracked black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Rub tomatoes with olive oil and place in a baking pan. Add garlic cloves and thyme sprigs. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Season, to taste, with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Bake 25-30 minutes, occasionally brushing tomatoes with olive oil from the pan. Skins may split. Remove from oven. Spoon tomatoes, garlic, and thyme into serving bowls. Drizzle with pan juices. Serve warm.

Creole Shrimp

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Creole Shrimp! The guy who invented the crockpot is a genius, in my opinion. Think about it. You throw everything into a slow cooker, give it a stir, plop on the lid, and come back later to mouthwatering aromas that can make your stomach growl. Some are what I refer to as “One Dish Wonders”. Others are transformed into lip-smacking sensations when combined with simple sides. Read on to see what I mean.

CREOLE SHRIMP

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup green peppers, diced

1/2 cup sweet onions, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1 teaspoon chili powder

28-ounce can Roma tomatoes with bay leaf

1 tablespoon sriracha sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 pound precooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon dill weed

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Green onions for garnish

Instructions:

In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Sauté green peppers, sweet onions, and chopped celery. Cook 5 minutes until softened. Add chili powder. Sauté until caramelized, 2-3 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Transfer to crockpot, set on High setting. Cut up Roma tomatoes. Transfer tomatoes and sauce to crockpot. Add sriracha sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, sea salt, and black pepper. Stir. Replace lid and cook for three hours. After that time, warm butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Sauté shrimp, sprinkled with seasoned salt, dill weed, and red pepper flakes. Turn once. Remove from heat. Transfer sautéed shrimp to slow-cooked tomato sauce. Cook five minutes longer. Serve over steamed rice. Garnish with green onion snips.

Yellow Pepper Spaghetti

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Yellow Pepper Spaghetti! You know how spaghetti always tastes better the second day? There’s something about those savory spices intensifying the sauce and melding it with the pasta. Some of it has to do with starch, I’m told, but I don’t want to get too scientific. I’ll trust my taste buds to go with the flow. Because my garden has a bounty of peppers right now, this seemed like a natural progression. Stuff ‘em. Not only did the leftover spaghetti taste amazing, but the yellow pepper added it’s own smoother mild flavoring. Not bitter. Not sweet. Just right. Maybe you’ll come to the same conclusion.

YELLOW PEPPER SPAGHETTI

Ingredients:

4 yellow peppers, whole

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 cups of leftover cooked spaghetti in marinara sauce

Chopped tomatoes, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cut off the top of each yellow pepper and remove the insides. Rinse and drain. Stand peppers upright in a baking dish. Put a heaping tablespoon of mozzarella cheese in the bottom of each yellow pepper. Then stuff each pepper with the leftover cooked spaghetti in marinara sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil, divide remaining cheese over the tops. Garnish with chopped tomatoes and bake 15 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

Wonton Nachos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Wonton Nachos! Sounds strange, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought the first time I glanced around the restaurant where couples sat munching away on the mountain of gooey cheese and triangular chips. Fusion foods combine different cultures. There are no rules and this proves it. Take Asian wonton wrappers and blend them with Mexican seasonings and salsa for a perfect pairing. Because wonton wrappers are paper thin dough, they bake up in a matter of minutes. Don’t forget the sprinkling of sea salt. By the time the margaritas are mixed, everything is ready to be assembled onto a platter of spicy Wonton Nachos that encourage conversation. Now put down your cell phones and eat!

WONTON NACHOS

Ingredients:

12-ounce package of wonton wrappers

Nonstick oil

Sea salt

8-ounce package Mexican-style cheese, shredded

Toppings of choice

Salsa for dipping

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside. Cut each wonton wrapper in half diagonally, or quarters if you desire smaller chips. Place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Coat the tops with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake 10 minutes, or until crispy. Turn for even browning. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Repeat until all chips have been made. To make nachos, arrange chips in an ovenproof dish. Add Mexican cheese and toppings of choice. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with salsa.

Veggie Burger

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Veggie Burger! For a quarter-pounder without all the fat, substitute red meat for black beans instead. Sound crazy? Actually, I conducted a little taste test on my husband recently. By using mashed black beans, onion, green pepper, egg, and bread crumbs, it seemed more like a meatloaf than a burger. It kinda did. The texture was the same and they fried up real nice in the iron skillet. By the time we added lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle, we practically did a double-take on the finished product. Go all out and slide it between a brioche bun. The veggie burger definitely crossed the finish line at the dinner table. Now that’s delicious.

VEGGIE BURGER

Ingredients:

16-ounce can organic black beans, drained and rinsed well

1/2 green pepper

1/2 yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

3 drops sriracha sauce

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs

Butter for frying

Brioche hamburger buns

Condiments, per taste

Instructions:

Using a food processor set on Pulse, mash black beans until thick and chunky. Transfer to a bowl. Next, combine green pepper, yellow onion, and minced garlic in the food processor. Chop into small pieces. Stir into the black beans. Add egg, chili powder, cumin, and sriracha sauce. Mix well. Add bread crumbs. Mix together with gloved hands until consistency is dense enough to form into patties. Melt butter in an iron skillet over medium heat. Place patties into skillet and cook about 7-8 minutes until a crispy outer edge is present. Flip and cook 7-8 minutes longer. Serve with condiments of choice on a brioche bun.

Upside Down Tomato Tart

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Upside Down Tomato Tart! If I were a fairy princess, in the Land of Make Believe, I would wrap myself in puff pastry and nibble my way out. Just so you know…puff pastry is paper-thin layers of buttery dough. It’s like a chef’s all-time secret never-fail pastry dough that practically makes everything look and taste gourmet. When baked, the layers of butter release steam that turns the dough light and flaky. Thank goodness it is sold prepackaged in the freezer section of most grocery stores. All you need to do is let it thaw for about 45 minutes and it’s ready to be transformed into your latest craving. I’ve heard it makes an incredible pizza dough, so I see that on my list of recipes soon. In the meantime, take advantage of tomato season. This recipe can slay dragons.

UPSIDE DOWN TOMATO TART

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 cup yellow sun gold tomatoes, cut in half

4 small green tomatoes, quartered

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon basil

6 ounces provolone cheese, shredded

1 sheet puff pastry, room temperature

1 teaspoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

Basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Reduce to simmer. Add cherry tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, green tomatoes, oregano, marjoram, garlic powder, and basil. Coat well. Cover and cook until tomatoes are slightly softened, about 10 minutes. Set aside. Spray an iron skillet with nonstick oil. Transfer tomato mixture to skillet. Layer with shredded provolone cheese. Place puff pastry on top. Trim extra dough with kitchen knife. Bake 25-30 minutes or until dough is golden brown. Let cool 5-7 minutes. Invert tart onto a plate or pizza stone.* Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Garnish with basil leaves. Serve warm.

*Once inverted onto a pizza stone, I wanted the dough a little charred. I set the oven to Broil, placed it back inside, and let the edges of the tart darken further. Watch carefully!