What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: X-Tra Cheese, Please Appetizer! Ever since I visited a popular Las Vegas restaurant, I’ve been looking for a cheese appetizer like this one. It’s not the traditional gooey soupy cheese dip you swipe tortilla chips through before gobbling down. The waiter set the iron skillet in front of us and said, “This is a cheese you need to use a knife and fork with. It’s not going to jump onto the chip.” Come to find out it was flambéed over an open fire in the kitchen. Wow! And they used tequila to ignite it. I wish I could tell you that’s what I did here, but sorry, “no comprendo”. Instead I baked it at a high temperature and dredged it through a spicy honey. Show compassion. I tried.
X-TRA CHEESE, PLEASE APPETIZER
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon garlic habanero sauce
2 tablespoons ranch dressing
Chives, for garnish
Preheat oven to 475°. Using a 10” iron skillet, warm butter over medium heat. Add diced onion and kosher salt. Sauté for 5-8 minutes, or until onions are soft and golden brown. Add Monterey Jack cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Mix thoroughly with onions. To make the spicy honey, in a microwave-safe dish combine raw Tupelo honey, sriracha, and garlic habanero sauce. Stir well. Microwave on High for 30 seconds. Stir again. Set aside. Transfer cheese-filled iron skillet to the oven. Bake 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Turn oven setting to High on Broil. Allow dark spots to appear on the surface, about 1-2 minutes. Watch carefully as this happens very quickly. Remove skillet from oven. Drizzle with spicy honey and ranch dressing. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve with tortilla chips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Creamy Honey Mustard Dressing! Imagine my delight at seeing thin sprigs of thyme with tiny spear-shaped leaves in the herb bed again. Although a perennial, thyme seems to thrive more in full sun. Doesn’t everything? Crush a few leaves to breathe in the slight, lemony aroma. Nice. There’s an easier way to remove the leaves without picking them off one by one. Position your thumb and forefinger at the non-root end of the stem, then pull backwards so the leaves fall into a dish. Discard the stem and you’re ready to go. Fresh thyme adds a nice finish to recipes whether you sprinkle the leaves as a finishing touch or use the entire sprig as a garnish. I like adding fresh herbs to salads and dressings. It’s like a delicious taste of sunshine.
CREAMY HONEY MUSTARD DRESSING
1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Fresh lemon thyme, for garnish
In a small bowl, combine Tupelo honey, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, white vinegar, and cayenne pepper. Whisk together until smooth and creamy. Add lemon thyme leaves. Drizzle over salads and vegetables.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Wheel of Camembert! To eat or not to eat the rind, that is the question. The answer? It’s totally up to you. As a general rule, the natural rinds of soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert are safe to eat. Some people can’t get past the idea that the rind looks “moldy”, simply because it appears white and fluffy. That essence is called “bloomy”, which sounds much more appealing in my opinion. If you’re a mushroom-lover, you may detect an earthy aroma that delivers a lusty taste. Bottom line: if it weren’t for the rind, the interior wouldn’t be nearly as creamy and buttery as it is. My advice for first-timers? Give it a try. With the luscious fruit, crunchy nuts, and raw honey you may find yourself giving it a fair chance.
WHEEL OF CAMEMBERT
1 wheel of Camembert cheese, with wrapping removed and discarded
1-2 tablespoons raspberry jam, warmed
1/2 cup red raspberries
2 tablespoons Tupelo raw honey
2 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped
Multigrain baked crackers
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the wheel of Camembert cheese onto prepared pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the top and sides of the rind feel soft to the touch. Another sign is when areas of gooey cheese begin to ooze through the rind. Meanwhile, warm the raspberry jam 30 seconds in a microwave-safe dish. Stir. Gently add the raspberries; toss to coat. Transfer the baked Camembert cheese to a rimmed plate. Top the cheese wheel with raspberry compote. Drizzle raw honey over all. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios. Serve warm with multigrain crackers.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Mint Black ‘n Bleu Snack! When you’re needing a simple, yet exotic appetizer or dessert, nothing satisfies the palate like naturally sweet fresh blackberries complimented by creamy bleu cheese. The subtle crunch of a multigrain cracker topped with sesame and poppyseeds makes a wonderful platform. A touch of raw honey serves to tickle the tongue while the fresh mint leaf provides a tangy finish. Together, they pair extremely well with a glass of white wine or after dinner espresso. Perhaps you see this in your future.
MINT BLACK ‘N BLEU SNACK
8.3 ounces multigrain baked crackers
4-6 ounce wedge Danish bleu cheese
8 ounces fresh blackberries, wash and pat dry
1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey
Fresh mint leaves
On a serving platter, arrange a single layer of multigrain crackers. Shave thin layers of Danish bleu cheese slices to cover the crackers. Add blackberries in random order. Drizzle with Tupelo honey. Garnish with fresh mint leaves. Serve.
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
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
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup coffee
2 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
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.