New Asparagus Spears

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: New Asparagus Spears! Every once in awhile I have an “Ah-ha” moment when I come across fresh produce that I haven’t seen in awhile. This was one of those times. New asparagus smells clean and earthy. It also looks incredibly bright green with splashes of purple on the tips, which should be tightly closed. Make sure the stalks are firm and straight. If they seem to bend quite easily, they’ve already begun to wilt. Put them back. Personally, I prefer the thinner stalks simply because they cook much faster.

NEW ASPARAGUS SPEARS

Ingredients:

15-16 asparagus spears

1/2 red onion, sliced

1/2 cup caper berries, halved

2 tablespoons olive oil

Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste

Fennel stalks, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Wash and trim asparagus spears. Place into an iron skillet. Arrange the red onion slices and caper berries. Brush generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly charred. Remove from oven and garnish with fennel stalks. Serve immediately.

Oregano Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Oregano Roasted Fingerling Potatoes! Seasoning can change the taste of anything, especially when using fresh herbs. This is the time of year when I get excited about nurturing my herb garden. The hardier herbs, like mint, chives, and thyme withstand the winter months and breakthrough in the Spring with vim and vigor. Other favorites require renewing annually; rosemary, basil, cilantro, dill, and oregano are among them. Today’s recipe partners the delicate new fingerling potatoes, which grow small and narrow to live up to their name, alongside robust bleu cheese crumbles and the earthy flavor of fresh oregano. Together they produce a rustic dish characteristic of the south of France, Italy, and Greece. Enticing, isn’t it?

OREGANO ROASTED FINGERLING POTATOES

Ingredients:

1.5 pound bag of petite fingerling gourmet potatoes

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles

1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Pour vegetable oil on a baking sheet to coat the pan with a thin layer. Using a 2-quart pan on the stovetop, cut fingerling potatoes in half and place in the pan with enough water to cover. Add sea salt. Bring to a boil; cook for 7-8 minutes. Drain well. Set aside. Sprinkle dried oregano over potatoes. Cover pan with lid and shake vigorously to slightly loosen potato skins. Carefully transfer oregano potatoes to the baking sheet. Turn to coat in oil. Bake 30-40 minutes until skins are golden and crispy. Turn occasionally to cook evenly. Once the potatoes are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, transfer fingerling potatoes to a serving platter. Add bleu cheese crumbles and freshly chopped oregano. Serve immediately.

Tortellini Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Tortellini Soup! No matter the weather, a classic Italian soup is always a good idea. Make it a budget-friendly weeknight meal with all the flavor of a Tuscan countryside, without the cost of an airline ticket. Common ingredients like garden veggies, rich plum tomatoes, sweet aromatic herbs and zesty spices blend together to enhance the dish. I love the mushroom-stuffed tortellini pasta. It’s curly ring-shape is very gourmet. When it all comes together at the table, you’ll think you created a masterpiece. Well done!

TORTELLINI SOUP

Ingredients:

1 pound chorizo sausage, ground

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped

1/3 cup green pepper, diced

28-ounce can Roma tomatoes, crushed

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

14 ounces vegetable broth

8.8 ounce package porcini mushroom tortellini

1 cup fresh spinach leaves, torn

Parmesan cheese for garnish

Instructions:

Brown chorizo sausage until fully cooked. Meat will be crumbly. Drain well. Set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine olive oil, chopped onions, and diced green peppers. Cook until soft. Add crumbled chorizo. Stir. Add Roma tomatoes, garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, oregano, basil, and marjoram. Stir well to mix ingredients. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Gently fold in tortellini and spinach. Cover and simmer 10 minutes longer until tortellini is tender. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with shredded parmesan cheese. Serve with crostini.

Normandy Vegetable Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Normandy Vegetable Soup! Take a stroll down a country lane where small-scale growers of local gardens nourish a family farm with adventurous dishes. Simple vegetable consumption combined with milk, butter, and cheese appeals to the taste buds. Perhaps it’s a throwback to our childhood where nothing went to waste. Or maybe it’s the fact that classic veggies are always a good idea. Normandy Vegetable Soup. Put a twist on your next meal-in-a-bowl.

NORMANDY VEGETABLE SOUP

Ingredients:

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups light cream

2 cups chicken broth

16-ounce bag Normandy vegetables, thawed*

4-6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Instructions:

In a skillet over medium-high heat, add chopped sweet onion, herbs de Provence, and olive oil. Sauté 5 minutes or until soft. Set aside. In a 2-quart pan over medium-low heat, melt butter. Do not scorch. Add flour, sea salt, and pepper. Stir for 2-3 minutes to make a roux. Slowly add light cream, stirring often to remove lumps. Bring to a slow boil. Carefully add chicken broth, onions, Normandy vegetables. Bring mixture back to a boil. Reduce to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Stir in sharp cheddar cheese until cheese is melted. Ladle into bowls. Serve hot.

*Normandy vegetables are broccoli and cauliflower florets, sliced carrots, zucchini, and yellow squash. Some varieties include a few red pepper bits, green beans, and lima beans.

Baby Corn Split Pea Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Baby Corn Split Pea Soup! For a taste of the country, chocked full of wholesome ingredients and tender smoked ham, look no further. Step off the beaten path of ordinary chicken noodle soup for a bowl of flavorful homemade goodness. Pay attention to the subtle smoky aftertaste of cottage ham that lingers on the tongue. Perhaps the blissfully sweet golden harvest of roasted baby corn meets your satisfaction. Either way, the blend of savory split peas infused among them will leave you asking for a smidgen more.

BABY CORN SPLIT PEA SOUP

1 3/4 cups dry split green peas and lentils, rinsed

2 cups vegetable broth

5 cups water

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cups smoked ham, shredded

7-ounce jar baby corn, whole

Fresh cilantro

Instructions:

In a slow cooker, combine split peas and lentils, vegetable broth, water, garlic powder, black pepper, celery seed, and sea salt. Mix together. Add chopped onion and shredded ham. Cover and cook on HIGH for four hours, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Adjust with more water if soup becomes too thick. Meanwhile, drain baby corn. Pat dry. Take an iron skillet; spray it with nonstick oil. Heat on high temperature. Add baby corn. Gently turn corn as it browns so all sides are evenly roasted. Cut into pieces or leave whole. Add to soup. Lower crockpot setting to LOW. Cook two hours longer. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with cilantro. Serve warm.

Positively Popular Poutine

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Positively Popular Poutine! While traveling to Canada recently, I was taken aback by a friendly waitress who recommended a very popular dish on the menu made with crispy French fries, fresh cheese curds, and rich brown gravy. She called it Poutine. Like a deer in the headlights, I was completely frozen at the thought. So I shook my head no, thanked her, and ordered my fries plain. By the end of the meal I was convinced I had missed out on something spectacular. Practically every restaurant listed Poutine as their specialty. Some Poutine platters were loaded with bacon, others chunk lobster, beef brisket, jerk chicken, or sautéed veggies. One place even boasted “Award Winning Poutine” and stayed open til 4:00 a.m. just to meet the late-night cravings of college students. Maybe this dish will catch on, after all.

POSITIVELY POPULAR POUTINE

Ingredients:

2 pound bag of frozen extra crispy seasoned crinkle fries

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

2 cups cheddar cheese curds, white and yellow

1-2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup cold water

2 cups beef broth

Fresh parsley to garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Arrange frozen French fries in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Season with sea salt and black pepper, to taste. For the gravy, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not scorch. Whisk together cornstarch and cold water until no lumps remain. Add cornstarch mixture to melted butter, stirring constantly. Gradually add beef broth, continuing to stir until all broth is used. Bring gravy to a boil, as you stir. Allow gravy to boil at least one minute to dissolve thickener. Reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally. Divide the crinkle fries among serving bowls. Cover each bowl with cheese curds. Ladle rich brown gravy over each portion. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

Garlic Smashed Potatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Garlic Smashed Potatoes! Now you, too, can have the same potato side dish at home which you often choose in popular eateries. It’s so incredibly easy you’ll find yourself wondering why you didn’t think of it before now. My simple recipe requires only three key ingredients: Idaho Russet Potatoes, Boursin Garlic Cheese, and of course, French Butter with sea salt. A sprinkling of bacon bits and fresh cut chives for garnish merely enhances an already phenomenal taste. With the holidays on the horizon, be kind to yourself. Keep it simple and WOW your friends and family without spending endless hours in the kitchen. You deserve it.

GARLIC SMASHED POTATOES

Ingredients:

2 large Idaho Russet Potatoes

5.2 ounces package Boursin Garlic and Herb Gournay cheese

2 tablespoons butter, salted

Bacon bits, for garnish

Fresh cut chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Peel potatoes and cut into chunks. Place potatoes in a 2-quart pan. Cover with cold water. Add about a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook potatoes for 15-18 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Empty pan of potatoes into a colander to remove water. Transfer potatoes back to the pan, add butter and Boursin garlic cheese. Cover for 2-3 minutes. Take a hand mixer and smash the ingredients together until slightly chunky. Potatoes will be stiff but creamy. Transfer potatoes to a serving dish. Top with bacon bits and fresh cut chives for garnish. Serve immediately with gravy, if desired.

Yam Streusel Boats

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Yam Streusel Boats! Root vegetables are our friends. Yams, also known as sweet potatoes, contain more healthy fiber and Vitamin A than white potatoes. Plus they are lower in calories. Granted today’s recipe has a streusel topping, but think about it. When you eat a baked (white) potato, do you add butter, sour cream, and crumbled bacon? I know, right! Obviously portion-control is part of the equation in making healthy choices. With the holidays on the horizon, think warm, comfort foods containing root vegetables.

YAM STREUSEL BOATS

Ingredients for Yams:

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 pinch cinnamon

1 pinch chipotle chili powder

Ingredients for Chipotle Pumpkin Seeds:

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/8 teaspoon raspberry chipotle rub

3/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Ingredients for Streusel Topping:

1 tablespoon flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1/4 cup chipotle pumpkin seeds, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Rub sweet potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Pierce the top with a knife. Place potatoes directly on the oven rack. Bake one hour. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop the flesh into a mixing bowl. Place potato shells on a baking sheet. Slightly mash the sweet potato flesh. Add butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, and chipotle chili powder. Whisk until smooth. Spoon mixture equally into yam shells. For seasoned pumpkin seeds, combine butter, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, and raspberry chipotle rub. Whisk well. Put pumpkin seeds in a ziplock bag. Pour butter mixture over all. Seal and shake to coat. Transfer seeds to a baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Toss and bake 5 minutes longer. Cool. Chop 1/4 cup of seasoned pumpkin seeds for topping. For streusel topping, use a medium bowl. Combine flour, brown sugar, and butter. Mix well. Topping should be crumbly. Fold in chopped pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle streusel topping over mashed sweet potatoes. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.

Vegan Black Bean Stew

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Vegan Black Bean Stew! Autumn has arrived. And with it comes all the comfort we crave in foods that warm our toes and fill our tummies. You don’t have to be a meat-lover to appreciate a heaping bowl of hearty stew. Choose vegetable medleys and aromatic spices instead. Combine them all together in the slow cooker for savory results. Go meatless!

VEGAN BLACK BEAN STEW

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 sweet onion, diced

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoon cumin

3 cups vegetable broth

45 ounces black beans, with liquid

1 cup sweet corn

Bell Pepper rings

Fresh Cilantro

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add chopped carrots, sliced celery, and sweet onion. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and black pepper. Cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste, garlic powder, and cumin. Cook 2 minutes longer until tomato paste turns brownish. Add 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Stir to combine. Transfer skillet mixture to a crockpot. Add black beans, sweet corn, and remaining vegetable broth. Stir well. Cover and cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 6 hours. Serve heaping bowls with bell pepper rings and cilantro to garnish.