Utmost Prosciutto Plate

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Utmost Prosciutto Plate! Treat yourself right by going the extra mile in gourmet treats. Something so simple, yet sublime, can change a mood from sour to exciting. We all need something to look forward to. Am I right? Fresh mozzarella is usually sold in a brine or water solution to retain its moisture, texture, and soft shape. Let it drain for a few minutes on paper towels; then dab dry and slice. By drizzling a rich olive oil over the mozzarella to enhance that delicate milky flavor, the buttery essence peeks through. Add a leaf or two of fresh basil to enrich the nutritive value. As you sit there nibbling on a slice of prosciutto, pat yourself on the back for enduring the tough times we’ve been through recently. Our home is a safe haven and we can get through whatever storm is next.

UTMOST PROSCIUTTO PLATE

Ingredients:

4 ounces fresh mozzarella, room temperature

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon dried basil

3 ounces old world prosciutto, sliced

7 ounces rustic crostini crackers

4 ounces organic green olives, pitted

Instructions:

Drain mozzarella cheese for a few minutes on paper towels; then dab dry and slice. Transfer to a platter. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with dried basil. Arrange sliced prosciutto and crostini crackers around cheese. Add pitted green olives. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve with Pinot Grigio.

Café Portofino in Lihue, Kauai

Dining Outside the Home: Café Portofino in Lihue, Kauai! Do you need a reason to love lasagna? Might it be the oven-baked pasta bathed in layers of zesty spices, fresh herbs, meat sauce, and Italian cheese? Just thinking about it is mouth-watering. Well, you don’t need to travel to Northern Italy from the Pacific Ocean. Café Portofino, a beachfront restaurant on Kauai, serves up a plate of happiness and satisfaction by bringing the Italian deliciousness right to your table. Their classic lasagna combination features the rich meat sauce of cravings as well as a creamy white sauce to die for. This is not your ordinary lasagna. Taste it to believe it.

English Pot Roast

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: English Pot Roast! Simplify the evening meal. Let the crockpot do the cooking. By adding wine and herbs to the natural meat juices, the slow cooker locks in moisture which tenderizes the roast. Throw everything together, cover, and do something else. Without realizing it, you may find yourself imagining all sorts of ways to serve up the tantalizing leftovers. Utilize the pan drippings for a made-from-scratch gravy or savory soup stock. No matter how you serve it up, the results are Win, Win!

ENGLISH POT ROAST

Ingredients:

2 1/2 pound boneless English beef roast

1 cup dry red wine

10 ounce can beef consommé, undiluted

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence

Instructions:

Place the beef roast in the bottom of a slow cooker. Mix red wine, beef consommé, and balsamic vinegar to blend. Pour over the English roast. Sprinkle seasonings evenly over roast. Cover and turn on low heat setting. Cook 8 hours until fork tender. Serve with potatoes and vegetables for a well-balanced meal.

Bocca di Bacco in New York, New York

Dining Outside the Home: Bocca di Bacco Theater District in New York, New York! Pay attention when a waiter tells you where he goes for dinner when he’s off work. It’s usually one of those best-kept secrets. If you don’t have a reservation, no worries. Snag a seat at the bar. Bartenders are usually pretty friendly, you can linger over drinks, and when you’re ready for dinner…they happily accommodate. Bocca di Bacco in the Theater District is hip, trendy, popular, and within walking distance of a Manhattan hotel. You’ll realize that as soon as you cross the threshold of this neighborhood trattoria, people flock here for a cozy atmosphere. Distant laughter and glasses clinking are cause for celebration. If Italian small plates are more your style, prepare to be amazed. Not everything is pasta, but it is Italian, so sit back and inhale the aromas.

Wine Lovers Vineyard Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Wine Lovers Vineyard Cake! Every once in awhile a special occasion rolls around where you need a dessert that’s outside the box. By substituting some of the liquid with a sweet wine, such as peach, blackberry, or elderflower, you create an unique taste that intensifies the flavor. I chose a peach passion for this particular recipe. With subtle hints of orange extract, it transformed the rich moist bundt cake into a delectable version of a fuzzy navel. The photo reflects a powdered sugar dusting, but you may certainly opt for a glaze finish instead.

WINE LOVERS VINEYARD CAKE

Ingredients for Cake:

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

2 3/4 cup flour

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 small box vanilla pudding, instant

3/4 cup white wine

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon orange extract

1/4 cup water

4 eggs

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Arrange pecans in the bottom of the pan. Using a mixer on low speed, blend the flour, sugar, baking powder, sea salt, vanilla pudding mix, white wine, vegetable oil, orange extract, water, eggs, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Scrape sides, as needed. Pour batter into bundt pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes, until a pick comes out clean and cake is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. To unmold, place a cake plate on top of the bundt pan. Holding tightly, invert.

Ingredients for Glaze:

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1-2 tablespoons white wine, slightly warmed

Instructions:

To make glaze, cream together the butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Add vanilla extract and white wine. Drizzle over warm cake.

Basil Pesto Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Basil Pesto Pasta! I’m tired. And I’m hungry. What in the world can I cook for dinner that doesn’t take forever? But I want the taste to make me feel like I’m someone special. First of all, go over to the wine rack and open a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Pour a little into a stemmed glass. Swirl and take a sip. This will put you in the mood. The wonderfully sweet herbal notes of the fresh basil will complement the flavor of the wine. Plus, the olive oil and parmesan cheese in the pesto sauce enhance the richness of fruit in the Cab. Take another sip. Now let’s get started. (Footnote: Obviously if you already have a jar of your favorite Basil Pesto in the kitchen pantry, you’re one step ahead.)

BASIL PESTO PASTA

Ingredients:

10.5 ounce package of cherry tomatoes

12 large basil leaves

1/3 cup almonds, slightly toasted

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup olive oil

1 pound spaghetti

1 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, toasted almonds, garlic clove, and kosher salt in a food processor. Pulse to blend into a fine purée. Scrape the sides and turn the processor on Low setting. Slowly pour the olive oil into the mixture in a continuous stream. The pesto will thicken nicely. Set aside. Cook the spaghetti in salted water, according to package directions. Drain well. Transfer spaghetti to a bowl. Quickly toss with pesto sauce. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over all. Garnish with basil leaves.

Bowlful of Cherries

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Bowlful of Cherries! Aren’t they lovely? Ripe cherries are an ideal snack, by the handful. For some, it’s so simple to remove the pit with your teeth. I knew a guy once who could tie the cherry stem into a bow. (I think he did it to impress his wife.) Ripe cherries pair well with Goat cheese, Camembert cheese, or Bleu cheese garnished with a sprig of thyme, basil, or mint. Their ruby-red color is as appealing as their natural sweetness. The possibilities are endless. Add chocolate pieces for a dessert charcuterie board if you like a relaxed atmosphere at the end of a meal. Whatever you choose, get a pound of cherries before they’re gone. And don’t forget a nice bottle of Chardonnay.

BOWLFUL OF CHERRIES

1 pound ripe cherries, stems on

1/2 pound cheese of choice

Fresh herbs

Dark Chocolate candies

Instructions:

Fill a small bowl with sweet cherries. Set aside. Make available a plate of pitted cherries. To pit a cherry, place the fruit on a cutting board. Using a sharp paring knife, press down gently on one side of the stem. Firmly slice an incision from top to bottom until the cherry loosens the pit. Do not crush the cherry. Gently pull on either side to expose the pit. Remove it with your fingernail. One side will have the stem, the other will not. Provide colorful toothpicks for piercing.

Beef and Noodles

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Beef and Noodles! I decided to take the day off from cooking so I tag-teamed with Le Creuset. All the ingredients went into the enameled cast iron French oven pretty much all day. This reliable way of slow-cooking gave me the opportunity to spend time ironing tea towels and perusing my towering stack of current magazines. As the day wound down, the mouth-watering aromas filled the air and before I knew it, dinner was ready. The roast had basted in its own juices to blend with the herbs, wine, and vegetables for delicious results. Now leftover recipes will be a breeze. Well done!

BEEF AND NOODLES

Ingredients:

3 pound sirloin tip roast, frozen

1 can beef consommé

1/2 cup ginger beer

1 tablespoon Hawaiian Rub*

8 ounces homestyle noodles

1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup red wine

1/4 cup cornstarch

Parsley sprigs

Instructions:

Place frozen sirloin roast in a Dutch oven with a lid. Add the can of beef consommé and ginger beer. Sprinkle Hawaiian Rub over roast. Cover. Put in oven and set the temperature to 225°. After six hours, add noodles and mushrooms. Bake covered 45 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven and ladle the roast drippings into a saucepan. It should be about 2 cups of liquid. Bring to a boil. Mix the red wine and cornstarch, stirring until smooth. Slowly stir into the roast drippings, stirring occasionally to prevent lumps. As gravy thickens, reduce heat to simmer. If necessary add water if it becomes too thick. Remove beef to a platter and shred, as needed. Return shredded beef to the noodle/mushroom mixture. Cover with gravy. Transfer to serving portions. Garnish each dish with parsley sprig.

* Hawaiian Rub is available from the Salty Wahine Gourmet Hawaiian Sea Salts company. I get no recompense for mentioning this product in my recipe.

Café Portofino in Lihue, Kauai

Dining Outside the Home: Café Portofino in Lihue, Kauai! Feel the romantic rhythm of northern Italy in a tropical destination overlooking the beach. This is paradise on the island of Kauai. The food is true Italian cuisine, the wine from cellars across the world. Café Portofino, a family-owned business, offers fresh seafood and locally sourced vegetables as well as classic dishes. Notice the Red Beet Salad and Grilled Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo, both celebration-worthy. Chat with the wait staff. Their friendly reception is warm and connected with deep-felt hospitality. For a memorable evening, especially bringing in the New Year, treat yourself to a taste of Italy.