What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Kosher Salt Dill Pickles! When I visited the Farmers Market this week, I was impressed by the cute little cucumbers in abundant supply. The fact that my dill was showcasing its yellow flowery blossoms in proud display earlier that morning nudged me to take advantage of both. Canning a jar of classic dill pickles was about to become the focus of the day. So….when choosing a variety of cucumber to pickle remember three things: 1.) Choose small cukes about the size of your thumb. 2.) Make sure they have a thicker skin in order to maintain a crunchy snap. 3.) And remember to ask for the ones that were just freshly picked. Time is of the essence. The crucial time to pickle is as soon as practical after picking. This recipe will make one jar, which is exactly what I wanted.
KOSHER SALT DILL PICKLES
1 pound pickling cucumbers; cut off tips of both ends and slice in half
2 fresh dill sprigs, with heads
1 cup filtered water
1 cup distilled white vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
In a medium saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar, Kosher salt, garlic, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes. Heat to boiling. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile in a clean quart jar, place one dill sprig and one garlic clove in bottom of jar. Arrange cucumber halves against the side of the jar working your way to the center. Do not crush. Add one more dill sprig. Pour cooled juice into the jar. Be sure to include the spices. Stop liquid within 1/4″ of top. Seal and store in refrigerator for 12 hours before opening. Keep refrigerated.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Jasmine Rice Pilaf! If you can boil water, you can master the art of restaurant-style rice pilaf. It’s that simple. By using your favorite herbs and spices, the air is filled with an aromatic essence that draws everyone to the kitchen. Keep in mind, Patience is key. Follow this step-by-step recipe for a be-all and end-all gourmet fluffy rice pilaf that can be eaten as a main meal or partnered with a meat portion. I served it with Nugget Sesame Chicken, which you’ll be seeing a little later on. Stay tuned.
JASMINE RICE PILAF
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 cup long-grain jasmine rice
1 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
1-2 tablespoons butter
4 ounces prosciutto, cubed
1/2 cup sweet baby peas
1 egg, beaten
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
Fresh chives, snipped
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine olive oil, onion, garlic cloves, seasoned salt, and pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring often, approximately 45 seconds. Sprinkle in cumin powder. Add jasmine rice; stir to coat. Cook 3 minutes until grains turn toasty. This prevents clumping later on. Add low-sodium chicken broth and wine. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer. Cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with fork. Take a cotton tea towel and cover the pan. Place the lid over the towel to absorb the steam; let rice rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat butter on low. Add cubed prosciutto, peas, and beaten egg. Stir while cooking until egg is scrambled. Add soy sauce to taste. Before serving the rice, fold in the prosciutto mixture. To complete the pilaf, garnish with fresh chive snips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Iceberg Lettuce 7-Layer Salad in a Jar! I don’t know about you, but I think this is a perfect idea for taking a salad-on-the-go. Use whatever jars you have on hand, such as quart or pint canning jars or even jelly jars. You decide the portion size. As a “do-ahead” recipe, it’s also a time-saver. Simply layer all the ingredients, top them off with the yummy homemade dressing, and then pack a couple jars in your lunchbox or picnic basket. It’s ideal for sharing. Choose healthy!
ICEBERG LETTUCE 7-LAYER SALAD IN A JAR
1 head lettuce, shredded
2-3 green onions, snipped
5 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 pound thick bacon, pan-fried and crumbled
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 cup frozen baby sweet peas, thawed and uncooked
2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sugar
Prepare each ingredient, as indicated. Set aside. This is the order the jars will be assembled beginning at the bottom: Lettuce, green onion, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, bacon, cheddar cheese, and peas. To keep the layers even in the jar, use the handle of a wooden spoon to gently press the salad as you complete each layer. Mix together the mayonnaise and sugar. Divide evenly between the jars. Garnish with a few sprinkles of shredded cheese and crumbled bacon bits. Place a lid on each jar to secure. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. To serve, empty the jar onto a plate; mix in the dressing to moisten. Enjoy!
“My father gave me the greatest gift
anyone could give another person.
He believed in me.”
“I’m Serena Williams on the court,
but away…I have so many different
names. I call myself Butterfly.”
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Hummus Amongus! If I told you this was a healthy alternative to chip dip, would you believe me? It’s true. The difference is hummus is made from chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans. They are rich in protein and provide daily fiber. Their smooth texture feels buttery in the mouth leaving a slightly nut-like aftertaste. By adding lemon and spices, it’s the perfect partner for pita chips and fresh vegetables. Go ahead, indulge!
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup tahini paste
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon pimento, diced
1 teaspoon lemon olive oil
Using a food processor, pulse garbanzo beans until smooth. Add tahini paste, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin powder, and salt. Process until mixed. Transfer hummus to a shallow bowl. Drizzle with lemon olive oil. Garnish with diced pimento. Serve with fresh crudités.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Gyro-mania! The debate continues…do you pronounce the sandwich like the Greeks, “(h)year-oh”, or the American standby, “Jai-roh”? Either way, it’s a taste sensation. Think about it: rotisserie meat crispy shaved into strips wrapped into a soft pita pocket topped with onion, tomato, cucumber, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce. The bold foodie will pick it up with both hands and devour it until not a crumb remains. Others may eat it with a fork. Whatever you choose, with Eastern Mediterranean spices, this sandwich is not for the meek.
1 box Kronos Gyros Kit*
1 Vidalia onion, sliced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tomato, chopped
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
Watercress sprig, for garnish
Dill weed, for garnish
In an iron skillet, lightly grill both sides of pita bread on medium heat until light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Set aside. Add olive oil to skillet and sauté onions until tender. Remove and set aside. Add gyro slices of meat to skillet. Heat both sides on medium heat for 20 seconds per side. In a small bowl, mix Greek yogurt with tzatziki sauce. Stir until creamy. To assemble gyro sandwich, top pita bread with gyro meat slices, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce. Garnish with watercress leaves and dill. Enjoy!
* I receive no recompense for the suggestion of using Kronos Gyro Kit in this recipe.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: French Toast Bananas Foster! For that daily dose of potassium you get in bananas, think French Toast for breakfast. With an added twist of Bananas Foster, you may feel as though you’re dining on a private balcony overlooking the French Quarter in New Orleans. It’s that good! For starters, I used Hawaiian sweet bread for its unique fluffy texture. By soaking the slices in a custard-style egg mixture and browning them in a buttered iron skillet, the results were luscious.
FRENCH TOAST BANANAS FOSTER
Ingredients for Sauce:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons dark rum
3-4 bananas, cut into thick slices
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 smidgen nutmeg
Melt butter in a small saucepan. Do not scorch. Add brown sugar; stir. Gradually bring to boil and add cream, stirring constantly. Cook until thick, about 4 minutes. Turn heat to lowest setting. Add maple syrup and dark rum. Stir until smooth. Add sliced bananas, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cook until tender.
Ingredients for French Toast:
4 slices Hawaiian sweet bread, sliced thick
3 whole eggs, beaten
1/2 cup half and half cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons butter
Mini chocolate chips
Whisk together eggs, half and half cream, and vanilla extract. In a shallow dish place 4 slices of Hawaiian bread, single layer. Pour custard egg mixture over bread; turn bread to coat both sides completely. Let moistened bread rest to soak up liquid. In an iron skillet, melt one tablespoon of butter on medium-low heat. Transfer the soaked bread to the skillet. Cook until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes per side. Add butter as needed. If cooking in batches, transfer browned French toast to a wire rack on a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200° oven. To serve, place a piece of French toast on a plate. Cover with banana sauce and dollop of whipped cream. Top with a second slice of French toast. Add more banana sauce. Garnish with whipped cream, chocolate chips, and pecan pieces.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Eagle Brand Chocolate Fudge Sauce! Have you had your chocolate “fix” today? This homemade sauce can be served over ice cream, banana splits, fresh fruit, pound cake, or even drizzled into your morning coffee. The secret ingredient, Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, is really no secret. It has been around since 1856. Truth. It was originally invented as a safe and wholesome milk product for the military. The fact that it provided nourishment for infants and children was a bonus. Besides, when Elsie the Cow became the spokes-cow at the New York World’s Fair in 1939, its popularity spread all over the globe. Every kitchen pantry should keep a can or two on the shelf.
EAGLE BRAND CHOCOLATE FUDGE SAUCE
1 14-ounce can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a 2-quart glass measuring cup, combine sweetened condensed milk, chocolate morsels, butter, and water. Microwave on High power for a total of 3 minutes, stirring at one-minute increments. Add almond extract and vanilla extract. Microwave 30 seconds longer. Stir until smooth. Serve warm. Pour extra sauce into a jar; cover, and refrigerate.