Hawaiian Mac Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Hawaiian Mac Salad! Some things get a reputation for being “island food”. This is one of them. It was created out of economic necessity, just as SPAM® became a household staple. Both survived due to their lack of being perishable in a tropical climate as well as being tasty and affordable. The flavor of this Mac salad is so unique, it continues to remain a constant plate lunch for workers, surfers, schools, and just about anyone. Check out fish markets, food trucks, roadside stands, diners, and grocery store delis. Hawaiian Mac Salad pairs beautifully with fresh fish and a scoop of white rice. Now you can make it yourself without the cost of a plane ticket to the Hawaiian Islands.

HAWAIIAN MAC SALAD

Ingredients:

8 ounces macaroni pasta

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 stalk celery, diced

1 large carrot, grated

1/4 cup sweet onion, diced

Green onion snips, for garnish

Instructions:

Boil the macaroni in lightly salted water. Cook al dente; one minute less than package directions. Drain the macaroni and rinse with cold water. Set aside. For the sauce, in a large bowl combine the mayonnaise, milk, apple cider vinegar, sugar, sea salt, and black pepper. Mix well. Add the cooked macaroni, diced celery, grated carrots, and diced onions. Gently stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Toss before serving. Garnish with green onion snips.

Grill Pan Kabobs

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Grill Pan Kabobs! Sooo, what do you have for dinner when you plan on kabobs, but can’t find the skewers among all the kitchenware you’ve unpacked during the recent move? The answer: Improvise, by using a grill pan. After all, once the ingredients are cooked and presented for dinner, everyone grabs a fork to “shish” the food off the skewer onto the plate anyway. I see your eyes glazing over as you nod your head in agreement. Focus. The end result is still phenomenal. Now dig in. Your tummy will thank me.

GRILL PAN KABOBS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 pound beef tenderloin, cut into chunks

1/2 pound chicken tenderloin, cut into cubes

1 red onion, cut into wedges

1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks

4 ounces fresh mushrooms, stems removed

4 ounces cherry tomatoes

Instructions:

In a measuring cup, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, minced garlic, dry mustard, thyme, oregano, sea salt, and black pepper. Place the beef tenderloin chunks and chicken tenderloin cubes in a large zip-lock plastic bag. Pour half the marinade mixture into the bag, seal, shake, and refrigerate for one hour. Set aside remaining marinade for basting sauce while grilling. Preheat gas grill to 500°. Remove beef and chicken pieces from bag; discard marinade. Allow beef and chicken to “rest” at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. Transfer beef chunks, chicken cubes, red onion, green pepper, red pepper, mushroom caps, and cherry tomatoes onto a large grill pan that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Brush kabobs with reserved marinade. To cook medium-rare steak kabobs (charred exterior, pink center), place the grill pan on the hot grill. Chicken tenderloins will cook in the same amount of time, with edges turning white. Close the lid to retain heat temperature. Set timer for 5 minutes. Then using a long-handled tongs, flip, rotate, and move larger pieces of beef and chicken on the grill pan to be in the center of the flame. Vegetables will char faster than the meat. Watch carefully. Cook the kabobs an additional 5 minutes, with the lid closed. Once finished, remove grill pan and turn off the grill. Allow food to “rest” for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Fabulous Seafood Lasagna

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Fabulous Seafood Lasagna! Because I really like seafood, and for the first time in my life I have access to it, I decided to think “outside the box” for a new dinner idea. Combining pasta and seafood seemed like a nice transition. To keep the cost down, I did end up substituting imitation crabmeat, but of course you may use the real deal, especially if you have connections with a fisherman. I’m working on that.

FABULOUS SEAFOOD LASAGNA

Ingredients:

9 uncooked lasagna noodles

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup flour

2 cups light cream

1 cup chicken broth

1/3 cup dry sherry

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

15-ounce container ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon dried parsley

16 ounces imitation crabmeat, salad-style, drained, and chopped

8 ounces precooked salad shrimp, drained

3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9”x13” glass baking dish with nonstick oil. Cook lasagna noodles as directed on package. Set aside. In a 4-quart pan, warm butter over medium heat. Add chopped onion and minced garlic. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender. Gradually add flour, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until bubbly. Slowly stir in the light cream, chicken broth, dry sherry, sea salt, and black pepper. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute longer. Do not scorch. Remove white sauce from heat and set aside. In a bowl, combine beaten egg, parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, and dried parsley. Mix well; set aside. Drain lasagna noodles. Spread 3/4 cup white sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Top with 3 lasagna noodles. Layer half the crabmeat and half the shrimp over the noodles. Add another 3/4 cup white sauce over seafood. Sprinkle one cup mozzarella cheese on top. Next, add a layer of 3 lasagna noodles. Spread ricotta mixture over noodles. Add 3/4 cup white sauce. Sprinkle with one cup mozzarella cheese; layer with 3 lasagna noodles. Spread the remaining seafood and sauce over all. Sprinkle with the last cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until cheese is light golden brown. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Esquites Mexican Corn Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Esquites Mexican Corn Salad! Living so many years in the Corn Belt of the United States, is it any wonder I get nostalgic thinking about cornfields? Once asked, while I was dating, “Where would you like to retire?” My quick response was “On an acre of land overlooking cornfields at sunset.” Imagine the puzzled look I got as the guy shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Obviously he had no idea what I was talking about. It’s the rich smell of corn, its tingle of sweetness mixed with the earthy muskiness that saturates the senses. I don’t even mind shucking sweet corn. Gently pull back the luscious leaves. Inside are golden rows of plump kernels, dewy and sweet, with a crown of blond silky tendrils. Funny how the journey changes. Now I live in Florida, where cornfields have been replaced by orange groves. Sounds like it’s time to meander down the road to the citrus farm. Perhaps I can inhale the fresh tangy aroma of orange groves at sunset.

ESQUITES MEXICAN CORN SALAD

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 ears fresh corn, shucked, kernels removed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 ounces Cotija cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup scallions, chopped

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and stemmed, chopped

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions:

Warm vegetable oil over high heat until shimmering in an iron skillet. Add corn kernels. Season with kosher salt and garlic powder. Allow kernels to cook until charred on one side, approximately 2 minutes. Toss corn, stir, and repeat until charred on second side, approximately 2 minutes longer. Transfer charred corn kernels to a mixing bowl. Add crumbled Cotija cheese, chopped scallions, fresh cilantro, jalapeño pieces, mayonnaise, lime juice, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Dill-Sprinkled Cocktail Shrimp

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Dill-Sprinkled Cocktail Shrimp! When you live where seafood is easily accessible, the natural thing to do is buy it and eat it as often as possible. Especially if you like it. And I’m crazy about shrimp. Thus, “Seafood Thursday” came into being at our house. It doesn’t hurt that a seafood vendor makes a scheduled stop, like clockwork, in our community every Wednesday afternoon. Taking advantage of specials at your doorstep not only helps us to expand our palate, but it also keeps me engaged by identifying new ways to prepare things at home. Luckily, I have a husband who doesn’t mind being a taste-tester for me. Granted, sometimes I’m the one finishing the portions in the days that follow, but it does keep meals interesting. This appetizer is pretty basic. Please note: adding wasabi definitely adds a spicy kick to the cocktail sauce. Go easy.

DILL-SPRINKLED COCKTAIL SHRIMP

Ingredients:

1/2 cup cocktail sauce

1 teaspoon prepared Japanese wasabi, in a tube (optional)

Romaine Lettuce, shredded

1 pound frozen jumbo shrimp, tail on; precooked and thawed

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

Lemon wedge, for garnish

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, combine cocktail sauce and Japanese wasabi. Mix well; set aside. Divide shredded romaine lettuce between individual serving dishes. Arrange 3-4 cocktail shrimp over lettuce. Add a dollop of cocktail sauce. Sprinkle with freshly chopped dill. Garnish with a lemon wedge. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chorizo Beef Burger

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Chorizo Beef Burger! It’s crazy the foods we try, simply because we have a craving that refuses to compromise. During Covid-19, many restaurants and fast-food eateries would either not open, limit drive-through options, or simply close due to illness and labor shortages. Late one night, the hubs wanted a burger for dinner. We tried 3 different places without success. The only one open was a Mexican Cantina. We masked up, entered, and were seated in the bar at an isolated table for two. That’s when he saw it……a chorizo burger was listed on the menu. I think you know the rest of the story. Once we got home, you can guess what grocery items I added to the list on the refrigerator.

CHORIZO BEEF BURGER

Ingredients:

1/2 pound bulk chorizo sausage

1 pound lean ground beef

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon cornmeal

4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

4 brioche buns, split

Toppings: Lettuce, Tomato, Red Onion, Cilantro, and Salsa

Instructions:

In large bowl, combine chorizo sausage, lean ground beef, sea salt, black pepper, and cornmeal. Shape mixture into 4 patties, 1/2-inch thick. Place patties on preheated grill, over medium heat. Close grill cover. Cook 6-7 minutes, per side. Flip once. A meat thermometer inserted in the center needs to read 160°F. During last 2 minutes of cooking, top each chorizo patty with shredded cheese. Place buns, cut side down, on grill. Cook until cheese is melted and buns are toasted. Remove burgers and buns from grill. Serve immediately, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and salsa to taste.

Bleu Cheese Ball

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Bleu Cheese Ball! I’ll never forget my first taste of bleu cheese. I was having dinner with my father in a charming restaurant nestled along the Mississippi River in the heart of Nauvoo, Illinois. The waiter came over and offered us a complimentary tasting of their claim to fame, bleu cheese. It was aged in the local wine cellars, he boasted, while pouring a taste of wine for the perfect pairing. One bite, one sip and I was in love. My father, on the other hand, wrinkled his nose and said the cheese tasted like old socks. Needless to say, I finished his portion.

BLEU CHEESE BALL

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

4 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Green onion snips

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese, bleu cheese crumbles, shredded cheddar cheese, and Worcestershire sauce. Form into a ball. Roll in green onion snips. Refrigerate for one hour. Serve with crackers, pretzel sticks, and smoked almonds.