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 Now I live in Florida, where cornfields have been replaced by orange groves.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.

Apple Dumpling Dreams

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Apple Dumpling Dreams! There’s something special about an apple dumpling, don’t you think? Perhaps it reminds you of the changing seasons. Perhaps it conjures up childhood memories. Perhaps the earthy spices and syrupy sweetness crank up your comfort level. No matter the hypnotic effect, apple dumpling dreams can reflect the way we look at our lives. Do we deny sweets or do we nourish our bodies? “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. It’s all about perspective, moderation, and control. Thank goodness we have freedom of choice. When it comes to apple dumplings, especially now, dreams really do come true.

APPLE DUMPLING DREAMS

Ingredients:

4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored

1 package refrigerated pie crusts

4 star anise pieces

Ingredients for Syrup:

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons butter

Ingredients for Apple Filling:

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly grease a 9” square baking dish; set aside. To make the syrup, combine sugar, water, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons butter. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine ingredients for apple filling. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter until consistency is crumbled. Cut each pie crust in half. Form each half into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll into 8-inch circles. To assemble, place an apple in the center of a dough circle. Fill the empty core with crumb filling. Fold the dough over the apple, pinching at the top to seal. Transfer apple dumplings to the baking dish. Drizzle with syrup. Place a star anise on each apple. Bake for 40-45 minutes until crust is golden brown. Tent with foil, if necessary, to prevent over browning. Serve warm.

Bright Ideas

Some days it may seem as though we have too many choices and not enough ideas. Ever run to the grocery store to buy a bottle of ketchup? Once upon a time, you had two choices: name brand or store brand. Pretty simple. Then we started reading the list of ingredients. Now you have to choose between Sugar or Sugar-Free. Low Carb versus Fat and Calories. Sea Salt or Low Sodium. Artificial coloring. Natural Spices. Preservatives. Wheat. Nuts. And the list goes on. Is it any wonder it takes forever to buy groceries? It can be exhausting. Perhaps that’s another reason people use Instacart® and DoorDash®. When you cook at home, in your own kitchen, you are in charge. So many foods and ingredients can be substituted to appeal to your lifestyle and palate. It’s all about your ideas and balance. I encourage you to make substitutions in the recipes I offer without sacrificing taste. I do it all the time; you can, too.

Some of my posts have been favored by the “Food Network” on Twitter (Snapshotsincursive @DornaGail) as well as Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa, on Instagram (gail _dorna). You can even find me on Pinterest at Gail Dorna. I’d love to connect with you there as well. I also met Chef Michelle Tribble of Hell’s Kitchen reality cooking show. Fun times. Experience different flavors and textures one bite at a time. Catch a glimpse of “Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Bright Ideas!” This remarkable journey of the palate is unique because it gives me a few moments with you. Thanks very much to all of my guests and followers on http://snapshotsincursive.com for the uplifting support, award nominations, and moving words of encouragement.

Zested Lemon Blueberry Pancakes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Zested Lemon Blueberry Pancakes! If you’re a “regular” customer at the same restaurant, it’s perfectly natural to become good friends with the owners and staff. Kind of like an extended family. You learn their personalities as they become accustomed to your quirks, humor, and mannerisms. Before long, you may even exchange cell numbers so you can text the restaurant when you’re on your way. It benefits both parties. In turn, if I’m kinda crazy about a certain dish, I may get a nonchalant “secret” ingredient hint dropped my way. The rest is up to me. Now I don’t claim to make menu items as well as a restaurant, but in a pinch it satisfies a craving that will suffice until I return.

ZESTED LEMON BLUEBERRY PANCAKES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon granulated lemon peel

1 cup cottage cheese, small curd

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

1/2 pint blueberries

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

10-ounce jar lemon curd, to taste

Powdered sugar, garnish

Instructions:

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, mix agave nectar, lemon zest, and granulated lemon peel. Add cottage cheese, eggs, vanilla extract, and lemon extract. Whisk until almost smooth. The cottage cheese will continue to have small lumps. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients. Stir to combine. The batter will be a little bit lumpy. Fold in a few blueberries, about 1/4 cup. Warm an iron skillet over medium heat. Brush the skillet with vegetable oil. Add a 1/4 cup of pancake batter to the skillet. Cook for a couple minutes until small bubbles appear. Carefully flip and cook the remaining side until golden, about 2 minutes longer. Brush the skillet with more vegetable oil and repeat the process until all the batter is gone. Serve the pancakes with remaining fresh blueberries and a dollop of lemon curd. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Yogurt-Dipped Waffles

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Yogurt-Dipped Waffles! How many of you were told, as a child, not to play with your food? I know I was, especially when I was supposed to clean my plate of something I didn’t want to eat. But that’s a lot different than finger food. Now you are allowed to take slightly toasted waffles and dip them in flavored yogurt. Since my tastes change from day to day, I prefer to add flavors to Greek yogurt, but you may certainly purchase flavored yogurts to save time. In addition, I make extra waffles on the weekend to serve during the week. If you have toaster waffles on hand, you’re in good shape.

YOGURT-DIPPED WAFFLES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon coconut syrup

2-3 prepared waffles, separated into wedges

Fresh strawberries, sliced

Fresh blueberries

Fresh black raspberries

Nutmeg, for sprinkling

Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

Powdered sugar, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine Greek yogurt and coconut syrup. Mix well. Set aside. Using a toaster on low setting, warm waffle wedges. Remove waffles to a plate. In a bowl, combine strawberries, blueberries, and black raspberries. Gently toss. To serve, dip waffle wedges into Greek yogurt. Spoon fresh fruit over yogurt. Sprinkle with nutmeg and powdered sugar. Garnish with mint leaves. Enjoy!

X-Treme Everything Deviled Eggs

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: X-treme Everything Deviled Eggs! When it comes to deviled eggs, you hear a plethora of descriptions ranging from “world’s best” to “million dollar” to “dangerously good” deviled eggs. But here’s the catch: Everyone has a different number of taste buds. They extend beyond your tongue to include the roof of your mouth as well as the inner cheeks and throat. What you find appealing may not interest me in the least. Here’s a good example. Everything But Bagel Seasoning contains garlic, onion, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds. While it may make your heart flutter sprinkled all over a freshly baked bagel, it may sound completely gross mixed in a deviled egg. On the other hand, when I topped the deviled egg with a clump of newly grown alfalfa sprouts, my taste buds did something similar to a TikTok dance. Just saying.

X-TREME EVERYTHING DEVILED EGGS

Ingredients:

6 hard-boiled eggs

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature

1 tablespoon Everything But Bagel Seasoning

Alfalfa sprouts, for garnish

Instructions:

Peel the prepared hard-boiled eggs. Slice in half horizontally. Carefully remove the solid yolks and transfer to a small bowl. Place the egg whites on a serving platter. Using a fork, mash the egg yolks into a fine crumble. Add mayonnaise and softened cream cheese. Mix until smooth and creamy. Fold in Everything But Bagel Seasoning. Spoon the yolk filling into the egg whites. Sprinkle more seasoning on top, if desired. Garnish deviled eggs with a crown of fresh alfalfa sprouts.