Dining Outside the Home: Solunto Restaurant & Bakery in San Diego, California. You may as well throw any semblance of willpower out the window when you cross the threshold into Solunto’s Ristorante in the heart of Little Italy. Especially if you’re hungry. Close your eyes for a moment. Inhale. The aromas alone of handcrafted breads, decadent pastries, napoletana pizzas, flavorful gelatos, and artisan coffees can mean only one thing. You’re going to be here awhile. But that’s okay. Solunto is all about family and friends socializing over a meal. Savor every bite; just leave room for more. The crisp Italian dessert shells, known as Cannolis, are filled with sweet, creamy filling. But don’t take my word for it. The pastry case is a feast for the eyes. Try one of everything. Solunto’s Bakery has “to-go” boxes.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Iced Sorbet Bombe! This dessert is refreshing, cold, and light. It is so versatile, any combination of ice cream, fruit sherbet, frozen yogurt, or gluten-free sorbet can be used. No baking is necessary, assembly is a snap, and the presentation is spot on! Make it as healthy as you choose….or as decadent as you deserve. Everyone wins! Be warned, you may find yourself tip-toeing to the freezer for “just a bite” now and then. It doesn’t take long to disappear until the next one is made. No worries.
ICED SORBET BOMBE
1 pint raspberry sorbet, softened
1 pint lemon sorbet, softened
1 pint pomegranate açai blueberry sorbet, softened
1/4 cup raspberry jam
1 teaspoon Amaretto liqueur, optional
1/3 cup frozen raspberries
Fresh mint for garnish
Choose a fluted jello mold, small bundt pan, or glass bell jar. Step one: pack the raspberry sorbet into the bottom of the mold. Smooth the top to keep the layer even. Transfer the mold to the freezer for one hour or until sorbet is firm. Step two: pack the lemon sorbet on top of the raspberry layer. Smooth the top to keep the layer even. Freeze again for one hour. Step three: repeat process with the pomegranate açai blueberry sorbet. Make sure the final layer is completely smooth. It is helpful to cover the mold with foil and place a plate on top to double check. Freeze for two hours. Warm the raspberry jam just enough to make it a thick sauce. Add the Amaretto liqueur and stir. Gently fold in frozen raspberries. To un-mold the Bombe, dip the upright container in warm water to the rim only. Invert onto a decorative plate. Tap to release and carefully raise the mold. Garnish with raspberry sauce and fresh mint. Slice to serve.
Dining Outside the Home: Miguel’s Cocina in Old Town San Diego, California. When the menu captures the true spirit of Mexico, north of the border, it boasts of Miguel’s Signature Fajitas. What makes it so special, you wonder. Pay attention: Skirt steak and chicken topped with bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese and sliced poblano. ¡Ay, caramba! Now, you’re talking. Better order a hand-shaken margarita to wash things down. Look around. Handmade tortillas, crispy chips dredged between bowls of jalapeño white sauce and chunky tomato-fresh salsa. Is it any wonder if feels like a party?
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Hot Dog Heaven! Summer brings visions of baseball games, afternoons at the pool, picnics in the park, roasting marshmallows over the fire pit, and hot dogs any way you like them. Some people prefer premium Angus franks, others want fat-free turkey, German brats, or Italian sausage. Hold the ketchup? Maybe. Mustard only? Sometimes. Sweet relish? Extra onion? No bun? There have to be a bazillion ways to serve up a hot dog. For your back yard cookout, save yourself the agony of being a people-pleaser. Bring out the kid in everyone. Offer a condiment bar where the guests can congregate and “build-your-own” version of bliss.
HOT DOG HEAVEN
1 pound wieners, standard beef
Condiments of your choosing
Hot Dog Buns
Heat the grill to medium temperature. Grill franks 5-7 minutes, turning occasionally, until heated through and slightly charred. Remove with grill tongs and let sit for a minute or two to retain juices. For a toasted bun, toss the buns, cut side down, onto the grill for about 15-20 seconds; longer if you want them slightly charred. Watch carefully.
Dining Outside the Home: Tom Ham’s Lighthouse in San Diego, California. Did you ever wish, as a kid, that you could eat in a real lighthouse? How cool is that?! Tom Ham understood the allure of making dreams comes true. This is the only restaurant in the United States to have a USCG operated and maintained lighthouse attached to it. Its location is even listed on nautical maps as Beacon #9, making Tom Ham’s Lighthouse an architectural landmark. Dine outside on a sunny day with a view of Harbor Island, Coronado Bridge, the San Diego Bay, and skyline. Munch away on Corn and Shrimp fritters before ordering the fresh Tuna Niçoise Salad. This is just a sampling of the fabulous food you’ll experience from the restaurant on the water’s edge. Thank you, Mr. Ham, for making dreams come true.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Griddle Golden Pancakes! Dust off that old iron skillet you’ve shoved to the back of the cabinet; you’ll never use the electric griddle again. The benefits? Foods brown beautifully holding the cooking temperature steady, plus cleanup is a snap. Just saying. The results are light, fluffy, and golden brown pancakes that would make your grandma proud.
GRIDDLE GOLDEN PANCAKES
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Vegetable oil for skillet
Heat an iron skillet on medium to low heat. This may take about 5-8 minutes. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and sea salt in a bowl. Form a well in the center. Add egg, milk, vanilla extract, and butter. Mix until a few lumps remain. Brush vegetable oil evenly onto the skillet. Using a 1/4 cup, drop batter into the oiled skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes on side one. Bubbles will appear on the surface before flipping over. Then cook 1-2 minutes longer. Serve with warm maple syrup and butter.
Dining Outside the Home: La Spezia Restaurant and Wine Bar in Koloa, Kauai. An Old World Italian dinner is as priceless as the family recipes that brave the test of time. At La Spezia, the customer becomes the guest of honor with classics “like Grandma used to make” that include house-made pastas, rich creamy sauces, and seafood specialties. They also understand the importance of island heritage to include local land and sea favorites. Put down the cell phone, sit back, and sip on a citrus Aperol Spritz. Taste the Prosecco? Now that’s refreshing. Nibble on focaccia bread and linger over conversation. This is a long-established Italian tradition and one you won’t want to miss.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Florentine Meatball Pasta! When you talk about a meal in minutes, this one ranks at the top of the list. After all, some days the family schedule runs tight between daily obligations and evening commitments. In the time it takes to cook the pasta, everything else can be thrown together. Utilize the microwave in conjunction with the stovetop for time-saving results. Ready-Set-Go!
FLORENTINE MEATBALL PASTA
1/2 pound rigatoni pasta
6-8 Italian meatballs, pre-cooked
12 ounces spaghetti sauce, any chunky style
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved
Cook rigatoni pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. While the pasta is cooking, microwave Italian meatballs according to package directions. In a large skillet on medium heat, combine chunky spaghetti sauce and Italian meatballs. Cook until bubbly, then reduce heat to simmer, stirring gently. Add cooked rigatoni; toss to coat pasta. Turn off heat. Add baby spinach to the skillet. Toss to combine and cover. The steam will wilt the spinach. Right before serving, add Parmesan shavings.
Dining Outside the Home: Bobby V’s Italian Restaurant in Kapaa, Kauai. Happy Hour is always a good place to start, especially if you’re on vacation. Choose between Bobby V’s Hawaiian Mai Tai or the salt-rimmed Margarita to enjoy on the outside patio. Before you hit the default button and order pizza, consider other Italian favorites like the hearty Fettuccine Alfredo or the cheese-laden Classic Lasagna. A side of savory meatballs swimming in thick homemade marinara sauce does not disappoint. It’s okay to sprinkle on a little crushed oregano or grated parmesan cheese. Just saying. Word of warning: the portions are generous, so don’t fill up on the bread basket. Otherwise, I see leftover portions in your future.