Dining Outside the Home: Cocomo’s Grill on Marco Island, Florida! Laid-Back is their middle name. When you’re on your way to somewhere else, stop by for a little conversation and a familiar face at this island-themed eating house. The mood is always groovy at Cocomo’s, and the positive mind-set is downright contagious. After all, this cozy island oasis is exactly where you want to be right now. Order a platter of Ahi Tuna Nachos. Seared rare is the only way to go, you know. The wonton chips, sprinkled with pickled ginger and snipped scallions, add crispy crunch to that burst of wasabi. Peruse the menu to make a mental note for other favorites later on. Take a break from the sandcastles and beach combing. Did you hear that? Cocomo’s is calling your name.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Dill Pickle Cheese Spread! You’ve heard of pregnant women craving dill pickles, toddlers munching on them, bar patrons dunking a spear in a mug of beer, and families gobbling down an order of fried dill pickle chips. So what’s the buzz? Why is everyone going crazy over dill pickles? First of all, they practically have no calories at all. They have a crunch that makes your mouth smile. Dill pickles ease in digestion, heartburn, and bloating. Plus, their saltiness helps the body absorb water. I’m sure you can come up with a few reasons of your own.
DILL PICKLE CHEESE SPREAD
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup dill pickle relish, drained
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
Assorted vegetables, crackers, and pretzels
Combine cream cheese, dill pickle relish, green onions, Worcestershire sauce, and mayonnaise. Beat until smooth. Fold in cheddar cheese. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with veggies, crackers, and pretzels. Also good on deli sandwiches.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Egg Salad Chip Dip! I learned a long time ago that egg salad makes a wonderful, light, and satisfying snack when unexpected guests stop by. At the time I served it with celery sticks, chicken-flavored crackers, and salty potato chips. I remember how awed my girlfriend was as she practically inhaled one scoop after another. She simply couldn’t believe egg salad was a finger food instead of a midday meal layered between two pieces of sandwich bread. It’s amazing what you can serve on a budget.
EGG SALAD CHIP DIP
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, snipped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Paprika, for garnish
In a mixing bowl, mash the hard-boiled eggs, using a fork. Fold in mayonnaise, green onion snips, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Stir until well blended. Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika. Refrigerate for one hour. Serve with lettuce leaves or sour cream and onion potato chips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Cream Cheese Shrimp Dip! Appetizers are fun to serve for a gathering of friends or date night for two. I usually keep cooked, frozen shrimp on hand, which can be thawed in a few minutes. But I have also used tiny canned shrimp, which work very well. Obviously, the canned shrimp should be drained first. A few steps later and you’re good to go.
CREAM CHEESE SHRIMP DIP
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 ounces cooked shrimp, tails removed and cut into chunks
10 ounces cocktail sauce, prepared
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Spread a thin layer of softened cream cheese onto a serving dish. Add a layer of cocktail sauce, expanding to the edges. Arrange bite-sized shrimp pieces over all. Sprinkle with dill weed. Garnish with green onion strips. Chill one hour. Serve with crackers.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Zucchini Onion Chips! We all know how versatile a meal can be once you add zucchini to the menu. But have you ever thought about an appetizer using a can of those classic crispy fried onions? It’s definitely a game-changer. Hear me out. Forget the holiday green bean casserole for a minute as you dip a fork into the can to nibble on these crunchies before tossing them onto a garden salad. Who can resist a sampling of that unique onion flavor? Not me. Now send everyone out of the house so you can work your magic. When they return, their mouths will begin to drool at the aromas from the kitchen. I’m guessing no one will suspect you disguised heart-healthy zucchini wrapped up in a delicious onion crust.
ZUCCHINI ONION CHIPS
1 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/2 cup crispy fried onion rings, crumbled
Ranch dressing, for dipping
Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Place a single layer of zucchini rounds on top. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Cover with another layer of paper towels. Press down. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to draw out excess moisture. In a wide skillet, add vegetable oil to be 1/4” deep. Warm oil over medium-high heat. In a shallow dish, combine flour, breadcrumbs, and crumbled onion rings. Mix well. Dredge one zucchini round in beaten egg and then breadcrumb mixture, coating completely. Place in the skillet; repeat until skillet is full. Do not allow zucchini rounds to touch each other. Cook 2 minutes per side until crispy and golden brown. Transfer zucchini chips to a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Repeat with remaining zucchini. Serve immediately with ranch dressing for dipping.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Toasted Cheese Ravioli! Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside. Take a walk on the wild side by turning dumpling-style pasta dough into a flavorful, tart, and cheesy appetizer. Panko breadcrumbs provide a crunchier coating that taste more like a fried shell when baked. This is due to the fact that panko breadcrumbs are made from crustless bread, thereby making them have an airier texture. The results are amazing.
TOASTED CHEESE RAVIOLI
8-ounces fresh cheese ravioli, found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Marinara sauce, for dipping
Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a wire rack with nonstick oil. Place rack on a baking sheet. Set aside. In a shallow dish, whisk together egg and milk until fully incorporated. In another shallow dish, combine panko breadcrumbs, grated parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and kosher salt. Mix well. Working one at a time, dip ravioli in egg mixture. Allow excess to drip off before generously coating both sides with breadcrumb mixture. Place ravioli on prepared wired rack. Leave spaces between ravioli to allow even browning. Spray tops of ravioli with nonstick oil. Bake 10 minutes until ravioli is golden brown. Turn ravioli over and bake 10 minutes longer. Serve immediately with marinara sauce for dipping.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Holiday Food Gifts: Neufchâtel Nibblets! Instead of serving the traditional large cheese ball at your next group gathering, think about individual portions. As a centerpiece on a buffet table, a cheeseball makes a great focal point until someone digs in. Then it immediately loses its form. On the other hand, nibblets remain appealing. Finger food is always a good idea, in my opinion. Not only are they fun to eat, they make things easier for walking around the edge of a party. Grab a few crackers and nibble away.
8 tablespoons Neufchâtel cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
Carrot sticks, cut 3 inches long
Celery sticks, cut 3 inches long
Line a baking sheet with wax paper. In a mixing bowl combine Neufchâtel cheese, softened butter, Swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and smoked paprika. Mix well. Using a cookie scoop, form mixture into balls, transfer to prepared baking sheet, and refrigerate one hour or until balls are firm. In a shallow dish, combine fresh chives and chopped pecans. Gently press chilled cheeseballs in nut mixture. Insert vegetable stick into each cheeseball. Arrange a platter and serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Honeycomb Cheese Wheel! Remember when you were a kid and for fun you puckered up with those candy red wax lips? Me and my girlfriends would put them on, batt our eyes, sashay our hips, and laugh hysterically. Most often we’d find ourselves chewing on the sugary insides before spitting them out into tiny red blobs on our way home from school. I’m sure that made quite an impression on the neighborhood boys. Well today’s honeycomb is a distant cousin, twice-removed, to those artificial candy lips. Even better, raw honeycomb is completely safe to eat and naturally sweet. A little goes a long way simply because it is seeping with honey. Dress it up with a wheel of Camembert or Brie cheese, seasoned with a clove of garlic and a couple of sprigs from the herb garden. Spread it across baguette slices for an open-air treat.
HONEYCOMB CHEESE WHEEL
1 wheel Camembert cheese
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 sprig rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Small section honeycomb
Preheat oven to 350°. Remove cheese from plastic wrap. Return cheese to its wooden box. Place box on a baking sheet. Take a knife and score a criss-cross pattern halfway through the cheese. Tuck garlic clove slices in the cuts. Sprinkle rosemary and thyme herbs over top. Drizzle butter over all. Bake, uncovered, 20 minutes until cheese is soft, bubbling, and fragrant. Serve immediately by spreading the golden cheese over toasted baguette slices. Then spoon the oozing honeycomb pieces over all. Garnish with fresh herbs.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Devils on Horseback! The name itself is a conversation starter. I know, right. The colors themselves resemble the “dark side” of our personalities. The small savory dish is made with pitted dates, smoked almonds, and crispy bacon or prosciutto. It’s pretty simple to prepare and is often served as an appetizer at social gatherings. Popular as a finger food, this hors d’oeuvre is perfect for small conversation at backyard parties. Watch yourself. Eating too many may find you a little mischievous.
DEVILS ON HORSEBACK
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup brown sugar
24 pitted dates, whole
24 smoked almonds, whole
3-ounce package prosciutto, deli sliced and cut in half lengthwise or 12 slices thin bacon, cut in half width wise
Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a shallow bowl, combine soy sauce and ground ginger. Mix well. In a second dish, place brown sugar. Take a pitted date, open carefully, and stuff it with a smoked almond. Wrap the date with a half slice of prosciutto or half bacon slice. Dip it into the soy sauce mixture. Roll it in brown sugar and place seam side down into the prepared baking dish. Repeat until all dates are prepared. Bake in the preheated oven until the prosciutto or bacon is crisp, 15 to 25 minutes. Serve at room temperature.