Underrated Summertime Supper

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Underrated Summertime Supper! Does anyone have a Himalayan Salt Block besides me? Well, one of the things I like about it is, it can take the guesswork out of adding seasoning to food. It’s a block of pink salt, after all. When serving cold foods like salads, fruits, and cheeses, refrigerate the salt block overnight before using. This helps to keep foods chilled for hours when you need it. Simply arrange the ingredients directly on the block, drizzle on the dressing, and you’re good-to-go. Clean up is easy. Never use soap; salt is naturally antibacterial. Remove food residue with a damp cloth or sponge. Rinse it with a clean swipe, then dab dry. Allow the salt block to air-dry before next use. You’re done.

UNDERRATED SUMMERTIME SUPPER

Ingredients:

4 ounces goat’s milk cheese, plain

1 teaspoon Italian dry mix spice blend

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

8 ounces mixed greens, washed

1 Roma tomato, chopped

4 assorted mini sweet peppers, stems and seeds removed, sliced into rings

2 radishes, sliced very thin

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

Crusty Artisan Bread

Instructions:

On a sheet of waxed paper, sprinkle Italian dry mix spice blend and red pepper flakes. Form the goat’s milk cheese into a ball. Roll it in the spice mix to cover all sides. Place cheese ball on the chilled Himalayan salt block. Next, arrange mixed greens in a single layer. Arrange Roma tomatoes, mini sweet peppers, radish slices, and red onion rings. Sprinkle Herbes de Provence over top. Drizzle balsamic reduction sauce over salad. Serve with crusty artisan bread.

Sweet Strawberry Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Sweet Strawberry Salad! Whenever you feel the need to change things up a bit from your ordinary salad, think strawberries! Did you know the strawberry is actually a cousin to the rose family? Truth. In history, they represent love, purity, and perfection. Hmmm. And of course, everyone knows how deliciously sweet they are. Okay, I’m in. Serve a strawberry salad and watch everyone’s face break into a smile. Think strawberries! 🍓

SWEET STRAWBERRY SALAD

Ingredients:

1 pound Spring Mix, gently torn

1 quart strawberries, caps removed and halved

4 green onions, snipped

1 cup harvarti cheese, grated

1/2 cup sugared pecans, chopped

1/3 cup bacon pieces

1/2 cup lemon olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic reduction

Instructions:

Combine Spring Mix salad greens, strawberries, and green onion snips in a large bowl. Gently add cheese to mix. Top with sugared pecans and bacon. Toss with lemon olive oil to coat. Drizzle balsamic reduction over all.

Endive Apple Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Endive Apple Salad! Have you noticed how bright and beautiful the produce is right now? Sometimes I marvel at all the farm fresh fruits and vegetables imagining the flavors I can pair on a plate. It’s a good thing my husband is open to trying new things. A juicy sweet slice of red ripe apple nestled between curly-edged leaves of rich green endive become pleasing to the eye long before the first crunch is heard. Add Bleu cheese crumbles with praline pecans drizzled in a balsamic reduction sauce. Together it adds deliciousness that is unsurpassed, in my opinion.

ENDIVE APPLE SALAD

Ingredients:

1 large Gala apple

1/4 lemon juice

1 bunch curly endive

1 small head napa cabbage

1/2 cup praline pecan halves

1/4 cup bacon pieces

1/4 cup Bleu cheese crumbles

Balsamic reduction sauce*

Instructions:

Pour lemon juice into a shallow bowl. Cut the apple in half. Take one portion and place cut side down in lemon juice. This keeps the apple from turning brown. Remove the apple and set aside for garnish. For the remaining apple half, core and remove seeds. Slice apple into 7 equal-size wedges; dip both sides of apples into lemon juice to coat. Meanwhile, arrange napa cabbage leaves and endive on a decorative platter, alternating for bursts of color. Place the apple half in the center and nestle one apple wedge inside a cabbage leaf, creating a pinwheel effect. Add praline pecans, bacon pieces, and Bleu cheese crumbles. Drizzle with balsamic reduction glaze.

*For my quick and easy homemade version, follow the link to

https://snapshotsincursive.com/2015/08/26

Vinaigrette Vendetta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Vinaigrette Vendetta! Every once in awhile it’s nice to step up your game at mealtime. So often we go out to a restaurant and then feel like everything at home is just humdrum and boring. Not true. By changing the ingredients, a completely different flavor is born. Take advantage of the olive oil gourmet shoppes popping up all over. Consultants are eager to have you taste flavored olive oils paired with specialty balsamic vinegars. They will astound you. Flavors like lemon with pomegranate or lime with strawberry are only the beginning. Think about bacon olive oil with maple balsamic. Mmmm. Have I piqued your curiosity?

VINAIGRETTE VENDETTA

Ingredients:

1/4 cup lime olive oil

1/4 cup strawberry balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon red onion, minced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons wildflower honey

1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Instructions:

Combine lime olive oil, strawberry balsamic vinegar, red onion, Dijon mustard, wildflower honey, minced garlic, kosher salt, and white pepper in a small bowl. Whisk together until mixed. Pour into a cruet with a stopper. Store in the refrigerator.

Uber Hasselback Caprese Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Uber Hasselback Caprese Salad! Want to do something fancy-schmancy? Take ordinary garden Roma tomatoes (the oval kind) and cut them in such a way that they fan out a little bit like an accordion. Then, using your fingers, tuck slices of cheese and fresh herbs in between. It’s so simple, yet looks incredibly delish as a side salad. This is why we like food so much. It becomes a dining experience versus chowing down.

UBER HASSELBACK CAPRESE SALAD

Ingredients:

3 Roma tomatoes

3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

13-16 fresh basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette

Instructions:

Judging by the size of each tomato, make 4-5 slices, stopping before the knife cuts completely through. Transfer tomatoes to a serving dish. Fill each slit with a mozzarella slice. Tuck in spaces with fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle Everything But Bagel seasoning over all. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.

Iceberg Lettuce Cranberry Pecan Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Iceberg Lettuce Cranberry Pecan Salad! Make today an easy day. Throw together a tossed salad that will satisfy hunger pangs with the crunch of lettuce, the natural sweetness of fruit, lean meat, the salty mix of pecans, protein-packed eggs, and heart-healthy bleu cheese. Bonus points include a natural source of fiber, weight control, plus super-convenience. Not only is salad a time-saver, it is also a money-saver. Most of all, you’re worth it.

ICEBERG LETTUCE CRANBERRY PECAN SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups iceberg lettuce, shredded

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 cup mandarin orange slices

1/3 cup sugared pecans

1 cup grilled chicken, cut-up

1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese

2 soft-boiled eggs, halved

Balsamic vinaigrette, to taste

Instructions:

Divide iceberg lettuce between salad bowls. Top with dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, sugared pecans, cut-up grilled chicken, and bleu cheese crumbles. Place soft boiled egg half on top. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette, to taste.

Mediterranean Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Mediterranean Salad! I was asked to provide a salad on short notice for a gathering recently, so it seemed like a no-brainer to share the bounty of my garden. The abundance of ripe tomatoes practically transformed my platter into a work of art. Anyone can do the same. All you need is a few ingredients and two different size platters.

MEDITERRANEAN SALAD

Ingredients:

4-5 medium tomatoes, sliced

3-4 small tomatoes, sliced

1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced

1/3 cup olive oil

1/8 teaspoon dried basil

1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano

2 mozzarella sticks string cheese, sliced

1 small green pepper

1/2 cup pitted black olives

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

2-3 tablespoons balsamic reduction sauce

Instructions:

Choose tomatoes that are uniform in size. This will enhance the pinwheel effect when complete. Slice the tomatoes, discarding the end pieces. Place on paper towels to avoid too much juice on the platter. In a shallow dish combine sliced mozzarella, olive oil, dried basil, oregano, and marjoram. Try to coat the cheese evenly. Set aside to marinate. Meanwhile, take the green pepper and cut across the top to remove the stem portion. Hollow out the pepper and rinse. Turn upside down so no water remains inside. This pepper will be placed in the center as the focal point to hold the black olives. To assemble platter, begin by placing the smaller plate inside the platter. Place the green pepper in the center of the small plate. Arrange the small tomatoes and sliced string cheese around the green pepper. Next take the medium tomato slices and alternate with the marinated mozzarella slices until the outer area of the large platter is filled. Take the fresh basil and arrange the leaves throughout. Some may remain whole while others may be snips of basil. Drizzle reserve olive oil being careful not to drench. You may not need much. Drizzle balsamic reduction sauce over all. Garnish olives with colorful picks.

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Balsamic Reduction Sauce-It’s Sweet! This is the elegant dark sauce you find drizzled over salads, cheese, meats, vegetables, and even fruity desserts in restaurants. At home, it can be made in minutes. You’ll feel like a master chef when you swirl it over your favorite dishes. I do.

BALSAMIC REDUCTION SAUCE-IT’S SWEET!

Ingredients:

1 cup imported Italian balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup pure honey

Instructions:

Mix vinegar and honey together in a reduction pan.* (If you do not have one, simply substitute a 2-quart pan instead.) Bring contents to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Stir occasionally. You will need to use the exhaust fan on the stove since the aroma of vinegar will fill the kitchen. It will take 10-30 minutes to reduce to half the amount, depending on how thick you want your sauce to be. I prefer it closer to molasses so it stands up when drizzled. Watch carefully so it does not burn. Set the timer every10 minutes to see how it coats the back of a spoon. (It is also helpful to use the markings on the measuring tool.) Once it has reduced to half, remove from heat and set aside to cool. It does thicken up as it cools. Store in the refrigerator. Drizzle on foods in teaspoon-size portions. Enjoy! You’re Welcome!

* A reduction pan tapers from wide at the top to narrow at the base to encourage evaporation when reducing liquids. It often comes with a measuring spoon that has markings on it for accuracy.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter U

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Daily Special: Uptown Burrata Masterpiece Salad! I stumbled onto this decadent cheese with the soft creamy center at first bite when my husband and I visited Little Italy in Boston. Hearing the excitement in the voice of our waiter piqued my interest. Oh my, this has to be the best cheese ever! The easiest way to describe it is to say that it’s a type of fresh mozzarella cheese with a hollow center filled with thick cream that boasts of a rich buttery taste. Make sense? It’s meant to be eaten at room temperature, so don’t waste your money melting it on a pizza.

UPTOWN BURRATA MASTERPIECE SALAD

Ingredients:

1 bunch fresh arugula leaves

3-4 Campari tomatoes, quartered

6-ounces artichoke hearts, marinated

6-ounces Burrata mozzarella cheese

Balsamic Reduction

Cracked black pepper to taste

Instructions:

Arrange arugula leaves in a shallow bowl. Place tomatoes and artichokes around decoratively. Place a portion of the Burrata mozzarella at center stage. Drizzle balsamic reduction sauce over all. Garnish with cracked peppercorns to taste. Yes, please!