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!

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Beet Bacon Bleu Salad!

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Beet Bacon Bleu Salad! Remember when you were a kid and your mother made you eat beets? And you hated them? Well, thank goodness as we age, our taste buds change. Perhaps it’s time to give them a second chance. I did and the results made me wonder why I waited so long.

BEET BACON BLEU SALAD

Ingredients:

15-ounce can sliced beets, drained

3 tablespoons lemon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

2 cups mixed salad greens

1 egg, hard-cooked and sliced

3 slices applewood bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled

1/4 cup bleu cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons balsamic reduction

Garnish with croutons

Instructions:

In a shallow dish, combine lemon olive oil, seasoned salt, and Herbes de Provence. Add sliced beets. Marinate 10 minutes, turn and marinate 10 minutes longer. Arrange salad greens in a bowl. Add beets, reserving marinade. Arrange egg slices on greens. Top with bacon pieces. Sprinkle with bleu cheese crumbles. Drizzle all with reserve marinade plus balsamic reduction. Garnish with croutons.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter A

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Arugula Cherry Salad! Handpicked cherries, at the peak of ripeness, set the stage for an appealing salad that is sure to be delightful. Don’t have an orchard nearby? No worries. Check the local Farmer’s Market, fruit stand, or supermarket for the season’s bounty. Timing is everything. You’ll want to have enough ripe cherries on hand to pair later with wine and perhaps a little chocolate. Spoiler Alert: I’ve set aside a portion of juicy red cherries to feature in a decadent dessert. Stay tuned.  
ARUGULA CHERRY SALAD
Ingredients:

6 ounces baby arugula 

16 ripe cherries, stems removed and pitted

1/4 cup almonds, sliced

1 tablespoon tarragon, leaves only

1 tablespoon sherry cooking wine 

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil 

Sea salt to taste

Cracked black pepper to taste

4 ounces Bleu cheese, crumbled
Instructions:

After the pits are removed, cut the cherries in half. Combine arugula, cherries, almonds, and tarragon in a large bowl. Toss gently. In a small bowl, whisk together sherry cooking wine, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Drizzle over salad and gently toss. Divide into serving bowls. Finish with Bleu cheese crumbles over top. Serve immediately. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter M

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Mediterranean Summertime Tomatoes! Do you say “to-may-toe” or “to-mah-toe”? Like it really matters when you sink your teeth into its meaty flesh as the juice runs down your chin. Face it, summer is all about the luscious tomato. Gardeners go crazy planting, watering, weeding, and coaxing the plants’ climbing tendrils to wind within the wire baskets so when the vine becomes heavy with fruit (yes, actually the tomato IS a fruit) you’ll reap the harvest. After all, everyone loves a neighbor who grows, and shares, garden tomatoes.
MEDITERRANEAN SUMMERTIME TOMATOES 
Ingredients:

3 Roma tomatoes, sliced 

2 Campari tomatoes, sliced 

1 cup yellow mini tomatoes, halved

1 red onion, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence, crushed

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder 

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Sea salt to taste

Fresh basil for garnish

Anchovy-stuffed olives (optional)

1 loaf French bread
Instructions:

Core and slice tomatoes. Arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle red onion over the tomatoes. Whisk together the olive oil, Herbes de Provence, garlic powder, and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over the tomatoes and onions. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with anchovy-stuffed green olives and fresh basil. Dip French bread in the marinade and eat with the tomatoes.*
*Serving Suggestion: Begin with a bed of baby spinach leaves for a complete meal. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter X

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: X-tra Virgin Olive Oil Dipping Sauce! It’s no secret I’m a bread-lover. Just like chocolate, wine, and cheese….the key is moderation. I look to the French culture for validation. Their motto seems to be “use quality ingredients and fresh foods” for the best flavor. And I believe it. During my visit to Paris and the south of France, I noticed open markets everywhere and held often. Preservatives are pretty much absent. Nutrition rules. Grow an herb garden. Crush dried herbs to release flavor. That being said, go ahead and reach for the bread basket, just don’t eat the whole thing!
X-TRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL DIPPING SAUCE
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper 

1/4 teaspoon parsley

1/4 teaspoon oregano 

1/4 teaspoon marjoram 

1/4 teaspoon basil 

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated

1 tablespoon red wine or balsamic vinegar 

Bakery baguette, sliced
Instructions:

Pour olive oil into a measuring cup. Add garlic powder, black pepper, parsley, oregano, marjoram, basil, and kosher salt. Whisk to blend flavors. Add parmesan cheese. Stir. Marinate at room temperature for one hour to enhance flavors. Stir and pour onto a plate or shallow bowl. “Dot” oil with balsamic vinegar. Serve with baguette bread. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter B

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Beet Bacon Bleu Salad! Remember when you were a kid and your mother made you eat beets? And you hated them? Well, thank goodness as we age, our taste buds change. Perhaps it’s time to give them a second chance. I did and the results made me wonder why I waited so long. 
BEET BACON BLEU SALAD
Ingredients:

15-ounce can sliced beets, drained

3 tablespoons lemon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence 

2 cups mixed salad greens

1 egg, hard-cooked and sliced

3 slices applewood bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled

1/4 cup bleu cheese, crumbled 

2 tablespoons balsamic reduction 

Garnish with croutons
Instructions:

In a shallow dish, combine lemon olive oil, seasoned salt, and Herbes de Provence. Add sliced beets. Marinate 10 minutes, turn and marinate 10 minutes longer. Arrange salad greens in a bowl. Add beets, reserving marinade. Arrange egg slices on greens. Top with bacon pieces. Sprinkle with bleu cheese crumbles. Drizzle all with reserve marinade plus balsamic reduction. Garnish with croutons.