Niçoise Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Niçoise Salad! Repeat after me, “nee-SWAHZ”. One more time, “nee-SWAHZ”. Spoken like a true Parisian. Now what does it mean, you wonder. In layman’s terms, niçoise refers to the style of cooking in the south of France. It usually includes deep brown olives, vine-ripened tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, tiny new potatoes, thin green beans, and anchovies or tuna. The dressing almost always includes Dijon mustard, minced shallots, herbs, and olive oil. If it sounds like a lot of fresh ingredients, think of it this way: it’s a gourmet salad, a meal in itself. Besides, it is absolutely show-stopping on the plate. Take your time. Enjoy every bite. Because when you’re all finished, you may discover you’re ready to have it again next week.

NIÇOISE SALAD

Ingredients:

1/2 pound petite fingerling potatoes

6 ounces thin green beans, ends trimmed

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon garlic wine vinegar

1 shallot, minced

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon thyme

1/8 teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 head butter lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

6 ounces grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup niçoise olives

4 eggs, hard-boiled and halved

2 ahi tuna steaks

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons furikake seasoning

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Wasabi mustard

Instructions:

In a 2-quart pan over medium heat, bring to a boil fingerling potatoes, with skin on, in salted water. Cook 15 minutes. Add green beans for 1 minute or until bright green. Remove from heat. Drain; set aside. When potatoes are cool, cut in half or quarters. For salad dressing, whisk together Dijon mustard, garlic wine vinegar, minced shallot, marjoram, thyme, and oregano. Whisking continuously, slowly add olive oil until fully blended. Add kosher salt to taste. Set aside. Divide butter lettuce into serving dishes. Arrange fingerling potatoes, green beans, grape tomatoes, niçoise olives, and hard-boiled eggs. Serve with seared ahi steaks.

Instructions for ahi steaks:

Combine olive oil, vegetable oil, and sesame oil in a shallow dish. Sprinkle with furikake seasoning and white sesame seeds. Marinate ahi tuna steaks ten minutes per side to coat evenly. Remove from marinade and set aside. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil mixture. Cook steaks 2-3 minutes per side. The outer skin will appear seared while the center will remain rare. Remove from heat. Transfer ahi steaks to a cutting board and tent with foil for 10 minutes. Cut into 1/4″ thick slices. Drizzle wasabi mustard on a platter. Arrange sliced ahi, overlapping the slices.

Layered Taco Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Layered Taco Dip! Wait no longer for a great appetizer. Set the tone for a social gathering with foods that say, “Let’s get this party started!”. A creamy dense layer of Mexican spices over a base of refried beans make the perfect foundation to hold the remaining ingredients. Not a fan of black olives? Simply choose green peppers or mushrooms instead. After all it’s your kitchen, so own it!

LAYERED TACO DIP

16-ounce can refried beans, traditional

16-ounce carton sour cream

8-ounce block cream cheese, room temperature

1 taco seasoning packet

1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped

1 large tomato, diced

3 green onions, chopped

1 1/2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

2.25-ounce can sliced black olives, drained

Tortilla chips or corn chips

Instructions:

Spread refried beans on the bottom layer of a serving platter. Combine sour cream, cream cheese, and taco seasoning packet in a bowl. Mix until smooth. Spread over refried beans. Divide romaine lettuce evenly over cream cheese layer. Top with diced tomatoes and green onion snips. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese followed by Monterey Jack cheese over all. Finish with black olive slices. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate dip for at least one hour. Serve with tortilla chips or corn chips.

Alphabet Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Alphabet Soup! Remember when you were a kid and your mom placed a steaming bowl of alphabet soup in front of you? The first thing I did was grab the spoon and search for the letters in my name. My mother, in her wisdom, would say, “Begin by eating the letters you know don’t count.” Not only was it a lesson in letter recognition, but I ultimately ended up finishing my soup before it got cold. Smart lady. How do you eat Alphabet Soup?

ALPHABET SOUP

Ingredients:

8 cups chicken broth

1 pound boneless chicken tenders

1 cup yellow onion, chopped

1 cup mixed vegetables, frozen

3/4 cup celery, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 cup dried parsley

3 bay leaves

1/4 cup butter

1 cup alphabet pasta

Instructions:

In a slow cooker, combine chicken broth, boneless chicken tenders, yellow onion, mixed vegetables, celery, seasoned salt, black pepper, dried thyme, dried parsley, and bay leaves. Cook on high for 4 hours. Remove chicken and shred. Return it back to the slow cooker. Add alphabet pasta and butter. Gently stir to combine. Cook 30 minutes longer. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Java Chip Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Java Chip Cookies! Anyone will tell you the aroma of coffee triggers good feelings. If you don’t believe me, check out the neighborhood coffee shops and you’ll find a local place where people hang out. It’s not just the free Wi-Fi either. Coffee is one of the most popular beverages around, especially now with intense flavorings topped with a mound of whipped cream. Transform the blend of coffee and sugar into a cookie, charged with caffeine, and you’ll be as popular as the Pied Piper. People will follow you anywhere!

JAVA CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

3 tablespoons espresso instant coffee

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

3 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup toffee bits

1/4 cup chocolate covered espresso beans, roughly chopped

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. In a food processor beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, espresso instant coffee, and vanilla extract until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until blended. Combine flour, baking soda, and sea salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture until it forms a dough. Fold in toffee bits, chopped espresso beans, and mini chocolate chips. Chill dough slightly. Using a melon ball scoop, drop cookie dough onto a baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. Do not burn. Remove from oven. Let cool for 2 minutes. Dredge java chip cookies in sugar, if desired, before transferring them to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Yield: 3 dozen, large cookies.

Vegan Black Bean Stew

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Vegan Black Bean Stew! Autumn has arrived. And with it comes all the comfort we crave in foods that warm our toes and fill our tummies. You don’t have to be a meat-lover to appreciate a heaping bowl of hearty stew. Choose vegetable medleys and aromatic spices instead. Combine them all together in the slow cooker for savory results. Go meatless!

VEGAN BLACK BEAN STEW

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 sweet onion, diced

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoon cumin

3 cups vegetable broth

45 ounces black beans, with liquid

1 cup sweet corn

Bell Pepper rings

Fresh Cilantro

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add chopped carrots, sliced celery, and sweet onion. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and black pepper. Cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste, garlic powder, and cumin. Cook 2 minutes longer until tomato paste turns brownish. Add 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Stir to combine. Transfer skillet mixture to a crockpot. Add black beans, sweet corn, and remaining vegetable broth. Stir well. Cover and cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 6 hours. Serve heaping bowls with bell pepper rings and cilantro to garnish.

Old Mexico Street Poppers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Old Mexico Street Poppers! As the garden brings forth a bounty of jalapeños, variety becomes the spice of life. Stuffed with cheese and veggies makes sinking your teeth into this spicy popper feel like eating from a Mexican cobblestone street vendor in Puerto Vallarta. Anything goes! Give your taste buds an “old town” vacation and then go shopping afterwards!

OLD MEXICO STREET POPPERS

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano, snipped

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion salt

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 cup organic black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup sweet corn, whole kernel

1/3 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/8 teaspoon taco seasoning

12 jalapeño peppers, cut lengthwise and seeded

1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet. Spray with nonso like. Set aside. In a bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese, Mexican oregano, garlic powder, onion salt, cumin powder, black beans, sweet corn, and Monterey Jack cheese. Mix well. Set aside. In another bowl, combine panko bread crumbs, Mexican cheese, melted butter, and taco seasoning. Mix well. Set aside. To prepare jalapeños, wear rubber gloves. Leaving the stem on, slice the upper third portion lengthwise. Discard top. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Divide filling evenly between jalapeños. Place on wire rack. Cover top of jalapeños with crumb topping. Press gently into cream cheese mixture. Bake 30-35 minutes or until tops are golden brown and jalapeños are tender. Garnish with cilantro. Serve warm.

Harvest Snap Beans

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Harvest Snap Beans! If you’ve ever planted a garden, you already know how easily and quickly green beans are to grow. They produce so well, even a novice takes pride in their bounty. When it’s time to harvest, choose smooth green (or yellow) pods. Lumps are a sign of an overripe bean, which means it could be dried out or damaged inside. Be particular. You can always tell how fresh it is by the “snap” sound it makes when broken. Perhaps that’s why my aunt on the farm used to call them “snap beans”. Taste is everything.

HARVEST SNAP BEANS

Ingredients:

1 pound frozen yellow wax and green beans, thawed

6 slices bacon; cooked and broken into chunks

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Arrange yellow wax beans and green beans in an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle bacon pieces over beans. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, melted butter, soy sauce, garlic powder, and agave nectar. Mix well. Pour over green beans and bacon. Bake uncovered 40 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before serving.

Cincinnati “Cottage” Ham

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Cincinnati “Cottage” Ham! W-h-a-a-a-t? When my husband requested something his mother used to cook that conjured up pleasant memories of his youth, I couldn’t refuse. He was raised in southwestern Ohio where traditional foods, like Cottage Ham, make up comfort food thrown together in one pot for a meal that practically makes your eyes roll back. Local butchers recognize the term since they’ve been using it for over a hundred years. Secret recipes include tender meat taken from the shoulder of the pig, salt-and-sugar cured, and then hickory wood-smoked. The name became popular in the 1800s because the Cottage Ham is small in size, just like a tiny house.

CINCINNATI “COTTAGE” HAM

Ingredients:

2-3 pound smoked pork shoulder butt

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 onion, chopped

1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, quartered

Instructions:

Place cottage ham in a slow cooker. Cover with water. Add green beans, sea salt, black pepper, and onions. Cook on Low 8 hours. Add quartered red potatoes. Cook 2 hours longer. Cut ham into thick pieces with green beans and potatoes. Ladle juice over all. Serve immediately.

Picnic Pork and Beans

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Picnic Pork and Beans! Tradition speaks loud and clear at family gatherings and picnics, especially in the summer. No matter the cookout, barbecue, or pitch-in, certain foods are expected on the buffet table. One of them is the coveted baked beans. Usually the unmarried auntie or the matriarch is the keeper of the cherished recipes. The “grande dame” knows all the ingredients, especially the heavily-guarded secret ones. It might be a dab of this or a pinch of that. My advice? Time, patience, and integrity. After all, there’s a lot of responsibility in carrying on the Secret Family Recipes. In the end, it’s all worth it!

PICNIC PORK AND BEANS

Ingredients:

3 slices uncured bacon, thick

1/4 cup sweet onion, sliced

1 tablespoon bacon drippings

28-ounce can pork and beans

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons pimento, diced

1/4 cup barbecue sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Fry bacon in a large skillet until partially cooked. Remove bacon from pan and dab on paper towels. Let cool and then break into pieces. Discard all but one tablespoon bacon drippings. Add sweet onion to pan; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Combine sweet onion, pork and beans, seasoned salt, red pepper flakes, diced pimento, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard. Mix well. Transfer to an ovenproof dish. Top with bacon pieces. Bake uncovered for one hour, or until beans are bubbly and sauce is thick. Let stand 10 minutes for sauce to thicken slightly. Serve warm.