Orange Sesame Asparagus

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Orange Sesame Asparagus! Produce can be a problem keeping fresh in the vegetable crisper. Especially if you buy it in season when it’s plentiful. Oftentimes that means serving the same thing several days in a row, so the trick is to jazz it up with sidekick options and seasoning. Color keeps food interesting the same way dressings and sauces do. You can either make an orange glaze sauce from scratch or open a bottle of Asian vinaigrette. You choose. I feel blessed to have sufficient ingredients in my kitchen that transform ordinary dishes into extraordinary cravings.

ORANGE SESAME ASPARAGUS

Ingredients:

1/2 bunch fresh asparagus, bottom ends trimmed

15-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

2 tablespoons brown sugar

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Instructions:

Bring salted water to a boil in a large saucepan. Place asparagus spears in water to blanch, about 3-4 minutes until tender. Remove asparagus with tongs; drain. Transfer asparagus to a platter. Arrange mandarin oranges around asparagus spears. In a skillet, combine brown sugar and cornstarch. Add orange juice and lemon juice. Stir to blend. Cook over medium heat, stirring until glaze boils, about 2 minutes. Pour orange glaze over asparagus spears. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

French Fried Onion ‘n Pork Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: French Fried Onion and Pork Flatbread! Don’t wait all year to sink your teeth into those crispy onion toppers sprinkled over holiday green bean casserole. Be creative. The onion crunch can be added to soups, salads, burgers, and pizza, too. Simply use your imagination and I guarantee you can talk yourself into something delicious. Barbecue pork, with its sweet and tangy sauce, had me longing for a side order of onion rings. Social distancing and restrictions meant that wasn’t going to happen. So, I opened the pantry door and there on the shelf was a can of the next best thing. French Fried Onions saved the day. Set your wheels in motion, then fork it over.

FRENCH FRIED ONION ‘N PORK FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 prepared flatbread

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/3 cup sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish

1 cup seasoned pork, cooked and shredded

2 tablespoons green pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons red pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons yellow onion, chopped

1 cup mozzarella cheese, finely shredded

1/2 cup French fried onions

1 tablespoon ranch dressing, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush bottom of flatbread with olive oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal and garlic powder. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Spread the barbecue sauce over the flatbread. Layer the shredded pork on top. Add the green pepper, red pepper, and yellow onion. Top flatbread with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 8 minutes, then top with French fried onions. Bake 2-3 minutes longer. Remove from oven, slice accordingly, then drizzle reserve barbecue sauce and ranch dressing over all. Serve immediately.

Creamy Honey Mustard Dressing

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Creamy Honey Mustard Dressing! Imagine my delight at seeing thin sprigs of thyme with tiny spear-shaped leaves in the herb bed again. Although a perennial, thyme seems to thrive more in full sun. Doesn’t everything? Crush a few leaves to breathe in the slight, lemony aroma. Nice. There’s an easier way to remove the leaves without picking them off one by one. Position your thumb and forefinger at the non-root end of the stem, then pull backwards so the leaves fall into a dish. Discard the stem and you’re ready to go. Fresh thyme adds a nice finish to recipes whether you sprinkle the leaves as a finishing touch or use the entire sprig as a garnish. I like adding fresh herbs to salads and dressings. It’s like a delicious taste of sunshine.

CREAMY HONEY MUSTARD DRESSING

Ingredients:

1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Fresh lemon thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

In a small bowl, combine Tupelo honey, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, white vinegar, and cayenne pepper. Whisk together until smooth and creamy. Add lemon thyme leaves. Drizzle over salads and vegetables.

Asparagus If You Peas

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Asparagus If You Peas! When you’re looking for an appealing salad, think asparagus! You’re going to love the bright greens and vibrant red tones in this one. You may even “Kiss the Cook”. By blanching fresh asparagus, it keeps this popular vegetable tender while remaining crisp. The mild flavor reminds me of Springtime as a kid. I used to forage for wild asparagus along country roads, ditches, and abandoned railroad tracks. The natural pale-green spears standing sentinel made them easy to spot. Everyone had their “secret” places where they knew the plants returned year after year, as long as the stalks were snapped off at ground level leaving the roots intact.

ASPARAGUS IF YOU PEAS

Ingredients:

1/2 bunch fresh asparagus, bottom ends trimmed

1 cup frozen peas, thawed and rinsed

1 cup radishes, sliced thin

1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts

1/4 cup raw honey

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions:

Bring salted water to a boil in a large saucepan. Place asparagus spears in water to blanch, about 3-4 minutes until tender. Remove asparagus with tongs and transfer to a colander in ice water for one minute. Drain. Arrange asparagus spears on a platter. Surround them with peas, sliced radishes, and alfalfa sprouts. Place in refrigerator to chill completely. Meanwhile, to make the dressing, combine raw honey, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, white vinegar, and cayenne pepper. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Drizzle over vegetables, as desired.

Iceberg Lettuce Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Iceberg Lettuce Salad! Generally speaking, we all become pretty accustomed to grocery prices in our home town. We know, when it comes to produce, we can expect to pay a little more for berries than bananas. Just like the many varieties of leafy greens. Typically, spinach, kale, and romaine are always way more than iceberg lettuce. Right? So recently while visiting Kauai, knowing that a lot of food is imported, I made the decision to make some compromises. I picked up a head of iceberg lettuce listed at $3.99. In the States it’s around $1.49 a head. Okay. When I checked out, the register rung up $6.00. Imagine the sticker shock. Come to find out, the sign actually said iceberg lettuce was $3.99 a pound. Let me tell you, I stretched that head of lettuce over many meals and savored every bite.

ICEBERG LETTUCE SALAD

Ingredients:

3 leaves of lettuce, gently torn

1 Roma tomato, chopped

1 green onion, snipped

2 tablespoons Caesar dressing, prepared

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated

1/8 teaspoon oregano

Instructions:

Divide the gently torn lettuce leaves between two salad plates. Arrange chopped tomatoes over lettuce. Using a kitchen shears, snip the green onion pieces over top. Drizzle with salad dressing. Sprinkle on parmesan cheese and oregano. Serve chilled.

Xigua Watermelon Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Xigua Watermelon Salad! With seasonal changes, there may be days that feel more like Summer than Autumn. At those times, I roll back the calendar by serving a light meal with a couple of cool melons. The natural sweetness of watermelon and honeydew are complimented by the smoky saltiness of thinly sliced prosciutto. When drizzled with a homemade vinaigrette, it works beautifully to balance the fresh fruit and mixed greens with the aged cheese. Take advantage of watermelon salad’s one final “hurrah” before it’s gone.

XIGUA WATERMELON SALAD

Ingredients:

1 cup watermelon, cut into chunks and seeded

1 cup honeydew melon, cut into chunks and seeded

1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin

1/3 cup mandarin oranges

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons lemon olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons natural honey

2 cups arugula

2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, torn

3-4 slices prosciutto

1/4 cup Romano cheese, shaved

Instructions:

Combine watermelon, honeydew melon, red onion, mandarin oranges, and kosher salt. Gently toss. To make the dressing, in a small bowl whisk lemon juice, lemon olive oil, and natural honey. Drizzle over fruit mixture. Divide arugula and mint between chilled salad plates. Top with fruit mixture. Add prosciutto. Garnish with shaved Romano cheese. Serve chilled.

Salad on a Fork

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Salad on a Fork! Try something different the next time you throw a party. Instead of serving an ordinary relish tray, choose interesting veggies to spear on a salad fork. Your guests will be so intrigued, they won’t realize they’ve chosen a salad bite over a brownie. Cherry tomatoes, crunchy romaine, and garden green beans make preparation easy. Offer two or three salad dressings for topping things off. Portions are bite-sized to avoid waste. Forks stand upended in a bowl or a pitcher. I happened to have an antique ice bucket that worked out nicely. Variety creates a beautiful presentation, so include baby carrots, snow peas, and perhaps a piece of bacon. Just think of it as a “conversation starter”.

SALAD ON A FORK

Ingredients:

1 bunch romaine lettuce

1 head iceberg lettuce

10.5 ounces cherry tomatoes

1/2 pound fresh green beans

Prepared salad dressings

Salad forks

Instructions:

Wash and pat dry lettuce, tomatoes, and green beans. Tear or cut lettuce leaves into bite-sized portions. Spear several leaves onto a salad fork. Add a green bean. Crown with a cherry tomato. Stand the forks upright in a bowl. Repeat steps until all the forks are used and the bowl is filled. Squeeze bottles of 2-3 prepared salad dressings make self-serve options available and entertaining.

Rainbow Fruit Cup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Rainbow Fruit Cup! As the seasons roll on, here’s a friendly reminder about buying fresh fruit. Most grocers feature fruits that are always in season, such as apples, bananas, and grapes. If you pay attention to the first ones you see as you walk in the door or in high traffic areas, most likely you’ll reap the savings. That’s one clue. If the store has an abundance of something on hand, they focus on “pushing” it through quickly, which translates BEFORE it becomes overripe. Consumers can take advantage of the prices while enjoying healthy options. Rainbow fruit simply means combining different colors for plate appeal. Keep in mind that canned fruit can be substituted at times. I like balancing out pineapple chunks or mandarin oranges along with fresh fruit. No worries. The citrus dressing will pull everything together nicely.

RAINBOW FRUIT CUP

1 cup strawberries, stems removed and quartered

1 cup blueberries

1 peach, sliced with skin removed

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons organic mango orange juice

2 tablespoons lemon olive oil

1 tablespoon raw acacia honey

1/2 teaspoon lemon citrus peel, granulated

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Instructions:

Combine sliced strawberries, blueberries, and peaches in a bowl. Toss lightly to mix. For dressing, combine lemon juice, mango orange juice, lemon olive oil, acacia honey, lemon citrus peel, kosher salt, and black pepper. Whisk together until blended. Pour over fruit salad. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Ziti Green Bean Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Ziti Green Bean Salad! Citrusy and Refreshing, that’s how to describe this incredibly vibrant cold pasta salad. Thin and crunchy green beans are paired with luscious cherry tomatoes wrapped in highly fragrant minced parsley bits. Make-ahead options give you time to spend on leisure activities to maximize the final days of summer. Skip the mayonnaise and revel in the burst of lemon vinaigrette for a seasonal change. Life is good!

ZITI GREEN BEAN SALAD

Ingredients:

16 ounces whole wheat ziti pasta

8 ounces fresh green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

16 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

3/4 cup Lemon Citrus Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Instructions:

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding green beans to boiling water during the last two minutes of cooking time; drain. Rinse pasta mixture under cold running water until cool; drain again. Combine pasta mixture, tomatoes, and vinaigrette. Toss to coat. Cover and chill overnight. Just before serving, gently fold in minced parsley.

LEMON CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

Ingredients:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 minced shallot

1/2 cup olive oil

1/8 cup fresh parsley, minced

1/2 tablespoon natural honey

1/2 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard

Instructions:

Combine lemon juice and minced shallot. Set aside for 5 minutes. Add olive oil, fresh parsley, natural honey, and Dijon mustard. Whisk together to blend. Store in refrigerator.