Quesadilla Chile Relleno

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Quesadilla Chile Relleno! Before you shake your head and walk away, hear me out. Green poblano peppers are a pretty mild distant cousin to the jalapeño and habanero. You could almost say they’re from the “other side of the tracks”, so to speak. Personally, I think they’re underrated. If you look up their classification, they might even be referred to as sweet. Now, I don’t know about that. What I do know is they smell somewhat earthy, tend to hold their shape, and are absolutely scrumptious when bathed in Mexican cheeses. In my opinion, they definitely deserve a second chance. What have you got to lose?

QUESADILLA CHILE RELLENO

Ingredients:

2 large flour tortillas

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup Mexican-style four cheeses, shredded

2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, and sliced in strips

1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped

1/4 cup ranch dressing, prepared

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon sriracha sauce

Instructions:

Butter one side of each flour tortilla. Set aside. Warm an iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium heat. Place one tortilla in the skillet, butter side down. Add half the Mexican cheeses. Arrange the poblano peppers in a single layer over cheese. Scatter chopped onion over all. Add remaining Mexican cheese blend. Place the remaining tortilla on top, butter side up. Press down lightly. Cover the pan with a lid. Cook 3-4 minutes until tortilla is lightly browned and cheese is melted. Using a spatula, flip over the quesadilla. Cover with lid. Cook 2-3 minutes longer until golden brown. Do not burn. Transfer quesadilla to a cutting board. Let rest for 2 minutes to avoid a flood of gooey cheese. In a small bowl, combine prepared ranch dressing, cayenne pepper, and sriracha sauce. Mix well. Cut the quesadilla into 6 triangles. Serve with sriracha ranch dipping sauce.

Frisée Blueberry Pistachio Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Frisée Blueberry Pistachio Salad! Have you tried frisée lately? This member of the lettuce family offers a slightly bitter bite, which is why it’s a good idea to pair it with some form of sweetened fruit. The appealing curlicue tendrils have a crunchy texture as well as upstanding hardiness. That factor alone is important since it translates to the ability to withstand a creamy dressing without turning it to mush. Should one desire, adding a robust bleu cheese, blackened bacon strip, or scattering salty capers among the sturdy leaves, permits a heavier dressing in short order. So you see, the question remains: to frisée or not to frisée.

FRISÉE BLUEBERRY PISTACHIO SALAD

Ingredients:

1 bunch frisée, stems trimmed, leaves gently torn

2-3 radishes, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon red onion, slivers

1/4 cup blueberries

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped

Instructions:

Divide salad plates with frisée. Arrange sliced radishes, red onion slivers, blueberries, and tarragon leaves around frisée leaves. In a small bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and sugar. Slowly, whisk in olive oil. Season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Drizzle dressing over salads; tossing to coat. Sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts. Serve chilled.

Artichoke Chicken Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Artichoke Chicken Flatbread! Marinated artichoke hearts are a luxury worth savoring. Let me repeat myself: Marinated artichoke hearts are a luxury worth savoring. Now that I’ve said it twice, tuck those words into your memory banks. The next time you go shopping for groceries, grab a jar off the shelf. Don’t worry, it won’t go to waste. For some reason, artichokes taste like a summer day, standing barefoot under a canopy of shade trees overlooking a babbling brook. Invigorating. Vivacious. And stimulating. Think about all the ways you can serve artichoke hearts: in dips, as appetizers, on charcuterie boards, roasted with veggies, or straight out of the jar. Just wait until you try them on flatbread.

ARTICHOKE CHICKEN FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 prepared flatbread

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1/3 cup prepared ranch dressing

1 1/2 cup Italian cheeses, shredded

1/2 cup grilled chicken strips, precooked and cut into chunks

1/3 cup marinated artichoke hearts, chopped

2 tablespoons red pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons green pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons sweet onion, chopped

Fresh oregano leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush olive oil on the bottom of the flatbread. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Bake on a pizza stone for 5 minutes. Spread ranch dressing over top of flatbread. Sprinkle with one cup of shredded Italian cheeses. Arrange grilled chicken chunks, marinated artichoke hearts, red peppers, green peppers, and sweet onions over all. Add remaining cheese. Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and deeply golden around the edges. Garnish with fresh oregano before serving.

Za’atar Avocado Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Za’atar Avocado Salad! Za’atar is one of those words that sounds mystical and magical to me, like “Abracadabra” or “Shazaam”. Sprinkling this Middle Eastern spice on fresh salads, meat dishes, or even homemade hummus guarantees to mysteriously transport you to faraway lands. Open the jar and sprinkle a little bit onto the palm of your hand. Dip your tongue into the blend of spices. Taste that earthiness? It’s cumin and toasted sesame. You already detect the savory flavors of oregano, marjoram, and thyme. But what is that unexpected tanginess? Can you guess? It’s sumac, the secret ingredient. Za’atar is a one-spice wonder you may want to sprinkle into olive oil to slather onto focaccia bread. Do it. Once you try it, watch it disappear. It’s that good.

ZA’ATAR AVOCADO SALAD

Ingredients:

1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon lime juice

3 hearts of palm, cut into thin rounds

1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed

2 radishes, sliced thin

1 tablespoon za’atar seasoning

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon raw honey

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Grated zest of lemon, for garnish

Instructions:

Arrange the avocado slices in a single layer on a platter. Drizzle lemon juice over slices. Scatter the hearts of palm over the avocados. Top with shelled edamame. Insert sliced radishes throughout. Sprinkle za’atar seasoning over all. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, rice vinegar, and raw honey until blended. Season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Spoon the dressing over the salad. Garnish with lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Poppyseed Dressing

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Poppyseed Dressing! Behold, the mystical, magical world of poppyseeds. It’s not just for sprinkling on bagels, breads, and lemon muffins. Poppyseeds are kind of like that wild free-spirited girlfriend your mother didn’t really want you hanging around with in high school. She had a dark side that sometimes ditched school to hang out at a local coffee shop to smoke cigarettes and hear stories about the waitress’s latest boyfriend who rode a motorcycle and smoked pot. I’m sure you’ve heard stories about avoiding drug tests that detect a positive result for opiates. Alas, poppyseeds are a source of morphine and codeine. But that doesn’t mean the blueish-black seeds will get you high. Just happy. Their deeply nutty toasted flavor also reveals an enjoyable crunch. Maybe that’s the attraction after all.

POPPYSEED DRESSING

Ingredients:

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon dried mustard

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon poppyseeds

1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions:

In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and sugar. Add dried mustard, sea salt, cayenne pepper, and poppyseeds. Stir well. Add garlic wine vinegar; continue stirring. Slowly add olive oil, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Pour into a jar. Allow flavors to enhance at room temperature. Drizzle over prepared salad.

East-West Shrimp Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: East-West Shrimp Salad! Shrimp, on its own, is a star attraction for a special meal. That pretty much goes without saying. I like the idea that shrimp makes a main course look complex, or restaurant-worthy. By adding steamed mukimame, mandarin oranges, sesame seeds, and soy sauce, suddenly an everyday garden salad sings a different tune. The fusion of flavors becomes enlightening, like the eternal knowledge of an Eastern sunrise. Is it any wonder I heart shrimp?

EAST-WEST SHRIMP SALAD

Ingredients:

1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined, and cooked

1/2 cup mukimame, steamed

1/2 cup mandarin orange segments

1/2 cup baby cucumber, skin on and sliced

1/4 red pepper, cut into strips

Lettuce greens

Ingredients for Dressing:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons garlic wine vinegar

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning mix

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Instructions:

Prepare the shrimp according to package directions. Set aside. Arrange lettuce greens on a salad plate. Add steamed mukimame, mandarin orange segments, sliced cucumbers, and red pepper strips. In a bowl, combine olive oil, garlic wine vinegar, agave nectar, mayonnaise, Italian seasoning mix, soy sauce, ground ginger, and toasted sesame seeds. Mix well. Pour dressing over salads and toss to coat. Arrange shrimp on top to spotlight. Serve immediately.

Turkey Taquitos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Turkey Taquitos! Small rolled-up tortillas that are filled with seasoned meat, shredded cheese, and Mexican spices might be the best alternative to a taco or a burrito. In lieu of deep frying, crispy crunchy results can happen in the oven. The smaller size tortilla makes the turkey taquito easy to hold and handy for dipping into red or green salsa. Some foodies make a meal out of these little corn tacos, while others find them perfect as a party snack. Better make a batch for yourself before you decide.

TURKEY TAQUITOS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup salsa

3 cups turkey, precooked and shredded

1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix

1/2 teaspoon oregano, crushed

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

12 corn tortillas

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, and ranch dressing, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Pour salsa into a strainer. Allow juices to drip away. In a large bowl, combine shredded turkey, cheddar cheese, taco seasoning mix, crushed oregano, cumin powder, and garlic powder. Mix well. Warm vegetable oil in an iron skillet over medium heat. Dip each tortilla into the oil and place on a plate. This makes the shell pliable. Reduce heat to low. Place 2 tablespoons filling on each tortilla. Roll tightly. Place in the iron skillet to “seal” for a few seconds. Then transfer taquito to a baking sheet, with seam facing down. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until crisp. Garnish with chopped tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, and fresh cilantro. Drizzle with ranch dressing. Serve warm.

Zesty Citrus Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Zesty Citrus Salad! “If you build it, they will come.” That familiar quote may spark a flicker of remembrance from a popular movie years ago, Field of Dreams. Kevin Costner was the actor who had an idea and went with it. Cooking is like that, in my opinion. For example, build a better salad. It’s pretty simple, actually. Choose garden greens for the foundation, layer on fruits or vegetables for flavor, toss in some crunchy nuts, and slather on the sauce to dress it up. Of course, you can include cheese, meat, and eggs to bulk it up into a meal if you’d like. May as well go ahead and make your own salad dressings. There’s no comparison; being naturally better than bottled, they serve nicely as dips if you have any leftover. No promises on that note, because they’re that good.

ZESTY CITRUS SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups lettuce, gently torn

1/4 cup celery leaves

1 naval orange, segments cut into thirds

6 strawberries, quartered

2 tablespoons red onion, sliced

2 tablespoons almonds, sliced

Ingredients for Dressing:

1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons Tupelo honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Dash sriracha

Instructions:

Place torn lettuce into salad bowls. Divide celery leaves between them. Arrange the orange segments, quartered strawberries, and red onion slices. Scatter almonds over all. Set aside to chill in the refrigerator. To combine dressing, whisk together garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, Tupelo honey, Dijon mustard, toasted sesame seeds, and dash of sriracha sauce. Mix well. Drizzle over salad before serving.

Vinaigrette Like the French

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Vinaigrette Like the French! I’m all about the creamier versions of salad dressings, yet sometimes I really must stick to a basic oil and vinegar one to appreciate the fabulous herbs the French adore. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, and sometimes lavender are the star attractions. These unique flavors are very typical of the southeastern part of France, known as Provence. As a Francophile, is it any wonder I grow these herbs at home in my garden herb bed? Once dried, they keep very well in a sealed jar. Their shelf life can be up to three years, but I have yet to make that happen. Because the flavor is so distinctive, herbes de Provence may be incorporated into meat or fish recipes, soups, breads, fries, salad dressings, and more. Substitute the need for salt next time with a virtual trip to the French countryside. C’est magnifique!

VINAIGRETTE LIKE THE FRENCH

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons garlic wine vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Instructions:

Whisk together garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, herbes de Provence, minced garlic, and cracked black pepper. Blend well. Let stand 10 minutes to infuse flavors. Whisk again before serving.