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.

Lime Cilantro Dressing

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Lime Cilantro Dressing! The first time I tasted this unique dressing with a southwestern kick, I wanted to put down my fork and literally guzzle it by the spoonful. Then again, I’m a fan of fresh cilantro. It’s one of those herbs, I’ve discovered, people either love it or hate it. If you can’t handle it….well, I’ll see you tomorrow when I bake something sweet and decadent. For those who choose to remain, grab a spoon and hang on!

LIME CILANTRO DRESSING

Ingredients:

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and cut in quarters

1 garlic clove

3/4 teaspoon fresh ginger root

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/3 cup natural honey

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, packed

1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions:

Combine the jalapeño pepper, garlic clove, and ginger root into a mini chopper. Pulse until finely chopped. Add lime juice, natural honey, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt. Pulse to mix. Add cilantro leaves. Pulse a little longer to blend. With the mini chopper on Low, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the dressing until it is completely blended. It is now ready to serve.

Fennel Honeydew Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Fennel Honeydew Salad! One final “hurrah” before you leave warm weather behind may be this tangy fruit salad sprinkled with niblets of sweet corn and a hint of anise. Are you intrigued? Ripe honeydew, in my opinion, emits a gloriously sweet fragrance that practically makes my mouth water. Once I cut into it, I find myself wandering back to the refrigerator for tidbits the way a bird eats at a feeder. One bite, close the door, visit a blog, get up, return for another snack, check Twitter, meander back, and peck at it again. Finally I surrender my willpower and stand at the kitchen sink taking in small bits until another wedge is gone. What’s a girl to do?

FENNEL HONEYDEW SALAD

Ingredients:

1 cup lettuce, shredded

1/4 section ripe honeydew, rind and seeds removed, then sliced

3-4 fennel stalks, cut into 2” pieces with ends split

1/4 cup fresh sweet corn

1/4 cup pistachios, chopped

Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste

1/4 cup cilantro dressing

Fennel fronds, for garnish

Instructions:

Divide lettuce between salad bowls. Arrange sliced honeydew melon over lettuce. Tuck fennel stalks around fruit. Sprinkle fresh sweet corn kernels over all. Top with chopped pistachios. Give it a dash of Everything But Bagel seasoning. Drizzle cilantro dressing over salad. Garnish with fennel fronds. Serve chilled.

X-Quisite Caesar Salad Dressing

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: X-quisite Caesar Salad Dressing! Ever wonder why restaurants add an upcharge when customers order a Caesar Salad? One of the reasons is the time involved. Fine restaurants will have the server make it table-side for presentation. That’s pretty cool. Another reason is the high quality of ingredients required, especially if you don’t cut corners. Romaine is the lettuce of choice, not iceberg. Anchovies are also a key ingredient, not sardines. Do you see a pattern here? Plus olive oil, parmesan cheese, and homemade croutons are in there. I see you nodding your head in agreement. Naturally, this all adds up for the restaurant so they need to pass it along to you. That’s why I’m here to offer you a tasty alternative. Just like cooking at home is less expensive than eating out, every once in awhile you get the urge to satisfy that food craving right where you live. Make sense?

X-QUISITE CAESAR SALAD DRESSING

Ingredients:

1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 anchovies

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

Romaine lettuce, gently torn

Buttered croutons*

Parmesan cheese, shaved

Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste

Instructions:

Combine grated parmesan cheese, minced garlic, lemon juice, anchovies, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce in a food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides. Run on Low speed. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil another 30 seconds until thick and creamy. Divide the torn romaine lettuce between salad plates. Add buttered croutons. Drizzle Caesar Salad Dressing over all. Top with shaved parmesan cheese. Garnish with a sprinkling of Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste. Serve immediately.

*To make buttered croutons, warm 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce in a medium skillet. Add 3 cups of day-old artisan bread cubes or sliced bagel pieces. Cook over medium heat, gently tossing to coat, until croutons are golden brown and crisp. Transfer to paper towel-lined platter. Lightly season with Everything But Bagel seasoning.

Fried Goat Cheese Rounds

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Fried Goat Cheese Rounds! Now you’re speaking my language. Something fried, something cheesy. And throw in a salad for good measure. Goat cheese, to begin with, is similar to feta but with a nuttier tang to it. Does that make sense? When it’s coated with a dusting of Panko breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning, then quick-fried in an olive oil-butter blend, the results are amazing. The outside is crunchy while the inside melts in your mouth. I prefer an oil and vinegar dressing, but certainly you can opt out for your favorite bottled dressing if you’re short on time. Either way, the cheese is the main attraction on a plate of mixed salad greens. You know you wanna try it. Permission granted.

FRIED GOAT CHEESE ROUNDS

Ingredients:

4-ounce log goat cheese, refrigerated

1 egg white, beaten

1/2 tablespoon water

1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Mixed Salad Greens

Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half

1/2 tablespoon olive oil, for frying

1 tablespoon butter, for frying

Ingredients for Dressing:

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon garlic wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 egg yolk

1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions:

Cut the cold goat cheese into 1/2” thick slices. Whisk the egg white (save yolk) and water together in a small dish. On a sheet of waxed paper, combine Panko breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning. Dip each slice of cheese in the beaten egg white, then coat both sides with breadcrumbs. Place cheese rounds on a wax paper-lined platter. Refrigerate 15 minutes. To make the dressing, use a small food processor. Combine apple cider vinegar, garlic wine vinegar, sugar, kosher salt, black pepper, and egg yolk. Blend for one minute. With the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the top of the lid. As it seeps through the holes, the vinaigrette will thicken. Toss the salad greens and tomato halves with enough dressing to moisten. Divide among salad plates. Warm 1/2 tablespoon olive oil plus one tablespoon butter over medium high heat. Do not scorch. Quickly fry the goat cheese rounds until golden brown on both sides. Do not melt the cheese inside. Top each salad with 2-3 fried goat cheese rounds. Serve immediately.

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.

Chop Chop Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Chop Chop Salad! Stop your scrolling and check this out. Because in every single bite, it delivers. Sure, it takes a few extra minutes to chop things up…but it’s so worth it. Check out the delicate, spears of baby asparagus. Imagine that sweet nutty taste. Or what about the thin-as-paper radish slices? They provide a slight tickle of pepper spray. Did you notice the tiny shallot rings nestled between the romaine and radicchio? Their subtle oniony/garlic taste may surprise you. Without a doubt, the finishing touch reveals feathery fronds of dill that promise not to overpower. Together, Chop Chop Salad comes across as ineffably sublime.

CHOP CHOP SALAD

Ingredients for Vinaigrette:

1 shallot, sliced and chopped

1/8 teaspoon lemon citrus peel

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon garlic wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons agave nectar

Instructions for Vinaigrette:

Combine shallot pieces, lemon citrus peel, lemon juice, garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, and agave nectar. Whisk well. Set aside at room temperature.

Ingredients for Salad:

Kosher salt

1 cup snow peas

1/2 bunch baby asparagus

5-6 radishes, thinly sliced

1 romaine heart, sliced

1/4 head radicchio, chopped

1/2 cup dill fronds, snipped

Instructions for Salad:

Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add a handful of kosher salt. Stir. Submerge snow peas and asparagus in ice water for 10 minutes. This makes them very crisp. Drain well; pat dry. Chop into bite-size pieces. Mix together romaine lettuce, chopped radicchio, snow peas, baby asparagus, and radish slices. Pour vinaigrette over all. Toss to coat. Add dill fronds. Serve immediately.

“Kale” Caesar Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: “Kale” Caesar Salad! Isn’t it entertaining to take ordinary food, mix it up a bit, and then give it a new name? That’s exactly what I did with the traditional Caesar salad. By partnering tender baby kale with sturdy romaine leaves, it creates a blend that is satisfying to the taste buds. The creamy Caesar dressing alone brings a nice anchovy flavor to the salad with a robust hint of garlic. Just think what would happen if we added grilled chicken. The possibilities are endless.

“KALE” CAESAR SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups baby kale, gently torn

2 cups romaine lettuce, shredded

4 radishes, sliced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Kosher salt, to taste

4 tablespoons prepared Caesar dressing

1/3 cup garlic croutons

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shaved

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

Cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine baby kale, romaine lettuce, radishes, and shallot. Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, and kosher salt. Toss gently. Top with prepared Caesar dressing, garlic croutons, shaved parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, and cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.

Dill Pickle Bacon Spears

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Dill Pickle Bacon Spears! If you’ve ever drooled over the thought of a dill pickle appetizer, be prepared to reward yourself with this amazing recipe you can make at home. For the perfect zing of flavor, choose zesty garlic dill pickle spears. I recommend visiting the butcher department at your favorite grocers to buy a pound of thick sliced hickory-smoked bacon. You only need a half a pound for these appetizers, but trust me, you’ll finish it later on. Not only is the flavor unsurpassed, but the mere texture of thick bacon combined with the garlic pickles is highly addictive. Go ahead, slather them in creamy buttermilk ranch dressing for an unbeatable combination. You’re Welcome!

DILL PICKLE BACON SPEARS

Ingredients:

12 dill pickle spears, zesty garlic

6 slices thick bacon, cut in half lengthwise

1/3 cup buttermilk ranch dressing

Chives for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange the 12 bacon strips on a wire rack that is placed on a foiled-lined baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool until easy to handle. Wrap each dill pickle spear with one strip of bacon, seam side down. Secure with 1-2 toothpicks. Return dill pickles to wire rack and bake 25-30 minutes longer until bacon is crisp. Remove from oven and arrange on a platter. Pour buttermilk ranch dressing into a dip bowl. Garnish with fresh chives. Serve warm.