Date Chile Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Date Chile Salad! One of the best kept secrets in cooking is infused olives oils. It kicks things up a notch. The flavors intensify ordinary ingredients by beginning with organic and aromatic extra virgin olive oils, which in turn, are infused with delightful natural flavors. Some oils contain the essence of herbs, while others may be crushed with fresh citrus or toasted seeds. Be adventurous. Visit a specialty store where premium olive oils and balsamic vinegars are sold. Most stores offer samples to encourage “taste testing”. One of my favorites is Lime Olive Oil and Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar. Another is Sicilian Lemon Olive Oil paired with Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar. Recently I added an Italian Black Truffle Oil to my collection. I was told it tastes divine drizzled over popcorn or as a finishing oil on pizza. I can’t wait!

DATE CHILE SALAD

Ingredients:

2 navel oranges, pith and peel removed

1/3 cup dried dates, chopped

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 red or green jalapeño pepper, sliced into rings

1/2 serrano chile pepper, sliced into rings

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

1-2 tablespoons lime olive oil

Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Slice oranges into thin rounds. Arrange on two salad plates or bowls. Divide chopped dates between them. Sprinkle on crumbled feta cheese. Add jalapeño and serrano pepper rings. Tuck in mint leaves. Drizzle lime olive oil over salads. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Serve.

Tomato Feta Egg Au Gratin

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Tomato Feta Egg Au Gratin! I’m all for trying new things, so when I saw this recipe featured at Williams-Sonoma, I knew it had to be good. The fact that I already had all the ingredients on hand was sheer bliss. I confess, I may have tweaked the original by adding a buttery crouton topping, but that’s just me. You may do without. As everything warms together in the oven, the aroma arising is staggering. How much longer? There’s something about serving individual casseroles that make a dish eloquent, wouldn’t you agree?

TOMATO FETA EGG AU GRATIN

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 can (28 ounces) whole plum tomatoes and juice

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/3 cup light cream

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

4-8 eggs

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 slices bread, torn into bite size pieces

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. In a sauté pan over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add onion and sauté until lightly browned, 6-8 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, marjoram, and oregano; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes start to break down, about 10 minutes. Stir in mustard, red pepper flakes, and light cream. Season with sea salt and pepper. Divide tomato mixture evenly among 4 small au gratin dishes. Carefully crack 1 or 2 eggs into each cocotte and use a spoon to gently swirl egg white into tomato mixture, without breaking yolk. Season yolks lightly with salt and pepper. Toss the bread crumbs in the melted butter until completely absorbed. Divide among the 4 casseroles. Bake until egg is cooked to your liking, 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with feta cheese and parsley. Serve.

Gyro-Mania

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Gyro-mania! The debate continues…do you pronounce the sandwich like the Greeks, “(h)year-oh”, or the American standby, “Jai-roh”? Either way, it’s a taste sensation. Think about it: rotisserie meat crispy shaved into strips wrapped into a soft pita pocket topped with onion, tomato, cucumber, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce. The bold foodie will pick it up with both hands and devour it until not a crumb remains. Others may eat it with a fork. Whatever you choose, with Eastern Mediterranean spices, this sandwich is not for the meek.

GYRO-MANIA

Ingredients:

1 box Kronos Gyros Kit*

1 Vidalia onion, sliced

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tomato, chopped

1 cucumber, diced

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/3 cup Greek yogurt

Watercress sprig, for garnish

Dill weed, for garnish

Instructions:

In an iron skillet, lightly grill both sides of pita bread on medium heat until light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Set aside. Add olive oil to skillet and sauté onions until tender. Remove and set aside. Add gyro slices of meat to skillet. Heat both sides on medium heat for 20 seconds per side. In a small bowl, mix Greek yogurt with tzatziki sauce. Stir until creamy. To assemble gyro sandwich, top pita bread with gyro meat slices, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce. Garnish with watercress leaves and dill. Enjoy!

* I receive no recompense for the suggestion of using Kronos Gyro Kit in this recipe.

Mouth-Watering Strawberry Mint Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Mouth-Watering Strawberry Mint Salad! Before the frost sets in, I wanted to take advantage of the lingering crop of fresh mint in the herb garden. What better way than to give it center stage in this appetizing side salad? It’s refreshing, light, aromatic, and appealing to the eye. Experience your first bite through the sense of sight, then follow your heart to the nearest market and pick up 3 simple ingredients to create your own masterpiece.

MOUTH-WATERING STRAWBERRY MINT SALAD

Ingredients:

1 quart of fresh strawberries

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

3 sprigs of fresh mint leaves

Instructions:

Rinse strawberries and pat dry. Remove tops and discard. Slice strawberries into quarters. Place portions into chilled salad bowls. Spoon feta crumbles over strawberries. Tuck mint leaves throughout. Serve.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter N

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Daily Special: Noodle Rigatoni! When time is of the essence, and you need a fulfilling meal, this dish can be made in minutes. While the wine is slightly chilling, and you wish to keep the kitchen cool, everything works together between stovetop and microwave. Your tastebuds will be satisfied without salad or bread as well since this meal-in-a-bowl hits the spot.

NOODLE RIGATONI

Ingredients:

1 pound Italian sausage, ground

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon fennel

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1 8-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, cut-up

2 cups of Italian Roma tomatoes in sauce, cut-up

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

16 ounces rigatoni noodles

Instructions:

In a large skillet, brown Italian sausage until crumbled and cooked through. Drain and add garlic powder, pepper, salt, fennel, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, and marjoram. Keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally. Warm separately the cut up tomatoes and the marinated artichoke hearts. Keep warm. Meanwhile, bring a 4-quart pan of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until tender; about 10 minutes. Stir often. It should be firm. Drain pasta. Place portions of rigatoni in individual serving bowls. Spoon tomatoes in sauce over noodles. Arrange artichoke hearts around edges. Lastly add crumbled Italian sausage over top. Garnish with feta cheese.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter A

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Daily Special: Avocado on My Mind! Watermelon and avocado, when mixed together, have a uniquely gratifying flavor. Surprised? It’s as refreshing as a walk in the park. Not only is this salad appealing to the eye, it’s easy on the wallet. These two fruits are affordable, low in calories, and can be eaten often since they are packed with nutrients. Permission granted.

AVOCADO ON MY MIND

Ingredients:

1 ripe avocado

1 wedge watermelon, seedless

1/2 lime, sliced

1 tablespoon feta cheese, crumbled

1 sprig cilantro

Instructions:

Open the avocado, discarding seed. Remove pulp. Squeeze lime juice over both halves to prevent discoloration. Chop avocado into pieces and place into a medium-sized bowl. Using a melon-ball utensil, scoop the watermelon into round pieces. Discard rind. Add watermelon balls to bowl, tossing gently. Sprinkle feta cheese over top. Snip cilantro to taste. Garnish with lime slices.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter L

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Lamb Flatbread! I think I could eat my weight in flatbread simply because of the endless combination of ingredients. When I’m in the mood for something with a Greek twist, I turn to lamb meat permeated with ethnic spices such as oregano, dill, parsley, and coriander. A sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese is nice, especially when it melts around Kalamata olives grown under Grecian sunshine. At least, that’s what I imagine. Maybe you will, too. 
LAMB FLATBREAD 
Ingredients:

1 pound organic lamb, ground

1/2 cup water

1-2 beef bouillon cubes

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/4 teaspoons coriander 

1 1/4 teaspoons cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder 

1 teaspoon dried parsley 

1/2 cup prepared ranch dressing 

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 teaspoon dill weed

2 baby cucumbers, chopped

1 garlic flatbread 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal 

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded

4-5 cherry tomatoes, sliced 

1 shallot, sliced

3-4 Kalamata olives, sliced

1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Fresh arugula leaves

1/8 teaspoon oregano 
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. In a large skillet, combine ground lamb, water, bouillon cubes, sea salt, coriander, cumin powder, garlic powder, and dried parsley. Bring to boiling, crumbling meat with a fork to cook thoroughly. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until all moisture is absorbed and meat is browned. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix ranch dressing, Greek yogurt, and dill weed. Stir until smooth. Brush bottom of garlic flatbread with one tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Spread half the ranch dressing mixture over the flatbread. Add the chopped cucumbers to the remaining sauce. Set aside. Top flatbread with mozzarella cheese, crumbled lamb mixture (you will have extra to use later on), cherry tomatoes, sliced shallot, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, arugula leaves, and oregano. Bake 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven, slice accordingly, and use reserve cucumber dip as side condiment. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter W

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Warm Feta Spread! At first glance you may think the hot pepper mixture is too flaming hot to eat. Peppers, after all, can be pretty spicy. Removing the seeds is half the battle. Still, the skin of a hot pepper contains oils which ignite the heat sensors in the mouth. All true. However, cheese acts as a natural fire extinguisher to diminish the heat factor, while promoting the amazing taste of peppers. Feta cheese contains milk, which is another component in reducing heat. Trust me, all together it works. 
WARM FETA SPREAD
Ingredients:

8-ounce block feta cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil 

1/4 teaspoon Herbes de Provence, crushed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 green hot pepper, sliced

1 habanero pepper, seeds removed and chopped

1 shallot, sliced

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 

1 ripe tomato, diced

Fresh tarragon for garnish

Assorted bagel chips and crackers 
Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 350°. Place feta cheese block in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with crushed Herbes de Provence. Bake 15 minutes until cheese is soft. Meanwhile heat one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add green hot pepper slices, chopped habanero pepper, sliced shallots, and garlic powder. Cook until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove warmed feta cheese from oven. Top with diced tomatoes and hot pepper mixture. Garnish with fresh tarragon. Serve with assorted bagel chips and crackers. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet; Letter T

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Tomato Feta Egg Au Gratin! I’m all for trying new things, so when I saw this recipe featured at Williams-Sonoma, I knew it had to be good. The fact that I already had all the ingredients on hand was sheer bliss. I confess, I may have tweaked the original by adding a buttery crouton topping, but that’s just me. You may do without. As everything warms together in the oven, the aroma arising is staggering. How much longer? There’s something about serving individual casseroles that make a dish eloquent, wouldn’t you agree?
TOMATO FETA EGG AU GRATIN
Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 can (28 ounces) whole plum tomatoes and juice

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/3 cup light cream

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

4-8 eggs

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 slices bread, torn into bite size pieces

2 tablespoons butter, melted
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. In a sauté pan over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add onion and sauté until lightly browned, 6-8 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, marjoram, and oregano; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes start to break down, about 10 minutes. Stir in mustard, red pepper flakes, and light cream. Season with sea salt and pepper. Divide tomato mixture evenly among 4 small au gratin dishes. Carefully crack 1 or 2 eggs into each cocotte and use a spoon to gently swirl egg white into tomato mixture, without breaking yolk. Season yolks lightly with salt and pepper. Toss the bread crumbs in the melted butter until completely absorbed. Divide among the 4 casseroles. Bake until egg is cooked to your liking, 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with feta cheese and parsley. Serve.