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
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.
Dining Outside the Home: First Watch in Estero, Florida! You can always tell breakfast is going to be good when you know the workers get up with the chickens, which means the crack of dawn. The oven heats up for freshly-baked pastries, the cage-free eggs get whipped for super-light lemon ricotta pancakes, and the smell of hardwood smoked bacon stimulates the appetite as succulent fruits and garden vegetables are chopped, sliced, or diced for the menu of the day. But that’s not all. Smell that coffee. Once you place the order, an aromatic pot of steaming coffee is set before you to drain at your leisure. This is how to enjoy the morning cuppa joe. As you can imagine, word has gotten out, so sometimes there’s a wait. No worries, it takes that long to decide what to choose. Besides, this is Florida and the weather brings a healthy disposition.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Bowlful of Cherries! Aren’t they lovely? Ripe cherries are an ideal snack, by the handful. For some, it’s so simple to remove the pit with your teeth. I knew a guy once who could tie the cherry stem into a bow. (I think he did it to impress his wife.) Ripe cherries pair well with Goat cheese, Camembert cheese, or Bleu cheese garnished with a sprig of thyme, basil, or mint. Their ruby-red color is as appealing as their natural sweetness. The possibilities are endless. Add chocolate pieces for a dessert charcuterie board if you like a relaxed atmosphere at the end of a meal. Whatever you choose, get a pound of cherries before they’re gone. And don’t forget a nice bottle of Chardonnay.
BOWLFUL OF CHERRIES
1 pound ripe cherries, stems on
1/2 pound cheese of choice
Dark Chocolate candies
Fill a small bowl with sweet cherries. Set aside. Make available a plate of pitted cherries. To pit a cherry, place the fruit on a cutting board. Using a sharp paring knife, press down gently on one side of the stem. Firmly slice an incision from top to bottom until the cherry loosens the pit. Do not crush the cherry. Gently pull on either side to expose the pit. Remove it with your fingernail. One side will have the stem, the other will not. Provide colorful toothpicks for piercing.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Smoked Turkey Thyme Salad! One of my offseason luxuries is baking a turkey during the summer months. Think about it. There’s less holiday stress, plenty of time, and loads of leftover ideas. Think it’s way too much meat for the two of you? No worries. Divide the cooked turkey into gallon-size freezer bags to use as timesaving options later on. Turkey makes a refreshing substitute for most chicken or pork recipes by simply adding different herbs and spices. I’ve served turkey carnitas with chunky salsa for a Mexican fiesta, shredded turkey and hash browns with eggs for a weekend breakfast, and added garden vegetables for a farm table midday Cobb salad. Today though, in lieu of chicken salad, turkey is the star attraction for a summertime picnic.
SMOKED TURKEY THYME SALAD
2 cups cooked turkey, shredded
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/3 cup sweet pickle relish
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
In a large bowl, combine shredded turkey, liquid smoke, mayonnaise, sea salt, black pepper, chopped celery, and sweet pickle relish. Mix well. Gently fold in chopped hard-boiled egg and minced thyme leaves. Serve over a bed of alfalfa sprouts, or mixed greens, with seasonal fruit.
“Art is a fruit that grows in man,
like a fruit on a plant,
or a child in its mother’s womb.”
~ Jean Arp
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Jam Pockets! Here’s a versatile quick recipe that makes a wonderful dessert, breakfast pastry, or afternoon snack. Prepared pie crusts or pizza dough from the dairy case in the supermarket can be used. Plus, any flavor of fruit jam will complement the smooth creamy filing inside. Although I didn’t add them here, I think sliced almonds would make a nice addition as well. The buttery crust serves as a nice “pocket” for the burst of fruity sweetness inside. Try as I might, it’s a challenge to stop at just one. Perhaps I won’t.
1 refrigerated pie crust, softened as directed on package
4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup four-fruit jam
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll out refrigerated pie crust to 1/4-inch. Cut into twelve 3-inch rounds. Set aside. In a bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese, almond extract, and powdered sugar. Stir until smooth. Drop a teaspoon of cheese mixture into the center of each round. Top with a dollop of fruit jam. Brush the inside edges with beaten egg; fold in half. Crimp edges with a fork to seal. Brush top and bottom with more egg wash; dust both sides with sugar. Pierce the top of each pocket. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat steps for remaining jam pockets. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheet. Cool slightly. Serve the reserve creamed cheese mixture as a dipping sauce.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Plum Coffee Cake! Plums have a way of making a person feel special. They’re not as plentiful as apples, but when they’re available I can’t wait to snag a few to plunk into a homemade coffee cake. The sweet flavor reminds me of stepping into a pastry shop where fruit-filled delicacies are placed front and center in the glass-domed showcase. From mini fruit tarts overflowing with ripe, juicy berries to cheesecakes smothered in exotic options. Turnovers become too tempting when a smidgen of filling seeps out. And just look at the succulent strudels and rustic galettes. But I digress. Today’s feature is all about the mouthwatering palatable pleasure of the plum.
PLUM COFFEE CAKE
1 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 pound plums, pitted and sliced
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9” cake pan with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, baking powder, and sea salt. Set aside. In another bowl cream together butter and sugar, using an electric mixer, for 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and egg. Beat on Low speed until well mixed. Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk. Beat on Low speed until smooth. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Arrange sliced plums on top in a circular pattern. Bake for one hour until golden brown. Center is set when a cake tester comes out clean. Cool cake on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Naked Belgian Waffles! Doesn’t this sound sinfully decadent? Imagine fluffy discs of indented lattice, with slightly crisp edges, exuding a seductive vanilla essence. The deep indentations of golden batter cake are perfect vessels for whatever your heart desires. Might it be rich, creamy butter or hand-tapped pure maple syrup? What about toasted pecan halves and powdered sugar? Or perhaps even a smearing of hazelnut spread with fresh red raspberries. Whatever your craving, do yourself a favor. Make a double batch of waffles to store in the freezer. Then pop one in the toaster for a great way to start the day. Romance is in the air.
NAKED BELGIAN WAFFLES
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Slowly add liquid mixture to dry ingredients. Stir just until moistened. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Do not over-mix. Spray waffle iron with nonstick oil. Pour 3/4 cup of batter into preheated waffle iron. Close lid. Do not open until golden brown. Repeat until batter is gone. Serve warm with softened butter, maple syrup, pecan halves, powdered sugar, or fruit toppings.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Fried Cinnamon Sugar Pears! Impulse buys. We all get lambasted as soon as we step through the automated doors of the supermarket. The colorful array of succulent fruit and glistening vegetables appear as lush as if they were grown in the Garden of Eden. Before you know it, the grocery cart is overflowing with a mountain of luxuriant produce. In your mind, you’re already forming mental images of gastronomic creations where you spin around the kitchen like Julia Child waving a wooden spoon in the air. That is until you get home. The fruit is ripening faster than you can say, “go bananas”. Now two weeks in, you’ve already exhausted several different ways of consuming that box of winter pears. Allow me to offer a quick ‘n easy side dish. It goes especially well with pork loin or spiral ham. I promise you, your family will be singing your praises from now on.
FRIED CINNAMON SUGAR PEARS
6 Oregon pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
2-3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Fresh lemon thyme, for garnish
In an iron skillet over low heat, warm butter. Combine sugar, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon in a bowl. Mix well; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together apple cider and cornstarch. Set aside. Add sliced pears to melted butter. Coat well; increase heat to medium setting. Stir gently for about 3 minutes. Sprinkle sugar mixture over pears. Stir. Cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pears are fork tender. Pour apple cider liquid over pears, stirring constantly for 2 minutes longer. Remove iron skillet from heat. Allow fried pears to cool slightly and thicken. Ladle into small bowls. Serve warm.