Pepper’s Mexican Grill & Cantina in Shalimar, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Pepper’s Mexican Grill & Cantina in Shalimar, Florida! Sipping on a salt or sugar-rimmed margarita, with a grand marnier floater, is the only way to peruse the menu of a Mexican restaurant. The orange-flavored cognac not only adds a zing of citrus, its deep amber color elevates an ordinary cocktail to a vacation status offering perfect relaxation. A basket of homemade chips act as a modifier while you make up your mind for the main course. Tacos de Carnitas or the Taco Salad Fajitas will tickle your taste buds with marinated grilled meats that become the star attraction, enhanced by sautéed onions, chopped cilantro, and restaurant-style salsas. Seriously, this is the best way to pass the time before checking into the cottage rental on the beach.

Mr. Big Fish Seafood Grill in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Mr. Big Fish Seafood Grill in Naples, Florida! When a city thrives bordering on the Gulf of Mexico, seafood restaurants are a natural choice. One glance at the menu brings assurance that the fish is either freshly caught by local fishermen or flown-in daily. The casual vibe invites patrons to gather around the bar, choose a table for two, or dine alfresco surrounded by activity. Either way, the wait staff is attentive. Specialty cocktails, like the Ultimate Bloody Mary, include fresh garnishes for snacking. Tasty. As for the menu selections…raw, seared, grilled, or smoked, each entrée is prepared to perfection. The Chilean Sea Bass is critically acclaimed and reasonably priced. You should try it. And before you leave, snap a photo of the big fish in the waiting area. It’s postcard-worthy.

Sand Bar on Marco Island, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Sand Bar on Marco Island, Florida! Talk to any local about an island favorite off the beaten path, and you’re sure to hear about the Sand Bar. The drinks are cold, the bar bites are amazing, the music is lively, and the cheers come in waves. With walls of big screen televisions, there’s bound to be something interesting to pique the conversation, should the need arise. From startups to salads, sandwiches, flatbreads, or platters, the favorites keep coming. Happy Hour often means standing room only, but that’s part of the allure for stopping by. Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner offer specials that are worth checking out, too. Being open every day all year long kinda proves this local joint is spot on. Better check it out.

Dolphin Tiki Bar & Grill on Marco Island, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Dolphin Tiki Bar & Grill on Marco Island, Florida! People are drawn to lobstah like fish to water. That’s a good thing because the word is out that Dolphin Tiki Bar & Grill has fresh lobster tails flown in weekly. Perhaps that is why you can get a twin lobster tail dinner, complete with garden potatoes, grilled corn, and drawn butter, while dining outdoors. Go early for Happy Hour to grab a seat at the Tiki Bar, located dockside with a waterfront view. Pelicans paddle by, boats bob atop the Marco River, the drinks quench thirsty patrons, and the conversation remains light. Don’t blink, else you may have to pinch yourself to keep paradise living a reality that everyone seeks.

Cocomo’s Grill on Marco Island, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Cocomo’s Grill on Marco Island, Florida! Laid-Back is their middle name. When you’re on your way to somewhere else, stop by for a little conversation and a familiar face at this island-themed eating house. The mood is always groovy at Cocomo’s, and the positive mind-set is downright contagious. After all, this cozy island oasis is exactly where you want to be right now. Order a platter of Ahi Tuna Nachos. Seared rare is the only way to go, you know. The wonton chips, sprinkled with pickled ginger and snipped scallions, add crispy crunch to that burst of wasabi. Peruse the menu to make a mental note for other favorites later on. Take a break from the sandcastles and beach combing. Did you hear that? Cocomo’s is calling your name.

Sami’s on Marco Island, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Sami’s on Marco Island, Florida! The locals still talk about this once convenience stored-turned affordable restaurant with approval and enthusiasm. Fresh ingredients and homemade meals became the norm. So much so, that word spread like wildfire. The extensive menu offers grilled dishes, home style pastas, garden salads, pizza variations, tempting appetizers, seafood favorites, and more. Grab a seat at the bar or a cozy table for two outdoors. No matter the time of day, Sami’s is a friendly place for your next island meal.

Himalayan Salt Plate Shrimp Skewers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Himalayan Salt Plate Shrimp Skewers! How to cook with an Himalayan salt plate can be tricky. The key is patience. This can be done on an outdoor gas grill very easily. First make sure the salt block is completely dry. Always begin on a low heat setting. Allow the block to heat at that temperature for 15 minutes. Then switch the heat to medium and let the block warm for another 15 minutes. Finally, turn the heat to high for the last 15 minutes. Then sprinkle a few drops of water on the block. Once it sizzles and immediately evaporates, you may add the prepared food. Let’s do it!

HIMALAYAN SALT PLATE SHRIMP SKEWERS

Ingredients:

1 pound shrimp, peel and deveined, tails intact

1 pound smoked sausage, skinless, cut into 1” pieces

2 tablespoons bacon olive oil

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning blend

Olive oil for brushing salt plate

Instructions:

Place one shrimp around a piece of smoked sausage. Thread combo onto a skewer and lay in a large baking dish. Repeat until all pieces are used. In a small bowl, whisk together bacon olive oil, lemon juice, and Italian seasoning blend. Brush onto shrimp skewers. Cover and refrigerate while Himalayan salt plate is warming up. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. At this time slowly preheat the Himalayan salt plate over 45 minutes.* See above. The internal grill temperature should be no higher than 450°. When ready, lightly brush the preheated salt plate with regular olive oil. Working in batches, place the shrimp/sausage skewers on the salt plate and cook, turning once, until the shrimp are pink, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Pieces will appear slightly charred. Transfer skewers to a warmed platter to prevent food from becoming too salty. Brush the salt plate with more olive oil between batches. Repeat. Serve immediately.

Kielbasa Grilled Romaine

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Kielbasa Grilled Romaine! When the sun comes out and the wind dies down, it’s not unusual to see Northerners uncover the gas grill for a momentary glimpse of Summer. Everyone needs a reprieve from the winter doldrums, right? Nothing works better than a protein-rich complex carbohydrate meal, in my opinion. And grilled foods definitely lift the mood like a breath of fresh air. Sound painless? It pretty much is. Even the birds are chirping louder than usual.

KIELBASA GRILLED ROMAINE

Ingredients:

1 pound kielbasa sausage link

2 romaine hearts

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

4 ounces parmesan cheese, crumbled

Instructions:

Remove kielbasa sausage link from package. Rinse and pat dry. Transfer to a platter. Rinse romaine lettuce hearts. Pat dry. Trim the end stalks, leaving enough to keep the bunches intact. Transfer to a platter. In a small dish, combine olive oil, seasoned salt, garlic and herb seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Using a silicone brush, coat the leaves of the romaine hearts, inside and out with the olive mixture. Halve the cherry tomatoes; place in a serving bowl. Preheat the outdoor grill on High setting. Using tongs, transfer the seasoned romaine lettuce hearts directly to the grill. Repeat with kielbasa sausage link. Grill for 3 minutes. Flip the romaine lettuce and grill 2 minutes longer. Rotate the kielbasa sausage for even browning. Remove all to clean platters. To serve, place charred romaine lettuce hearts on a dinner plate. Divide the kielbasa sausage between plates. Add cherry tomato halves. Top with crumbled parmesan cheese. Drizzle with remaining olive oil mixture. Serve immediately.

Grill Pan Pork Loins

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Grill Pan Pork Loins! My latest kitchen essential is an enameled cast iron skinny grill that just happens to fit perfectly across two burners on my newly installed glass stovetop. As you can see, the vibrant red handles not only allow for attractive table service, but also make it easy to manage while cooking. Now I get that unique grilled taste all year long, no matter what the weather. The cast iron feature is the secret to even cooking. Plus, the nonstick finish makes cleanup a flash, in addition to enhanced seasoning qualities. I like the idea that foods, once grilled, show the little black grill marks. After all, it’s about the presentation, isn’t it? In addition, vegetables work out quite nicely. No more frustrating pieces falling through the grill grates. I can see you agree with me.

GRILL PAN PORK LOINS

Ingredients:

4 pork loins, boneless, and one-inch thick

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 red onion, sliced

1 cup broccoli florets

1/3 cup pineapple chunks

4 fingerling potatoes, halved

Instructions:

Preheat the stovetop grill pan on medium heat setting. Brush lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle the pork loins with sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Arrange on grill pan. Add red onion slices, broccoli florets, and pineapple chunks in a single layer. Pierce fingerling potatoes with a fork. Microwave on High setting for two minutes. Cut in half and add to grill pan. Cook pork loins until golden brown, about 7 minutes per side. Turn vegetables as needed to prevent scorching. When pork reaches 145° on a meat thermometer, transfer loins to a cutting board; tent with foil for 5 minutes. Turn stovetop setting to Off. Divide food into four portions. Serve warm.