What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Grilled Romaine with Strawberries! I call this a lazy cook’s meal. After all, it’s pretty simple. More than likely, most ingredients are probably there in the fruit and vegetable crispers of the refrigerator. You know, those drawers down at the bottom that regulate humidity. (Quick tutorial: most fruits like LOW humidity, most vegetables like HIGH humidity. If set correctly, everything stays fresher and crisper longer.) Heat up the grill, sear the romaine, layer on ripe strawberries, red onion slices, and shaved parmesan cheese. Drizzle olive oil over all. You’re done. The hubs will think you planned the meal with attention to detail. Just nod your head and smile.
GRILLED ROMAINE WITH STRAWBERRIES
1 romaine heart, cut lengthwise
Nonstick olive oil spray
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 pint strawberries, sliced in half, stems removed
1/4 red onion, sliced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shaved
1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat grill to 400°. Spray both sides of romaine halves with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Place cut side down on the hot grill. Sear 3 minutes, until charred. Carefully flip over and sear 3 minutes longer until slightly wilted. Transfer to a platter. Layer with fresh strawberries and red onion slices. Drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Xavier Grilled Steak! Just when you thought a juicy New York Strip steak couldn’t get any better, here you go. Grilled to taste, smothered in gooey Swiss cheese and crowned with fresh asparagus spears is a meal-in-one guaranteed to make anyone feel like royalty. For those who love onions, take it one step further. Sprinkle crispy French-fried onions over all before serving. Looks good, doesn’t it? Try not to stare.
XAVIER GRILLED STEAK
2 New York Strip steaks, 1 1/2 inches thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
10 asparagus spears, ends trimmed
4 slices Swiss cheese
1/4 cup French-fried onions
Rub both sides of the New York Strip steak with olive oil. Season to taste with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place in a shallow dish. Marinate steak for 45 minutes in the refrigerator, turning once. Remove from refrigerator to allow meat to come to room temperature, approximately 15 minutes. Preheat outdoor grill. Cook steaks over medium heat 4-5 minutes until slightly charred. Turn the steaks over and grill 3 minutes longer for medium-rare, 5 minutes longer for medium, or 8 minutes longer for medium-well. Meanwhile to steam asparagus spears, bring water to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Place asparagus spears into the steamer basket. Cover and steam approximately 3-5 minutes until asparagus turns bright green, but is still tender. Remove from steamer. When steaks are cooked to perfection, place them on a platter to rest so the juices are absorbed. (This is the secret to juicy steak.) While the meat is resting, place two slices of Swiss cheese on each. Divide asparagus spears between them. Tent with foil. Let rest 5-7 minutes. Top with crispy French-fried onions before serving.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Hand-Packed Burgers! For a hamburger worthy of a gourmet chef, begin with a low-fat lean meat. Divide the ground beef or sirloin into four equal portions. Form each one a little wider than the bottom bun to allow for shrinkage during grilling. Press your thumb into the center to create a small well, or dimple. If you’re a perfectionist, choose a jar lid slightly larger than the hamburger bun. Line the lid with plastic wrap, press the meat into the shape, flip the patty, and continue on to the next one. That’s way cheaper than buying a hamburger press. The secret’s out. Now you choose.
1 pound ground sirloin or lean ground beef
1 beef bouillon cube
1-2 tablespoons water
1/8 teaspoon steak seasoning mix
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sesame Seed Buns
Cheese of choice
Heat water to boiling. Add beef bouillon cube. Stir to dissolve. Fold into ground beef. Sprinkle steak seasoning into meat. With clean hands, mix gently until all ingredients are combined. Divide into quarter-pounders. Hand-pack ground beef into equal size patties. Rub both sides with olive oil. Refrigerate one hour before grilling. To cook, preheat gas grill on High heat. Place burgers directly on grate; cook for 4-5 minutes; flip and cook 4 minutes longer for medium doneness. Do not press on burger to flatten because it will release all those flavorful juices. Transfer to a platter. Immediately top with cheese of choice. Add sliced onions, tomatoes, and romaine lettuce leaves. Dress up with ketchup, mustard, and mayo. You’ve just made the best backyard burger!
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Grilled Corn-on-the-Cob! Here’s an alternative to stovetop corn on the cob or microwave cooking. Throw the corn on the grill while the burgers are on their way to being well-done. You won’t believe the incredible taste. Or will you? If the results are slightly blackened or charred in spots, so much the better. That’s what makes it taste so good. By leaving the corn in the husk, natural steaming keeps the corn moist rather than dry and brittle. And if it rains? By all means, get out the kitchen torch and improvise. Toppings still apply.
GRILLED CORN ON THE COB
4 ears corn, in husks
1 teaspoon sea salt
Butter to taste
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning*
Salt to taste
Peel the husks without removing at the base. Strip away the corn silk. Fold the husks back into place. Fill a bowl with cold water. Add sea salt. Submerge the corn for 10 minutes. Heat the grill to medium-high. Remove corn and let drain. Place on the grill for 15 minutes. Cover. Turn the corn occasionally. Allow the corn to get slightly charred in places. When done, transfer corn cobs to a serving platter. Slather with butter. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning. Add sea salt to taste. Serve immediately.
*I receive no recompense for mentioning Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning.
Dining Outside the Home: El Toreo Mexican Restaurant in Valdosta, Georgia! You know you’ve hit the jackpot when it’s BOGO on a Saturday night. That translates to buy one margarita, get one free, no matter what brand of tequila you choose. A nice Mexican tequila that is 100% pure de agave goes down smooth and perfect. The cocktail was crisp and citrusy from a squeeze of fresh lime, rather than green and sugar-laden. Perhaps that’s their secret. Being in the mood for a salad did not disappoint. The Grilled Shrimp Salad was, without a doubt, the best I’ve ever had. There must have been at least a dozen perfectly-seasoned grilled shrimp served in a crispy flour tortilla shell. Refried beans, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, sliced avocado, cheese and sour cream turned this simple salad into a meal-in-a-bowl. Our waitress, Jasmin, was very accommodating in meeting our needs. Great food is a must, but customer service makes it memorable.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Quinoa Cheese Melt! Few things can take the place of the classic grilled cheese sandwich, in my opinion. Yet, in a world of imagination, anything goes. As long as the bread is crispy with a satisfying crunch, be inventive. Think about multigrain, brioche, sourdough, bagel, or baguette. Once that decision is made, take a look at the cheese options: cheddar, American, gouda, provolone, gruyère, or Swiss. Sometimes a mixture is the perfect choice. Layering extras can be just as mind boggling. Do you choose bacon or beef? Lettuce or sprouts? Tomatoes or onions? I can see your eyes darting in several different directions casting a puzzled look on your face. So the next time someone asks, “Should we have grilled cheese?”, simply throw your arms up in the air and say, “Sure! It’s easy for you to say!”
QUINOA CHEESE MELT
2 slices quinoa multigrain bread
2-3 tablespoons butter
4 slices American cheese
2 slices thick applewood smoked bacon, cooked
1 tomato, sliced
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
Preheat skillet over medium heat. Butter one side of quinoa multigrain bread. Place butter side down onto skillet bottom. Add four slices American cheese, stacked two high, to cover surface of bread. Arrange cooked bacon over all. Butter a second slice of quinoa multigrain bread on one side. Place butter side up on top of sandwich. Grill until lightly browned, then flip over. Continue grilling until cheese is melted. Remove to a plate. Stuff with sliced tomatoes and alfalfa sprouts. Cut in half. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Ice Cream Grilled Pineapple! If you’ve decided it’s better to unplug with a “staycation” this year, there’s no need to give up guilty pleasures. Minimizing expenses with less stress is smart living. Take advantage of the leisure activities and points of interest in your own community. When was the last time you popped in to the local Welcome Center or Chamber of Commerce? You may see things through a fresh pair of eyes. Others do. Make a tropical dessert that will transport you to your very own private island. Dress it up with colorful parasol party picks.
ICE CREAM GRILLED PINEAPPLE
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4-6 fresh pineapple rings
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Maraschino Cherry, for garnish
Preheat a gas grill to medium-high temperature. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish. Mix well. Rub both sides of pineapple rings with brown sugar mixture. Transfer to a large baking dish for 10 minutes. Using a heat-proof brush, lightly grease the grill with vegetable oil. Place pineapple slices directly on grill, leaving space between fruit slices. Cook 1-2 minutes per side to sear the pineapple rings. You should see grill marks. The pineapple will turn a golden yellow. Remove from grill. Allow pineapple rings to cool before adding a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Garnish with maraschino cherry. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Inside Out Bagel Grilled Ham ‘n Cheese! My world has always been part of the bagel craze. Think about it. It’s a quick breakfast smeared with cream cheese, it’s mobile for on-the-go travels, compact for a bento box, and incredibly satisfying as a lunch buddy. And then there’s the varieties: blueberry or strawberry, sun-dried tomato, cinnamon raisin, garlic and onion, plus everything seasoning on a wheat, rye, or sourdough bagel. There’s usually at least three kinds of cream cheese spreads to choose from, unless you make your own. Building a sandwich includes fresh vegetable sides of tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, and avocados. It can be exhausting. The list goes on and on, that’s for sure. I think when it all comes down to it, a bagel is simply my comfort food. And that is exactly why I turned it into a grilled cheese sammie. Spread the love.
INSIDE OUT BAGEL GRILLED HAM ‘N CHEESE
1 cinnamon raisin bagel, halved
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 slices smoky provolone cheese
3 deli slices cherrywood smoked ham
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 350°. Lay the bagel slices with the inside halves open. Smear mayonnaise on each half. Warm an iron skillet over medium-low heat. Place the mayonnaise side down in the skillet. Layer the cheese over the bagel, then arrange the cherrywood smoked ham on top. Place the remaining bagel half, mayonnaise side up, over the sandwich. Press down with a spatula. Cook until the bagel turns golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Then carefully flip the sandwich over. Bake 3 minutes longer. Transfer the bagel sandwich to the oven for the cheese to continue melting and the bagel to turn crisp. Add Dijon mustard, if desired. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Okinawan Sweet Potato Medley! Way back when I was in middle school, my home economics teacher actually graded us on how colorful the foods looked on the plate. Her thoughts were “If it tempts your eyes, your stomach will want it.” I never forgot that message. She was pretty adamant about food presentation. So having mashed potatoes, rolls, and cauliflower was kind of a no-no when meal planning. That’s one of the reasons I was intrigued by Okinawan sweet potatoes when visiting Kauai. They are buff-skinned on the outside with a violet-purple flesh inside. It’s not as sweet as the orange variety I’m accustomed to, but nonetheless, it’s pretty tasty. And as you can see, it passes the color test.
OKINAWAN SWEET POTATO MEDLEY
1 large Okinawan sweet potato, skin on, washed and sliced
1 medium sweet onion, sliced
2 each of mini sweet peppers in red, yellow, and orange; stems and seeds removed, cut in wedges
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter
Spray a sheet of heavy aluminum foil with nonstick oil. Arrange Okinawan sweet potatoes on foil. Add sweet onion slices and mini sweet pepper wedges. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, oregano, and cinnamon. Dot with pats of butter. Place another sheet of heavy aluminum foil over top of vegetables. Fold sides twice to seal. Fold ends twice to seal. Avoid puncturing foil. Place packet on a 425° preheated grill. Close lid. Cook 25 minutes, or until vegetables are fork tender. Remove from grill. Carefully open one corner of foil packet to release steam. Then remove top layer of foil. Transfer sweet potatoes and vegetables in the herbed butter to a platter. Serve immediately.