Underrated Summertime Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Underrated Summertime Supper! Does anyone have a Himalayan Salt Block besides me? Well, one of the things I like about it is, it can take the guesswork out of adding seasoning to food. It’s a block of pink salt, after all. When serving cold foods like salads, fruits, and cheeses, refrigerate the salt block overnight before using. This helps to keep foods chilled for hours when you need it. Simply arrange the ingredients directly on the block, drizzle on the dressing, and you’re good-to-go. Clean up is easy. Never use soap; salt is naturally antibacterial. Remove food residue with a damp cloth or sponge. Rinse it with a clean swipe, then dab dry. Allow the salt block to air-dry before next use. You’re done.

UNDERRATED SUMMERTIME SUPPER

Ingredients:

4 ounces goat’s milk cheese, plain

1 teaspoon Italian dry mix spice blend

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

8 ounces mixed greens, washed

1 Roma tomato, chopped

4 assorted mini sweet peppers, stems and seeds removed, sliced into rings

2 radishes, sliced very thin

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

Crusty Artisan Bread

Instructions:

On a sheet of waxed paper, sprinkle Italian dry mix spice blend and red pepper flakes. Form the goat’s milk cheese into a ball. Roll it in the spice mix to cover all sides. Place cheese ball on the chilled Himalayan salt block. Next, arrange mixed greens in a single layer. Arrange Roma tomatoes, mini sweet peppers, radish slices, and red onion rings. Sprinkle Herbes de Provence over top. Drizzle balsamic reduction sauce over salad. Serve with crusty artisan bread.

Herbed Watercress Pistachio Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Herbed Watercress Pistachio Salad! Everyone knows leafy greens can supercharge your diet. But not everyone is crazy about kale and arugula. Ask my husband. The strong pungent flavors of the former can step aside, as far as I’m concerned. Watercress is the new sheriff in town. Its delicate leaves reveal a slight hint of horseradish or wasabi, but with a crispier texture. To combat the bitter tang, simply add a nice citrus fruit along with the ancient royal pistachio nut. Did you know the Queen of Sheba found pistachios so delightful, she declared it was forbidden for commoners to harvest pistachio nuts for themselves? Alas, I digress. Watercress is the star attraction. Rich in vitamins, iron, calcium, and folic acid, its roots thrive in creek bottoms where clear running water encourages natural growth. Most farmers cultivate it in very wet ground providing constant moisture. Ask around at the Farmers Markets. It sells quickly to those who desire it.

HERBED WATERCRESS PISTACHIO SALAD

Ingredients:

1 bunch watercress, roots trimmed

8 leaves fresh basil

8-10 leaves fresh mint

20 leaves Mexican tarragon

1/2 cup mandarin orange slices

1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup pistachio nuts, lightly toasted

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 drop orange extract

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions:

Arrange watercress, basil, mint, and Mexican tarragon on a platter. Tuck mandarin orange slices and red onion pieces throughout. Sprinkle toasted pistachio nuts over all. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, orange extract, sea salt, and pepper. Slowly add olive oil while continuing to whisk. Dressing will emulsify. Before serving, drizzle salad dressing evenly over salad.

Yellow Wax Bean Pancetta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Yellow Wax Bean Pancetta! Yellow beans get a raw deal when it comes to the green bean family. It’s almost like they are the red-headed stepchild. Just because they don’t get their color from chlorophyll doesn’t mean they taste bad. Both taste sweet and “grassy”. If anything, green kinda turns dull when its cooked, but yellow turns golden. Now be honest with me….wouldn’t you rather go for the gold?!?

YELLOW WAX BEAN PANCETTA

Ingredients:

14.5-ounce can cut wax beans, drained

4 ounces pancetta, diced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a bowl, combine wax beans, diced pancetta, olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Gently toss to coat well. Transfer yellow wax bean pancetta mixture to prepared baking sheet. Spread to a single layer. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown on the edges. Remove from oven, transfer to a platter, and serve with fresh chopped parsley.

Orzo Chicken Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Orzo Chicken Soup! If you like thick soup, this recipe is for you. Every spoonful is filled with veggies, chicken, and pasta. If you prefer to slurp the soup or add crumbled saltines, simply increase the liquid by adding two cups of water or more broth. The soup will thicken as the orzo continues to absorb the liquid. In the event there are leftovers for another meal, feel free to add more liquid until you have the desired consistency. Whichever way you like your soup, get ready to enjoy a flavorful bowl of YUM.

ORZO CHICKEN SOUP

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped

1/2 cup carrots, sliced

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence

4 cups chicken broth

3/4 cup uncooked orzo

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded

3 Bay leaves, dried

Instructions:

In a Dutch oven, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions, sliced carrots, and chopped celery. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle in Herbes de Provence. Add chicken broth and orzo pasta. Stir. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes until pasta is tender. Fold in shredded chicken. Tuck bay leaves into soup. Heat until soup is hot and bay leaves are soft, stirring gently. Ladle soup into bowls. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Mediterranean Chickpea Salad! Either you can use a recipe or not. This salad is very forgiving if you wish to add or subtract ingredients. Some prefer to add crumbled feta cheese, others pass. Some prefer to remove the skins of the chickpeas, others eat them the way they come out of the can. If the skins rub off during the rinsing process, so be it. Either way, this no-cook meal can be ready in a few minutes giving you more time to sort through the day’s mail and play with the family dog.

MEDITERRANEAN CHICKPEA SALAD

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup celery tops with leaves, chopped

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

2 baby seedless cucumbers, sliced

3 mini yellow sweet peppers, sliced

1 15-ounce can cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained, skins removed

Instructions:

To make the dressing, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, oregano, sea salt, and black pepper. Set aside. In a serving bowl, combine sliced red onions, celery leaves and tops, cherry tomato halves, sliced cucumbers, yellow sweet peppers, and chickpeas. Mix well. Pour the dressing over all. Toss to combine. Refrigerate for half an hour before serving.

Italian Meatball Manicotti

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Italian Meatball Manicotti! Pasta tubes, known as manicotti, are mere vessels for holding melted cheese, savory meat, Italian herbs, and certain vegetables like spinach or mushrooms. The marinara sauce is spread on the bottom of the dish to prevent the pasta from sticking, or tearing, which would ruin the whole idea of creating the perfect pocket of delicious fillings. With a crowning layer of marinara sauce on top, it deserves a round of applause for the extra cheese sprinkled there for good measure. Cray, Cray!

ITALIAN MEATBALL MANICOTTI

Ingredients:

6 dried manicotti shells

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic

12 Italian meatballs, cut in quarters

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herb blend

8 ounces marinara sauce, prepared

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, shredded

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray an 8.5”x5.5” baking dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook manicotti shells in boiling water for 9 minutes. Drain and cool on a baking sheet pan. Set aside. In a skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic clove, meatballs, sea salt, cracked black pepper, and Italian herb blend. Cook until heated through, stirring occasionally. Remove and set aside to cool slightly for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, spread half the marinara sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. In a bowl, mix ricotta cheese and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Gently fold in meatball mixture. Fill each manicotti shell with meat and cheese mixture; place in the prepared baking dish over the marinara layer. Top with remaining marinara sauce. Cover dish with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Zucchini Onion Chips

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Zucchini Onion Chips! We all know how versatile a meal can be once you add zucchini to the menu. But have you ever thought about an appetizer using a can of those classic crispy fried onions? It’s definitely a game-changer. Hear me out. Forget the holiday green bean casserole for a minute as you dip a fork into the can to nibble on these crunchies before tossing them onto a garden salad. Who can resist a sampling of that unique onion flavor? Not me. Now send everyone out of the house so you can work your magic. When they return, their mouths will begin to drool at the aromas from the kitchen. I’m guessing no one will suspect you disguised heart-healthy zucchini wrapped up in a delicious onion crust.

ZUCCHINI ONION CHIPS

Ingredients:

1 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds

Coarse salt

Vegetable oil, for frying

1 large egg, beaten

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs

1/2 cup crispy fried onion rings, crumbled

Ranch dressing, for dipping

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Place a single layer of zucchini rounds on top. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Cover with another layer of paper towels. Press down. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to draw out excess moisture. In a wide skillet, add vegetable oil to be 1/4” deep. Warm oil over medium-high heat. In a shallow dish, combine flour, breadcrumbs, and crumbled onion rings. Mix well. Dredge one zucchini round in beaten egg and then breadcrumb mixture, coating completely. Place in the skillet; repeat until skillet is full. Do not allow zucchini rounds to touch each other. Cook 2 minutes per side until crispy and golden brown. Transfer zucchini chips to a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Repeat with remaining zucchini. Serve immediately with ranch dressing for dipping.

Warm Potato Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Warm Potato Salad! The debate continues. Which is better? Potato salad made with mayonnaise and served cold or potato salad made with vinegar and served warm? One is creamy with hard-boiled eggs, celery, and pickles while the other is tangy with bacon, mustard, and sugar. What a dilemma. I guess it depends on the craving that drives your appetite on any given day. Whatever you choose, in my opinion, potato salad is not just for summer anymore.

WARM POTATO SALAD

Ingredients:

2 pounds potatoes

1 teaspoon kosher salt

12 ounces applewood smoked bacon

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon onions, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon celery seeds

Fresh parsley, for garnish

Instructions:

Scrub potatoes and cut into quarters. Place in a large pot. Cover potatoes with cold water and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender. Drain the water. Allow potatoes to air dry for a few minutes. Cut potatoes into bite-size pieces. Set aside. In another skillet over medium heat, cut bacon into 1-inch pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy. Transfer bacon, with a slotted spoon, to a paper towel-lined plate. Warm the reserve bacon drippings (about 1/4 cup) over Low heat. Slowly stir in apple cider vinegar, sugar, and Dijon mustard until combined. Add chopped onions and celery seeds. Cook for one minute longer. Remove the pan from heat and toss in the potatoes. Mix gently. Fold in the cooked bacon. Transfer the warm potato salad to a serving bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Vineyard Pork Tenderloins

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Vineyard Pork Tenderloin! Pinot Noir is one of my favorite wines. Despite its complex flavors of woodsy cherry and forest-path raspberry, it leans toward a drier side without making your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth. That being said, it’s often challenging to figure out what food pairings work well with it. Obviously, pasta dishes provide a natural choice. But have you thought about grilled steak, roasted chicken, or pork tenderloin? Pause a moment; take a deep breath. Now transport yourself to a sun-soaked villa along a pebbled path to a harvest table overlooking acres of rolling hills bursting with ripe grape clusters. Taste and sip. Eventually you’re going to take a seat and linger over dinner. Read on.

VINEYARD PORK TENDERLOIN

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

2 medium pork tenderloins, boneless

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 egg, beaten

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 tablespoon parsley flakes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a wire rack with nonstick oil. Place rack onto a baking sheet. Set aside. Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add panko breadcrumbs, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes until golden brown. Transfer crumbs to a shallow dish. Set aside to cool. To prepare pork tenderloins, place one piece in a gallon-size ziploc bag. Using a rolling pin, flatten the meat to 1/4” thickness. Place the pork loin aside and repeat with second piece. Pat dry on paper towels. In a shallow dish, whisk together mayonnaise, egg, kosher salt, and black pepper. Mix well. To the panko breadcrumbs, add parmesan cheese, parsley flakes, and garlic powder. Mix well. Dip each pork tenderloin in the egg mixture. Dredge completely in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to stick. Repeat for extra crispy crust. Place tenderloins on wire rack. Bake for 15-20 minutes until tenderloins are golden brown. Serve immediately.