Lavender Lemon Meltaways

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Lavender Lemon Meltaways! Are you still on the fence about tasting the flavor of lavender? Is it possible you believe it’s way too close to air freshener or bath soap? Think about this a moment…one of the most popular cooking staples in France is dried herbes de Provence. Lavender is in there. It’s a distant cousin to rosemary, which is one reason the leaves can appear similar in young plants. The taste of lavender has a slight undertone of fresh mint, making it a perfect partner for lemon in homemade cakes, creamy frostings, and sprinkled on ice cream. Now I see I have your full attention.

LAVENDER LEMON MELTAWAYS

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon citrus peel

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 eggs

Lavender Glaze Ingredients:

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon lavender extract

2 tablespoons lemon zest

Lavender buds, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9”x9” square baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside. Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside. Using a hand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, lemon citrus peel, and lemon juice until light and fluffy. One at a time, beat in eggs. Gradually add the dry ingredients; mix until combined. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with moist crumbs. Do not over bake. Allow cake to cool completely on a wire rack. To make the lavender glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Add lavender extract and lemon zest. Stir until smooth. Pour the glaze over the lemon cake and spread evenly. Sprinkle with lavender buds. Allow glaze to harden before cutting into bars.

Jacksonville Shrimp Boil

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Jacksonville Shrimp Boil! Whoever came up with a one-pot feast of seafood heaven is pure genius. Succulent shrimp, baby red potatoes, sweet corn on the cob, and smoky sausage. Throw everything into the biggest pot you have and let the flavors intermingle with fresh herbs and aromatic spices. The secret is to stagger the cooking process of the ingredients. After all, potatoes take longer to cook fork-tender than shrimp does. Don’t get impatient or you’ll end up with a bowl of slush. Whatever you do, don’t discard the broth. By adding butter, and serving it in small ramekins, it instantly becomes a great dipping sauce for drizzling over everything or sopping up with a crusty bread.

JACKSONVILLE SHRIMP BOIL

Ingredients:

2 lemons, halved plus wedges for serving

1/2 cup Old Bay Seasoning*

8 cloves garlic, smashed

1 red onion, quartered

6 sprigs lemon thyme

1 pound baby red potatoes, halved

4 ears corn, husked and snapped in half

1 pound smoked sausage, cut into chunks

1 1/4 pounds large shrimp, unpeeled

2 tablespoons butter

Hot sauce, for serving

Instructions:

Fill a large pot with 4 quarts water. Squeeze lemon juice into the water. Drop lemons into the pot. Add Old Bay Seasoning, smashed garlic, and red onion. Tie the lemon thyme sprigs with kitchen twine and drop into the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add red potatoes to the pot; cook just until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the corn and smoked sausage; cook 5 minutes. Finally, add the shrimp to the pot. Cover and cook until the shrimp curl and turn opaque in color, about 2-3 minutes, tops. Transfer the shrimp, sausage, and vegetables to a deep platter using a slotted spoon. Arrange lemon wedges. Ladle 1 cup broth into a serving bowl and add butter. Stir until well blended. Place in the center of the platter. Serve immediately with hot sauce, if desired.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Xanadu Pasta Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Xanadu Pasta Salad! At first glance, this may appear as a five-minute throw-together meal. Think again. In actuality, the magic begins once half the ingredients are combined and tucked away in the refrigerator for a couple days to marinate. At this point, the pasta actually transforms into a gourmet dish you are likely to have tasted at a family-owned sandwich shoppe or small town deli. One forkful may leave you wondering if this is all a dream. Is that music I hear in the background? Xanadu. Quickly, store those thoughts in your memory bank. I have no doubt you’ll return there for more.

XANADU PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:

16 ounces vermicelli spaghetti pasta

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons seasoned salt

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 pint red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

8 ounces small mozzarella balls, halved

1 teaspoon crushed oregano

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

Cook vermicelli according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Combine cooked pasta, kosher salt, seasoned salt, lemon juice, and vegetable oil. Pour mixture into a gallon ziplock bag. Refrigerate for two days, turning a couple times to marinate flavors. Then pour seasoned pasta into a large bowl. Spoon in red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Add small mozzarella balls. Sprinkle with crushed oregano. Gently toss. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.

Lemon Curd Tarts

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Lemon Curd Tarts! Attention all lemon lovers. There comes a time in every woman’s life when she is in dire need of a sweet-tasting dessert. I have a secret that will blow your mind. Go halfway down the bakery aisle at your favorite grocery store and keep your eyes wide open along the top row of jars. In between the maraschino cherries and the blueberry pie filling is a small jar of gourmet lemon curd. Grab it fast. If you need to glance at the list of ingredients, be my guest. You’ll find lemon, eggs, butter, sugar, and usually tapioca starch as a thickening agent. All good stuff, in my opinion. Buy it, refrigerate it, and guard it like the holy grail. Read on and you’ll understand why.

LEMON CURD TARTS

Ingredients:

15-count box frozen phyllo shells, thawed

10-ounce jar lemon curd

1/2 pint fresh blackberries

Mint leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove phyllo shells from packaging. Place empty shells on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 3-5 minutes until crisp. Allow shells to cool before filling. Rinse blueberries and pat dry with a paper towel. Place a dollop of lemon curd in each phyllo shell. Add a blackberry. Garnish with a mint leaf. Place the pretty lemon curd tart on a serving tray. Repeat with remaining shells until all are filled. Serve immediately. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Brazen Broccoli Bites

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Brazen Broccoli Bites! Do you roast vegetables in your oven? Of course, you do. Who doesn’t? It’s simple, appealing, tasty, and healthy. It also makes the kitchen smell wonderful, like a woodsmoke fire on a pleasant afternoon in autumn. Herbs and spices enhance the flavor. Olive oil makes them sizzle, while giving veggies visibly charred edges. After a few minutes, fresh produce becomes fork-tender and ready-to-serve. But wait, this is only supposed to be a side dish.

BRAZEN BROCCOLI BITES

Ingredients:

3/4 pound broccoli crowns

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons sliced almonds

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, shaved

Lemon slices, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Wash the broccoli; dry thoroughly. Cut the broccoli florets from the stalks, slicing some lengthwise. In a bowl, whisk together olive oil, minced garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, and kosher salt. Add broccoli; toss to coat. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange in a single layer; avoid crowding. Roast broccoli for 10-12 minutes. Flip and bake 10 minutes longer. Sprinkle almond slices over all. Roast 10 minutes longer until broccoli is evenly caramelized. The almonds will be toasted and golden. Transfer to a platter. Gently toss with lemon juice. Top with shaved parmesan cheese. Garnish with lemon slices. Serve immediately.

Wasabi Shrimp Cocktail

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Wasabi Cocktail Shrimp! Everyone loves shrimp, we know that already. But does everyone like wasabi? You may have tasted it before in the snack form of wasabi peas. You’re probably thinking, “easily tolerable”. Wasabi, though, really can’t be compared to the heat of a jalapeño or habanero pepper. It’s a different kind of animal. Wasabi is from the horseradish family giving it a strong pungency that can be felt more in the nasal passages than on the tongue. You might take a swipe and then sit back thinking all is well…until, like a viper, it strikes with such intensity you find your eyes tearing up, followed by a cough or sneeze. Once the rush has passed, don’t be surprised if your brain says, “I’ve gotta have more of this stuff!”

WASABI SHRIMP COCKTAIL

Ingredients:

1 pound precooked shrimp, tail on and thawed

1/2 cup prepared cocktail sauce

1/8 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon wasabi paste

Instructions:

Rinse shrimp in cold water. Drain. Dab with a paper towel. Arrange the shrimp on a platter. In a small bowl, combine cocktail sauce, lemon juice, and wasabi paste. Stir well. Serve chilled.

Nutty Fish Fillets

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Nutty Fish Fillets! Eating freshwater fish may seem humdrum, especially if you make it the same way every time. But I don’t wanna try something new, you say. What if I don’t like it? That’s what I thought until I discovered another way to keep fish part of a healthy diet. Butter. And almonds. The wonderful natural flavor of butter is milky and creamy. Pair that with the crunch and depth of flavor in toasted almonds for a heavenly combination.

NUTTY FISH FILLETS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup almonds, sliced

2 tilapia fillets

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon crushed parsley

Celery leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Warm an iron skillet over medium heat. Add almonds. Stir continuously until they are tinged with color. Do not burn. Transfer to a platter to cool. Season both sides of tilapia fillets with sea salt and black pepper. Using the same iron skillet, warm the butter and olive oil over medium heat. When it begins to bubble, add tilapia fillets. Brown fish, until opaque, for 4 minutes per side. Transfer fish to a serving platter. Turn heat setting to low. Reserving the drippings, add lemon juice to iron skillet. Stir to blend. Pour sauce over fish fillets. Sprinkle with crushed parsley and scatter toasted almonds over all. Serve with celery leaves.

Lemon Poppyseed Mini Bundt Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Lemon Poppyseed Mini Bundt Cake! So, apparently mini bundt cakes have been the rage for some time now with quaint little bakeries and countless molds popping up everywhere. My friend, Nancy, was kind enough to gift me with a cute little ceramic mold. I began looking at recipes and couldn’t believe all the variations out there. Choosing the first one came easily with almonds, lemon, and poppyseed ingredients, especially with a lemony sweet-tart glaze. But wait, you utter. You’ve heard me say my husband simply does not like lemon baked goods. I know, but there’s a method to my madness. You see, lemon poppyseed is one of those combinations that can be eaten as dessert or breakfast. Need I say more? Every little bundt helps.

LEMON POPPYSEED MINI BUNDT CAKE

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

1 tablespoon poppyseeds

1/4 cup almonds, sliced

Sliced almonds, for garnish

Ingredients for Lemon Glaze:

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons lemon zest

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a mini bundt pan and 6-mold muffin tin with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt. Mix well; set aside. Using a mixer on Low speed, cream together the softened butter, vegetable oil, sugar, egg, buttermilk, almond extract, and lemon extract. Mix for about one minute. Slowly add flour mixture, poppyseeds, and sliced almonds just until combined. Divide the batter between the mini bundt pan and muffin tin, filling batter to the top. If desired, sprinkle additional sliced almonds over top before baking. Bake for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 375° and bake 15 minutes longer. The tops will be golden brown. Cake is ready when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and allow cakes to cool another 10 minutes. Drizzle lemon glaze over cakes, if desired.

Hummus in Hindsight (without tahini)

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Hummus in Hindsight (without tahini)! Let’s spread the news: rules are meant to be broken. I put off making hummus because I had no tahini, sesame seed paste, in my kitchen. The last time I needed it I became frustrated because I couldn’t find it in the grocery stores. So I made it myself. The trouble is homemade tahini can be pricey as well as wasteful if you don’t use it all before it becomes bitter. Not cool. Now you have an alternative. Lose the tahini without sacrificing the taste. By adding sesame oil and spices, you still end up with a smooth, creamy paste to smear onto pita bread. And isn’t that the point?

HUMMUS IN HINDSIGHT (without tahini)

Ingredients:

15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Drizzle of sesame oil, for topping

Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Red pepper bits, for garnish

Chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Using a food processor, pulse the chickpeas until coarse. With the machine running, add the olive oil, sesame oil, and lemon juice until smooth and creamy. Fold in the ground cumin, Himalayan pink salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Stir well to combine. Transfer to a shallow dish. Drizzle hummus with sesame oil. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Garnish with red pepper bits and sliced chives. Serve with celery sticks, red pepper strips, and pita bread.