Niçoise Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Niçoise Salad! Repeat after me, “nee-SWAHZ”. One more time, “nee-SWAHZ”. Spoken like a true Parisian. Now what does it mean, you wonder. In layman’s terms, niçoise refers to the style of cooking in the south of France. It usually includes deep brown olives, vine-ripened tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, tiny new potatoes, thin green beans, and anchovies or tuna. The dressing almost always includes Dijon mustard, minced shallots, herbs, and olive oil. If it sounds like a lot of fresh ingredients, think of it this way: it’s a gourmet salad, a meal in itself. Besides, it is absolutely show-stopping on the plate. Take your time. Enjoy every bite. Because when you’re all finished, you may discover you’re ready to have it again next week.

NIÇOISE SALAD

Ingredients:

1/2 pound petite fingerling potatoes

6 ounces thin green beans, ends trimmed

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon garlic wine vinegar

1 shallot, minced

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon thyme

1/8 teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 head butter lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

6 ounces grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup niçoise olives

4 eggs, hard-boiled and halved

2 ahi tuna steaks

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons furikake seasoning

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Wasabi mustard

Instructions:

In a 2-quart pan over medium heat, bring to a boil fingerling potatoes, with skin on, in salted water. Cook 15 minutes. Add green beans for 1 minute or until bright green. Remove from heat. Drain; set aside. When potatoes are cool, cut in half or quarters. For salad dressing, whisk together Dijon mustard, garlic wine vinegar, minced shallot, marjoram, thyme, and oregano. Whisking continuously, slowly add olive oil until fully blended. Add kosher salt to taste. Set aside. Divide butter lettuce into serving dishes. Arrange fingerling potatoes, green beans, grape tomatoes, niçoise olives, and hard-boiled eggs. Serve with seared ahi steaks.

Instructions for ahi steaks:

Combine olive oil, vegetable oil, and sesame oil in a shallow dish. Sprinkle with furikake seasoning and white sesame seeds. Marinate ahi tuna steaks ten minutes per side to coat evenly. Remove from marinade and set aside. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil mixture. Cook steaks 2-3 minutes per side. The outer skin will appear seared while the center will remain rare. Remove from heat. Transfer ahi steaks to a cutting board and tent with foil for 10 minutes. Cut into 1/4″ thick slices. Drizzle wasabi mustard on a platter. Arrange sliced ahi, overlapping the slices.

Lump Crabmeat Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Lump Crabmeat Salad! Be pampered on a sunny porch or backyard patio with a light luncheon for two. Dining al fresco is especially popular with nature’s backdrop of fragrant flowers and tittering birdsong. These are what days are made of. If it’s a late afternoon gathering of light appetizers and spritzers, serve this lump crabmeat salad with crackers instead. Fresh fruit is always a good idea. Take advantage of warm weather and celebrate a party-like atmosphere.

LUMP CRABMEAT SALAD

Ingredients:

8 ounces wild caught lump crabmeat, cartilage removed

1 tablespoon Italian dressing mix

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 rib celery, diced

1/4 cup red pepper, diced

4 teaspoons chives, sliced

1 teaspoon tarragon leaves

1/8 teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon celery seed

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

1 dash sriracha sauce

Red pepper, halved and membrane removed

Bibb lettuce leaves

Instructions:

Gently rinse crabmeat in a fine mesh strainer to remove any shell pieces or cartilage. Do not break up crab chunks. Transfer crabmeat to a medium bowl. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning mix. Toss to coat. Drizzle with lemon juice. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. In another bowl, combine mayonnaise, diced celery, diced red pepper, sliced chives, tarragon leaves, dry mustard, garlic powder, celery seed, kosher salt, white pepper, and sriracha sauce. Mix well. Add the crabmeat mixture to the mayonnaise mixture, gently coating the lump crabmeat. Spoon the crabmeat into two hollowed out red pepper shells. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate one hour. Arrange Bibb lettuce leaves on two saucers; place lump crabmeat salad on each plate. Serve chilled.

Chop Chop Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Chop Chop Salad! Stop your scrolling and check this out. Because in every single bite, it delivers. Sure, it takes a few extra minutes to chop things up…but it’s so worth it. Check out the delicate, spears of baby asparagus. Imagine that sweet nutty taste. Or what about the thin-as-paper radish slices? They provide a slight tickle of pepper spray. Did you notice the tiny shallot rings nestled between the romaine and radicchio? Their subtle oniony/garlic taste may surprise you. Without a doubt, the finishing touch reveals feathery fronds of dill that promise not to overpower. Together, Chop Chop Salad comes across as ineffably sublime.

CHOP CHOP SALAD

Ingredients for Vinaigrette:

1 shallot, sliced and chopped

1/8 teaspoon lemon citrus peel

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon garlic wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons agave nectar

Instructions for Vinaigrette:

Combine shallot pieces, lemon citrus peel, lemon juice, garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, and agave nectar. Whisk well. Set aside at room temperature.

Ingredients for Salad:

Kosher salt

1 cup snow peas

1/2 bunch baby asparagus

5-6 radishes, thinly sliced

1 romaine heart, sliced

1/4 head radicchio, chopped

1/2 cup dill fronds, snipped

Instructions for Salad:

Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add a handful of kosher salt. Stir. Submerge snow peas and asparagus in ice water for 10 minutes. This makes them very crisp. Drain well; pat dry. Chop into bite-size pieces. Mix together romaine lettuce, chopped radicchio, snow peas, baby asparagus, and radish slices. Pour vinaigrette over all. Toss to coat. Add dill fronds. Serve immediately.

Layered Taco Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Layered Taco Dip! Wait no longer for a great appetizer. Set the tone for a social gathering with foods that say, “Let’s get this party started!”. A creamy dense layer of Mexican spices over a base of refried beans make the perfect foundation to hold the remaining ingredients. Not a fan of black olives? Simply choose green peppers or mushrooms instead. After all it’s your kitchen, so own it!

LAYERED TACO DIP

16-ounce can refried beans, traditional

16-ounce carton sour cream

8-ounce block cream cheese, room temperature

1 taco seasoning packet

1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped

1 large tomato, diced

3 green onions, chopped

1 1/2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

2.25-ounce can sliced black olives, drained

Tortilla chips or corn chips

Instructions:

Spread refried beans on the bottom layer of a serving platter. Combine sour cream, cream cheese, and taco seasoning packet in a bowl. Mix until smooth. Spread over refried beans. Divide romaine lettuce evenly over cream cheese layer. Top with diced tomatoes and green onion snips. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese followed by Monterey Jack cheese over all. Finish with black olive slices. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate dip for at least one hour. Serve with tortilla chips or corn chips.

Lamb Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Lamb Flatbread! I think I could eat my weight in flatbread simply because of the endless combination of ingredients. When I’m in the mood for something with a Greek twist, I turn to lamb meat permeated with ethnic spices such as oregano, dill, parsley, and coriander. A sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese is nice, especially when it melts around Kalamata olives grown under Grecian sunshine. At least, that’s what I imagine. Maybe you will, too.

LAMB FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 pound organic lamb, ground

1/2 cup water

1-2 beef bouillon cubes

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/4 teaspoons coriander

1 1/4 teaspoons cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 cup prepared ranch dressing

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 teaspoon dill weed

2 baby cucumbers, chopped

1 garlic flatbread

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded

4-5 cherry tomatoes, sliced

1 shallot, sliced

3-4 Kalamata olives, sliced

1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Fresh arugula leaves

1/8 teaspoon oregano

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. In a large skillet, combine ground lamb, water, bouillon cubes, sea salt, coriander, cumin powder, garlic powder, and dried parsley. Bring to boiling, crumbling meat with a fork to cook thoroughly. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until all moisture is absorbed and meat is browned. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix ranch dressing, Greek yogurt, and dill weed. Stir until smooth. Brush bottom of garlic flatbread with one tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Spread half the ranch dressing mixture over the flatbread. Add the chopped cucumbers to the remaining sauce. Set aside. Top flatbread with mozzarella cheese, crumbled lamb mixture (you will have extra to use later on), cherry tomatoes, sliced shallot, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, arugula leaves, and oregano. Bake 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven, slice accordingly, and use reserve cucumber dip as side condiment.

“Kale” Caesar Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: “Kale” Caesar Salad! Isn’t it entertaining to take ordinary food, mix it up a bit, and then give it a new name? That’s exactly what I did with the traditional Caesar salad. By partnering tender baby kale with sturdy romaine leaves, it creates a blend that is satisfying to the taste buds. The creamy Caesar dressing alone brings a nice anchovy flavor to the salad with a robust hint of garlic. Just think what would happen if we added grilled chicken. The possibilities are endless.

“KALE” CAESAR SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups baby kale, gently torn

2 cups romaine lettuce, shredded

4 radishes, sliced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Kosher salt, to taste

4 tablespoons prepared Caesar dressing

1/3 cup garlic croutons

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shaved

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

Cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine baby kale, romaine lettuce, radishes, and shallot. Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, and kosher salt. Toss gently. Top with prepared Caesar dressing, garlic croutons, shaved parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, and cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.

Quinoa BLTE Sandwich

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Quinoa BLTE Sandwich! What exactly is quinoa; does anyone know for sure? I took a trip down Wikipedia Lane and discovered “it is an experimental crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration human occupied space flights.” It’s also gluten-free and easy to digest. That’s pretty important stuff in my book. Oh yeah, it’s been around for human consumption for at least 3,000 years. Maybe it’s time to give it a whirl.

QUINOA BLTE SANDWICH

Ingredients:

2 slices organic quinoa multigrain bread, toasted

1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 slices tomato

2 romaine lettuce leaves

2-4 slices thick bacon, cooked crisp

1 large egg, cooked over-easy

Pinch seasoned salt

Black pepper to taste

Garnish with parsley

Instructions:

Microwave bacon on paper-towel-lined plate for 5 minutes on High or until crisp. Set aside. In a small skillet sprayed with nonstick oil, crack an egg over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and black pepper. Fry until set, then carefully flip over. Turn off heat. Continue cooking until white is set, but yolk is still runny. To assemble sandwich, slather both pieces of quinoa toast with mayonnaise. Layer ripe tomatoes, romaine lettuce leaves, and bacon strips on one slice. Slide the fried egg onto the bacon. Top the sandwich with the remaining slice of quinoa toast. Garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

Ginger-Orange Salmon Lettuce Cups

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Ginger-Orange Salmon Lettuce Cups! Is it an Appetizer or an Entrée? Both. Ginger paired with orange creates amazing flavor, not to mention health benefits galore. Adding grilled salmon for omega-3s is a bonus. But enough about that and back to the lettuce cup popularity. Anytime you cut down on calories, carbs, and gluten it adds up to guilt-free options. Mix things up with seasonal fruits, garden veggies, grilled seafood, and roasted meat for creative favorites. Anything goes!

GINGER-ORANGE SALMON LETTUCE CUPS

Ingredients:

1 cup grilled orange-ginger grilled salmon, flaked

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese

1 tablespoon horseradish

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

1 teaspoon capers

1 green onion, chopped

1/3 cup mandarin oranges

Bibb lettuce leaves

Fresh chives, for garnish

Ground Pistachio nuts, for garnish

Instructions:

Grill ginger-orange salmon according to package directions. Flake salmon; set aside to cool. In a small bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese and horseradish until smooth. Gently fold in chopped dill, capers, and green onion. Spread onto Bibb lettuce leaves. Equally divide salmon over cream cheese mixture. Add mandarin orange slices. Garnish with fresh chives and pistachios. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Arugula Cherry Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Arugula Cherry Salad! Handpicked cherries, at the peak of ripeness, set the stage for an appealing salad that is sure to be delightful. Don’t have an orchard nearby? No worries. Check the local Farmer’s Market, fruit stand, or supermarket for the season’s bounty. Timing is everything. You’ll want to have enough ripe cherries on hand to pair later with wine and perhaps a little chocolate. Spoiler Alert: I’ve set aside a portion of juicy red cherries to feature in a decadent dessert. Stay tuned.

ARUGULA CHERRY SALAD

Ingredients:

6 ounces baby arugula

16 ripe cherries, stems removed and pitted

1/4 cup almonds, sliced

1 tablespoon tarragon, leaves only

1 tablespoon sherry cooking wine

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Cracked black pepper to taste

4 ounces Bleu cheese, crumbled

Instructions:

After the pits are removed, cut the cherries in half. Combine arugula, cherries, almonds, and tarragon in a large bowl. Toss gently. In a small bowl, whisk together sherry cooking wine, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Drizzle over salad and gently toss. Divide into serving bowls. Finish with Bleu cheese crumbles over top. Serve immediately.