Jalisco Pico de Gallo

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Jalisco Pico de Gallo! It wasn’t until recently I dined at a family-owned Mexican cantina where the recipes truly originated from Guadalajara. I know this because the waitress explained that Jalisco-style dishes might taste different than anything else I tried before. “For starters,” she explained, “only fresh vegetables are used. We use Mexican oregano for flavor.” I was intrigued. So much so, I made a batch of pico de gallo when I returned home. The Jalisco-style street tacos come later. Stick around and tell me what you think.

JALISCO PICO DE GALLO

Ingredients:

7 Roma tomatoes, sliced and chopped

1 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

6 Serrano chile, stems removed

3 jalapeño peppers, stems removed

1 sweet onion, chopped

2 tablespoons Mexican oregano, dried

2 teaspoons garlic powder

3 teaspoons cumin powder

1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon orange/mango juice

1 tablespoon lime juice

Instructions:

In a large bowl, place Roma tomato chunks. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Using a mini chopper, pulse Serrano peppers until finely chopped. Add to the bowl. Next, place jalapeño peppers in the mini chopper; pulse until finely chopped. Scrape sides and add to the bowl. Add chopped sweet onion to tomato mixture. Sprinkle on Mexican oregano, garlic powder, and cumin powder. Mix well. Fold in chopped cilantro leaves. Drizzle with orange/mango juice and lime juice. Gently stir. Transfer pico de gallo and liquid to covered jars and refrigerate. The flavors intensify as they marinate. Serve with tortilla chips or as a topping for Mexican dishes.

Watermelon Firecracker Bites

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Watermelon Firecracker Bites! Who sprinkles salt on watermelon? Maybe you automatically did it as a child sitting on the back porch steps spewing seeds at your brother. If we saw mom with the salt shaker, everyone did it. Right? No judgment here. Actually, did you know watermelon can be naturally sour or bitter? Truth. By sprinkling it with salt, it brings out the sweetness of the melon. And salt just makes everything taste better. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

WATERMELON FIRECRACKER BITES

Ingredients:

2 cups watermelon, seedless and cut into bite-size cubes

1/2 cup peaches, peeled and chopped

1-2 jalapeño peppers, sliced

1/2 teaspoon raspberry chipotle seasoning

3 tablespoons lime juice

3 tablespoons lime olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Instructions:

Combine watermelon cubes, peach chunks, and jalapeño slices in a bowl. Toss lightly. Sprinkle raspberry chipotle seasoning over all. Whisk together lime juice, lime olive oil, and chopped cilantro. Pour dressing over the watermelon salad. Toss gently. Cover and refrigerate for one hour. When ready to serve, divide salad between four bowls. Drizzle marinade over all.

Date Chile Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Date Chile Salad! One of the best kept secrets in cooking is infused olives oils. It kicks things up a notch. The flavors intensify ordinary ingredients by beginning with organic and aromatic extra virgin olive oils, which in turn, are infused with delightful natural flavors. Some oils contain the essence of herbs, while others may be crushed with fresh citrus or toasted seeds. Be adventurous. Visit a specialty store where premium olive oils and balsamic vinegars are sold. Most stores offer samples to encourage “taste testing”. One of my favorites is Lime Olive Oil and Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar. Another is Sicilian Lemon Olive Oil paired with Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar. Recently I added an Italian Black Truffle Oil to my collection. I was told it tastes divine drizzled over popcorn or as a finishing oil on pizza. I can’t wait!

DATE CHILE SALAD

Ingredients:

2 navel oranges, pith and peel removed

1/3 cup dried dates, chopped

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 red or green jalapeño pepper, sliced into rings

1/2 serrano chile pepper, sliced into rings

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

1-2 tablespoons lime olive oil

Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Slice oranges into thin rounds. Arrange on two salad plates or bowls. Divide chopped dates between them. Sprinkle on crumbled feta cheese. Add jalapeño and serrano pepper rings. Tuck in mint leaves. Drizzle lime olive oil over salads. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Serve.

Roasted Corn Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Roasted Corn Salad! Nothing tastes better than fresh corn. Shuck it off the cob to make a spectacular side dish that goes well with quesadillas, tacos, and grilled meats. This make-ahead roasted corn salad is another picnic basket favorite that travels well and satisfies a crowd. Simply modify the portions to match the event. It’s fresh, it’s spicy, and it’ll keep ’em coming back for more.

ROASTED CORN SALAD

Ingredients:

3 ounces cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon water

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

3 ears bicolor corn, shucked off cob

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup black beans, drained

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

1 jalapeño pepper, chopped

1 ripe tomato, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

Combine the cider vinegar, water, olive oil, sugar, sea salt, and white pepper in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool at room temperature. In an iron skillet over medium-high heat, add vegetable oil. Drop the corn kernels into the skillet; stir to coat. Every few minutes, turn corn with a spatula. As the kernels begin to char, continue turning until corn is tender, about 6-7 minutes. It may be necessary to reduce heat. Place black beans in a large covered bowl. Transfer roasted corn to same bowl. Sprinkle with garlic powder, cumin powder, and Cajun seasoning. Add chopped jalapeño pepper, tomato, green pepper, celery, red onion, and cooled marinade. Mix thoroughly. Refrigerate overnight. Before serving, garnish with fresh cilantro.

Zappy Mango Salsa Scoops

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Zappy Mango Salsa Scoops! Have you discovered how sweet and juicy the mango is? Like any other fruit, use your sense of smell to tell if it’s ripe. Sniff around the stem for a fragrant aroma. Because it has a natural sugar content, the mango will ferment on your kitchen counter for a couple days. It will be slightly soft to the touch, the same way an avocado feels when it’s time. Although the skin is edible, I prefer to peel it away. Just a note: the center stone is quite large and almost furry. Simply slice fruit chunks into a bowl and cut them into cubes. Mangoes go well with citrus fruits such as lemons and limes, spicy vegetables like jalapeños and peppers, and also protein-rich legumes like black beans. Now it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. Mmmm.

ZAPPY MANGO SALSA SCOOPS

Ingredients:

3 ripe mangoes, peeled and cubed

15.25-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 red onion, diced

1/4 cup pickled jalapeños, chopped

1/4 cup jalapeño liquid from jar

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Scoop-style corn chips

Instructions:

In a large bowl, toss cubed mangoes and black beans with diced red onions. Fold in chopped jalapeños. Add jalapeño liquid, lime juice, sea salt, garlic powder, and chopped cilantro. Gently stir to combine. Serve with scoop-style corn chips.

Jicama Avocado Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Jicama Avocado Salad! Allow me to introduce you to the legume family. Jicama is a cousin to beans, peas, and lentils. It provides protein, which is important to everyone, whether you’re a vegetarian or not. Choosing foods that are beneficial to a healthy diet can keep a weekly menu from turning hum-drum and boring. Jicama can be prepared in any number of ways. Eating it raw is just one of them. Its taste slightly resembles a crispy red apple. Only recently I slathered peanut butter all over a slice as a variation from a celery stick. Jicama is also low-carb, if that’s important to you. Not a raw-veggie-kind-of-person? Slice ‘em up and make a batch of french fries. It works.

JICAMA AVOCADO SALAD

Ingredients:

I large jicama

1 avocado, pitted and chopped

Zest of 2 limes

1 teaspoon Tajin seasoning

1/4 teaspoon smoky paprika

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Juice of 2 limes

Fresh cilantro

Instructions:

Using a chef’s knife, slowly peel the thick skin of the jicama. Cut a thin slice at the top and bottom so the vegetable can keep from rolling. Working from top to bottom, slide the knife under the skin to remove the tough, fibrous outer covering. Rinse jicama and slice into matchsticks. Transfer to a bowl. Halve the avocado and remove pit. Scoop the flesh away from the skin. Chop avocado into bite-sized pieces. Add to the jicama sticks. Sprinkle with lime zest, Tajin seasoning, smoky paprika, and garlic powder. Squeeze lime juice over all. Add chopped cilantro leaves. Gently toss and serve.

Grilled Avocado Bowls

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Grilled Avocado Bowls! Now you have a reason to eat more than mashed avocados in guacamole. Anyone can become a grill master with this perfect side dish. By grilling these sumptuous half moons, you not only get a portion all to yourself, the protein-packed morsels will give you energy enough to tackle whatever else is on your list. The touch of lime compliments the earthy hint of outdoor smoke. Top them off with farm fresh sweet corn niblets, chopped Roma tomatoes, and leafy cilantro snips. See what you’ve been missing.

GRILLED AVOCADO BOWLS

Ingredients:

2 avocados, halved and pitted

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon Italian salad dressing dry mix

1/2 cup sweet corn

1 tablespoon pimento, diced

1 slices Roma tomato, chopped

Fresh Cilantro

Lime wedges

Instructions:

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat. Drizzle each avocado half with lime juice. Use a pastry brush to coat the cut side of the avocados with olive oil. Avoid surplus in the well; it may cause a flare up. Sprinkle on garlic powder. Divide the Italian dry mix over all. Place the avocados on the hot grill, cut side directly on the grate. Cook for 3 minutes or until grill marks and slight charring is visible. Meanwhile, combine sweet corn, diced pimento, chopped tomato, and cilantro leaves in a bowl. Gently toss. Using a tongs, carefully transfer avocado bowls to a platter. Fill the centers with a scoop of the sweet corn mixture. Before serving, squeeze lime juice over all.

‘Mazing Mango Salsa

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: ‘Mazing Mango Salsa! Turn Taco Tuesday into one more reason to celebrate. Take ordinary salsa and kick it up a notch into a flavor explosion that is as sweet as it is spicy. Honey mangoes make all the difference when paired with tomatoes, jalapeños, and cilantro. One scoop of a chip and you may find yourself filling up before the meal is served. No worries. Sit back, relax, add a classic lime margarita on-the-rocks, and turn it into “Happy Hour”.

‘MAZING MANGO SALSA

Ingredients:

2 honey mangoes, peeled and diced

1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 Roma tomato, diced

1 tablespoon pimento, chopped

3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Toss gently to mix. Refrigerate one hour. Serve with warm salted tortilla chips.

Kiwi Granita Siciliana

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Kiwi Granita Siciliana! Everyone knows Italy is famous for its pasta, wine, and pizza. It is also known for its granitas, a semi-frozen fruit concoction that can be served as a dessert at the end of a meal or to cleanse the palate between courses. Choose a flavor that mirrors your mood. Or choose one that reflects the season. The liquid can vary from champagne to coffee. I wanted to combine the melon-like fragrance of elderflower liqueur balancing the sweetness of ripened kiwi fruit with citrus undertones of lemongrass green tea. The results, in my opinion, are refreshingly harmonious. Ease into summer with charm and grace.

KIWI GRANITA SICILIANA

Ingredients:

6 kiwi, ripe

1 cup green lemongrass tea, chilled

1/2 cup St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lime juice

Instructions:

Peel kiwi fruit and place in a mini chopper. Pulse until smooth; it should appear the consistency of a purée. Transfer to a freezer-safe dish. Add green lemongrass tea, elderflower liqueur, sugar, and fresh lime juice. Mix well. Cover and freeze overnight. Using a fork, scrape icy shavings into the middle of the container until the entire mixture is in the form of flaky crystals. Keep frozen until ready to serve. Garnish with lime wedge.