Dining Outside the Home: Key Lime Pie Bakery! Key limes are as popular in the Florida Keys as conch shells on the beach. If you’ve never tasted one, imagine this: Key limes are more aromatic as well as a bit smaller than regular limes, thus making them less acidic and more tart. By adding sugar, eggs, and a graham cracker crust, the results are a tangy, sweet, light, and creamy dessert that may or may not cry out for a delicious dollop of whipped cream. Merengue is definitely not out of the question either. Drop in for a single slice or an entire pie. It’s convenient enough to make a second trip.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Habanero Hot Sauce! Let’s kick things up a notch or two with one of the hottest known chili peppers legally sold in grocery stores. And I mean REALLY hot, compared to the average pepperoncini. The adorable orange lantern with its sweet-looking dimples can be deceiving. Its sting may feel as strong as a viper while simultaneously releasing an endorphin rush that’ll knock you off your feet. This is my fourth batch from the garden harvest. I’m hooked! However, it comes with a few words of caution: Wear gloves and avoid the juices near your face and eyes. While oven roasting, set the exhaust fan on High. When taste-testing, keep a wedge of white cheese nearby. It actually cuts the heat almost instantly. Be brave, my Peeps. Heed these simple rules. Then and only then, will you become the master of your own domain.
HABANERO HOT SAUCE
16-20 habanero peppers, halved, stems, and seeds removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1/8 teaspoon lime juice
Sea salt to taste
Place habanero pepper halves, skin side up in a single layer, on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick oil. Roast habanero peppers on High for 10 minutes, or until black spots appear. Remove. Using tongs, transfer habanero peppers to a covered bowl and allow to steam for 15 minutes. Using gloves, remove any loose skins; discard. Add peppers to a food processor. Pulse to a slightly coarse texture. Add minced garlic, orange juice, grapefruit juice, and lime juice. Pulse until desired consistency. Season with sea salt. Store in a jar in the refrigerator. Serve in dips, as a condiment, paired with ripe fruits in salsas, or on grilled meats.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Red Onion Mexican Street Tacos! As promised, today’s feature recipe takes us down the road to Jalisco-style tacos. Forget about the “loaded” tortilla shells you may be familiar with, or even default to when making Mexican food at home. This handheld taco steps “outside the box”. The ingredients are fewer, yet focus on freshness. For those who appreciate it, cilantro is a star attraction. Roasted meat, shredded into small pieces, and chopped red onions with a squeeze of lime wedge create a flavor explosion that, honestly, will pull you back enough to slow down and savor every bite. Perhaps you may even chew your food 20 or 30 times before swallowing to appreciate this virtual trip to a seldom-traveled Mexican village.
RED ONION MEXICAN STREET TACOS
24-count street-size corn tortillas
1 pound seasoned shredded turkey or pork carnitas
1 red onion, chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
2 limes, cut into wedges
Jalisco Pico de Gallo*
Warm shredded carnita meat in a microwave-proof covered casserole dish until steamy and heated through. Set aside. To warm street-size corn tortillas, place a dry iron skillet on the stove top over medium heat. Cook tortillas 30 seconds per side. Wrap a stack of five or six in aluminum foil to keep warm in a 200° preheated oven. When ready to assemble, place a portion of carnitas on each corn tortilla. Layer with chopped cilantro and red onions. Squeeze a lime wedge over all. Top with Jalisco Pico de Gallo.
*Follow the link for recipe.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.