What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Zappy Mango 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 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: Yesterday’s Cucumber Soup. Here we go again with another cold soup option. It may sound like an oxymoron, but actually if I called it a Cucumber Smoothie, would you drink it? Perhaps. Tell me this, how many times have you been served ice water with a cucumber slice in it? Or grabbed a hydrating plant-based juice beverage at the corner convenience store? Get the picture. It’s all about the perspective. If you find it challenging to eat cold soup, or just plain WRONG…by all means, pour it into a glass and slurp away. To quote William Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Carry on.
YESTERDAY’S CUCUMBER SOUP
4 mini seedless cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 gala apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 green onion, chopped
2-3 basil leaves
1/4 cup almond milk, unsweetened
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
Diced apple, tomato bits, chive snips, and basil leaf for garnish
Reserving garnish to taste, place all remaining I ngredients in a blender. Alternate between Pulse and Liquify settings to purée until smooth. Transfer cucumber mixture into a covered container. Refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight until chilled. Divide into shallow bowls. Serve garnished with apple chunks, diced tomatoes, chopped chives, and basil.
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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Icy Limoncello Slushie! Talk about refreshing. Imagine yourself strolling along the Amalfi Coast of southern Italy. Pause a moment near the rugged shoreline to allow the cool breezes to caress your skin. Admire the sheer cliffs where coastal roads hug towering rock formations. Pay attention to the landscaped vineyards and lemon groves winding down the slope that practically appear to plunge into the sea. This is home to Limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur produced in the region. It is enjoyed as an aperitif or a digestive around evening mealtime, due to its pleasing effect on the palate. What better time to gratify your taste buds.
ICY LIMONCELLO SLUSHIE
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 cups ice cubes
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup Limoncello liqueur
Lemon and Limes, for garnish
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water. Heat 3 minutes, or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat. Add lemon zest. Allow mixture to cool for 30 minutes. Strain sugar mixture, using a sieve to remove solids. Pour simple syrup into a blender. Add ice cubes, lemon juice, and Limoncello liqueur. Process until smooth and ice chunks no longer remain. Pour slushie into glasses. Garnish with fresh lemon slices.
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
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
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.
Dining Outside the Home: Mango’s Dockside Bistro & Sushi Bar on Marco Island, Florida! It’s a tough decision when you need to think about sitting outside with a backdrop of the local marina or inside where you can watch exotic salt-water fish swim by in a huge aquarium. Try a tropical appetizer like the Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp Jalapeños. Spicy, with a touch of natural saltiness. It’s a nice starter along with the Yellowfin Tuna over Seaweed Salad. Quench your thirst with a crafted cocktail like the Key Lime Pie Martini. It’s more like a dessert for those who enjoy a touch of sublime sweetness. After all, isn’t that the reason you walk two miles along the beach every day? Eating out is fun and something everyone looks forward to for socialization. The Tropical Island Salad makes quite a statement served in a fresh pineapple boat over a bed of mixed greens. A scoop of Mango’s famous chicken salad takes center stage surrounded by juicy strawberries, crushed walnuts, and Gorgonzola crumbles. The menu goes on and on to satisfy every palate.
Dining Outside the Home: Pinchers on Marco Island, Florida! Stumbling into a place that boasts Happy Hour Every Day All Day is definitely an unexpected pleasure if you appreciate liquid refreshments and crave seafood. At Pinchers, their motto is “You can’t fake fresh!”, which is important when you’re located steps away from the Gulf of Mexico. It helps that local fishermen keep the restaurant supplied with fish from local emerald green waters. When the wait staff rolls out a sheet of brown paper to cover the table, it’s practically unspoken permission to eat with your fingers. Slightly chilled peel ‘n eat shrimp, dunked in a homemade cocktail sauce, is good enough to devour in one bite. Save room for more, though, because the clam strips are coated in a tasty batter and deep-fried to a golden brown; crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Even if you have to share, the meal wouldn’t be complete without the favored Floridian dessert, Key Lime Pie.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Queso Blanco Shrimp Street Tacos! Not everyone has the luxury of accessibility to freshly-made corn tortillas. Because corn tortillas contain less fat than flour tortillas, they are more prone to breakage. One way to prevent this from happening is to dip them in warmed vegetable oil. The extra moisture enhances the taste. Another way is to take two corn tortillas to create a double-layered shell. That way if the inside tears or cracks when folded in half, the outer shell will keep all the ingredients from falling into your lap. Make sense?
QUESO BLANCO SHRIMP STREET TACOS
8 corn street tacos
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 pound medium shrimp, precooked, peeled, deveined, and tail removed
2 tablespoons bacon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon raspberry chipotle seasoning
1 ripe avocado, peeled, stone removed, and sliced into wedges
1 cup broccoli slaw
2 large leaves romaine lettuce, gently torn
1/2 cup prepared queso blanco with jalapeños
Fresh lime, for garnish
Cilantro, for garnish
Preheat oven to 300°. Set aside a baking sheet. Warm vegetable oil over medium-high heat in an iron skillet. One at a time, dip a corn tortilla into the oil for about 15 seconds; flip and repeat. Drain and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining tortilla shells. Stack them two to a pile on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt (optional). Keep warm in the oven. Using the remaining vegetable oil, add bacon olive oil to the skillet. Gently place the shrimp in the warmed oil. Sprinkle with raspberry chipotle seasoning. After one minute, flip. Shrimp should be slightly charred. Cook one minute longer. Remove from heat. In a bowl, combine the broccoli slaw with the gently torn romaine leaves. Toss. Remove tortillas from the oven. On the four stacks of warmed tortilla shells, place avocado wedges. Divide the broccoli slaw blend between the tacos. Top with sautéed shrimp. Warm the jalapeño queso blanco for 20 seconds in the microwave on high setting. Stir. Repeat, if necessary. Drizzle over street tacos. Squeeze fresh lime juice over all. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Ka-Pow! Thai Curry Tacos! Fusion foods get my vote every time. This is a perfect example of where the Mexican culture teams with a kick of Thai for a contrast that sends the taste buds spinning. Curry is the star attraction and the best kept secret to a spice sensation beyond your wildest dreams. When the ingredients overlap, they bring their own unique experience that transports you halfway around the world in a chemical reaction. Are you ready to travel?
KA-POW! THAI CURRY TACOS
12 corn tortillas, street-size
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cups cooked turkey meat, shredded
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
8.5 ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and finely chopped
10-ounce bag broccoli slaw
1 cup sweet corn, off the cob
Lime wedge, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400°. Spray each corn tortilla on both sides with nonstick oil. Place on a baking sheet. Bake 8 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside. Warm canola oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the Thai red curry paste, minced garlic, and chopped onion. Cook about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until the garlic and onions are softened. Add the shredded turkey. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, lime juice, and sun dried tomatoes; simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. To assemble tacos, layer the broccoli slaw onto the crispy corn tacos. Divide the turkey mixture among the tortillas. Top with sweet corn. Garnish with lime wedges. Serve immediately.