Tavern on the Bay in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Tavern on the Bay in Naples, Florida! Imagine yourself on a sunny afternoon, perched at the edge of a patio, under a swaying palm tree, sipping on a refreshing beverage with a panoramic view of Naples Bay. Ahhh. These are the moments when Time stands still. Notice the Mediterranean-style architecture, the brick-laden pathways, the gurgling fountains, and the waterfront activity. It practically feels like an oasis in the middle of paradise. Feeling hungry? The Tavern on the Bay menu has you covered. The freshest ingredients are used in an ahi poke bowl, chopped salad, prime rib slider, snapper sammie, or shrimp taco. It sure makes choosing something a tough decision. No worries. There really isn’t a wrong choice. Sit back and enjoy.

Pier 22 in Bradenton, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Pier 22 in Bradenton, Florida! Perched on the edge of the Manatee River since the 1920’s, with a panoramic view of the marina and beyond, Pier 22 is a road trip destination to Historic Bradenton that culminates in a fabulous meal on the riverside deck. From casual occasions on the patio to formal celebrations in the ballroom, time spent here becomes a memorable experience. The building itself resembles a charming Mediterranean villa with bobbing bateaux against the distant skyline. Meals are made from scratch, creating art-on-a-plate presentation worthy of the crown. Take your time by enjoying the seafood bounty, the gussied up entrées, the summery cocktails, and the fabulous desserts. No matter the hour or weather, Pier 22 transforms the entire scene into one of life’s perfect moments.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Mediterranean Chickpea Salad! Either you can use a recipe or not. This salad is very forgiving if you wish to add or subtract ingredients. Some prefer to add crumbled feta cheese, others pass. Some prefer to remove the skins of the chickpeas, others eat them the way they come out of the can. If the skins rub off during the rinsing process, so be it. Either way, this no-cook meal can be ready in a few minutes giving you more time to sort through the day’s mail and play with the family dog.

MEDITERRANEAN CHICKPEA SALAD

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup celery tops with leaves, chopped

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

2 baby seedless cucumbers, sliced

3 mini yellow sweet peppers, sliced

1 15-ounce can cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained, skins removed

Instructions:

To make the dressing, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, oregano, sea salt, and black pepper. Set aside. In a serving bowl, combine sliced red onions, celery leaves and tops, cherry tomato halves, sliced cucumbers, yellow sweet peppers, and chickpeas. Mix well. Pour the dressing over all. Toss to combine. Refrigerate for half an hour before serving.

White Cheddar Bacon Risotto

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: White Cheddar Bacon Risotto! Risotto. Seeing it on the menu always makes my heart palpitate a little faster. I once asked a chef his secret to creamy risotto. He confessed he cooked it part way and froze it until a customer requested it that night. He said with a wink, “That way, I only have to stir it til half my arm falls off.” Thank goodness my rice cooker knows no difference. If you must know, I had more difficulty coughing up the cost for saffron threads, the most expensive spice in the world. Once I understood that it is grown around the Mediterranean, in the Middle East, and in India, I began to see why it was such a labor-intensive crop. Saffron comes from a Fall flower and it takes more than 80,000 crocus flowers to process one pound of saffron. Perhaps that is why the taste is worth the price.

WHITE CHEDDAR BACON RISOTTO

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup shallot, diced

1 cup Arborio rice

2 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon saffron threads

1/4 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded

3-4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

Instructions:

In a skillet over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Add diced shallots. Sauté shallots and Arborio rice until translucent, about 5 minutes. In a rice cooker, add chicken broth, white wine, saffron threads, diced shallots, and Arborio rice. Close and lock the lid of the rice cooker. Turn the knob to “Pressure”. Set timer for 7 minutes. When done, release the pressure. Stir in white cheddar cheese, bacon, and parsley. Serve immediately.

Mediterranean Summertime Tomatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Mediterranean Summertime Tomatoes! Do you say “to-may-toe” or “to-mah-toe”? Like it really matters when you sink your teeth into its meaty flesh as the juice runs down your chin. Face it, summer is all about the luscious tomato. Gardeners go crazy planting, watering, weeding, and coaxing the plants’ climbing tendrils to wind within the wire baskets so when the vine becomes heavy with fruit (yes, actually the tomato IS a fruit) you’ll reap the harvest. After all, everyone loves a neighbor who grows, and shares, garden tomatoes.

MEDITERRANEAN SUMMERTIME TOMATOES

Ingredients:

3 Roma tomatoes, sliced

2 Campari tomatoes, sliced

1 cup yellow mini tomatoes, halved

1 red onion, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence, crushed

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Sea salt to taste

Anchovy-stuffed olives (optional)

Fresh basil for garnish

1 loaf French bread

Instructions:

Core and slice tomatoes. Arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle red onion over the tomatoes. Whisk together the olive oil, Herbes de Provence, garlic powder, and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over the tomatoes and onions. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with anchovy-stuffed green olives and fresh basil. Dip French bread in the marinade and eat with the tomatoes.*

*Serving Suggestion: Begin with a bed of baby spinach leaves for a complete meal.

Mediterranean Baked Tilapia

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Mediterranean Baked Tilapia! Do you ever experiment with different spice combinations? Salt and pepper can only go so far, especially if you try to reduce your salt intake. Spices, on the other hand, can turn an ordinary meal into a savory one. They can also add color, flavor, and aroma. If you’re like me, when a recipe calls for a spice you don’t stock in your pantry, you go out and buy a jar. Then what? Do you use it once and shove it back into the corner of your cupboard? What if you experiment a little instead? When you use cumin, think about partnering it with coriander for results that can add warmth as well as a tinge of sweetness.

MEDITERRANEAN BAKED TILAPIA

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon butter, melted

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tilapia fillets

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

Fresh parsley, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400° in a shallow bowl, combine lemon juice, butter, and olive oil. Mix well. Set aside. On a sheet of waxed paper, combine flour, ground coriander, ground cumin, paprika, sea salt, and pepper. Pat tilapia fillets dry. Dip fish in lemon juice mixture before coating with flour coating. Repeat for second tilapia fillet. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in an iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish fillets. After a minute or so, flip fillets over to sear the both sides. Remove skillet from heat. Add minced garlic to remaining lemon juice mixture. Drizzle over fish. Bake 7-9 minutes in preheated oven. Remove from heat. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve with broccoli and cous cous.