Caffé Milano in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Caffé Milano in Naples, Florida! First impressions go a long way in my book. From the moment you choose an outdoor table along Fifth Avenue, the server greets you with marinated mixed olives from Italy and homemade ciabatta bread slices. If you’re Italian, you know how important bread is at a meal. Sink your teeth into the earthy goodness and make a mental note to buy a loaf to take home for later. Caffè Milano pretty much serves food all day long. Since I was there for a brunch-style meal, the natural choice that day was Eggs Benedict. Just so you know, the Hollandaise is ah-mazing! Relax and enjoy the activity along the boulevard. You may see luxury import cars to high fashion statements made by those strolling by, so appreciate the perfect vantage point for delicious food and current activity.

X-Citing Everyday Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: X-citing Everyday Salad! Whoever said salads are ho-hum hasn’t raided the refrigerator for a weeknight dinner, especially on a rainy day. Just use your imagination. After all, you only buy produce that you really like, right? I’m a fan of herbed olive oil and tomatoes, so by turning that into a dressing it satisfies my quest for the perfect Italian vinaigrette. Look again at the photo. See the leafy greens? Start there and build the layers. By the time you finish adding what you like (substituting stuff like green olives for black), you have a meal-in-a-bowl that rivals your neighborhood eatery. Enough talking, now let’s get moving.

X-CITING EVERYDAY SALAD

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Italian cheese, finely shredded

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cups mixed greens, gently torn

1/2 cup broccoli florets

10-12 pepperoni slices

1/3 cup green olives, sliced

Cracked black pepper

Instructions:

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, oregano, basil, marjoram, garlic powder, and sea salt. Stir well. Add balsamic vinegar and Italian cheese. Fold in cherry tomatoes to coat. In a large bowl, layer mixed greens, broccoli florets, pepperoni slices, and green olives. Drizzle with tomato herbed vinaigrette. Gently toss before serving. Garnish with cracked black pepper.

Uff-da Bread Tacos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Uff-Da Bread Tacos! Did you know there is a difference between naan and pita bread? Pita bread is definitely enhanced by all the ingredients stuffed into it. Naan, on the other hand, is made with egg and yogurt-instead of water-which are typically fermented (or rested) in the dough before baking in a clay oven, which makes it chewy and delicious. The texture is different and more pliable. Have I piqued your curiosity? If so, now it’s time to see for yourself. You’re welcome.

UFF-DA BREAD TACOS

Ingredients:

4 single-serving naan bread slices

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pound ground chorizo

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup picante sauce, divided

1 cup romaine lettuce, gently torn

1 cup pinto beans, drained

1 cup Mexican blend cheeses, finely shredded

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup black olives, sliced

1/2 cup sour cream

Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Instructions:

In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook chorizo. Break apart the meat as it cooks. Drain off excess grease. Reduce heat to low; sprinkle in the chili powder, ground cumin, dried oregano, and black pepper. Mix well. Simmer 2 minutes. Keep warm. Warm grill pan, over medium-high heat; brush pan with vegetable oil. Use remaining vegetable oil to lightly coat naan on both sides. Place naan slices on pan for 1 minute; flip and repeat for one minute longer. Naan will be slightly charred, soft, and pliable. Remove pan from heat. Set aside. To assemble bread tacos, spoon picante sauce on each naan. Layer with romaine lettuce leaves, pinto beans, crumbled chorizo, Mexican blend cheeses, red onion slices, and black olives. Top with a dollop of sour cream and the remaining picante sauce. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.

Utz’s Spanish Tortilla

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Utz’s Spanish Tortilla! I like to talk with servers at restaurants. More often than not, they reveal significant tidbits about recipe ingredients or preparation that send my mind spinning. For example: Did you know instead of adding hash brown potatoes to an omelet you can substitute potato chips? When folded into a beaten egg mixture, they thicken the omelet while keeping it light and airy at the same time. It’s pure genius. After all, everyone has a bag of potato chips stashed somewhere.

UTZ’S SPANISH TORTILLA

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon olive oil

4 eggs, beaten

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 cups Utz’s Kettle Potato Chips*, crushed

Grape tomatoes, green olives, and baby spinach for garnish

Instructions:

Warm the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a small frying pan. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, seasoned salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Mix well. Fold in the crushed potato chips. Pour the mixture into the preheated pan. Cook 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Place a flat plate over the top of the pan; invert the pan onto the plate to flip the tortilla out. Slide the tortilla back into the pan with the golden side up. Cook 2-3 minutes longer until firm. Transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with grapes tomatoes, green olives, and baby spinach leaves.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning Utz’s Kettle Potato Chips.

Vegan Charcuterie Board

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Vegan Charcuterie Board! Here’s your solution to what to bring to the next holiday party. Choose popular garden veggies, distinct to the season. Arrange them on a charcuterie board with nuts and flavorful dips. Peruse the local farmers’ market or produce section of your nearest grocers. With a little effort, the Vegan Charcuterie Board can be the star attraction for office pitch-ins, family gatherings, and other festive occasions. Check it out!

VEGAN CHARCUTERIE BOARD

Ingredients:

Carrot sticks

Asparagus spears

Celery sticks

Cherry tomatoes

Mini cucumbers, sliced

Radishes, quartered

Yellow sweet peppers, sliced

Green olives, stuffed

Kalamata olives, pitted

Pistachios in shell

Assorted crackers

Ingredients for Hummus:

15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1/2 cup tahini paste

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon lemon olive oil

1 tablespoon capers

Using a food processor, pulse chickpeas until smooth. Add tahini paste, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, cumin powder, and sea salt. Process until mixed. Transfer hummus to a shallow bowl. Drizzle with lemon olive oil. Garnish with capers.

Ingredients for Dill Dip:

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon dill weed

1 teaspoon capers

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

Combine Neufchâtel cheese and prepared horseradish. Stir until smooth. Fold in dill weed, capers, and chives. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Easy Empanadas

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Easy Empanadas! Imagine this: a light, flaky, buttery pastry pocket filled with tender savory meat. Now add a kick of spice and a finish of pimento-stuffed olives. Mmmm. Sure you can add cheese or go completely vegetarian. That’s the beauty of cooking at home. Make it to suit your personal taste. Either way, in three bites, you’re ready for seconds. Don’t forget the dipping sauce.

EASY EMPANADAS

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 pound ground beef, lean

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup pimento-stuffed olives, chopped

1 egg, whisked

1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry sheets

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add oregano, sweet paprika, cumin powder, and cayenne pepper. Mix well. Add ground beef. Stir and cook until meat is crumbly. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Remove from heat. Fold in pimento-stuffed olives. Cool meat mixture completely, about two hours in the refrigerator. Cut pastry sheets into 4” rounds. Place 2 tablespoons of filling into the center of each round. Brush water around the outer edge of each round. Fold round in half. Press to seal. Using fork tines, press down on edges. Carefully transfer empanadas to the parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 1” apart. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to prevent leakage while baking. Brush empanadas with whisked egg. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce or salsa.

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.

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.

Organic Red Lentil Pasta Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Organic Red Lentil Pasta Salad! Every once in awhile it’s a good idea to serve up gluten-free meals. This one, in particular, is packed with protein and fiber, plus non-GMO red lentils. You don’t need to have allergic restrictions to appreciate its natural goodness. The texture is firm while providing an amazing taste sensation. Eat it cold or warmed up a bit. You decide. Either way, the health benefits will have you patting yourself on the back for making such a healthy choice.

ORGANIC RED LENTIL PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:

8 ounces organic red lentil pasta

1 cup broccoli florets

1 cup cauliflower florets

1/3 cup red onions, sliced

1 tablespoon pimento, diced

1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon dry Italian dressing and seasoning mix

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon natural honey

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Cook red lentil pasta 8-10 minutes, according to package directions. Water will turn cloudy and foam up, so be sure to use enough water. Remove from heat. Drain, rinse, and set aside. To make dressing, combine garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, Italian seasoning mix, Dijon mustard, and natural honey. Whisk together until nicely blended. Fill a large bowl with pasta, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, red onion slices, diced pimento, and Kalamata olives. Pour dressing over all. Toss gently to coat ingredients. Serve cold.