Rainier Cherry Watermelon Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Rainier Cherry Watermelon Salad! I’ve been in love with the taste of Rainier Cherries from my first bite. Truth be told, my love affair began long before it, though. I saw a beautiful blue French bowl overflowing with golden sunset cherries dipped in pink petal blush on the cover of a magazine. I was smitten, as with most things French, no matter the cost. I imagined the natural sweet allure as tempting as the charisma of dark chocolate. Once I grew past being spellbound, I knew I would treat myself to a pound of Rainier cherries once a year. Perhaps that is why this variety is known as the “Champagne of Cherries”.

RAINIER CHERRY WATERMELON SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups watermelon, seeds removed, cut into chunks

1 cup Rainier cherries, halved with stems and pits removed

1-2 jalapeño peppers, sliced

2 tablespoons red onion, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons lime juice

Sea Salt, optional.

Instructions:

Combine watermelon chunks, Rainier cherry halves, jalapeño peppers, and red onions. Squeeze lime juice over all. Gently toss. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt. Serve.

Papaya Pineapple Boat

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Papaya Pineapple Boat! The first time I tasted fresh papaya I was on the island of Kauai. I was told it had indescribable flavor different from cantaloupe, watermelon, or mango. They were right. Papaya is not sugary sweet. It’s light and juicy with a buttery texture that allows it to taste almost creamy. Does that make sense? The lime actually adds to the tropical ambiance, which is why I prefer a squeeze of fresh to slightly mingle with the other ingredients. I’ve read that the rough black seeds can be bitter to taste. Honestly, I’ve never gotten that far to put them to the test.

PAPAYA PINEAPPLE BOAT

Ingredients:

I ripe papaya, halved horizontally with seeds removed

1 cup pineapple chunks

1 cup blackberries

2 tablespoons red onion, cut into strips

Fresh Lime, for garnish

Instructions:

Gently remove fruit from papaya; dice into chunks. Place hollowed out shells onto shallow plates. Arrange diced papaya, pineapple chunks, fresh blackberries, and red onion strips. Squeeze lime juice over all. Allow fruit “bowls” to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. This will enhance the flavors. Serves two.

Orange-Tomato Pico de Gallo

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Orange-Tomato Pico de Gallo! Chunky sauces and relishes make a wonderful addition to any meal, in my opinion. First of all, they can be substituted for a vegetable side dish. They also serve as a nice condiment for stuffing into tacos or for sharing a plate of scrambled eggs. The vibrant colors will even catch the eye of a fussy-eater, if you know what I mean. Pico de Gallo compliments seafood, pork, chicken, and beef as well as any vegetarian star attraction. Better make a batch for dinner tonight. It’s a healthy option you can thank me for later.

ORANGE-TOMATO PICO DE GALLO

Ingredients:

4 navel oranges, peeled and chopped

2 tomatoes, diced

1 cup red onion, roughly chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons orange peel, grated

Fresh cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

In a bowl, combine chopped navel oranges, diced tomatoes, roughly chopped red onions, and finely chopped jalapeños. Toss gently. Sprinkle with kosher salt, garlic powder, ground ginger, grated orange peel, and chopped cilantro. Stir gently to combine thoroughly. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for one hour. Serve with tortilla chips.

Maryland-Style Crab Cakes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Maryland-Style Crab Cakes! When my step-daughter, Brandi, gifted me with a copy of one of her favorite seafood cookbooks, I knew exactly what dish I was going to make first. After all, the cookbook is based on a popular Hilton Head Island restaurant that has become her family’s traditional spot whenever they visit. Because Florida has an abundance of connections for fresh seafood, vendors are able to get premium, wild-caught crab meat to sell to their customers. Farmers Markets, as well as fish companies specialize in pre-made crab cakes. One taste and I thought, why compete with the best? So, I use two or three resources for incredible tasting Maryland crab cakes. Supporting local businesses builds strong communities and helps everyone thrive. For dinner in a snap, read on.

MARYLAND-STYLE CRAB CAKES

Ingredients:

6 pre-made Maryland crab cakes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup diced tomatoes

1 cup spicy Bloody Mary mix

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Lemon slices, for garnish

Parsley flakes, for garnish

Instructions:

To make the gazpacho sauce, warm olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add red onion and minced garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, Bloody Mary mix, Worcestershire sauce, sea salt, and black pepper. Stir to combine. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Transfer gazpacho to a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use. To bake the crab cakes, preheat oven to 425°. Place crab cakes on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Bake 12 minutes, flip, and bake 3 minutes longer until golden brown. To serve, ladle the slightly chilled gazpacho onto a plate; center a crab cake on top. Arrange lemon slices. Sprinkle with parsley flakes.

Lettuce Cup Shrimp Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Lettuce Cup Shrimp Salad! When you need a boost from the usual lunch menu, treat yourself to an outstanding salad that feels gourmet-worthy. As a shrimp-lover, I already had ideas about serving this to my husband. In my opinion, the bigger the shrimp you can find, the better. Because I saw for myself the seafood deli offered humongous jumbo shrimp (yeah, I know), I couldn’t resist getting a pound to take home. Here’s the secret: oftentimes the market gets specific seafood brought in frozen. Frozen shrimp is usually same-day fresh. They thaw it for the customers and sell it individually or by the pound. I asked the seafood specialist if I could buy a frozen quantity from him. He was more than happy to oblige. Now you know.

LETTUCE CUP SHRIMP SALAD

Ingredients:

1 pound jumbo shrimp, precooked and tails removed

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

1 stalk celery, sliced

2-3 lettuce leaves, washed and patted dry

Red onion, finely sliced, for garnish

Instructions:

In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, and fresh dill. Gently fold in the precooked shrimp and celery slices. Place a lettuce leaf onto a plate. Scoop shrimp salad on top. Garnish with red onion. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Serve.

Zesty Butter-Baked Crackers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Zesty Butter-Baked Crackers! When you are looking for a crunchy snack and really have no interest in leaving the house, fancy crackers satisfy. More than likely, you have all the ingredients on hand. I think you’ll be surprised. In a few minutes, the kitchen will draw curiosity-seekers who put down their electronic devices to see what smells so good. Then go one step further, serve them with a slather of cream cheese, cocktail sauce, and baby shrimp. It can transform these buttery snacks into a culinary appetizer your family will remember. Better make more and hide them in the freezer.

ZESTY BUTTER-BAKED CRACKERS

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon dill weed

1 sleeve saltine crackers

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly mist a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a microwave-safe bowl, warm butter on Low setting for 20 seconds. Add olive oil, onion powder, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, and dill weed. Stir to mix thoroughly. Take one cracker at a time, dip into the butter mixture to coat both sides, and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat until all crackers and butter are used. Arrange the crackers in a single layer by rows. Bake 10 minutes; turn over and bake 10 minutes longer. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.

Xcellent Celery Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Xcellent Celery Soup! The best intentions go out the window when you realize you have more celery in the refrigerator than you can possibly eat, even on a health-kick. Plus, I’m no longer feeding a family of four. The reality is, as I’ve aged, my appetite has waned and I no longer require three solid meals a day. Can anyone else relate? Thank goodness I like homemade soup, especially if it has potatoes in it. This slightly modified version adds celery to the pot. And since I make potato salad with celery, I didn’t think this was too much of a stretch. Perhaps you will agree.

XCELLENT CELERY SOUP

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups water

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 large russet potato, peeled and roughly chopped

3-4 celery ribs, chopped

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

2 tablespoons light cream

Garlic Croutons, for garnish

Celery Leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

In a 4-quart pan over medium-high heat, combine water, chicken bouillon, and butter. Add potato chunks, chopped celery, and yellow onion. Bring to a boil. Stir; reduce heat to low and cook until potatoes are fork-tender, approximately 20 minutes. Sprinkle in celery seed and light cream. Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse to purée, leaving enough to make the soup chunky. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with garlic croutons and celery leaves.

Vine Tomato Relish

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Vine Tomato Relish! Here’s a farm fresh recipe that can be substituted for a side salad, vegetable accompaniment, or sandwich condiment. I’ve even used it in pasta salad as well as on homemade pizza instead of marinara sauce. It’s that versatile. The fact that tomato relish is chunky makes it appealing no matter how you serve it. The herbs and spices enhance the flavor of the garden tomatoes making it a tasty treat that will surprise you. Keep a jar in the refrigerator and watch it disappear.

VINE TOMATO RELISH

Ingredients:

1 pint cherry tomatoes on the vine, halved and stems discarded

2 tablespoons thinly sliced red onion, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Italian spices

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, combine cherry tomato halves, red onions, and green onions. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian spices, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Drizzle vinaigrette over tomato mixture. Lightly toss. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour before serving.

Kielbasa Hot Dogs

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Kielbasa Hot Dogs! If you like to try something a little different than ordinary hot dogs, choose a beef sausage link that focuses more on natural flavorings like garlic, woodsmoke, cloves, or pimento. Personally, I lean more toward nitrate-free labeling, which means the preservatives are natural rather than chemically added. Every little bit helps, because sometimes eating a grilled hot dog just makes the world a happier place.

KIELBASA HOT DOGS

Ingredients:

13-ounce package of 4 kielbasa smoked sausage links, fully cooked

4 brioche split-top brioche hot dog buns

1/2 sweet onion, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup sweet pickle relish

1/4 cup yellow mustard

Instructions:

Preheat gas grill to 400°. Arrange smoked sausage links directly on the grill grates. Close lid. The total cooking time should be approximately 12 minutes. After 3 minutes, using tongs rotate each sausage link a quarter turn. Close lid. After 3 more minutes, rotate another quarter turn. Repeat until all sides have been slightly charred. It helps to keep the sausage links from touching as they cook; this allows the heat to sear the skins evenly. When finished transfer to a platter and serve with chopped onion, sweet pickle relish, and yellow mustard.