What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Tuna Tartare with Seaweed! Do you wrinkle your nose when you hear the word “raw”? Some people get a little squeamish. How about if you see the word “sushi”? My grandkids’ eyes light up and their mouths begin to salivate. See the difference? “Tartare” is a fancy word for raw meat or seafood. In Hawaii, you may see the words “Ahi Poke”, which is a healthy raw tuna dish made with the best tuna right out of the sea. By adding a mixture of ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes, the flavor becomes incredibly irresistible. Check out the closest Asian Deli to pick up a container of ready-to-serve seaweed salad. It’s already marinated in a delicious sauce. Together on a plate, you’ve just created a masterpiece.
TUNA TARTARE WITH SEAWEED
2 ahi tuna steaks, cut into 1/4” cubes
3 tablespoons organic soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 green onion
1 red jalapeño pepper, sliced
4-ounce container of prepared seaweed salad
Green onion slivers for garnish
Pat ahi tuna dry with a paper towel. Transfer to a bowl. Add organic soy sauce, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce, toasted sesame seeds, the chopped white ends of the green onions, and the red jalapeño pepper slices. Gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate one hour. To serve, place prepared seaweed salad on a plate. Layer ahi tuna over salad. Garnish with the remaining green onion curls.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Marinated Mozzarella Flatbread! You’re probably like everyone else right now and could go to the freezer to pull out a prepared flatbread for supper. Another shortcut is to use marinated mozzarella cheese which already comes sliced in a blend of herbs and olive oil. Oftentimes, I freeze a surplus of cooked meat as well. In this case I already had seasoned Italian sausage, but you could certainly switch things up with pepperoni or sun-dried tomatoes. That’s the beauty of cooking at home. The results bring satisfaction. Just be careful of those piping hot stretchy cheese pulls.
MARINATED MOZZARELLA FLATBREAD
1 prepared naan flatbread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 cup cooked and crumbled Italian sausage
16 ounces marinated mozzarella slices
Crushed basil leaves
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Preheat oven to 400°. Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of the flatbread. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Carefully flip it over onto a pizza stone. Rub the remaining olive oil onto the top of the crust. Make a layer with the crumbled Italian sausage. Arrange marinated mozzarella slices over meat. Bake for 15 -20 minutes for a crispy crust. The longer it bakes, the more gooey the cheese becomes. When finished, remove from the oven and garnish with crushed basil and red pepper flakes.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Fifteen-Bean Ham Bone Stew! This time of year the nights are chilly and the days can still be warm. A slow-cooker makes preparing a satisfying meal pretty simple. Throw everything together and let it “stew” for awhile. Nowadays you can get an assortment of 15 beans ranging from pinto, garbanzo, and northern to split pea, navy, and lentil in the same package. Add that ham bone you stored in the freezer during the holidays and you’re on your way. By adding sweet onion, diced tomatoes, and bay leaves, you’ll make this a classic favorite every time.
FIFTEEN-BEAN HAM BONE STEW
20-ounce package of 15 Bean Soup assortment
1 pound ham bone with ham chunks
32 ounces vegetable broth
32 ounces water
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
4-5 bay leaves
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Rinse beans. Place in a large pot filled with 8 cups of water. Allow beans to soak overnight. After soaking, drain water. Transfer beans to a slow-cooker. Add ham bone with meat. Cover with vegetable broth and water. Add chopped onion, chili powder, garlic powder, and bay leaves. Cook on High setting for 5 hours (or Low setting for 7-8 hours) or until beans are tender. Remove the ham bone. Let the excess meat fall off into the stew or cut it off the bone and put the meat chunks back into the crockpot. Stir in diced tomatoes, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes. Cook 30 minutes longer on Low setting. Before serving, remove bay leaves. Serve with crusty bread.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Egg Veggie Tart! Take ordinary ingredients and spread them over a prepared puff pastry crust and I promise you, your family will eat anything you serve. It’s that good. I always keep a box of frozen puff pastry on hand because it is so versatile. From main courses to desserts, they all turn out like a culinary masterpiece. For everyone to take you seriously though, be sure to wear an apron. It makes you look like a chef who means business. I think I have at least five different styles, some with pockets, some without. And I’m always open for more. Today’s version of a breakfast tart incorporates vegetables and prosciutto that not only add color, but eye appeal. Without regrets, add this recipe to your list of easy-to-assemble meals.
EGG VEGGIE TART
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
4 ounces Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin
3 ounces prosciutto, cut into strips
1/4 pound green beans, cleaned and trimmed
3 eggs plus 1 egg with 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup baby peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons green onion snips
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place puff pastry on prepared baking sheet. Using a fork, pierce the dough evenly across surface, stopping about 1/2” from the edge. At the edges, roll dough once to form a crust. This will keep the ingredients from overflowing. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven to assemble remaining ingredients. Layer the Swiss cheese on the bottom of the crust. Arrange tomatoes, prosciutto, and green beans. Crack 3 eggs onto the dough. Try to place the eggs where the vegetables will “hold” them into place. Sprinkle tart with baby peas. Drizzle with olive oil. Divide grated parmesan cheese over all. Brush the crust all the way around the tart with the egg/water mixture. This gives the crust that beautiful golden color when baked. Bake 30 minutes, or until pastry is cooked through. Garnish with green onion snips. Cut into squares. Serve immediately.
Dining Outside the Home: British Open Pub in Bonita Springs, Florida! As you stroll past the life-size armored knight statue at the entrance to this British-themed restaurant, expect some hearty dishes paired with a cold pint or two. Inside the cozy little pub, choose a barstool, patio table, or comfy booth for semi-private conversations. The menu offers a nice selection of British favorites for a bit of the unusual including Fish & Chips, Pot Roast Pastie, Liver and Onions, or Banger & Mashed. Decisions, decisions. There’s quite a nice group of English Sandwedges for something a little different, especially if you add an order of Chips & Gravy. On second thought, better plan a return visit. Portions are generous, so chances are your eyes may be bigger than your stomach. Take a nontraditional trip “across the pond” without the expense of a plane ticket.
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: Vichyssoise Cold Creamier Soup! Just hearing the word “soup” during the summer months can make someone rolls their eyes enough to make people pay no attention to what is being said. But hear me out. Let me remind you that the silky consistency of melted ice cream actually brings out the flavor more than its frozen counterpart. Right? Well, “vichyssoise” is a French word for velvety smooth potato and leek soup, usually served chilled. When eaten slightly cold, the sheer creaminess is truly divine. Leeks are mild fancy onions, so if you prefer to use yellow sweet onions, permission granted. Personally, for this recipe, I went all out and used both. I also chose Yukon potatoes for their sweet flavor and moist flesh making them fluffy in texture. Make sense? Obviously you can make modifications to suit your palate. Be creative and send me your thoughts.
VICHYSSOISE COLD CREAMIER SOUP
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
3 leeks, thoroughly rinsed and sliced; green and white parts only
2 Yukon potatoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
14 ounces chicken broth
1/2 cup light cream
Fresh chives, for garnish
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm olive oil and butter over medium heat. Sauté the yellow onion for 2 minutes until translucent. Add the leeks and sauté 5 minutes longer until soft. Add the diced potatoes and sauté for 2-3 minutes longer. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to Simmer for 30 minutes until potatoes are tender. Carefully transfer small batches of soup to a blender. Purée until smooth. Repeat process until no lumps remain. Pour the smooth texture back into the saucepan. Heat to medium. Add light cream and stir. Soup will thicken within 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature and then chill for one hour before serving. Pour into bowls and garnish with chopped chives. Serve.
Dining Outside the Home: Pepper’s Mexican Grill & Cantina in Shalimar, Florida! Sipping on a salt or sugar-rimmed margarita, with a grand marnier floater, is the only way to peruse the menu of a Mexican restaurant. The orange-flavored cognac not only adds a zing of citrus, its deep amber color elevates an ordinary cocktail to a vacation status offering perfect relaxation. A basket of homemade chips act as a modifier while you make up your mind for the main course. Tacos de Carnitas or the Taco Salad Fajitas will tickle your taste buds with marinated grilled meats that become the star attraction, enhanced by sautéed onions, chopped cilantro, and restaurant-style salsas. Seriously, this is the best way to pass the time before checking into the cottage rental on the beach.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Herbed Watercress Pistachio Salad! Everyone knows leafy greens can supercharge your diet. But not everyone is crazy about kale and arugula. Ask my husband. The strong pungent flavors of the former can step aside, as far as I’m concerned. Watercress is the new sheriff in town. Its delicate leaves reveal a slight hint of horseradish or wasabi, but with a crispier texture. To combat the bitter tang, simply add a nice citrus fruit along with the ancient royal pistachio nut. Did you know the Queen of Sheba found pistachios so delightful, she declared it was forbidden for commoners to harvest pistachio nuts for themselves? Alas, I digress. Watercress is the star attraction. Rich in vitamins, iron, calcium, and folic acid, its roots thrive in creek bottoms where clear running water encourages natural growth. Most farmers cultivate it in very wet ground providing constant moisture. Ask around at the Farmers Markets. It sells quickly to those who desire it.
HERBED WATERCRESS PISTACHIO SALAD
1 bunch watercress, roots trimmed
8 leaves fresh basil
8-10 leaves fresh mint
20 leaves Mexican tarragon
1/2 cup mandarin orange slices
1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pistachio nuts, lightly toasted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 drop orange extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
Arrange watercress, basil, mint, and Mexican tarragon on a platter. Tuck mandarin orange slices and red onion pieces throughout. Sprinkle toasted pistachio nuts over all. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, orange extract, sea salt, and pepper. Slowly add olive oil while continuing to whisk. Dressing will emulsify. Before serving, drizzle salad dressing evenly over salad.