Date Chile Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Date Chile Salad! One of the best kept secrets in cooking is infused olives oils. It kicks things up a notch. The flavors intensify ordinary ingredients by beginning with organic and aromatic extra virgin olive oils, which in turn, are infused with delightful natural flavors. Some oils contain the essence of herbs, while others may be crushed with fresh citrus or toasted seeds. Be adventurous. Visit a specialty store where premium olive oils and balsamic vinegars are sold. Most stores offer samples to encourage “taste testing”. One of my favorites is Lime Olive Oil and Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar. Another is Sicilian Lemon Olive Oil paired with Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar. Recently I added an Italian Black Truffle Oil to my collection. I was told it tastes divine drizzled over popcorn or as a finishing oil on pizza. I can’t wait!

DATE CHILE SALAD

Ingredients:

2 navel oranges, pith and peel removed

1/3 cup dried dates, chopped

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 red or green jalapeño pepper, sliced into rings

1/2 serrano chile pepper, sliced into rings

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

1-2 tablespoons lime olive oil

Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Slice oranges into thin rounds. Arrange on two salad plates or bowls. Divide chopped dates between them. Sprinkle on crumbled feta cheese. Add jalapeño and serrano pepper rings. Tuck in mint leaves. Drizzle lime olive oil over salads. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Serve.

Herbed Watercress Pistachio Salad

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Quaker Oat Breakfast Companions

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Quaker Oat Breakfast Companions! I must confess, some days a cup of Italian espresso and a crispy wafer roll is enough to get my engine up and running. But on those mornings when I wake up ravenous, I turn to a hearty bowl of Quaker Oats with all the trimmings: pomegranate arils, orange slices, almonds, cinnamon, and brown sugar. I appreciate the fiber, fruit, and nuts for healthy living. Topped with a bit of honey and milk in lieu of brown sugar, and I’m left feeling full for longer periods of time. Plus, it’s a good source of fiber and iron. Switch things up now and then by choosing a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.

QUAKER OAT BREAKFAST COMPANIONS

Ingredients:

1 cup milk

1 dash sea salt

1 dash cinnamon

1/2 cup whole grain oats

1 mandarin orange, peeled

1 tablespoon almond slices

1 tablespoon pomegranate arils

1 teaspoon brown sugar or natural honey

Instructions:

Combine milk, salt, cinnamon, and oats in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on High 2 1/2-3 minutes. Remove and mix well. Top with oranges, almonds, arils, and honey.

Iceberg Lettuce Cranberry Pecan Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Iceberg Lettuce Cranberry Pecan Salad! Make today an easy day. Throw together a tossed salad that will satisfy hunger pangs with the crunch of lettuce, the natural sweetness of fruit, lean meat, the salty mix of pecans, protein-packed eggs, and heart-healthy bleu cheese. Bonus points include a natural source of fiber, weight control, plus super-convenience. Not only is salad a time-saver, it is also a money-saver. Most of all, you’re worth it.

ICEBERG LETTUCE CRANBERRY PECAN SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups iceberg lettuce, shredded

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 cup mandarin orange slices

1/3 cup sugared pecans

1 cup grilled chicken, cut-up

1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese

2 soft-boiled eggs, halved

Balsamic vinaigrette, to taste

Instructions:

Divide iceberg lettuce between salad bowls. Top with dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, sugared pecans, cut-up grilled chicken, and bleu cheese crumbles. Place soft boiled egg half on top. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette, to taste.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter Q

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Quartered Chicken with Oranges! If you are fortunate enough to be the recipient of a Fruit-of-the-Month Club, you will not only have premium fresh fruit delivered to your door, but tucked inside the box is a recipe card with serving suggestions. Thanks go out to the families of Brandi and Jennifer! Today’s special features the Cara Cara Orange, which is a sweet seedless variety with interesting undertones of cherry and blackberry. The delightful taste is less acidic than ordinary oranges. And the pinkish-red flesh reminded me of its distant cousin, the blood orange. My compliments to Harry & David.* 
QUARTERED CHICKEN WITH ORANGES
Ingredients:

2 sections of quartered chicken, leg and thigh portion

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 Cara Cara oranges, quartered 

1/2 onion, chopped in chunks

2 cloves garlic, chopped 

2 tablespoons olive oil 

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence 

2 sprigs fresh thyme
Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 350°. Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. Place chicken in an iron skillet. Surround it with oranges, onion, and garlic. Rub the chicken well with olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary leaves and Herbes de Provence. Tuck two sprigs of thyme in between chicken. Bake one hour until golden and internal temperature is 165°. 
*I receive no recompense for featuring Harry & David Fruit-of-the-Month. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet; Letter M

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Mandarin Orange Side Salad! Whenever I serve this colorful side salad to my guests, they rave about the dressing. I create my own version of infused garlic oil, but it can be purchased at your local grocery. Dark, leafy watercress can also be found at the area Farmers Market this time of year. A little bit goes a long way in adding a surprisingly light peppery taste. When partnered with oranges and tomatoes, it refreshes the palate for the next course. If you like a tastier and fresher alternative to an ordinary garden salad, give this one a whirl. 
MANDARIN ORANGE SIDE SALAD
Ingredients:

1/2 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup watercress

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

18 mandarin orange segments 

1/4 cup bacon pieces

1/4 cup almonds, sliced

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved
Instructions:

Divide the romaine lettuce, watercress, cherry tomatoes, mandarin oranges, bacon, almonds, and cheese evenly between 6 salad bowls. Serve chilled with dressing. (See dressing recipe below.)
Dressing Ingredients:

1/2 cup garlic vegetable oil

3 tablespoons wine vinegar 

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 

1/4 cup red onion, chopped
Instructions:

Combine garlic vegetable oil, wine vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, sea salt, dry mustard, and onion. Whisk well until blended. Refrigerate one hour before serving. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet; Letter A

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen?  Apricot-Orange Crumble Bars!  Who doesn’t love this saucy little fruit?  Apricots add an exotic touch of class to everything from appetizers to dessert. Try a dollop of jam on a round of baked Camembert cheese sometime.  It is decadent!  My recipe today serves as a breakfast food, an afternoon snack, or a delicate dessert option.  

APRICOT-ORANGE CRUMBLE BARS

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup butter
1cup sugar
Directions:
Cream together sugar and butter. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together. Add dry ingredients together. Spread 3/4 of batter into a 9×13 greased dish.  Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.  Spread 12 ounce dollops of Bonne Maman Apricot Preserves* on top.  Slice dried apricot pieces over jam mixture.  Fill in with a tablespoon or two of Bonne Maman Orange Marmalade*.  Crumble remaining batter on top.  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup brown sugar.  Bake 350* for 30-35 minutes.  Cool slightly and cut into 24 squares. 
* Bonne Maman is a product of France.