What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Zippy Olive Pesto! Your last visit to the doctor may have been one where you received a good report, yet were advised to lean more toward a Mediterranean diet. What does that mean exactly, you wonder. In layman’s terms it simply suggests making a couple of substitutions in food choices to maintain a healthy weight, prevent heart disease, live longer, and travel often. “The healthy fats in olives are extracted to produce olive oil, one of the key components of the incredibly healthy Mediterranean diet”, according to Healthline, a provider of health information.* For many this may not be the advice you wish to hear, but for an olive-lover, like me, it is the Best.News.Ever.
ZIPPY OLIVE PESTO
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 bunch parsley, leaves only
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup organic green olives, chopped
3 tablespoons water (optional)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
In a skillet over medium-high heat, toast pine nuts turning occasionally until slightly golden, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool. In a food processor, combine parsley leaves, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes. Pulse until almost smooth. Add toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Pulse slightly. With the machine running on low, drizzle in the olive oil until combined. Transfer pesto to a bowl. Fold in the chopped green olives. Add water, if needed. Season with kosher salt. Serve over toasted bread.
*I receive no recompense for mentioning this website.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Hummus in Hindsight (without tahini)! Let’s spread the news: rules are meant to be broken. I put off making hummus because I had no tahini, sesame seed paste, in my kitchen. The last time I needed it I became frustrated because I couldn’t find it in the grocery stores. So I made it myself. The trouble is homemade tahini can be pricey as well as wasteful if you don’t use it all before it becomes bitter. Not cool. Now you have an alternative. Lose the tahini without sacrificing the taste. By adding sesame oil and spices, you still end up with a smooth, creamy paste to smear onto pita bread. And isn’t that the point?
HUMMUS IN HINDSIGHT (without tahini)
15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Drizzle of sesame oil, for topping
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Red pepper bits, for garnish
Chives, for garnish
Using a food processor, pulse the chickpeas until coarse. With the machine running, add the olive oil, sesame oil, and lemon juice until smooth and creamy. Fold in the ground cumin, Himalayan pink salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Stir well to combine. Transfer to a shallow dish. Drizzle hummus with sesame oil. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Garnish with red pepper bits and sliced chives. Serve with celery sticks, red pepper strips, and pita bread.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Exotic Pineapple Pork Loin! If you’re not a fan of pineapple, allow me to offer some reasons to give it another try. You know that bloated feeling you can get after a meal…even three hours later? Well, pineapple is actually your friend in speeding up the natural digestion of foods. It helps to break down proteins, which in turn eases that uncomfortable feeling that may keep you up at night. By pairing pineapple with pork, which is high in protein, your increased metabolism will thank you. With that being said, let’s “Dig In” for an appetizing main course.
EXOTIC PINEAPPLE PORK LOIN
2.5 pounds pork loin
1 can pineapple rings, cut in half, juices reserved
2 cups prepared barbecue sauce
1 green pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeds removed, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 450°. Place pork loin on a cutting board. Make parallel incisions along the length of the meat without cutting all the way through. Carefully transfer the pork loin to a baking pan. Fill each slot with a pineapple ring half. Combine barbecue sauce and reserved pineapple juice in a bowl. Add chopped green pepper, minced jalapeño, minced garlic, and chopped red onions. Stir to combine. Pour sauce over pork loin. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350°. Bake 50 minutes longer, or until done. Test the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. It should read 160° when done. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Creamy Honey Mustard Dressing! Imagine my delight at seeing thin sprigs of thyme with tiny spear-shaped leaves in the herb bed again. Although a perennial, thyme seems to thrive more in full sun. Doesn’t everything? Crush a few leaves to breathe in the slight, lemony aroma. Nice. There’s an easier way to remove the leaves without picking them off one by one. Position your thumb and forefinger at the non-root end of the stem, then pull backwards so the leaves fall into a dish. Discard the stem and you’re ready to go. Fresh thyme adds a nice finish to recipes whether you sprinkle the leaves as a finishing touch or use the entire sprig as a garnish. I like adding fresh herbs to salads and dressings. It’s like a delicious taste of sunshine.
CREAMY HONEY MUSTARD DRESSING
1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Fresh lemon thyme, for garnish
In a small bowl, combine Tupelo honey, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, white vinegar, and cayenne pepper. Whisk together until smooth and creamy. Add lemon thyme leaves. Drizzle over salads and vegetables.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food With Soul: Red Pepper Bruschetta Pasta! I truly enjoy perusing Italian gourmet markets. There’s something charming and romantic about choosing a jar of private-label olive oil, flavored balsamic vinegar, house roasted red pepper bruschetta, or four-fruit jam. An extensive collection of imported products can send my mind spinning as I begin to salivate with serving ideas. There are often aromas of freshly baked bread, smoked and cured meats, unique deli offerings, an antipasto bar, pizza nook, and fresh burrata station. San Marzano tomatoes always seem to make it into my cart as well as olive tapenades and basil pesto or marinated artichoke hearts. Before you leave, don’t forget a nice bottle of Chianti.
RED PEPPER BRUSCHETTA PASTA
8 ounces spaghetti pasta
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/3-1/2 cup red pepper bruschetta, prepared
Basil leaves, for garnish
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta in salted water for 8-10 minutes or until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta in a colander. Transfer cooked pasta back to the pot. Add prepared red pepper bruschetta mixture. Gently toss; heat through. Using tongs, place spaghetti clusters into a serving bowl. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food With Soul: Island Pineapple Salsa! For healthy taste with a breath of an island paradise mixed in, treat yourself to this virtuous condiment that goes well with practically anything. Grilled meats, charred veggies, fresh fish, and exotic seafood are great dinner companions as well. For an excellent appetizer, serve the pineapple salsa with lightly seasoned tortilla chips. Goes well with tiki-themed cocktails showcasing dark rum floaters. Can you hear me now?
ISLAND PINEAPPLE SALSA
2 cups pineapple, tidbits
1/4 cup red pepper, diced
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Combine pineapple tidbits, red pepper, red onion, green onions, chopped ginger, and soy sauce in a bowl. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food With Soul: Foiled Potatoes! Have I mentioned how much I like my new outdoor kitchen? Living in Florida, the weather is so tropical it makes cooking outdoors an effortless way to prepare meals. Grilling seems to make food taste better and roasted potatoes easily become a star attraction. And the best part is dining alfresco. This is what I call a “stay-cation”.
2 baking potatoes
1/2 sweet onion, sliced
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat the grill to 400°. Wash the potatoes and pat dry. Pierce each potato with a knife. Microwave for 4 minutes on 100% power. Remove from microwave and allow to cool, slightly. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with nonstick oil. Cut the potatoes into 1/4” slices. Arrange potatoes on foil. Top with sliced onions. Add pats of butter over all. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and black pepper. Fold the packet to seal. Place the sealed foil packet directly onto the grill grates. Close lid. Cook for 10 minutes; carefully flip packet and cook 10 minutes longer. Transfer foiled potatoes to a platter. Be aware of steam when the packet is opened. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food With Soul: Egg Noodle Bowl! Cooking eggs in the microwave has spoiled me. No fuss, no mess, and practically perfect every time. Do-ahead noodles can be a time saver, as well. But back to the eggs. When using a custard dish, two eggs can easily be prepared in the same dish by increasing the time to 2 minutes. Always cover the dish with a silicone lid or paper towel in case the egg “pops”. Otherwise, it can be an annoying mess to clean up later. Trust me. Once the egg is finished, live boldly and add a dollop of sea salt butter to melt into it. That adds glorious flavor, without regrets
EGG NOODLE BOWL
1 cup fine egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
1/2 cup grilled chicken strips, precooked and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon seasoned soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 green onion, chopped
Pinch herb garlic seasoning
Sriracha sauce, to taste
Once the fine egg noodles are cooked, drain and transfer to a serving bowl. Microwave the chicken chunks on 40% for 2 minutes in the seasoned soy sauce sprinkled with red pepper flakes. Add to the noodle bowl; gently toss. Add the green onions. Set aside. Spray a custard dish with nonstick oil. Crack the egg into it. Pierce the yolk with a toothpick. Sprinkle herb garlic seasoning on top. Cover. Microwave egg on 40% power for 1 1/2 minutes, for runny results. Increase time at 12-second intervals for a hard cooked yolk. Transfer the egg to the top of the noodles. Top with sriracha sauce, to taste. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Swordfish on the Grill! Swordfish is called “Steak” for a reason. Forget fishy-tasting fish. (Say that 3 times really fast!) Swordfish, when grilled, looks more like a ribeye steak. It’s a dense, thick piece of fish. Now that doesn’t mean it is dry and tough. Actually the opposite is true. When you plan ahead and use a marinade, it becomes meaty and juicy, thereby satisfying both meat lovers and fish lovers. You can tell it is cooked because it actually changes color. One more thing, when setting the table…don’t forget the steak knife.
SWORDFISH ON THE GRILL
4 6-ounce swordfish steaks
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon garlic red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Rinse swordfish; pat dry. Set aside. To make the marinade, combine olive oil, soy sauce, garlic red-wine vinegar, dried rosemary, minced garlic, ground coriander, ground cumin, grated lemon rind, and red pepper flakes. Whisk to blend. Place swordfish steaks in a single layer of a shallow dish. Pour marinade over all. Coat both sides of fish. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours. Remove dish from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature while preheating the gas grill to 400°. Place swordfish steaks on the preheated grill. Close lid and cook for 5 minutes. Turn, close lid, and cook 5 minutes longer. Fish will be charred on the edges. Serve immediately.