Aqua in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Aqua in Naples, Florida! You can’t miss this Fifth Avenue restaurant because of the stunning cobalt blue goblets placed atop white tablecloths for open-air dining. Look above them and see the restaurant name: AQUA followed by Seafood & Steak. That says it all. The Mediterranean-style gourmet dishes satisfy whatever mood you’re in. Begin with a luscious bowl of New England Clam Chowder. Follow it up with the lightly grilled Romaine Caesar Salad. Ask for anchovies; you won’t regret it. Move on to the Chilean sea bass, lobster tail, crusted snapper, king crab legs, or calamari. There is no wrong choice. Others might gravitate toward a juicy filet mignon or perhaps a Berkshire pork chop. From land to sea, the choices are endless. It’s best to make it date night so you can nibble off each other’s plates. The night simply isn’t long enough to try everything your heart desires.

La Sorpresa Latina Cuban Café in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: La Sorpresa Latina Cuban Cafe in Naples, Florida! For the real taste of Cuba, you go to the source. But if a journey 90 miles from the southernmost point of Florida is not in the near future, no worries. Thanks to La Sorpresa, a family-owned place for a quick bite and a signature coffee, you can get a killer Cuban Sandwich stateside. This popular sammie is stuffed with shredded pork, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, and yellow mustard. Go ahead and add some hot sauce for extra kick. Everything is pressed together like a panini, making it the perfect handheld option. Because the crusty bread is bakery-made, you might think about sharing. Cuban bread is formed in the shape of a baguette, only with plenty of air pockets, so it could be over twelve inches long. It has a touch of sweetness that makes you crave another bite. We ordered two Cuban Sandwiches the first time and ended up cutting one in half for lunch. ‘Course that meant we got to eat the same thing the next day. By the time we left the café, we had an order of plantains and an extra loaf of Cuban bread. After all, dreams do come true. You just have to believe it.

Texas Tony’s Rib & Brewhouse in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Texas Tony’s Rib & Brewhouse in Naples, Florida! Look for the curls of woodsmoke arising from the barbecue smoker along Tamiami Trail. It’s mighty important to slow cook cuts of beef brisket and pork butts so the exterior is browned just right while the interior remains tender and juicy. Barbecuing is an art, after all. Follow the smoke signals to enter Texas Tony’s where the meat is cooked low and slow all day long to achieve perfection. Using orange tree wood seems to be the Floridian secret. Mild, but definitely delicious. Dinners are complemented by homemade corn bread or Texas toast, sweet coleslaw, baked potato, or cowboy beans. And the sauces: sweet, tangy, spicy. Go wild; mix and match. Everything gets washed down easily when drinks are 2 for 1 all day long. Better check out what you might be missing.

Su’s Garden Chinese Restaurant on Marco Island, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Su’s Garden Chinese Restaurant on Marco Island, Florida! Pay no attention to the golden lions guarding the serpent-wrapped columns as you enter through the glass doors, unless you want to take a photo. Dining areas are set with white tablecloths, printed placemats, and flatware. Meals are served in Old World style on blue and white designed dishes by attentive servers. Portions are generous and filling. The menu offers tasty appetizers, savory soups, and extensive house specialties with steamed or fried rice. Pay attention to the dishes that promote peppery hot, spicy ingredients for those who crave that Szechwan kick. One mustn’t forget a pot of the blended hot tea for the ultimate dining experience. When you can go no further, sit back, break open the fortune cookie, read the message, and eat the cookie. Perfect meals require perfect endings.

Pulled Pork BBQ Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Pulled Pork BBQ Pizza! Need a break from ordinary pizza? Here’s a unique twist on an old classic. Take southern pulled pork, usually served on a toasted bun, lose the bread, and spread the pork over pizza crust instead. Tangy barbecue sauce is used in lieu of marinara, providing just enough zing to alert the taste buds. Since barbecue sauces come in a multitude of options from hickory smoke to brown sugar sweet, you may want to blend two flavors together like I’ve done here. The results will astound you.

PULLED PORK BBQ PIZZA

Ingredients:

1 prepared pizza crust

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon cornmeal

3/4 cup barbecue sauce

1/4 cup chili cocktail sauce

1 cup pulled pork

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Rub both sides of prepared pizza crust with olive oil. Season bottom with garlic powder. Sprinkle cornmeal over the bottom side. Bake on a pizza stone for 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Combine barbecue sauce and chili cocktail sauce. Mix well. Spoon onto pizza dough. Top with pulled pork and mozzarella cheese. Return to oven and bake 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown.

Pork Tamales

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Pork Tamales! I have high respect for the Mexican culture, especially when it comes to cooking. For years I have procrastinated about making tamales, probably because I love them and really don’t want that to change. Seriously though, for me the Mexican homemade version is labor intensive. Most little girls were taught the family traditions by their mothers and grannies. To them it comes easily as an art form after decades of making the traditional dish. Sauces from scratch can take an entire day if you begin with boiling the chilies and blending the spices. I left that labor of love for the pros. Now if you’re game, roll up your sleeves, tie on an apron, and let’s get started.

PORK TAMALES

Ingredient Toppings for Tamales:

Tomatoes, diced

Green onions, sliced

Lettuce, chopped

Lime wedge, for garnish

Ingredients for Corn Husks:

6-ounce package dried corn husks

Instructions:

Soak corn husks in hot water for one hour or until softened. Drain husks; pat dry. Set aside.

Ingredients for Cornmeal Dough:

1 1/4 cups solid shortening

4 cups corn masa mix

1 3/4 cups warm chicken broth

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons paprika

Instructions for Cornmeal Dough:

In a large bowl, beat solid shortening on medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy, about 3 minutes. In another bowl, stir corn masa mix, chicken broth, salt, and paprika until combined. Gradually add corn masa mixture to shortening, beating on medium speed just until blended after each addition. Cover dough with plastic wrap until ready to use. Set aside.

Ingredients for Pork Filling:

2 cups fully cooked roast pork, shredded

10-ounce can mild diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained

3/4 cup barbecue sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions for Pork Filling:

In a bowl, combine shredded pork, diced tomatoes and green chilies, barbecue sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, red pepper flakes, and salt. Stir until well blended. Set aside.

Ingredients for Tamale Sauce:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups unsalted beef broth

2 tablespoons adobo sauce from chipotles in adobo

2 teaspoons taco seasoning

Instructions for Tamale Sauce:

In a skillet over medium heat, warm unsalted butter. Do not scorch. Sprinkle in flour, whisking until a paste is formed. Stir 2 minutes longer. Gradually add beef broth, stirring constantly. Allow mixture to slightly thicken, about 5 minutes. Add adobo sauce and taco seasoning. Stir until combined. Set aside. Serve warm over tamales.

Instructions for Assembling Tamales:

Spread about 3 tablespoons of Cornmeal Dough into a 3”x3 1/2” rectangle in center of one corn husk. Spoon one heaping tablespoon of meat filling down the center of the Cornmeal Dough rectangle. Fold long side of husk over, enclosing meat filling with Cornmeal Dough. Fold bottom of husk over folded sides, leaving top end open. Tie with strips of corn husk or bakery twine. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with remaining ingredients. In a 16-quart tamale steamer pot, fill water to about 1/2” from the bottom of the rack. Stand tamales above the water level, closed end down, on rack in steamer.* Cover the tamales with leftover husks and a clean cloth before placing the lid on the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and steam over medium heat for two hours until masa is no longer doughy. Add water as necessary. Take one tamale from the middle to check it is done before turning pot off. When done, allow tamales to cool for 10 minutes to set properly. To serve, transfer tamales to a platter. Unwrap a tamale, ladle on the sauce, and top with diced tomatoes, green onion slices, and chopped lettuce. Garnish with lime wedge. Serve immediately.

*In order to keep the tamales upright, put a heat-proof cup, bottom up, in the middle of the rack. It will help the tamales to balance upright.

Vineyard Pork Tenderloins

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Vineyard Pork Tenderloin! Pinot Noir is one of my favorite wines. Despite its complex flavors of woodsy cherry and forest-path raspberry, it leans toward a drier side without making your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth. That being said, it’s often challenging to figure out what food pairings work well with it. Obviously, pasta dishes provide a natural choice. But have you thought about grilled steak, roasted chicken, or pork tenderloin? Pause a moment; take a deep breath. Now transport yourself to a sun-soaked villa along a pebbled path to a harvest table overlooking acres of rolling hills bursting with ripe grape clusters. Taste and sip. Eventually you’re going to take a seat and linger over dinner. Read on.

VINEYARD PORK TENDERLOIN

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

2 medium pork tenderloins, boneless

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 egg, beaten

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 tablespoon parsley flakes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a wire rack with nonstick oil. Place rack onto a baking sheet. Set aside. Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add panko breadcrumbs, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes until golden brown. Transfer crumbs to a shallow dish. Set aside to cool. To prepare pork tenderloins, place one piece in a gallon-size ziploc bag. Using a rolling pin, flatten the meat to 1/4” thickness. Place the pork loin aside and repeat with second piece. Pat dry on paper towels. In a shallow dish, whisk together mayonnaise, egg, kosher salt, and black pepper. Mix well. To the panko breadcrumbs, add parmesan cheese, parsley flakes, and garlic powder. Mix well. Dip each pork tenderloin in the egg mixture. Dredge completely in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to stick. Repeat for extra crispy crust. Place tenderloins on wire rack. Bake for 15-20 minutes until tenderloins are golden brown. Serve immediately.

Gherkin Pork Sliders

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Gherkin Pork Sliders! Mini sandwiches are popping up on bar and grill menus all over the place. What that translates to the consumer is unspoken permission to have seconds. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It’s a way to try creative small bites to match your mood. Did you know the toppings can include creamy coleslaw, mac ’n cheese, crunchy potato chips, pineapple salsa, onion rings, and anything else you find delicious? Just like this recipe. If you prefer dill gherkins to sweet ones, by all means tweak it up. After all, in your kitchen you’re in charge.

GHERKIN PORK SLIDERS

Ingredients:

12-count slider buns

3 cups precooked pulled pork

1/2 cup hickory-smoked barbecue sauce

1/4 cup unsalted butter

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon onion salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

1 pint deli coleslaw

Sweet gherkins

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Slice the slider buns horizontally in half. Remove the tops and set aside. Transfer the bottom half of the buns to a 9”x13” glass dish. Spread the precooked pulled pork evenly on the buns. Layer with barbecue sauce. Replace the tops of the buns. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine unsalted butter, Worcestershire sauce, onion salt, garlic powder, and poppy seeds. Warm the mixture on 20% for 15 seconds in the microwave. Stir. Repeat, if necessary, until completely melted. Brush the butter mixture over the tops of the buns. Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes longer. Once cool, separate sliders. Serve with coleslaw and sweet gherkins.

Wonton Nachos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Wonton Nachos! Sounds strange, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought the first time I glanced around the restaurant where couples sat munching away on the mountain of gooey cheese and triangular chips. Fusion foods combine different cultures. There are no rules and this proves it. Take Asian wonton wrappers and blend them with Mexican seasonings and salsa for a perfect pairing. Because wonton wrappers are paper thin dough, they bake up in a matter of minutes. Don’t forget the sprinkling of sea salt. By the time the margaritas are mixed, everything is ready to be assembled onto a platter of spicy Wonton Nachos that encourage conversation. Now put down your cell phones and eat!

WONTON NACHOS

Ingredients:

12-ounce package of wonton wrappers

Nonstick oil

Sea salt

8-ounce package Mexican-style cheese, shredded

Toppings of choice

Salsa for dipping

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside. Cut each wonton wrapper in half diagonally, or quarters if you desire smaller chips. Place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Coat the tops with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake 10 minutes, or until crispy. Turn for even browning. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Repeat until all chips have been made. To make nachos, arrange chips in an ovenproof dish. Add Mexican cheese and toppings of choice. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with salsa.