Salad on a Fork

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Salad on a Fork! Try something different the next time you throw a party. Instead of serving an ordinary relish tray, choose interesting veggies to spear on a salad fork. Your guests will be so intrigued, they won’t realize they’ve chosen a salad bite over a brownie. Cherry tomatoes, crunchy romaine, and garden green beans make preparation easy. Offer two or three salad dressings for topping things off. Portions are bite-sized to avoid waste. Forks stand upended in a bowl or a pitcher. I happened to have an antique ice bucket that worked out nicely. Variety creates a beautiful presentation, so include baby carrots, snow peas, and perhaps a piece of bacon. Just think of it as a “conversation starter”.

SALAD ON A FORK

Ingredients:

1 bunch romaine lettuce

1 head iceberg lettuce

10.5 ounces cherry tomatoes

1/2 pound fresh green beans

Prepared salad dressings

Salad forks

Instructions:

Wash and pat dry lettuce, tomatoes, and green beans. Tear or cut lettuce leaves into bite-sized portions. Spear several leaves onto a salad fork. Add a green bean. Crown with a cherry tomato. Stand the forks upright in a bowl. Repeat steps until all the forks are used and the bowl is filled. Squeeze bottles of 2-3 prepared salad dressings make self-serve options available and entertaining.

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.

Alberto’s on Fifth in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Alberto’s on Fifth in Naples, Florida! There’s nothing that makes me feel more special than dining on white linen tablecloths. Call me crazy, but I simply love it. Now, imagine this table in the mountainous part of Northern Italy where the chef is transforming ordinary food into spectacular dishes. The secret, you wonder? Fresh, local vegetables, pasta, and seafood with fewer processed ingredients. Traditions are important, cutting corners is not. Each dish is a form of art. Creamy mozzarella, salty prosciutto, and fresh basil leaves will literally drive your tastebuds crazy. Listen to the chatter. Crowd-pleasers are everywhere. Linger over the delicious Italian balsamic vinaigrette drizzled over a garden salad. The aromas seduce the palate with a slightly spicy taste. Aging is the secret, of course. But it doesn’t matter what I say, it’s the velvety texture on the tongue that is the judge. Take smaller bites to enjoy the meal longer. It has profound effects that will find you enjoying the meal with satisfying results.

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.

Lansdowne Street in Bonita Springs, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Lansdowne Street in Bonita Springs, Florida! Whoever says Time Travel isn’t possible never set foot inside this New England-style pub featuring show stopping sports, gastronomic grub, and bottomless brews. Sure you can still pop in for a cozy table near the fireplace or an open table on the outdoor patio, even if you aren’t a Red Sox fan. It’s all about gathering together for a great meal of Tidbits, Soup, Wicked Huge Salads, Signature Sammies, or whatever the master chef chooses to feature that day. Look around. The memorabilia is as interesting as the patrons. Everyone is talking, laughing, or cheering from one end to the other. Next time you’re up for a lively experience, think Lansdowne Street where everyone seems to be a winner.

Bistro 821 in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Bistro 821 in Naples, Florida! Located in the heart of historic Olde Naples along Fifth Avenue, not far from the beaches of the Gulf Coast, Bistro 821 awaits you. Whether you choose a charming indoor table for two or alfresco dining along the thoroughfare, excitement grows among the pulse of activity. Look around; notice the ambiance of European architecture. Peruse the world-class menu as you sip on a crafted cocktail of choice. There’s a lot to be said for enjoying the mood, quality, and atmosphere. These are the times we remember as special. Small plates make great beginnings for a taste of seafood. Graze through a salad as the conversation flows before deciding on a main course entree. Experienced servers are happy to answer any questions you may have. Before the evening comes to a close, save room for dessert, a specialty coffee, or the perfect nightcap.

Underrated Summertime Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Underrated Summertime Supper! Does anyone have a Himalayan Salt Block besides me? Well, one of the things I like about it is, it can take the guesswork out of adding seasoning to food. It’s a block of pink salt, after all. When serving cold foods like salads, fruits, and cheeses, refrigerate the salt block overnight before using. This helps to keep foods chilled for hours when you need it. Simply arrange the ingredients directly on the block, drizzle on the dressing, and you’re good-to-go. Clean up is easy. Never use soap; salt is naturally antibacterial. Remove food residue with a damp cloth or sponge. Rinse it with a clean swipe, then dab dry. Allow the salt block to air-dry before next use. You’re done.

UNDERRATED SUMMERTIME SUPPER

Ingredients:

4 ounces goat’s milk cheese, plain

1 teaspoon Italian dry mix spice blend

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

8 ounces mixed greens, washed

1 Roma tomato, chopped

4 assorted mini sweet peppers, stems and seeds removed, sliced into rings

2 radishes, sliced very thin

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

Crusty Artisan Bread

Instructions:

On a sheet of waxed paper, sprinkle Italian dry mix spice blend and red pepper flakes. Form the goat’s milk cheese into a ball. Roll it in the spice mix to cover all sides. Place cheese ball on the chilled Himalayan salt block. Next, arrange mixed greens in a single layer. Arrange Roma tomatoes, mini sweet peppers, radish slices, and red onion rings. Sprinkle Herbes de Provence over top. Drizzle balsamic reduction sauce over salad. Serve with crusty artisan bread.

Smoked Turkey Thyme Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Smoked Turkey Thyme Salad! One of my offseason luxuries is baking a turkey during the summer months. Think about it. There’s less holiday stress, plenty of time, and loads of leftover ideas. Think it’s way too much meat for the two of you? No worries. Divide the cooked turkey into gallon-size freezer bags to use as timesaving options later on. Turkey makes a refreshing substitute for most chicken or pork recipes by simply adding different herbs and spices. I’ve served turkey carnitas with chunky salsa for a Mexican fiesta, shredded turkey and hash browns with eggs for a weekend breakfast, and added garden vegetables for a farm table midday Cobb salad. Today though, in lieu of chicken salad, turkey is the star attraction for a summertime picnic.

SMOKED TURKEY THYME SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked turkey, shredded

1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1/3 cup sweet pickle relish

1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine shredded turkey, liquid smoke, mayonnaise, sea salt, black pepper, chopped celery, and sweet pickle relish. Mix well. Gently fold in chopped hard-boiled egg and minced thyme leaves. Serve over a bed of alfalfa sprouts, or mixed greens, with seasonal fruit.

Orzo Shrimp Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Orzo Shrimp Salad! In case you did a double-take, this is not a rice dish. Orzo, for those who are new to its origin, is a rice-shaped pasta popular in Italy. Most often it is used in soups, chilled salads, and pasta recipes. It is not gluten-free, if that is important to you. Because of its unique texture, the flavor of orzo bonds wonderfully with olive oil or butter and fresh herbs. Make it early in the day or right before supper. Either way, the taste is incredible with garden fresh veggies and cocktail shrimp. A little orzo goes a long way.

ORZO SHRIMP SALAD

Ingredients:

1/4 cup lemon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup uncooked orzo

1/2 pound precooked jumbo cocktail shrimp

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dill

1/2 teaspoon tarragon leaves, chopped

4 ounces asparagus, sliced into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed

1/2 cup frozen English peas, thawed

Lemon slices for garnish

Instructions:

For dressing, whisk together lemon olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, kosher salt, and black pepper. Set aside. Prepare orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Transfer to a platter and cool 10 minutes to room temperature. In a skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Remove shells from shrimp tails. Place shrimp in a single layer in the skillet. Sprinkle with dill and tarragon. Lightly brown, turning once. Reduce heat to keep from burning. Remove from stove. Let shrimp cool. Meanwhile, in a steamer basket, bring water to a boil. Add asparagus, sugar snap peas, and English peas. Cook 2 minutes until bright green and tender crisp. Immediately transfer vegetables to an ice bath. Drain. Toss together shrimp and vegetables with orzo. Drizzle with lemon dressing, to taste. Toss to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Garnish with lemon slices.