Za’atar Avocado Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Za’atar Avocado Salad! Za’atar is one of those words that sounds mystical and magical to me, like “Abracadabra” or “Shazaam”. Sprinkling this Middle Eastern spice on fresh salads, meat dishes, or even homemade hummus guarantees to mysteriously transport you to faraway lands. Open the jar and sprinkle a little bit onto the palm of your hand. Dip your tongue into the blend of spices. Taste that earthiness? It’s cumin and toasted sesame. You already detect the savory flavors of oregano, marjoram, and thyme. But what is that unexpected tanginess? Can you guess? It’s sumac, the secret ingredient. Za’atar is a one-spice wonder you may want to sprinkle into olive oil to slather onto focaccia bread. Do it. Once you try it, watch it disappear. It’s that good.

ZA’ATAR AVOCADO SALAD

Ingredients:

1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon lime juice

3 hearts of palm, cut into thin rounds

1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed

2 radishes, sliced thin

1 tablespoon za’atar seasoning

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon raw honey

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Grated zest of lemon, for garnish

Instructions:

Arrange the avocado slices in a single layer on a platter. Drizzle lemon juice over slices. Scatter the hearts of palm over the avocados. Top with shelled edamame. Insert sliced radishes throughout. Sprinkle za’atar seasoning over all. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, rice vinegar, and raw honey until blended. Season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Spoon the dressing over the salad. Garnish with lemon zest. Serve immediately.

East-West Shrimp Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: East-West Shrimp Salad! Shrimp, on its own, is a star attraction for a special meal. That pretty much goes without saying. I like the idea that shrimp makes a main course look complex, or restaurant-worthy. By adding steamed mukimame, mandarin oranges, sesame seeds, and soy sauce, suddenly an everyday garden salad sings a different tune. The fusion of flavors becomes enlightening, like the eternal knowledge of an Eastern sunrise. Is it any wonder I heart shrimp?

EAST-WEST SHRIMP SALAD

Ingredients:

1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined, and cooked

1/2 cup mukimame, steamed

1/2 cup mandarin orange segments

1/2 cup baby cucumber, skin on and sliced

1/4 red pepper, cut into strips

Lettuce greens

Ingredients for Dressing:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons garlic wine vinegar

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning mix

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Instructions:

Prepare the shrimp according to package directions. Set aside. Arrange lettuce greens on a salad plate. Add steamed mukimame, mandarin orange segments, sliced cucumbers, and red pepper strips. In a bowl, combine olive oil, garlic wine vinegar, agave nectar, mayonnaise, Italian seasoning mix, soy sauce, ground ginger, and toasted sesame seeds. Mix well. Pour dressing over salads and toss to coat. Arrange shrimp on top to spotlight. Serve immediately.

April’s Potato Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: April’s Potato Salad! For years whenever I made a six-hour road trip to visit my best friend, April, I would request her famous potato salad. Upon arrival, between hugs and laughter, we’d eventually meander to the front porch with a couple of ham sandwiches and a plate of homemade potato salad. As we’d sit there gazing out over cornfields at sunset, I’d inhale the intoxicating scent of juicy sweet corn, the pleasant odor of dewy stalks, humid green earth, and maybe even a touch of honey from waning wildflowers. I probably said the same thing over and over every year, “Life doesn’t get any better than this.”

APRIL’S POTATO SALAD

Ingredients:

7 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

5 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup celery, chopped

1/2 cup onion, chopped

Instructions:

Boil potatoes in salted water for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Set aside. Combine mayonnaise, vinegar, yellow mustard, sea salt, and black pepper. Mix well. In a large bowl, add cooked potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, chopped celery, and chopped onions. Toss to combine. Pour mayonnaise mixture over all. Coat well. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Xanadu Pasta Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Xanadu Pasta Salad! At first glance, this may appear as a five-minute throw-together meal. Think again. In actuality, the magic begins once half the ingredients are combined and tucked away in the refrigerator for a couple days to marinate. At this point, the pasta actually transforms into a gourmet dish you are likely to have tasted at a family-owned sandwich shoppe or small town deli. One forkful may leave you wondering if this is all a dream. Is that music I hear in the background? Xanadu. Quickly, store those thoughts in your memory bank. I have no doubt you’ll return there for more.

XANADU PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:

16 ounces vermicelli spaghetti pasta

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons seasoned salt

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 pint red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

8 ounces small mozzarella balls, halved

1 teaspoon crushed oregano

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

Cook vermicelli according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Combine cooked pasta, kosher salt, seasoned salt, lemon juice, and vegetable oil. Pour mixture into a gallon ziplock bag. Refrigerate for two days, turning a couple times to marinate flavors. Then pour seasoned pasta into a large bowl. Spoon in red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Add small mozzarella balls. Sprinkle with crushed oregano. Gently toss. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.

Strawberries Stuffed With Chicken Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Strawberries Stuffed with Chicken Salad! Has anyone noticed the ginormous strawberries lately? I was beginning to wonder if I fell asleep for a few years, like Rip Van Winkle, and awoke to discover that gigantic plants have overrun the earth. Ordinarily I’d serve chicken salad on a cantaloupe wedge, but guess who has competition now. May the better fruit win.

STRAWBERRIES STUFFED WITH CHICKEN SALAD

Ingredients:

2 romaine lettuce leaves, washed

2 extra-large strawberries, washed

1/2 cup cooked chicken, shredded

2 tablespoons celery, finely chopped

1 tablespoon almonds, chopped

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Mint leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Place romaine lettuce leaves on two salad plates. Set aside. Carefully slice strawberries, creating a pinwheel, without cutting through the bottom. Transfer each strawberry to the prepared salad plate. In a bowl, combine shredded chicken, chopped celery, almond pieces, and mayonnaise. Mix well. Fill each strawberry pinwheel with chicken salad. Garnish with mint leaves. Serve chilled.

Quandary About Pearl Onions

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Quandary About Pearl Onions! What can you do with a jar of pickled pearl onions, besides the obvious Gibson Martini? Believe it or not, these tiny jewels can be eaten as a snack. They also add an amazing zest to garden salads, charcuterie boards, soups, and grilled or roasted meats. Their refreshing taste might even be served to cleanse the palate between dinner courses. Eat them whole or sliced in half. Be adventurous. And when you get to the bottom of the jar, take heart. You can always make another.

QUANDARY ABOUT PEARL ONIONS

Ingredients:

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/2 cup dry vermouth

4 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

8 ounces pearl onions, frozen

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

Instructions:

Bring rice vinegar, dry vermouth, sugar, and kosher salt to a boil. Pack frozen pearl onions, coriander seeds, and black peppercorns into a glass jar. Pour in liquid. Allow to cool completely. Cover; refrigerate one week before using.

Zesty Citrus Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Zesty Citrus Salad! “If you build it, they will come.” That familiar quote may spark a flicker of remembrance from a popular movie years ago, Field of Dreams. Kevin Costner was the actor who had an idea and went with it. Cooking is like that, in my opinion. For example, build a better salad. It’s pretty simple, actually. Choose garden greens for the foundation, layer on fruits or vegetables for flavor, toss in some crunchy nuts, and slather on the sauce to dress it up. Of course, you can include cheese, meat, and eggs to bulk it up into a meal if you’d like. May as well go ahead and make your own salad dressings. There’s no comparison; being naturally better than bottled, they serve nicely as dips if you have any leftover. No promises on that note, because they’re that good.

ZESTY CITRUS SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups lettuce, gently torn

1/4 cup celery leaves

1 naval orange, segments cut into thirds

6 strawberries, quartered

2 tablespoons red onion, sliced

2 tablespoons almonds, sliced

Ingredients for Dressing:

1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons Tupelo honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Dash sriracha

Instructions:

Place torn lettuce into salad bowls. Divide celery leaves between them. Arrange the orange segments, quartered strawberries, and red onion slices. Scatter almonds over all. Set aside to chill in the refrigerator. To combine dressing, whisk together garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, Tupelo honey, Dijon mustard, toasted sesame seeds, and dash of sriracha sauce. Mix well. Drizzle over salad before serving.

Radish Corn Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Radish Corn Salad. Serve up a delightful bowl of sunshine with this gloriously colorful side salad that is sure to be a hit. What’s in there, you wonder. Look and see. Fresh kernel corn shucked off the cob, garden fresh radishes sliced as thin as a close shave, and jalapeño peppers to add a nice touch of spice. It’s as mouthwatering in appearance as well as in aroma. The unbelievably fresh lime infused olive oil gives it a burst of citrus that only growers can describe. Partner it with a squeeze of lime juice for a punch that targets the taste buds. But just a little. No bruising involved.

RADISH CORN SALAD

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels, equal to 2 ears of corn

3 radishes, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon jalapeño, finely chopped

1 tablespoon lime olive oil

1 teaspoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon tajin seasoning

Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Instructions:

In a bowl, combine fresh corn kernels, thinly sliced radishes, and chopped jalapeños. Gently toss. Drizzle with lime olive oil and lime juice. Sprinkle tajin seasoning over all. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve chilled.

Mango Avocado Radish Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Mango Avocado Radish Salad! You’ve heard the expression, “You are what you eat”. In essence, food becomes a source of energy or sluggishness. Personally, I want fuel for my body that benefits brain function, metabolism, eliminates anxiety, and extinguishes inflammation. It’s a no-brainer. Too often junk food includes processed foods and artificial sweeteners. Sure, it may be easy and convenient. But by eating whole foods that look and smell amazing, you’re sending a great message to your body that says, “Honey, you’re worth it.”

MANGO AVOCADO RADISH SALAD

Ingredients:

1 cup organic frozen mango chunks, thawed

1 ripe avocado, pitted and skin discarded

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon tajin seasoning

2 radishes, sliced very thin

2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons lime olive oil

Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Instructions:

Chop the mango chunks into bite-sized pieces. Arrange on a platter. Chop the peeled avocado into bite-sized pieces. Transfer to a shallow dish. Drizzle with lime juice. Sprinkle with tajin seasoning. Arrange avocado around the mango on the platter. Trim the radishes; slice very thin. Insert among the mango and avocado chunks. Crumble the feta cheese over all. Sprinkle on more tajin seasoning, if desired. Drizzle lime olive oil over all. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve chilled.