Rainier Cherry Watermelon Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Rainier Cherry Watermelon Salad! I’ve been in love with the taste of Rainier Cherries from my first bite. Truth be told, my love affair began long before it, though. I saw a beautiful blue French bowl overflowing with golden sunset cherries dipped in pink petal blush on the cover of a magazine. I was smitten, as with most things French, no matter the cost. I imagined the natural sweet allure as tempting as the charisma of dark chocolate. Once I grew past being spellbound, I knew I would treat myself to a pound of Rainier cherries once a year. Perhaps that is why this variety is known as the “Champagne of Cherries”.

RAINIER CHERRY WATERMELON SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups watermelon, seeds removed, cut into chunks

1 cup Rainier cherries, halved with stems and pits removed

1-2 jalapeño peppers, sliced

2 tablespoons red onion, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons lime juice

Sea Salt, optional.

Instructions:

Combine watermelon chunks, Rainier cherry halves, jalapeño peppers, and red onions. Squeeze lime juice over all. Gently toss. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt. Serve.

Lemon Butter Chilean Sea Bass

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Lemon Butter Chilean Sea Bass! Anyone, besides me, a fan of butter on seafood? Lobster. Crab Legs. Chilean Sea Bass. Shrimp. Scallops. You name it…if the seafood is slightly sweet, mild in flavor, moist and tender, or flaky yet firm, I practically kick everything else to the curb in favor of rich and decadent seafood. Now that I live in Florida, I can stretch my palate a bit with fresh seafood harvested or caught off the coastline. Not only does it support local fishermen, it also puts me in touch with seafood retail markets that thrive on this economy. And, yes, I’m spoiled. Some of the vendors even come directly to my community on a weekly basis. I see more fish in my future.

LEMON BUTTER CHILEAN SEA BASS

Ingredients:

2 8-ounce Chilean Sea Bass fillets

1/4 cup salted butter

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon parsley flakes

Juice of fresh 1/2 lemon

Instructions:

Preheat gas grill to 400°. Form a piece of aluminum foil into a baking sheet to accommodate the fillets. Be sure to raise the sides to contain the buttery juices. Spray foil with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a microwave-safe dish, warm the salted butter. Add garlic powder, parsley flakes, and lemon juice. Gently whisk. Wash Chilean sea bass fillets; pat dry with a paper towel. Before placing the fillets on the foil, brush both sides with melted lemon butter. Save the extra butter mixture for serving. Grill the Chilean Sea Bass for 5-6 minutes with the lid closed to maintain the internal temperature. Turn the grilled sea bass and repeat cooking time 5-6 minutes longer for even grilling. Brush with remaining butter mixture. Serve immediately.

Okinawan Sweet Potato Medley

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Okinawan Sweet Potato Medley! Way back when I was in middle school, my home economics teacher actually graded us on how colorful the foods looked on the plate. Her thoughts were “If it tempts your eyes, your stomach will want it.” I never forgot that message. She was pretty adamant about food presentation. So having mashed potatoes, rolls, and cauliflower was kind of a no-no when meal planning. That’s one of the reasons I was intrigued by Okinawan sweet potatoes when visiting Kauai. They are buff-skinned on the outside with a violet-purple flesh inside. It’s not as sweet as the orange variety I’m accustomed to, but nonetheless, it’s pretty tasty. And as you can see, it passes the color test.

OKINAWAN SWEET POTATO MEDLEY

Ingredients:

1 large Okinawan sweet potato, skin on, washed and sliced

1 medium sweet onion, sliced

2 each of mini sweet peppers in red, yellow, and orange; stems and seeds removed, cut in wedges

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons butter

Instructions:

Spray a sheet of heavy aluminum foil with nonstick oil. Arrange Okinawan sweet potatoes on foil. Add sweet onion slices and mini sweet pepper wedges. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, oregano, and cinnamon. Dot with pats of butter. Place another sheet of heavy aluminum foil over top of vegetables. Fold sides twice to seal. Fold ends twice to seal. Avoid puncturing foil. Place packet on a 425° preheated grill. Close lid. Cook 25 minutes, or until vegetables are fork tender. Remove from grill. Carefully open one corner of foil packet to release steam. Then remove top layer of foil. Transfer sweet potatoes and vegetables in the herbed butter to a platter. Serve immediately.

New York Strip Steak

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: New York Strip Steak! The secret to a good steak, when grilling, is to crank up the heat. It took years to figure this out because grilling is different than baking. A steak likes to have the outside seared, or even charred, in order to keep those wonderful juices inside. The secret is to get the outside seared as soon as possible. When I asked my husband how high the gas grill was set, he replied, “All the way up!” Next, take your cell phone because you’re going to need a timer. For me, the soft pink center of a medium-rare steak is perfection. Obviously, if you prefer it more well done, you add extra time. Ready? Grilling season is upon us.

NEW YORK STRIP STEAK

Ingredients:

1-inch thick New York strip steaks,(for two)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 tablespoon butter, per steak

Instructions:

Remove steak(s) from the refrigerator 20 minutes before grilling. Season both sides with sea salt and black pepper. Preheat gas grill to highest setting. When you hold your hand over the grill, you have to pull it back immediately. Place steaks directly on grill for 4 minutes. Close the lid. Flip and sear the remaining side for another 3 minutes, with lid closed. Remove from heat and allow steaks to “rest” on a platter for 5 minutes. Add a pat of butter at this time. Serve steak immediately.

Mediterranean Baked Tilapia

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Mediterranean Baked Tilapia! Do you ever experiment with different spice combinations? Salt and pepper can only go so far, especially if you try to reduce your salt intake. Spices, on the other hand, can turn an ordinary meal into a savory one. They can also add color, flavor, and aroma. If you’re like me, when a recipe calls for a spice you don’t stock in your pantry, you go out and buy a jar. Then what? Do you use it once and shove it back into the corner of your cupboard? What if you experiment a little instead? When you use cumin, think about partnering it with coriander for results that can add warmth as well as a tinge of sweetness.

MEDITERRANEAN BAKED TILAPIA

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon butter, melted

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tilapia fillets

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

Fresh parsley, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400° in a shallow bowl, combine lemon juice, butter, and olive oil. Mix well. Set aside. On a sheet of waxed paper, combine flour, ground coriander, ground cumin, paprika, sea salt, and pepper. Pat tilapia fillets dry. Dip fish in lemon juice mixture before coating with flour coating. Repeat for second tilapia fillet. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in an iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish fillets. After a minute or so, flip fillets over to sear the both sides. Remove skillet from heat. Add minced garlic to remaining lemon juice mixture. Drizzle over fish. Bake 7-9 minutes in preheated oven. Remove from heat. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve with broccoli and cous cous.

Angus Beef Burger

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Angus Beef Burger! Anyone who is a beef-eater understands that when meat has a high level of marbling, it keeps it moist for longer when cooking. Why is marbling important, you wonder? Because the fat ratio is scattered throughout creating juicy, tender, and more flavorful results. Long story, short, angus beef means better burger. No one wants a hockey puck for a hamburger. Right? Although it may cost a little more per pound, the end results are worth it.

ANGUS BEEF BURGER

Ingredients:

1 pound Angus beef, ground

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 hamburger buns, split and toasted

Lettuce, tomato, bacon and condiments as desired

Instructions:

Preheat a gas grill on High temperature. Form the ground beef into four equal portions. Season both sides of each patty with sea salt and black pepper. Brush the burgers with olive oil. Grill the burgers for 3 minutes until brown and slightly charred. Flip over. Do not press down to release juices! Cook 4 minutes longer, for medium rare, until golden and charred. Grill longer for desired results. Assemble the burgers on toasted buns. Add fixings and condiments to taste. Serve immediately.

Quick Savory Butter

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Quick Savory Butter! For some time now we’ve gotten pretty spoiled by restaurants, bistros, and cafés serving compound butter with the artisan bread basket. You almost hear us clapping our hands as we sink our teeth into the savory herbs or sweet concoctions. I know it makes me feel special. Chefs have been creating compound butters for years, though. It’s one of the ways they save time and add a level of sophistication for the customer. In my own kitchen, I found it’s best to begin with unsalted butter. That way I can add just enough sea salt to tease the palate. Lemon, believe it or not, adds a hint of flavor that embellishes steak or seafood. I see you nodding your head in agreement. Although I began smearing this combination on rolls and crackers, I couldn’t resist warming it to pour over a bowl of freshly popped popcorn. Talk about gourmet!

QUICK SAVORY BUTTER

Ingredients:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, cream butter with lemon juice. Add garlic powder and sea salt; stir. Fold in fresh rosemary and parsley leaves. Mix until combined. Place a sheet of waxed paper on the counter. Spoon compound butter onto sheet. Roll the waxed paper over butter to form a log. Roll tight and twist both ends. Refrigerate one hour or until firm.

Presto, Pesto

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Presto, Pesto! The garden went wild this year with an abundance of basil. I mean, you can only dry so much. Granted, I happen to like fresh basil with anything tomato, but not everyone agrees. So, this time I threw together a couple cups of basil leaves with my favorite pairing: parmesan cheese! Pesto freezes well, so it can be stored in an airtight container, or initially, ice cube trays. Once it’s frozen, transfer the cubes to airtight freezer bags for later on. Always defrost in advance. Pesto tastes best served at room temperature or only slightly warmed. Keep in mind, a little goes a long way. Mix it into salad dressing or guacamole; the olive oil creates a smooth texture. Add a dollop to your evening vegetables, pasta noodles, or meat dish. Get creative and go Pesto!

PRESTO, PESTO

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1/3 cup pine nuts, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/3 cup olive oil

Instructions:

In a mini chopper, combine basil leaves, chopped garlic, pine nuts, sea salt, black pepper, and parmesan cheese. Pulse to blend; approximately 30 seconds. Slowly pour the olive oil into the top of the lid while the blade is on the Low setting. The olive oil will drizzle through the little hole for smooth results. Remove the lid and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Stir. Transfer pesto to a covered jar. Store in the refrigerator.

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.