Cucumber Strawberry Sandwiches

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Cucumber Strawberry Sandwiches! Here’s a combination you will truly enjoy: crisp sliced cucumbers with juicy sweet strawberries. Together they come across as eye candy. Whip up a creamy spread of sea salt butter, Neufchâtel cheese, and Italian seasonings to slather across the top of a toasted slice of artisan rye bread. Add a sprig of dill, sprinkled with tiny thyme leaves to crown things off. The results may find you believing you embarked on a journey through the charming countryside of Tuscany.

CUCUMBER STRAWBERRY SANDWICH

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature

3 tablespoons sea salt butter, softened

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon dill weed

1 large cucumber, sliced

1 pint strawberries, stems removed and halved

2-4 slices rye bread, toasted

Fresh dill sprig, for garnish

Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Cream together Neufchâtel cheese, butter, and yogurt until smooth. Fold in Italian seasoning and dill to blend. Refrigerate one hour. Slice cucumber; halve strawberries. Toast rye bread; slather with seasoned cheese spread. Top with cucumber slices and strawberries. Add dill sprig and thyme leaves for garnish.

Marble Rye Deli Classic

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Marble Rye Deli Classic! One of the most sophisticated breads around is the marble rye with its identifiable dark swirls in geometric design. Did you know that cocoa powder is responsible for this transformation? Truth. Another little secret about marble rye is when eaten for breakfast, it actually keeps hunger pangs at bay for the rest of the morning. I like that idea, which is why an egg salad sandwich on rye is often my choice. The next time you pass by the deli, pick up a loaf of bakery fresh marble rye bread.

MARBLE RYE DELI CLASSIC

Ingredients:

4 slices marble rye bread

1 tablespoon butter

4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon celery seed

Salt and pepper to taste

2 slices red onion

Curly endive lettuce

Instructions:

Toast and butter the marble rye bread. Set aside. Using a mini chopper, pulse the eggs to bite size crumbles. Mix together the chopped egg and mayonnaise. Fold in celery seed. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. To assemble sandwich, place the lettuce on the rye bread. Next spread the egg salad. Layer with red onion slices. Top with another slice of buttered marble rye bread. Voilà! A Deli-style egg salad sandwich.

Ainsley’s Café and Harbor Bar in Brookville, Indiana

Dining Outside the Home: Ainsley’s Café and Harbor Bar in Brookville, Indiana. It’s always a good sign when boat owners swarm to the marina basin to remove slip covers from their vessels. That means the weather is getting warmer and Spring Fever has struck. Ainsley’s Café offers the perfect sunny side view of Brookville Lake and all the activity the lake provides. In the distance you may see a golfer tee off at the nearby Harbor Links Golf Club. Or a pontoon boat leisurely coasting into open waters. Check out the jet skis criss-crossing like synchronized dancers. When you dine on the outdoor deck for a midday lunch or sunset dinner, you may need to pinch yourself as a reminder this is real. The food is as fresh as the air you breathe. Whether it’s a Girl’s Getaway, Date Night, or Family Outing, Ainsley’s Café on Brookville Lake is time well-spent.

X-Cellent Egg Salad Sliders

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: X-cellent Egg Salad Sliders! Have you noticed more and more farm-to-table cafés are featuring egg salad sandwiches on the menu? I get crazy happy when I discover it, as someone who loves home-cooking. Not only are there a dozen variations on egg salad, but each seems to add a unique twist. This recipe is pretty basic so you can get creative from here. Think avocado, dill, bacon, or red pepper flakes. Looks like I need to buy more eggs. Happy Boiling!

X-CELLENT EGG SALAD SLIDERS

Ingredients:

8 eggs, hard boiled and peeled

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup dill pickle relish

1 tablespoon red onion, diced

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

8 slider buns

4 romaine lettuce leaves

2 tomatoes, sliced

1 tablespoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, dill pickle relish, red onion, yellow mustard, and sea salt. Chop the eggs and add to the bowl. Stir gently until well blended. Cover and chill in the refrigerator one hour. Assemble sliders using the buns, egg salad, romaine lettuce leaves, and tomato slices. Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Serve.

Havarti Habanero Handful

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Havarti Habanero Handful! You’re probably thinking, “Not another grilled cheese sandwich!” Anyone who knows me understands I can’t leave well enough alone. So…when I came across this “heated” rich, semi-soft version of havarti cheese, I knew I had to have it. Habaneros, as you may recall, are like dynamite in your mouth. The cheese itself is creamy and mild which makes it a perfect match for the testy habanero pepper, or orange lantern as some people call them. When layered with cherrywood smoked ham and grilled artisan bread, the end result is nothing short of Fire and Ice. Are you up for the challenge?

HAVARTI HABANERO HANDFUL

Ingredients:

4 thick slices of artisan bread

3 tablespoons butter

8 ounces cherrywood smoked ham, deli sliced

4 ounces havarti habanero cheese, sliced

Instructions:

Preheat an iron skillet over medium low heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place two slices in skillet, buttered side down. Divide cherrywood smoked ham between them. Replace tops, buttered side up. Heat sandwiches until bread is lightly browned, then carefully flip over. Layer havarti habanero cheese over toasted tops of sandwiches. Reduce heat to low setting. Place a glass lid over the pan so the cheese will melt as the bottoms turn golden brown, approximately 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Xtreme Sloppy Joes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Xtreme Sloppy Joes! Some days you crave a sweet and savory warm sandwich over a lunchbox ham and cheese on wheat. Sure, it can be a little messy, but pile it high anyway and add a mound of shredded cheese. Then watch things melt together.

XTREME SLOPPY JOES

Ingredients:

2 pounds lean ground beef

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/3 cup green pepper, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons pimento, diced

1/4 cup vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon mustard

2 cups ketchup

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef, onion, and green pepper seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook until meat is in crumbles. Reduce heat. Add diced pimento. Stir in vinegar, lemon juice, brown sugar, mustard, and ketchup. Mix well. Transfer to an ovenproof covered dish and bake in the oven for one hour.

Open-Faced Sammie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Open-Faced Sammie! The popularity of open-faced sandwiches has been brewing since the 15th century, when it was typically eaten for breakfast, lunch, snack, or supper. Although the layers have changed, butter or cheese remain the favorites as spreads, plus any combination of meat and vegetables. This is where your personal palate comes in. Or, perhaps whatever you have on hand in the refrigerator. Gardens abound with peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes. But don’t limit yourself there. I find avocados to be perfectly satisfying, especially with a crispy slab of applewood smoked bacon. Like I said, the choice is yours. One thing is for certain, it’s definitely easier to eat an open faced sandwich with a fork and knife.

OPEN-FACED SAMMIE

Ingredients:

2 slices pumpernickel rye bread, artisan-style

1 tablespoon sea salt butter

3 slices Swiss cheese, divided

3 slices bacon, cooked

1 ripe avocado, pitted and mashed

1 teaspoon lime juice

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tomatillo, chopped

1 tomato, sliced

1 egg, hard-boiled and chopped

1/8 teaspoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

Instructions:

Toast artisan pumpernickel rye bread. Butter with sea salt. Place 1 1/2 slices of Swiss cheese on each piece of toast. Microwave on High 15 seconds to melt cheese. Layer with 1 1/2 slices crisp bacon. In a small bowl, combine mashed avocado, lime juice, and garlic powder. Mix well. Fold in chopped tomatillo. Spread over each sandwich. Place two tomato slices over avocado mixture. Spoon chopped hard-boiled egg pieces over tomatoes. Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Makes two open-face sandwiches.

Understated Stuffed Stromboli

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Understated Stuffed Stromboli! Everyone likes finger food. Take a ready-made French bread dough, add your favorite meats, and cheeses….and Voilà, you have a speedy sandwich assembled in minutes. I often serve it with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. Leftovers make a tasty midnight snack, whether you warm it up or eat it cold. Either way, you won’t see this understated grinder hang around very long.

UNDERSTATED STUFFED STROMBOLI

Ingredients:

1 tube refrigerated crusty French bread

1 cup mozzarella cheese, finely shredded

1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded

1/4 pound deli smoked ham, thinly sliced

1/4 pound deli salami, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon butter, melted

3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

1/8 teaspoon dill weed

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375°. Unroll the dough and pat into a rectangle about 12″ x 14″. Sprinkle with mozzarella to within half an inch from the edges. Layer ham over mozzarella cheese. Top ham with cheddar cheese. Then layer salami over the cheddar cheese. Roll up lengthwise; seam side down on an ungreased baking sheet. Tuck ends under. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Garnish with dill weed. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Slice into four servings.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter Q

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Daily Special: Quirky Quesadilla! Have you ever noticed when you announce quesadillas are on the menu for the next meal, everyone begins to feel as though they’ve been invited to a party? It’s probably due to the fact that it opens the door to endless possibilities. Do you prefer seafood, chicken, vegetables, cheese, or all of the above? No problem. Once you offer a buffet of ingredients, everyone can build-their-own. Win! Win!

QUIRKY QUESADILLA

Ingredients:

12-ounces shrimp; peeled, deveined, tail off

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon dill

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 chicken breasts; boneless, skinless, cubed

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons red onion, chopped

4-6 flour tortillas

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup Queso Fresco cheese

1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese

1 green onion

Instructions:

Sauté shrimp in 1 tablespoon olive oil, Old Bay seasoning, red pepper flakes, and dill on medium heat. Cook until pink and opaque, turning often, usually 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a dish and set aside. Using the same skillet, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the chicken and onion together with seasonings. Turn heat to low. Add the shrimp. Mix gently. Sprinkle in the Queso Fresco cheese and cover. It will melt into the quesadilla filling to bond everything together. Watch carefully so the cheese does not burn. In another skillet over low heat, butter one side of a flour tortilla. Place buttered side down. Sprinkle in cheddar cheese. Add two spoonfuls of filling. Spread to within 1/2-inch of the edge. Top with another buttered tortilla. Put lid on skillet to melt cheeses. Cook until lightly brown, about two minutes. Turn the tortilla over and cook the other side until the tortilla is lightly brown and the cheese is gooey. Place on a platter to cool slightly before cutting. Repeat with remaining tortillas until no ingredients remain. Serve with salsa, yogurt, and guacamole.

*Hint: if you’re serving a crowd, it’s easy to prepare several at the same time. Place the filled quesadillas on a cookie sheet and bake them in a 375° oven for 10 minutes.