What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Underground Chile Chocolate Bread! Don’t you hate it when you’re in the mood to bake something delicious and then find yourself short one key ingredient? That happens to me whenever I find “buttermilk” listed on a recipe. Truth-be-told, I seldom buy it. Thankfully there are two ways to transform ordinary milk into buttermilk. You can use white vinegar, or you can use lemon juice. It’s the acidity that works like magic. Now you’re probably wondering why we want buttermilk in the first place. Well, other than the rich creamy taste, buttermilk helps breads to rise with more body and a softer texture. Is it any wonder pancakes, mashed potatoes, and even fried chicken taste better bathed in buttermilk. Keep that under your hat.
UNDERGROUND CHILE CHOCOLATE BREAD
3/4 cup milk, mixed with 2 teaspoons vinegar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 2/3 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Set aside. Pour vinegar into a measuring cup, then fill with milk until you reach the 3/4 mark. Let sit for five minutes to thicken, then whisk. This is a substitute for buttermilk. In a large bowl, combine chili powder, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, and “buttermilk”. Mix until just evenly combined. Do not over stir. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for one hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool bread on a wire rack before removing from loaf pan. Slice and serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Itty Bitty Pumpkin Cake! Do you have a love affair with pumpkin spice? You know, that delectable blend of bakery spices recognized as nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Perhaps they remind you of autumn. The days are still warm as the evenings turn chilly enough to gather around the fire pit in a thick cozy sweater. Childhood memories conjure up bumpy hayrides through apple orchards, jack-o-lanterns on the front porch, and disheveled piles of newly-raked leaves. Plus there’s all things pumpkin: pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, pumpkin roll, pumpkin latte, and now this.
ITTY BITTY PUMPKIN CAKE
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
1/4 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Fresh strawberries, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray six mini bundt pans with nonstick oil containing flour. Place pans on a baking sheet. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, sea salt, baking powder, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon. Set aside. In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat on High setting with a hand mixer for 2 minutes. Add egg and beat two minutes longer. Set aside. In a third bowl, combine the pumpkin purée, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Mix well. Gradually pour half the pumpkin mixture and half the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Mix well, scraping the sides down as needed. Add the remaining ingredients; stirring only until combined. Do not over stir. Fill each prepared mini bundt pan 3/4 full. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool 5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack. Once cool, dust with powdered sugar. Garnish with a fresh strawberry before serving.
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
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
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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Xia Chinese Shrimp! Stir-fry is a popular way to cook a meal. Many chefs use a wok while others simply use a shallow skillet. Both work just fine, so follow your heart. By tossing and stirring chunks of food over high heat, meals are ready in minimal time. Who-hoo! It’s important to use a cooking oil that can handle high heat without smoking, so leave the olive oil on the shelf. Canola and vegetable oil are workhorses that not only have a high smoking point, but also have a neutral taste, which is why it was chosen here. Be sure to prepare ingredients in advance, including side dishes. Once the stir-fry is ready, it’s time to eat.
XIA CHINESE SHRIMP
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
3 scallions, roughly chopped
1 pound jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
Green onions, for garnish
Whisk together ketchup, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, mirin, and agave nectar in a small bowl. Set aside. Warm vegetable oil in a shallow skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced ginger and chopped scallions. Cook until fragrant, stirring constantly for one minute. Add shrimp. Cook about 2 minutes, turning over and over. Shrimp will change to pink in color. Add prepared sauce. Cook for one minute until thick, stirring often. Remove from heat. Divide between dinner plates. Garnish with green onion snips. Serve immediately over cooked rice, if desired.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Honey Butter Shrimp! Here’s a different kind of main dish that creates a balance of sweet, salty, and a little bit of spice in every bite. Shrimp lovers will not be disappointed with the tender, incredibly mild, slightly creamy taste of ocean shrimp. It’s very good, according to my husband the taste tester. The firmness of each delicate morsel, curled into the C-shape when cooked, makes each bite a succulent delight for the palate. The aromatic ginger, when mixed with soy sauce and sticky sweet honey, will awaken the taste buds for a juicier finish. Done right, this shrimp becomes a labor of love that will surely bring raves.
HONEY BUTTER SHRIMP
1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons butter
3 ounces coconut milk
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons raw honey
Zest and juice from one lime
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and white pepper. Warm olive oil in an iron skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until pink, about 2 minutes per side. Add minced garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, and butter. Cook the shrimp in the butter until the garlic caramelizes, about 2 minutes. Add coconut milk, soy sauce, and raw honey. Stir to combine. Simmer 2-3 minutes until completely warmed. Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice, zest, and cilantro. Serve warm over rice.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Brazen Broccoli Bites! Do you roast vegetables in your oven? Of course, you do. Who doesn’t? It’s simple, appealing, tasty, and healthy. It also makes the kitchen smell wonderful, like a woodsmoke fire on a pleasant afternoon in autumn. Herbs and spices enhance the flavor. Olive oil makes them sizzle, while giving veggies visibly charred edges. After a few minutes, fresh produce becomes fork-tender and ready-to-serve. But wait, this is only supposed to be a side dish.
BRAZEN BROCCOLI BITES
3/4 pound broccoli crowns
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, shaved
Lemon slices, for garnish
Preheat oven to 425°. Wash the broccoli; dry thoroughly. Cut the broccoli florets from the stalks, slicing some lengthwise. In a bowl, whisk together olive oil, minced garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, and kosher salt. Add broccoli; toss to coat. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange in a single layer; avoid crowding. Roast broccoli for 10-12 minutes. Flip and bake 10 minutes longer. Sprinkle almond slices over all. Roast 10 minutes longer until broccoli is evenly caramelized. The almonds will be toasted and golden. Transfer to a platter. Gently toss with lemon juice. Top with shaved parmesan cheese. Garnish with lemon slices. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Thai Curry Compound Butter! Flavor your favorite meats or slather it on crusty breads and crackers. Thai spices Rock! Maybe you can’t exactly put your finger on it. Thai seasoning is that unique. It appeals to the senses. Not only are the spices aromatic, but their diverse array of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty sashay around the room in a rhythmic dance to a different drum. Is it any wonder we are magically drawn to the earthy quality in Thai food? The colors and texture can be mesmerizing without overpowering the intensity of a dish. Now perhaps you may feel as though I am simply trying to butter you up, but tasting is believing.
THAI CURRY COMPOUND BUTTER
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt, finely ground
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons Thai curry paste
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon sriracha
Cilantro, for garnish
In a mixing bowl, combine unsalted butter, Himalayan pink salt, cracked black pepper, Thai curry paste, ground ginger, and sriracha. Stir until smooth. Place a sheet of waxed paper on the counter. Spoon compound butter onto waxed paper. Roll layer of waxed paper over butter to form a log. Roll tight; twist ends. Refrigerate for one hour or until firm. Serve on crackers with cilantro over vegetables, in soups, meats, and noodle dishes.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Refried Beans Restaurant-Style! Copycat recipes are so much fun to share with the family, especially when tweaked to express your own personal taste. If you’ve been to more than one Mexican restaurant, which most of us have, you’ve probably noticed an order of refried beans can be extra-creamy, smooth or chunky, blah or spicy. No worries. If you like the earthy taste, substitute black beans for the pinto beans. The same goes for a slightly smoky taste. That effect comes from bacon drippings instead of olive oil. For authentic results you may even choose to begin from scratch. I was pretty pleased with the results featured here.
REFRIED BEANS RESTAURANT-STYLE
16-ounce can refried beans, traditional
16-ounce can pinto beans, drained
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
1 small onion, chopped
1/8 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2-3 jalapeño peppers, pickled and sliced
Preheat oven to 350°. In a skillet over medium heat, add bacon drippings. Sauté chopped onions until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Stir in cumin powder, garlic powder, and sea salt. Add refried beans. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Fold in pinto beans. Reduce heat. Warm until bubbly, stirring occasionally. Spoon mixture into individual ovenproof bowls. Place bowls. on a baking sheet. Top each with Monterey Jack cheese. Bake 5-8 minutes until cheese is melted and beans are bubbly. Carefully remove baking sheet from oven. Garnish with jalapeño slices.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Dirty Breakfast Rice! What do you get when you blend Hawaiian culture with Louisiana spice? You get a savory breakfast that will rev your engine all day long. Too often we think a cold breakfast will give us the energy needed until time allows for the next meal. Sometimes that isn’t until after the workday is almost finished. At least with Dirty Breakfast Rice you get a running start on a busy schedule. Its healthy carb is easily digestible and nutty taste is simply satisfying. Be good to yourself.
DIRTY BREAKFAST RICE
1/4 cup butter
1 cup instant brown rice
7-ounce vegetable broth
1/2 pound smoked sausage link, cut-up in chunks
4 green onions, chopped
2 eggs, scrambled
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/4 cup soybean sauce
Melt butter in a deep skillet. Do not burn. Add brown rice. Coat well. Cook over medium heat 3-5 minutes, turning often until golden brown. Stir in vegetable broth and smoked sausage chunks. Cover. Simmer 15 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Scramble the eggs on the side of the pan. Once the eggs are almost cooked, combine the rice and eggs together. Add chopped green onion with tops, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, Cajun seasoning, and soybean sauce. Mix well and serve immediately.