Yesterday’s Cucumber Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Yesterday’s Cucumber Soup. Here we go again with another cold soup option. It may sound like an oxymoron, but actually if I called it a Cucumber Smoothie, would you drink it? Perhaps. Tell me this, how many times have you been served ice water with a cucumber slice in it? Or grabbed a hydrating plant-based juice beverage at the corner convenience store? Get the picture. It’s all about the perspective. If you find it challenging to eat cold soup, or just plain WRONG…by all means, pour it into a glass and slurp away. To quote William Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Carry on.

YESTERDAY’S CUCUMBER SOUP

Ingredients:

4 mini seedless cucumbers, peeled and chopped

1 gala apple, peeled, cored, and chopped

1 green onion, chopped

2-3 basil leaves

1/4 cup almond milk, unsweetened

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon lime juice

Diced apple, tomato bits, chive snips, and basil leaf for garnish

Instructions:

Reserving garnish to taste, place all remaining I ngredients in a blender. Alternate between Pulse and Liquify settings to purée until smooth. Transfer cucumber mixture into a covered container. Refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight until chilled. Divide into shallow bowls. Serve garnished with apple chunks, diced tomatoes, chopped chives, and basil.

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.

Turmeric Chicken Curry

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Turmeric Chicken Curry! For those who dabble in traditional ethnic dishes, turmeric is a well-known spice that typically gives food a rich golden yellow hue. Although turmeric has a slightly bitter taste, curry powder combines it with cumin and chili powder to catapult the flavor from mild to very spicy. Keep in mind, a little goes a long way when adding flavor and color. I find turmeric mildly aromatic with a slight scent of ginger, which is appealing when added to chicken. Also, it can jazz up boring white rice by making an ordinary dish look a bit fancy.

TURMERIC CHICKEN CURRY

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound boneless skinless chicken

1 onion, chopped

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 cup crushed tomatoes

4 teaspoons turmeric

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chicken to brown, turning once. Add onions. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Sauté for 5 minutes until onions are soft and fragrant. Add chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, turmeric, cloves, thyme, sea salt, and black pepper. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

X-Citing Everyday Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: X-citing Everyday Salad! Whoever said salads are ho-hum hasn’t raided the refrigerator for a weeknight dinner, especially on a rainy day. Just use your imagination. After all, you only buy produce that you really like, right? I’m a fan of herbed olive oil and tomatoes, so by turning that into a dressing it satisfies my quest for the perfect Italian vinaigrette. Look again at the photo. See the leafy greens? Start there and build the layers. By the time you finish adding what you like (substituting stuff like green olives for black), you have a meal-in-a-bowl that rivals your neighborhood eatery. Enough talking, now let’s get moving.

X-CITING EVERYDAY SALAD

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Italian cheese, finely shredded

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cups mixed greens, gently torn

1/2 cup broccoli florets

10-12 pepperoni slices

1/3 cup green olives, sliced

Cracked black pepper

Instructions:

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, oregano, basil, marjoram, garlic powder, and sea salt. Stir well. Add balsamic vinegar and Italian cheese. Fold in cherry tomatoes to coat. In a large bowl, layer mixed greens, broccoli florets, pepperoni slices, and green olives. Drizzle with tomato herbed vinaigrette. Gently toss before serving. Garnish with cracked black pepper.

Tomato Herb Cheese Naan

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Tomato Herb Cheese Naan! The other day I sent my husband to the grocery store with a short list of produce items. Sounds simple, right? Within 15 minutes, I had several frantic texts asking me to clarify the type of tomatoes I needed him to buy. Perhaps you can understand his quandary. Years ago, a shopper had their choice of garden tomatoes or cherry tomatoes. Nowadays, you practically need an Old Farmer’s Almanac to clarify all the different varieties like Cherry, Grape, Green, Roma, Beefsteak, Campari, Cocktail, San Marzano, and Vine-Ripened tomatoes. Sheesh! All I really wanted were fresh tomatoes.

TOMATO HERB CHEESE NAAN

Ingredients:

1 prepared naan, store bought

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

6-8 cocktail tomatoes, sliced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

Fresh oregano leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven 400°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Set aside. Brush the bottom of the naan. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Transfer naan to the baking sheet, bottom side down. Bake 5 minutes. Remove pan and set aside. Meanwhile, to prepare tomatoes, arrange sliced cocktail tomatoes on a cutting board; sprinkle with kosher sea salt. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Arrange sliced fresh mozzarella over naan. Layer with cocktail tomatoes. Sprinkle with garlic powder, oregano, basil, and marjoram. Bake 15 minutes longer, or until cheese is melted and golden. Cool slightly, cut into portions. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves. Serve warm.

Open-Faced Sammies

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.

Yum Yum Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Yum Yum Sauce! Although I got a little creative with the recipe, I’m seriously not making up the name, Yum Yum Sauce. Many of you already know it as the popular condiment found in Japanese hibachi restaurants. With a little tweaking, you now have permission to bathe dinner in it. By pairing it with tilapia fish and adding creamy spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, it literally had me licking my fork after every bite. I suppose you could add a side dish of rice or noodles, but honestly, I never got that far.

YUM YUM SAUCE

Ingredients:

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2-3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, diced

1 teaspoon corn starch

1 cup heavy cream

10-ounce package frozen creamed spinach

3 tilapia fillets

2 tablespoons Italian-style bread crumbs

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter

Instructions:

Combine mayonnaise, melted butter, tomato paste, agave nectar, seasoned salt, and rice vinegar in a bowl. Whisk thoroughly to blend. Fold in sun-dried tomatoes. Whisk together corn starch and heavy cream. Add to sauce. Mix well. Set aside. Microwave creamed spinach according to package directions. Set aside. To prepare tilapia fillets, dust both sides with Italian-style bread crumbs. Warm 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon butter in an iron skillet over medium heat. Fry seasoned fillets until golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined platter. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring Yum Yum Sauce to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cook 5 minutes until thickened and heated through, stirring occasionally. Add creamed spinach. Stir well. To serve, spoon enhanced Yum Yum Sauce onto a plate. Top with tilapia fillets.

Tomato Burrata Crostini

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Tomato Burrata Crostini! One look, one whiff, and one bite is all you need to be satisfied with this gastronomic appetizer. The intensity of slow-roasted tomatoes releases a tangy sweetness that marries well with the luscious creaminess of burrata cheese. Now balance that out with the subtle smokiness of paper-thin hard salami intermingling with aromatic basil leaves. You have just been transported to seventh heaven, inspired by the taste of Italy. Need I say more?

TOMATO BURRATA CROSTINI

Ingredients:

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 bakery flatbread, plain

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

8 ounces burrata cheese

8 thin slices of hard salami

Fresh basil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss tomatoes in olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Warm an iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add seasoned tomatoes. Roast tomatoes 15-20 minutes until they blacken slightly and begin to burst. Brush both sides of flatbread with olive oil. Cut flatbread into 8 pieces and place on a pizza pan. Sprinkle with oregano, marjoram, basil, and garlic powder. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove. Place burrata in a shallow dish. Divide it into 8 portions, cutting slowly to keep the creamy filling in the mozzarella shell. Transfer each portion to the flatbread, spreading burrata cheese as needed. Layer thin salami over burrata. Tear or fold to fit the shape of the flatbread. Add roasted tomatoes. Bake 5-8 minutes until edges begin to char. Remove crostini from oven. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve warm.

Tuscan Tomato Bisque

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Tuscan Tomato Bisque! Picture this. Autumn has set in, the air emits a crisp chill, and a warm fire is enough to make you snuggle inside for the night. For the robust concentrated flavor of tomatoes, slow-roasting them brings it all home. Earthy Italian herbs and spices add a little mystery to every bite. Cozy up to a bowl with your favorite afghan and reap the harvest.

TUSCAN TOMATO BISQUE

Ingredients:

6-8 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon basil

1 cup water

Fresh basil leaves

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Line baking sheet with foil. Arrange tomatoes, cut side up. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast tomatoes until they are soft, approximately 30 minutes. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Sauté onion and garlic until fragrant and soft, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 8 minutes longer. Add paprika, oregano, marjoram, and basil. Increase heat to medium-high and add roasted tomatoes. Add water. Stir. Reduce heat slightly to medium, cover, and simmer for another 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully transfer portions to a food processor. Pulse tomatoes until somewhat smooth. Repeat. Transfer soup back into the pan to reheat. Divide tomato bisque into soup bowls. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately with toasted bagels, crackers, or crusty bread.