Mandarin Orange Side Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Mandarin Orange Side Salad! Whenever I serve this colorful side salad to my guests, they rave about the dressing. I create my own version of infused garlic oil, but it can be purchased at your local grocery. Dark, leafy watercress can also be found at the area Farmers Market this time of year. A little bit goes a long way in adding a surprisingly light peppery taste. When partnered with oranges and tomatoes, it refreshes the palate for the next course. If you like a tastier and fresher alternative to an ordinary garden salad, give this one a whirl.

MANDARIN ORANGE SIDE SALAD

Ingredients:

1/2 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup watercress

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

18 mandarin orange segments

1/4 cup bacon pieces

1/4 cup almonds, sliced

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Instructions:

Divide the romaine lettuce, watercress, cherry tomatoes, mandarin oranges, bacon, almonds, and cheese evenly between 6 salad bowls. Serve chilled with dressing. (See dressing recipe below.)

Dressing Ingredients:

1/2 cup garlic vegetable oil

3 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 cup red onion, chopped

Instructions:

Combine garlic vegetable oil, wine vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, sea salt, dry mustard, and onion. Whisk well until blended. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Jambalaya with Garlic Mussels

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Jambalaya with Garlic Mussels! Traditional Flavor, Deep South flavor, intense flavor. Your mouth will thank me. Everything you need for dinner is in this hearty dish. All you want to add is your favorite jazz music to feel the unique culture and staple food of New Orleans. For the seafood lover as well as those who crave veggies, try something a little different this week when you hanker after a taste of Louisiana. “Laissez les bon temps rouler.” (Let the good times roll.)

JAMBALAYA WITH GARLIC MUSSELS

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

1 1/2 cup egg noodles

1 cup minute brown rice

1/3 cup onion, chopped

15 ounce can chicken broth

8 ounce can diced tomatoes and green chiles, with sauce

1 cup okra, frozen

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 pound kielbasa sausage, pre-cooked

1/4 pound shrimp, pre-cooked

1 pound mussels in tomato garlic sauce, frozen

Instructions:

Melt butter in large skillet on low-medium heat. Add egg noodles, instant brown rice, and chopped onion. Stir to coat well; brown to a golden color but avoid burning. Add chicken broth, diced tomatoes and green chiles with sauce. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile cook okra in microwave for 2 minutes, together with soy sauce, fish sauce, and red pepper flakes. Set aside. Heat shrimp and sausage. Set aside. In a saucepan, heat mussels on high for 4 minutes; reduce and simmer 3 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. When rice blend is cooked, add okra mixture to large skillet. Add sausage and shrimp to large skillet. Toss gently to blend. Serve jambalaya with mussels and sauce in a bowl.

Asparagus Shrimp Linguine

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Asparagus Shrimp Linguine! Whether you scour the ditches and railroad tracks, visit the local Farmers Market, or drop by your favorite grocers, the growing season of asparagus is upon us. Now is the time to take full advantage of its abundance. Look for signs of firm, tight buds for tender morsels. The delicate purplish tips are the best of the stalk. Indulge thy self. Permission granted.

ASPARAGUS SHRIMP LINGUINE

Ingredients:

3 ounces lemon pepper linguine

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons lemon olive oil

1/2 pound shrimp, precooked

8-10 asparagus spears, cut-up

8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon herb and garlic seasoning

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon basil

1 tablespoon nonpareil capers

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Instructions:

Cook lemon pepper pasta with sea salt according to package directions. Drain. Set aside. In a large saucepan, heat lemon olive oil on medium. Add shrimp, asparagus, and tomatoes. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, red pepper flakes, herb and garlic seasoning, marjoram, and basil. Fry shrimp and vegetables until crisp and tender, 4-5 minutes. Add linguine and cook until heated through. Swirl to toss gently. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese shavings. Garnish with capers.

Cheesy Burrata

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Festive Foods: Cheesy Burrata! For those of you who are unfamiliar with Burrata cheese, allow me to tell you a little bit about it. Imagine a soft delicate layer of mozzarella cheese stretched thin like a piece of hand-formed pie dough. It is placed into a bowl so the center can be filled like a porcelain white water balloon. Inside is heavy cream as rich as butter and luscious cheese curds. The pouch is then tightly tied at the top to ensure maximum freshness. The taste is extraordinary. It’s enough to make you roll your eyes and swoon.

CHEESY BURRATA

Ingredients:

8 ounce Burrata cheese

Fresh basil

Cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon olive oil

Herbs de Provence

Sea salt to taste

Instructions:

Place the Burrata cheese on a platter surrounded by fresh basil and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Add a sprinkling of Herbs de Provence and sea salt to taste. Serve with crusty artisan breads or crackers.

Winterfest Walking Tacos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Winterfest Walking Tacos! Here’s the perfect “Grab and Go” snack when you’re heading out the door. This time of year towns all over the world celebrate the holiday season with dazzling displays of outdoor Christmas lights. From Santa’s Workshop to high-tech Winter Wonderlands, the animation never stops. Pile the kids on board and have a tailgate party in your car, truck, or SUV. Keep it simple by using plastic picnic tumblers for easy handling. Enjoy a tasty snack while embracing the spirit of the holidays.

WINTERFEST WALKING TACOS

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef

1 package taco seasoning mix

15-ounce can chili beans

10-ounce can tomato bits and sauce

2 cups shredded romaine

1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded

10-ounce bag of corn chips, slightly crushed

1/3 cup salsa

Instructions:

Brown ground beef in a large skillet. Stir over medium heat until completely cooked. Drain. Add taco seasoning packet, chili beans, tomato bits and sauce. Stir well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until thickened. Stir occasionally. Before serving, assemble corn chips in the bottom of each cup followed by beef mixture and toppings of choice. Eat with a fork.

Fried Green Tomatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Fried Green Tomatoes! The key to success is using solid, firm green tomatoes. Ripe ones will turn mushy and very disappointing. Even if you don’t live in the South, everyone can enjoy these crisp and juicy medallions. The seasoned cornmeal crust will have you resurrecting a southern drawl that sounds as authentic as a waitress in a country café. Try the first one with a fork and then have seconds as a sandwich.

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

Ingredients:

2 green tomatoes, sliced with skin on

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 large egg, beaten

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Instructions:

On a sheet of waxed paper, combine flour, cornmeal, breadcrumbs, cheese, seasoned salt, and pepper. Blend with a fork. In a shallow bowl, mix egg and milk. Dip a green tomato slice in the egg mixture then coat with breadcrumb mixture. Repeat. Set aside. Continue until all slices have been coated. In a deep skillet on medium-high heat add vegetable oil for frying. Place tomatoes in a single layer. Do not crowd. Fry each side 3 minutes until golden brown. Turn over and fry the other side. Remove and place on a wire rack to remove excess oil. Repeat until all green tomato slices are used. Serve hot. Garnish with a dollop of wasabi aioli.

Uber Hasselback Caprese Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Uber Hasselback Caprese Salad! Want to do something fancy-schmancy? Take ordinary garden Roma tomatoes (the oval kind) and cut them in such a way that they fan out a little bit like an accordion. Then, using your fingers, tuck slices of cheese and fresh herbs in between. It’s so simple, yet looks incredibly delish as a side salad. This is why we like food so much. It becomes a dining experience versus chowing down.

UBER HASSELBACK CAPRESE SALAD

Ingredients:

3 Roma tomatoes

3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

13-16 fresh basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette

Instructions:

Judging by the size of each tomato, make 4-5 slices, stopping before the knife cuts completely through. Transfer tomatoes to a serving dish. Fill each slit with a mozzarella slice. Tuck in spaces with fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle Everything But Bagel seasoning over all. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.

Original Marinara Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Original Marinara Sauce! Marinara isn’t just a fancy name for spaghetti sauce, it actually lacks one key ingredient that sets it apart. You guessed it: MEAT. Basically, marinara is a tomato-based sauce infused with herbs and spices. It can be prepared very easily in less than half an hour. Personally, I find it perfect for a meatless meal. I like chunks of tomatoes, the hint of garlic, and a slight kick of red pepper spice. Look again at the snapshot. Perhaps it’s time to make marinara at your house.

ORIGINAL MARINARA SAUCE

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

28-ounce can Italian Roma tomatoes, diced with sauce

2 tablespoons fresh oregano

1/4 cup basil, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm olive oil. Add minced garlic; sauté for one minute until slightly brown, stirring occasionally. Add diced Roma tomatoes with sauce, fresh oregano, chopped basil, sea salt, marjoram, agave nectar, and red pepper flakes. Simmer sauce until thickened, approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Marinara sauce will be chunky and thick. Serve with cooked pasta.

Ketchup From Scratch

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Ketchup From Scratch! Many gourmet burger joints are joining the health revolution by opting out with in-house condiments. For those who truly appreciate knowing exactly what’s in the food they eat, here is a novel recipe for homemade ketchup without high fructose corn syrup and extra preservatives. It’s incredibly simple to make and can be prepared in about 30 minutes. The taste, you ask? OMG! I never thought I’d actually consider ketchup a veggie, but now I do. Enough said.

KETCHUP FROM SCRATCH

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon ginger, peeled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

28-ounce can whole Italian Roma tomatoes in juice

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Warm olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onions. Cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add chopped garlic, chopped ginger, red pepper flakes, and allspice. Cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste; stir for 2 minutes. Add the Italian Roma tomatoes in juice, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and black pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The ketchup will thicken and appear shiny. Remove from heat. Blend until smooth. Cool to room temperature and then store in the refrigerator.