What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Xenial Spinach Dip! Take a trip down Memory Lane with this hip 1970s all-star party staple. “I called it!”, shouted my best friend when asked to bring an appetizer to share. Maybe it was the presentation of carrying an artisan bread bowl into the room, or perhaps it was the “healthy” alternative to potato chips and onion dip, or it could have been the standing ovation it got from everyone who tasted it. Think about it….how fun is that to tear off a piece of crusty bread and slather it in creamy spinach mingled with a spicy crunch of water chestnuts. “I called it!”
XENIAL SPINACH DIP
1 pound artisan bread bowl
1 pint Greek yogurt
3 ounces Neufchâtel cheese
10 ounces mayonnaise
8 ounce can of water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 package Swiss vegetable dry soup mix
10 ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed, drained, and chopped
In a medium bowl, mix Greek yogurt, Neufchâtel cheese, and mayonnaise. Chill one hour. Add water chestnuts, package of Swiss vegetable dry soup mix, and uncooked spinach. Mix well. Chill one hour longer. Hollow out center of bread bowl. Fill with spinach dip. Serve with raw vegetables.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Unlimited Broccoli Tidbits! Here is a salad you can snack on over and over. It keeps for days in the refrigerator as the flavor intensifies. And because the broccoli is fresh, the crunch appeases the taste buds. By adding the sweetness of raisins and the saltiness of bacon, it soothes those unexpected cravings that sabotage even the strictest diet enthusiast. Go ahead, take a bite. Permission granted.
UNLIMITED BROCCOLI TIDBITS
2 heads broccoli, cut into florets and stems
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup bacon bits, fully cooked
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 envelope of Italian dry salad dressing mix
Combine broccoli tidbits, raisins, and bacon in a covered bowl. Whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, and Italian dry seasoning mix in a glass measuring cup until blended. Pour marinade over broccoli mixture. Gently stir to coat well. Cover and refrigerate salad for two hours. Spoon reserve marinade over salad before serving.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Haricot Vert! From the French countryside to your spacious farm table, this international string bean (haricot vert) is an all-time favorite side dish that is worth the effort. The first savory bite will have you craving for a second one. Watch this specialty disappear.
1 pound green beans, fresh
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons pimento, diced
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Snap the ends of the green beans. Discard. In a medium skillet over low heat, combine butter and olive oil. Increase the heat to medium setting. Add garlic and onions. Cook one minute. Add green beans and cook one minute longer until they turn bright green. Immediately add chicken broth, pimento, seasoned salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Leave the lid cracked to allow steam to escape. Cook for 25 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. The beans should be soft, yet slightly crisp. Bon Appétit!
Dining Outside the Home: Tortilla Republic Kitchen and Margarita Bar in Koloa, Kauai. Picture this. The sun is super-bright and tropical-warm to the point where ducking into a Mexican cantina for a salt-rimmed margarita would have been a good idea about an hour ago. Nevertheless, the shade on the outdoor patio feels 10° cooler under the turquoise blue umbrella as the breezes are beginning to stir. The house margarita goes down easy on its way to an order of Quesadilla Vegetariano. I’m sure you get the picture. Complimentary tortilla chips and spicy salsa are perfect for snacking. This is a recipe for making my day.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Kohlrabi Fritters! I stumbled onto this odd shaped vegetable at the Farmers Market and was intrigued by the green spiked bulbous shape with its long leafy shoots. It reminded me of a turnip, but had the faint aroma of cabbage. After learning its name, I just had to try it. My mind was already thinking of its seasoned taste fried crisp in olive oil.
1 medium kohlrabi
1 small sweet potato
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 green onion
Olive oil for frying
Peel kohlrabi and sweet potato. Using a food processor, grate the kohlrabi, sweet potato, and yellow onion. It should equal 3 1/2 cups of shredded vegetables. Transfer to a bowl. Add seasonings, baking powder, and flour. Fold in the beaten eggs to coat well. Snip the green onion with kitchen shears and gently mix in. The fritters should stick together. Pour enough olive oil in a skillet to cover the bottom of the pan. Heat on medium high. Drop kohlrabi mixture by heaping spoonfuls into the oil. Pan fry 2 minutes without burning. Turn over and fry another 2 minutes. Watch! Remove and drain on paper towels. Continue making fritters until all mixture is used. Serve warm with a dollop of Greek yogurt and garnish with green onion snips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Divine Duchess Potatoes! Sometimes it’s fun to mix things up when serving leftovers. Take mashed potatoes, for instance. By adding a few more ingredients, you can serve them again with first-class results that would make a Frenchman proud. With the holidays coming up, I find this recipe invaluable. I used leftovers from Gail’s Kitchen “Havarti Mashed Potatoes” recipe simply because it was quick and easy. Take a shortcut that treats your family like royalty.
DIVINE DUCHESS POTATOES
3 cups mashed potatoes*
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick oil. Combine mashed potatoes, egg yolks, and cream. Blend well. Transfer to a pastry bag or piping tool with a large star tip. Pipe and swirl upward to form a cone shape in each muffin cup. Brush with melted butter before baking 10 minutes. Switch oven to Broil for a golden brown finish. Watch carefully. Remove from oven; cool 5 minutes before serving.
*Havarti Mashed Potato recipe was used for this preparation since it was seasoned with cheese and herbs. Please follow the link.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: New Asparagus Spears! Every once in awhile I have an “Ah-ha” moment when I come across fresh produce that I haven’t seen in awhile. This was one of those times. New asparagus smells clean and earthy. It also looks incredibly bright green with splashes of purple on the tips, which should be tightly closed. Make sure the stalks are firm and straight. If they seem to bend quite easily, they’ve already begun to wilt. Put them back. Personally, I prefer the thinner stalks simply because they cook much faster.
NEW ASPARAGUS SPEARS
15-16 asparagus spears
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/2 cup caper berries, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste
Fennel stalks, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400°. Wash and trim asparagus spears. Place into an iron skillet. Arrange the red onion slices and caper berries. Brush generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly charred. Remove from oven and garnish with fennel stalks. Serve immediately.
Dining Outside the Home: Farmhouse Restaurant in Fair Oaks, Indiana! The best-kept secret of this rural farmstead is The Pub, situated on what is known as the back forty of the family-owned restaurant. Chrissy serves up a mean Baja Mule with just the right amount of tequila, lime, and ginger beer. It goes down smooth and easy as you nibble on the Cowboy Bites. Never heard of them, you say? It’s a savory appetizer of sweet corn, cream cheese, jalapeños, and bacon nestled in a lightly fried breaded nugget. Dip it in chipotle aioli for added spice. Watch out, these can be addictive. Choose a burger and share it with your partner. The half-pounder dry aged ribeye, topped with fresh arugula and Havarti habanero pepper cheese, will leave you with a mental note to stop over to the Cowfé to snag a pound of this diablo cheese for later on. Take your time. There’s no hurry. This is what country living is all about.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Yam Sticks! Here is a nice alternative when craving French fries. Substitute the Idaho potatoes for yams and bake them instead of frying. You’ll feel better about making a healthy choice while mixing up the menu a bit. Give your taste buds a real surprise as you go from hum-drum to WOW!
6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into sticks
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Preheat oven to 425°. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well until yam sticks are evenly coated. Marinate in the refrigerator for one hour. Meanwhile, place a baking sheet in the oven so it is already hot before adding the yams. Being careful when removing it from the oven, lightly spray the baking sheet with non-stick oil. Spread yam sticks into single layer. They crisp up better when they’re not touching. Bake about 40 minutes or until tender and slightly browned. Turn halfway through baking, using kitchen tongs. Serve immediately.