What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: April’s Potato Salad! For years whenever I made a six-hour road trip to visit my best friend, April, I would request her famous potato salad. Upon arrival, between hugs and laughter, we’d eventually meander to the front porch with a couple of ham sandwiches and a plate of homemade potato salad. As we’d sit there gazing out over cornfields at sunset, I’d inhale the intoxicating scent of juicy sweet corn, the pleasant odor of dewy stalks, humid green earth, and maybe even a touch of honey from waning wildflowers. I probably said the same thing over and over every year, “Life doesn’t get any better than this.”
APRIL’S POTATO SALAD
7 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
5 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
Boil potatoes in salted water for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Set aside. Combine mayonnaise, vinegar, yellow mustard, sea salt, and black pepper. Mix well. In a large bowl, add cooked potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, chopped celery, and chopped onions. Toss to combine. Pour mayonnaise mixture over all. Coat well. Refrigerate one hour before serving.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Vegetable Enriched Pasta Meatballs! For a clever way to increase vegetables into your diet, think pasta. The next trip you make to the grocery store could reveal the variety of homemade pasta noodles made with puréed tomatoes, carrots, spinach, and zucchini. Many are cholesterol-free and all-natural, if that sort of thing is important to you. Read the labels carefully. The last thing you want is food coloring instead of the real deal. Chop up fresh onions, green peppers, and garlic, as you normally would. By the time you add marinara sauce and meatballs, I guarantee you the family will be asking for seconds.
VEGETABLE ENRICHED PASTA MEATBALLS
14 ounces vegetable mix homemade noodles
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
24-ounce jar pasta sauce, prepared
26-ounce bag frozen Italian-style meatballs, thawed
Bring 3-4 quarts of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the bag of vegetable in homemade noodles. Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until tender. Rinse and drain. Set aside. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions, green peppers, and minced garlic. Sauté until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add prepared pasta sauce and Italian-style meatballs. Reduce heat and cover. Cook until heated thoroughly, 15-20 minutes. Add drained vegetable pasta. Toss to coat. Keep warm until ready to serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Wing Beans Shoyu! Have you ever seen a four-angled bean? It actually has four corners. The rough texture looks a little odd, all jagged and such. Since they grow in tropical climates where there is plenty of humidity, rainfall, and warmth, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t find them at your local grocery store. However, they are readily available at Farmers Markets in the Hawaiian Islands, which is where I got these delectable little jewels. They taste similar to a snow pea with a slightly sweet crunch. Then there’s the sauce. YUM!
WING BEANS SHOYU
1/2 pound wing beans, washed, ends trimmed, and cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce, Japanese-style
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 strip bacon, cooked and crumbled
Place prepared wing beans in a covered casserole dish. Add 2 tablespoons water. Microwave on High setting for 3 minutes until crisp-tender. Do not cook until mushy. Drain. Add crumbled bacon. Combine soy sauce, agave nectar, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Whisk to blend flavors. Drizzle over wing bean mixture. Toss to coat. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Fifteen-Bean Ham Bone Stew! This time of year the nights are chilly and the days can still be warm. A slow-cooker makes preparing a satisfying meal pretty simple. Throw everything together and let it “stew” for awhile. Nowadays you can get an assortment of 15 beans ranging from pinto, garbanzo, and northern to split pea, navy, and lentil in the same package. Add that ham bone you stored in the freezer during the holidays and you’re on your way. By adding sweet onion, diced tomatoes, and bay leaves, you’ll make this a classic favorite every time.
FIFTEEN-BEAN HAM BONE STEW
20-ounce package of 15 Bean Soup assortment
1 pound ham bone with ham chunks
32 ounces vegetable broth
32 ounces water
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
4-5 bay leaves
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Rinse beans. Place in a large pot filled with 8 cups of water. Allow beans to soak overnight. After soaking, drain water. Transfer beans to a slow-cooker. Add ham bone with meat. Cover with vegetable broth and water. Add chopped onion, chili powder, garlic powder, and bay leaves. Cook on High setting for 5 hours (or Low setting for 7-8 hours) or until beans are tender. Remove the ham bone. Let the excess meat fall off into the stew or cut it off the bone and put the meat chunks back into the crockpot. Stir in diced tomatoes, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes. Cook 30 minutes longer on Low setting. Before serving, remove bay leaves. Serve with crusty bread.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Jicama Avocado Salad! Allow me to introduce you to the legume family. Jicama is a cousin to beans, peas, and lentils. It provides protein, which is important to everyone, whether you’re a vegetarian or not. Choosing foods that are beneficial to a healthy diet can keep a weekly menu from turning hum-drum and boring. Jicama can be prepared in any number of ways. Eating it raw is just one of them. Its taste slightly resembles a crispy red apple. Only recently I slathered peanut butter all over a slice as a variation from a celery stick. Jicama is also low-carb, if that’s important to you. Not a raw-veggie-kind-of-person? Slice ‘em up and make a batch of french fries. It works.
JICAMA AVOCADO SALAD
I large jicama
1 avocado, pitted and chopped
Zest of 2 limes
1 teaspoon Tajin seasoning
1/4 teaspoon smoky paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Juice of 2 limes
Using a chef’s knife, slowly peel the thick skin of the jicama. Cut a thin slice at the top and bottom so the vegetable can keep from rolling. Working from top to bottom, slide the knife under the skin to remove the tough, fibrous outer covering. Rinse jicama and slice into matchsticks. Transfer to a bowl. Halve the avocado and remove pit. Scoop the flesh away from the skin. Chop avocado into bite-sized pieces. Add to the jicama sticks. Sprinkle with lime zest, Tajin seasoning, smoky paprika, and garlic powder. Squeeze lime juice over all. Add chopped cilantro leaves. Gently toss and serve.
Dining Outside the Home: Oasis on the Beach in Kapaa, Kauai. Fusion food is spot on at Oasis on the Beach, an open-air restaurant a few steps from the ocean. This is Hawai’i, after all, where the fish is as fresh as the view is captivating. No humdrum menu here. One of the House specialties is the island catch-of-the-day, seared to perfection. Mmmm. Pair it with Thai curry spices blended into coconut milk for a fabulous sauce. Did you notice the farm-to-table veggie chunks to add flavor? Now you’re talking. Don’t forget a scoop of white rice. It’s a meal in a bowl that does not disappoint.
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!