Za’atar Avocado Salad

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Xia Chinese Shrimp

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Thyme Tomato Toss

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Thyme Tomato Toss! Hop aboard the yellow tomato bus for a ride that will take you down a two-lane country road. These golden nuggets, about the size of a cherry, are often less acidic and milder than their popular red cousins. I find them a touch sweeter as well. Their colors can range from pale yellow to sunny gold to bright orange, which makes for a stunning combo in marinated tomatoes or tasty fresh salsa. Just so you know, the skins are pretty tender, if that’s ever been an issue for you. With all that being said, now sit back, and enjoy the ride.

THYME TOMATO TOSS

Ingredients:

8 ounces yellow and red cherry tomatoes, cut into halves

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Thyme sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Place yellow and red cherry tomatoes is a bowl. Set aside. In a measure cup, whisk together olive oil, garlic wine vinegar, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, marjoram, sea salt, basil, and sugar. Sprinkle in thyme leaves. Drizzle over tomatoes. Gently toss to coat. Serve immediately. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

Poppyseed Dressing

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Poppyseed Dressing! Behold, the mystical, magical world of poppyseeds. It’s not just for sprinkling on bagels, breads, and lemon muffins. Poppyseeds are kind of like that wild free-spirited girlfriend your mother didn’t really want you hanging around with in high school. She had a dark side that sometimes ditched school to hang out at a local coffee shop to smoke cigarettes and hear stories about the waitress’s latest boyfriend who rode a motorcycle and smoked pot. I’m sure you’ve heard stories about avoiding drug tests that detect a positive result for opiates. Alas, poppyseeds are a source of morphine and codeine. But that doesn’t mean the blueish-black seeds will get you high. Just happy. Their deeply nutty toasted flavor also reveals an enjoyable crunch. Maybe that’s the attraction after all.

POPPYSEED DRESSING

Ingredients:

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon dried mustard

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon poppyseeds

1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions:

In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and sugar. Add dried mustard, sea salt, cayenne pepper, and poppyseeds. Stir well. Add garlic wine vinegar; continue stirring. Slowly add olive oil, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Pour into a jar. Allow flavors to enhance at room temperature. Drizzle over prepared salad.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Chive Blossom Vinegar! Dress up fresh salads and garden vegetables with homemade chive blossom vinegar. Splash it on fish fillets or french fries. You can even add a tablespoon to potato salad and deviled eggs. Do you see where this is going? Infused vinegars, especially from your own garden, promise to elevate the taste buds with just a hint of subtle flavor. The ever-so-mild essence of chives releases a delicate sweet onion flutter that balances on the palate like a gracefully poised ballerina. Have I piqued your interest?

CHIVE BLOSSOM VINEGAR

Ingredients:

12 purple chive blossoms

1 cup rice vinegar

Small jar with lid, sterilized

Instructions:

Wash freshly cut chive blossoms. Plunge them upside down into a bowl of cold water, holding by the stems. Swish around to dislodge dirt or insects. Pour out water and repeat 3 more times. Pat blossoms dry with a paper towel. Snip off each blossom; discard stem. Pack blossoms loosely to fill the jar. Set aside. Warm vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until hot but not boiling, 3-4 minutes. Pour hot vinegar over blossoms to fill jar. Secure lid. Store in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. Strain out blossoms and discard. Place strained vinegar in another sterized jar. Store in refrigerator.

April’s Potato Salad

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Quandary About Pearl Onions

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Quandary About Pearl Onions! What can you do with a jar of pickled pearl onions, besides the obvious Gibson Martini? Believe it or not, these tiny jewels can be eaten as a snack. They also add an amazing zest to garden salads, charcuterie boards, soups, and grilled or roasted meats. Their refreshing taste might even be served to cleanse the palate between dinner courses. Eat them whole or sliced in half. Be adventurous. And when you get to the bottom of the jar, take heart. You can always make another.

QUANDARY ABOUT PEARL ONIONS

Ingredients:

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/2 cup dry vermouth

4 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

8 ounces pearl onions, frozen

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

Instructions:

Bring rice vinegar, dry vermouth, sugar, and kosher salt to a boil. Pack frozen pearl onions, coriander seeds, and black peppercorns into a glass jar. Pour in liquid. Allow to cool completely. Cover; refrigerate one week before using.

Pickled Red Onions

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Pickled Red Onions! What’s the buzz over pickled red onions? This relatively new condiment seems to be grabbing center stage with pizza, burgers, and tacos. True, the raw red onion can come across a lot more potent than its yellow cousin. Some even consider it bitter. I find it very appealing when sliced razor thin. Now you have another alternative. When pickled, their tangy sweetness becomes so unique it may appear as though a secret ingredient suddenly turned the dish into a gourmet delight. Before long pickled red onions may find themselves as popular as ketchup and mustard.

PICKLED RED ONIONS

Ingredients:

1 red onion

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup garlic wine vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions:

Slice the top and bottom off the onion. Slice onion in half from top to bottom. Remove outer skin; discard. Slice red onion into half moons, about 1/8” thick. In a medium sauce pan, whisk together apple cider vinegar, garlic wine vinegar, sugar, and kosher salt. Place over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a boil. Whisk until sugar and salt dissolve. Remove pan from heat and whisk in allspice and red pepper flakes. Add sliced onions to the pan; gently stir to combine. Allow mixture to cool completely at room temperature, stirring occasionally. Pour into a glass container. Cover tightly with a lid. Refrigerate overnight. Store in refrigerator for up to one month.

Zesty Citrus Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Zesty Citrus Salad! “If you build it, they will come.” That familiar quote may spark a flicker of remembrance from a popular movie years ago, Field of Dreams. Kevin Costner was the actor who had an idea and went with it. Cooking is like that, in my opinion. For example, build a better salad. It’s pretty simple, actually. Choose garden greens for the foundation, layer on fruits or vegetables for flavor, toss in some crunchy nuts, and slather on the sauce to dress it up. Of course, you can include cheese, meat, and eggs to bulk it up into a meal if you’d like. May as well go ahead and make your own salad dressings. There’s no comparison; being naturally better than bottled, they serve nicely as dips if you have any leftover. No promises on that note, because they’re that good.

ZESTY CITRUS SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups lettuce, gently torn

1/4 cup celery leaves

1 naval orange, segments cut into thirds

6 strawberries, quartered

2 tablespoons red onion, sliced

2 tablespoons almonds, sliced

Ingredients for Dressing:

1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons Tupelo honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Dash sriracha

Instructions:

Place torn lettuce into salad bowls. Divide celery leaves between them. Arrange the orange segments, quartered strawberries, and red onion slices. Scatter almonds over all. Set aside to chill in the refrigerator. To combine dressing, whisk together garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, Tupelo honey, Dijon mustard, toasted sesame seeds, and dash of sriracha sauce. Mix well. Drizzle over salad before serving.