Xinjiang Mini Cukes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Xinjiang Mini Cukes! Has anyone else noticed the adorable mini cucumbers in the produce department of the grocery store? I mean, they’re really cute; the size of an index finger. And they’re seedless! What a great addition to a relish plate. Today’s Chinese version of marinated cucumbers will kick-start any meal. It offers enough heat and spice from chile peppers along with the full-bodied taste of fried garlic to transport you to a country in Southeast Asia. No worries, the rice vinegar and natural honey make it easier on the stomach.

XINJIANG MINI CUKES

Ingredients:

4-6 mini seedless cucumbers

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon fried garlic

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/2 tablespoon natural honey

1 tablespoon Golden Mountain sauce

1 tablespoon chili paste

Instructions:

Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise; then slice in half to make four quarters. Place cucumbers in a bowl and sprinkle with kosher salt. Set aside for 30 minutes. Drain excess water from cucumbers. Using a mortar and pestle, pumice red pepper flakes and fried garlic. Add rice vinegar, sesame oil, natural honey, Golden Mountain sauce, and chili paste. Mix well. Serve as a dipping sauce for mini cucumber appetizer OR pour over cucumbers; toss to coat and marinate in refrigerator for one hour or overnight.

Okra is Optional

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Okra is Optional! Mention the word “okra” and you may see people wrinkle their noses. It’s really not that bad, in my opinion. The flavor is mild and the texture is silky. Okra is often eaten fried in a delicious cornmeal batter or combined with vegetables in hearty homemade soups. Today’s version is pickled with its spicy second cousin, the jalapeño.

OKRA IS OPTIONAL

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh okra

2 jalapeño peppers, sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, halved

2 cups apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup water

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

Instructions:

Wash okra thoroughly and remove tips. Divide between 3 pint jars. Repeat with jalapeños and garlic. Combine vinegar, water, kosher salt, and mustard seeds in a 2-quart pan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Ladle hot vinegar over okra mixture in jars. Wipe rims. Cover jars with kids. Cool at room temperature. Refrigerate for no longer than two months.

Perfect Pot Roast

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Perfect Pot Roast! Today all chefs get the day off from cooking. Seriously. This one-pot meal will turn out perfectly, as long as you ignore it. Use a slow-cooker or a Dutch Baker in a low temperature oven. I actually begin with a frozen chuck roast and forget about it, that is until the savory aromas lightly waft throughout the house. The liquid turns into a pleasant au jus or can be thickened into gravy. Personally, I ladle the juice into a food storage container to use as a sauce for beef carnitas, but that’s another story. Leftovers promise delicious options.

PERFECT POT ROAST

Ingredients:

3-4 pound chuck roast, frozen

3/4 cup vinegar

3/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup kosher salt (or less)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon oregano

1 pound baby carrots

3-4 white potatoes, skin on, quartered

2-3 sprigs thyme

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 275°. Place frozen roast in Dutch Baker. Combine vinegar, orange juice, and melted butter. Pour over roast. Sprinkle roast with kosher salt, garlic powder, and oregano. Lay thyme sprigs across the top of the meat. Put the lid on the Dutch Baker and bake for 4 hours. Then add carrots and cut-up potatoes to the pot. Reduce oven temperature to 185°. Bake 4 hours longer. The roast is fall-apart tender and ready to serve.

Elbow Macaroni Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Elbow Macaroni Salad! I owe freshness to the farmer’s market. And so should you. After all, they are a great resource for locally grown produce, herbs, eggs, and meats. Without a doubt, they are popping up everywhere. However, it’s okay to ask a few questions when you’re chatting with the growers. An important one might be if there are pesticides used. “Organic” does not always mean pesticide-free. Soil quality may be another concern. GMO seeds, animal treatment, and ideas for food preparation are also topics of discussion. Once I am familiar with a grower, I glean ideas for ways to store and cook the products. Some days I even walk away with recipes. The bottom line is, support your community. We’re all in this together.

ELBOW MACARONI SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups elbow macaroni, cook according to package directions, then cool

2 tablespoons sweet onion, sliced

1/2 cup baby carrots, julienned

1/2 cup snow peas, sliced horizontally

4 radishes, thinly sliced

1/4 cup garlic vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon water

1 envelope Italian salad dressing dry mix

1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine cooked macaroni and sweet onion slices. Add julienned carrots, sliced snow peas, and radish discs. Gently toss. In a measuring cup, combine garlic vinegar, lemon juice, water, Italian seasoning packet, and olive oil. Whisk together until completely blended. Drizzle dressing over the macaroni salad. Gently toss to coat ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Kidney Bean Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Kidney Bean Salad! I find this chilled high protein dish a complement to any menu. It is especially delightful for Summer road trip outings, lake-side picnics, and cookouts on the deck. Store it in a glass jar for easy serving or make up individual potluck portions. For an exciting, easy, and often overlooked alternative that is vegan and gluten-free, add these ingredients to your grocery list and take a trip on the wild side.

KIDNEY BEAN SALAD

Ingredients:

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 smidgen sugar

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/3 cup onion, chopped

1/3 cup celery, chopped

1 can red kidney beans, drained

2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish

Instructions:

Mix mayonnaise, olive oil, red wine vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Blend in onions. Add celery, beans, and relish. Chill two hours before serving.

Wasabi Furikake Aioli

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Wasabi Furikake Aioli! For a homemade sauce that can be spread on fish and poultry or used as a spicy dip for vegetable crudités, this one is spot on. The “kick” of wasabi is a distant cousin to horseradish making its intensity a roller coaster ride for the palate. Wasabi lovers know all about the health benefits. Sushi bars offer it as a regular condiment. I find this superfood absolutely delicious.

WASABI FURIKAKE AIOLI

Ingredients:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon furikake seasoning (sesame seed and green seaweed)

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons wasabi powder

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon water

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients and mix until well blended. Cover and refrigerate one hour before serving.

Unlimited Broccoli Tidbits

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Vinaigrette Vendetta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Vinaigrette Vendetta! Every once in awhile it’s nice to step up your game at mealtime. So often we go out to a restaurant and then feel like everything at home is just humdrum and boring. Not true. By changing the ingredients, a completely different flavor is born. Take advantage of the olive oil gourmet shoppes popping up all over. Consultants are eager to have you taste flavored olive oils paired with specialty balsamic vinegars. They will astound you. Flavors like lemon with pomegranate or lime with strawberry are only the beginning. Think about bacon olive oil with maple balsamic. Mmmm. Have I piqued your curiosity?

VINAIGRETTE VENDETTA

Ingredients:

1/4 cup lime olive oil

1/4 cup strawberry balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon red onion, minced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons wildflower honey

1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Instructions:

Combine lime olive oil, strawberry balsamic vinegar, red onion, Dijon mustard, wildflower honey, minced garlic, kosher salt, and white pepper in a small bowl. Whisk together until mixed. Pour into a cruet with a stopper. Store in the refrigerator.

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.