Kooky Cucumber Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Kooky Cucumber Salad! Does anyone really count the number of daily servings of vegetables recommended for a healthy diet? I know I don’t. And I suspect I’m not in the minority. What I do pay attention to is how appealing food looks on the plate. It’s one of the reasons I have a Spiralizer among my kitchen utensils. Besides, it takes minimal effort to make ordinary foods look this good. The fact that I’m maintaining a low fat, low carb, and low calorie intake just gives me all the more reason to splurge on something sweet later on. Call me crazy, or call me “kooky”.

KOOKY CUCUMBER SALAD

Ingredients:

1 large cucumber, halved

1 tomato, chopped

1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons garlic red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped for garnish

Instructions:

Spiralize half the cucumber with the apple core attachment, for wider strips. Spiralize the remaining cucumber half with the noodle attachment, for spaghetti-like spirals. Arrange cucumbers in a serving bowl. Top with chopped tomatoes and red onion slices. Add Kalamata olives. Whisk together olive oil and garlic red wine vinegar. Drizzle over salad. Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Garnish with fresh oregano.

Arugula Cherry Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Arugula Cherry Salad! Handpicked cherries, at the peak of ripeness, set the stage for an appealing salad that is sure to be delightful. Don’t have an orchard nearby? No worries. Check the local Farmer’s Market, fruit stand, or supermarket for the season’s bounty. Timing is everything. You’ll want to have enough ripe cherries on hand to pair later with wine and perhaps a little chocolate. Spoiler Alert: I’ve set aside a portion of juicy red cherries to feature in a decadent dessert. Stay tuned.

ARUGULA CHERRY SALAD

Ingredients:

6 ounces baby arugula

16 ripe cherries, stems removed and pitted

1/4 cup almonds, sliced

1 tablespoon tarragon, leaves only

1 tablespoon sherry cooking wine

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Cracked black pepper to taste

4 ounces Bleu cheese, crumbled

Instructions:

After the pits are removed, cut the cherries in half. Combine arugula, cherries, almonds, and tarragon in a large bowl. Toss gently. In a small bowl, whisk together sherry cooking wine, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Drizzle over salad and gently toss. Divide into serving bowls. Finish with Bleu cheese crumbles over top. Serve immediately.

Sipping Sangria

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Sipping Sangria! The weather is great, the weekend is here. Get ready to party. Psst. Wine lovers lean in. This crowd-pleasing punch can be thrown together beforehand since the flavor gets better with time. Choose your favorite dry red wine. No worries. It’ll sweeten up from the chopped fruit, juices, and agave nectar. Hold the fizziness until just before serving. The colors are not only festive but invigorating. Then sit back, cool off, and sip away.

SIPPING SANGRIA

Ingredients:

5 cups dry red wine

1/2 cup apricot brandy

1/2 cup orange liqueur

1 1/2 cups blood orange juice

1/4 cup grenadine

1/4 cup agave nectar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

3 cups sparkling water or carbonated beverage

1 lime, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

1 orange, sliced

1 apple, cut in wedges

Grapes for garnish

Instructions:

In a large pitcher, combine dry red wine, apricot brandy, orange liqueur, blood orange juice, grenadine, agave nectar, fresh lemon juice, and fresh lime juice. Stir well. Add lime, lemon, orange slices and apple wedges. Refrigerate for one hour. Before serving, add sparkling water. Stir. Fill stemmed glasses with ice, add sangria, and garnish with fruit.

New Potato Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: New Potato Salad! If I said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: the French have it going on! The more I explore their recipes, the more I feel like a gourmet chef. You can, too. Trust me. When I tell you I’m going to have you make potato salad by skipping the mayo, just pretend you didn’t hear me and forge ahead. The results are worth it. Don’t make a big deal when you serve it as a side dish. You’re husband will do that for you. Husband-tested, rave reviews!

NEW POTATO SALAD

1 pound red-skinned new potatoes

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons garlic red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Cracked black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup celery hearts, thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh chervil, coarsely chopped

Instructions:

Place quartered potatoes, skin on, in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Add sea salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium-low, and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15-20 minutes. For dressing, combine olive oil, garlic red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper. Whisk until blended. When potatoes are cooked, drain well. Transfer them to a bowl to cool. Pour the dressing over the potatoes. Add celery and chervil, gently folding to blend flavors. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Easy Escargot

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Easy Escargot! If anyone ever asks you to try this classic French dish, be brave and nod your head. You may surprise yourself because, truth be told, how bad can it be when it’s drenched in melted cheese and garlic butter? Now add my version, which includes white wine and a puff pastry crust. Hello. How could it not be incredibly delish?

EASY ESCARGOT

Ingredients:

4.4 ounce can very large escargots, drained and rinsed

2/3 sheet puff pastry, thawed

4 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon minced parsley

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

2 tablespoons semi-dry white wine

1 egg

4 ounces Havarti cheese with Dill, sliced

4 ounces parmesan cheese, shaved

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Open the can of escargot. Drain well and place the snails in a bowl of cold water. Allow them to soak for 10 minutes. This will cleanse them for a richer taste. Using a shot glass for size, cut a small disc in the puff pastry. Lay the disc on a lightly floured surface. Continue cutting another disc until all the puff pastry is used. You should end up with 16-18 circles of dough. Set aside. Drain escargot using a mesh strainer. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the snails, garlic powder, minced parsley, sea salt, Herbes de Provence, and white wine. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer escargot mixture to an oven-proof dish that has been sprayed with non-stick oil. Cover the snails with Havarti cheese. Next, layer shaved parmesan cheese evenly over all. Arrange the puff pastry discs on top. Separate the egg. Discard yolk. Using the egg white only, take a pastry brush and “paint” the surface of each disc. This will turn the crust a beautiful golden brown in the oven. Bake 10 minutes until crust is done and cheese is bubbly. Bon Appétit!

Drunken Chicken Tenders

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Drunken Chicken Tenders! For those who hate to drink alone, here’s a recipe even Julia Child would approve. Just kidding. Actually, when cooking with wine, the alcohol evaporates as the food cooks, leaving behind an incredible flavor loaded with natural moisture. There’s nothing worse than dry chicken, in my opinion. And we’ve all been there. If you think of wine as a fat substitute in recipes, it all begins to make sense why the French eat the way they do and still maintain a healthy weight. Give it a try.

DRUNKEN CHICKEN TENDERS

Ingredients:

16 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoons butter, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup dry Marsala wine

1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken tenders

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/3 cup flour

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1-2 cups cherry tomatoes

Fresh parsley for garnish

Instructions:

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms. Sauté for 10 minutes. Add minced garlic and wine. Simmer gently to reduce the wine, stirring occasionally. After 15 minutes, add cornstarch, cream, and sea salt. Stir as it thickens. Set aside. To prepare the chicken, combine flour, Herbes de Provence, and black pepper on waxed paper. Toss the chicken until coated on both sides. Shake off excess. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Pan-fry the chicken tenders for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked through. Add sauce and mushrooms to the skillet with the chicken tenders. Top with cherry tomatoes. Simmer until the tomatoes are soft. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Zinfandel Pairings

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Zinfandel Pairings! Just when I thought I’d seen it all, there in the produce department perched on the bottom shelf below its green and red cousins, was a small bin of larger-than-life black seedless grapes. Immediately I was intrigued. The hand-scribbled sign boasted sweet and tart beyond your wildest dreams. That’s it. Nothing more than “Product of USA” on the package. It didn’t matter. It was love-at-first-sight. I knew immediately that a Zinfandel wine and tangy cheese would join the impromptu Date Night that was forming in my mind. Later on, after I got home, I read all kinds of powerful benefits these precious little gems do for the body, mind, and soul. What a perfect prologue for guilt-free delicacies.

ZINFANDEL PAIRINGS

Ingredients:

1 pound black seedless grapes

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4 ounces feta cheese, block

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 cup honeycomb

Multigrain French Bread slices, lightly toasted

Raw Honey, for drizzling

Lemon Thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. In a small dish, combine olive oil, sugar, kosher salt, and black pepper. Wash cluster of black grapes; pat dry. Place grapes on the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, generously coat the grapes with the olive oil mixture. Roast for 30 minutes. Grapes will release juice and begin to wrinkle. Remove pan from oven to cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Break the feta cheese into rough chunks. Transfer to a baking dish sprayed with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon zest. Drizzle with raw honey. Bake for 15 minutes until softened. Broil until slightly golden. Watch carefully. To serve, spread warm cheese on toasted baguette slices. Top with a piece of honeycomb. Place a roasted grape over the cheese. Drizzle with raw honey. Garnish with lemon thyme. Serve with a slightly chilled glass of red Zinfandel.