What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Mint Black ‘n Bleu Snack! When you’re needing a simple, yet exotic appetizer or dessert, nothing satisfies the palate like naturally sweet fresh blackberries complimented by creamy bleu cheese. The subtle crunch of a multigrain cracker topped with sesame and poppyseeds makes a wonderful platform. A touch of raw honey serves to tickle the tongue while the fresh mint leaf provides a tangy finish. Together, they pair extremely well with a glass of white wine or after dinner espresso. Perhaps you see this in your future.
MINT BLACK ‘N BLEU SNACK
8.3 ounces multigrain baked crackers
4-6 ounce wedge Danish bleu cheese
8 ounces fresh blackberries, wash and pat dry
1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey
Fresh mint leaves
On a serving platter, arrange a single layer of multigrain crackers. Shave thin layers of Danish bleu cheese slices to cover the crackers. Add blackberries in random order. Drizzle with Tupelo honey. Garnish with fresh mint leaves. Serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Knee-Jerk Chicken Wings! Look ahead for a weekend meal that is Mmm Mmm Good. It takes a minute of advanced planning, but is, oh, so worth it. As with any marinade, its main purpose is to tenderize the chicken while bathing it with flavor and moisture. In the end you have chicken wings so juicy you won’t be able to put them down. As always, store the marinated chicken in the refrigerator. I don’t recommend reusing the marinade once you transfer the meat to a baking pan. As a general rule, any sauces that come into contact with uncooked meat should be disposed of properly to prevent harmful bacteria exposure. I’m good with that. In most cases an extra sauce or dressing can be offered instead.
KNEE-JERK CHICKEN WINGS
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon dark rum
2 habanero peppers, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon molasses
2 pounds chicken wings
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon spicy honey
Chives, for garnish
To make the jerk paste marinade, combine vinegar, dark rum, habanero peppers, red onion, green onions, thyme, olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and molasses in a blender. Pulse to mix until smooth. Place the chicken in a baking dish. Pour lime juice over chicken to coat on both sides. Wearing gloves, rub the jerk paste over both sides of the chicken wings, covering well. Transfer chicken to a gallon freezer bag. Use a rubber spatula to transfer all the marinade to the bag. Seal the bag and refrigerate overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400°. Spray a rimmed baking pan with nonstick oil. Place chicken wings in a single layer, skin side up. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes, then flip to bake for another 20 minutes. Combine ketchup, soy sauce, and spicy honey in a small bowl. Mix well. Turn the chicken back over so the skin side is up. Brush with ketchup sauce. Bake 10 minutes longer. When chicken is done, transfer to a platter. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve with celery sticks and bleu cheese dressing.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Bored With Cheese? Anyone who has perused a deli market understands how confusing the cheese categories have become. The choices appear endless. Cheese can be aged for months, hand-rubbed with robust Italian spices, shelf-cured for optimal quality, or made with passion from a local dairy. Who knew? I recently picked up a “cheese flight” of three Wisconsin varieties. I loved the description detailing the best pairing options for fruits, nuts, and beverages. Not only is it a great way to try mild or robust cheeses, it turns a charcuterie board into a win, win for the night.
BORED WITH CHEESE?
3.5-ounce wedge Tuscan-rubbed fontina cheese
3-ounce wedge parmesan cheese
1.5-ounce edge bleu cheese
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced
1/2 cup walnut halves
Crackers and baguette slices
Arrange cheeses, apple slices, and walnut halves on a cutting board. Serve with crackers, sliced baguette, beer, and wine.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Beet Bacon Bleu Salad! Remember when you were a kid and your mother made you eat beets? And you hated them? Well, thank goodness as we age, our taste buds change. Perhaps it’s time to give them a second chance. I did and the results made me wonder why I waited so long.
BEET BACON BLEU SALAD
15-ounce can sliced beets, drained
3 tablespoons lemon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
2 cups mixed salad greens
1 egg, hard-cooked and sliced
3 slices applewood bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
1/4 cup bleu cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons balsamic reduction
Garnish with croutons
In a shallow dish, combine lemon olive oil, seasoned salt, and Herbes de Provence. Add sliced beets. Marinate 10 minutes, turn and marinate 10 minutes longer. Arrange salad greens in a bowl. Add beets, reserving marinade. Arrange egg slices on greens. Top with bacon pieces. Sprinkle with bleu cheese crumbles. Drizzle all with reserve marinade plus balsamic reduction. Garnish with croutons.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Chef’s Plate! Pull together a party-friendly charcuterie platter where finger foods rule. Make it as elaborate as you choose, depending on the size of the guest list. Obviously for an intimate dinner for two, something like this is a perfect balance of contrasting flavors. Keep the bread crunchy and the jam or jelly sweet. It offsets the fatty, salty meat by cutting through the richness of the buttery cheese. The tartness of gherkins is a classic choice for nibbling in between. Be creative. Anything goes.
Jalapeño Pepper Jelly
Summer Sausage Sticks
Aged Bleu Cheese
Bite-size Dry Salami
Fill small condiment bowls with pepper jelly, baby gherkins, and assorted mixed nuts. Slice baguette. Rub with olive oil and bake in a 350° oven for 10 minutes. Turn over and bake 5 minutes longer. Place on a chef’s board or in a bread basket. Arrange cured hard sausages around the wedge of Bleu cheese. Slices red onion and “fan” near the bread. Once the food is arranged, open a bottle of wine, and enjoy the experience of grazing.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Piquant Pear Passion! Did you know a little bit of cheese and fruit make a great dessert at the end of a meal? Sure you did. The French have been doing it for years. Europeans, too. Bleu cheese, or its milder cousins Roquefort and Gorgonzola, is a perfect match with sweet ripe pears. Nuts provide that little extra crunch you crave. If making ahead, to keep the pears from turning brown, simply dip them in a wash of lemon juice and water. It works. If you wish to top off the dessert plate with subtle sweetness, drizzle some natural honey over the pears before serving. Obviously I threw in the greens as garnish. Habit, that’s for sure.
PIQUANT PEAR PASSION
1-2 ripe pears, cored and sliced
4-ounces Bleu cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup walnut pieces
Arugula leaves, for garnish
Natural Honey, for drizzling (optional)
Arrange pear slices in a dessert dish. Add the bleu cheese crumbles. Sprinkle with walnut pieces. Garnish with arugula leaves. Drizzle pears with natural honey.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Peaches Hot Off the Grill! Need a salad tonight? Take the easy way out and throw a couple peaches on the grill. You can even leave the skin on, like I did. In a few minutes, you’ll be savoring their remarkable flavor on a bed of mixed greens. As the family claps their hands in delight, simply take a bow and chirp, “You’re welcome!”
PEACHES HOT OFF THE GRILL
2 large fresh peaches, halved and pitted
1-2 tablespoons lemon olive oil
1/3 cup Bleu cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons pecan bits
Lemon Olive Oil to taste
Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar to taste
Preheat gas grill on medium-high heat. Brush cut side of each peach half with lemon olive oil. Place cut side down on grill. Cook for 5 minutes. Flesh will be slightly charred. Turn peaches over and cook 2 minutes longer. Meanwhile divide salad greens between individual plates. Transfer one peach half to each bed of greens. Sprinkle with crumbled Bleu cheese and pecan bits. Drizzle with additional lemon olive oil and pomegranate balsamic vinegar to taste.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Buffalo Chicken Pizza! Combine two bar and grill favorites to equal one outstanding supper on game night. From the creamy ranch dressing slathered over a crispy olive oil crust to the tender rotisserie chicken dotted with robust bleu cheese and crunchy celery, you will not believe your taste buds. This is good stuff. Decide how high you want to crank up the heat by using spicy sriracha sauce and red pepper flakes. Go wingless for a sensational show-stopper that will leave everyone cheering.
BUFFALO CHICKEN PIZZA
1 prepared naan, flatbread, or pizza crust
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4-1/3 cup ranch salad dressing
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup deli-roasted chicken, shredded
1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1/2 cup chopped celery
2-3 tablespoons sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 400°. Brush both sides of a prepared pizza crust. Sprinkle cornmeal on the bottom only. Sprinkle garlic powder over top. Bake seasoned crust on a pizza stone for 5 minutes. Carefully remove from oven. Spread ranch salad dressing evenly over top crust. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Layer on shredded chicken. Dot with bleu cheese crumbles. Bake 10 minutes longer. Arrange chopped celery over pizza. Drizzle with sriracha sauce. Garnish with red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Quattro Formaggio Ravioli! Four different cheeses in one dish make me think I died and went to Heaven. Or at the very least, I did something right. Let me share with you a little secret. It doesn’t matter that you use store-bought ravioli because it’s the cheese sauce you practically slurp with a spoon!
QUATTRO FORMAGGIO RAVIOLI
2 tablespoons Bleu cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup butter
1 cup light cream
4 ounces Neufchâtel cream cheese
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1 cup marinara sauce
Stuffed Ravioli, any variety
Combine Bleu, Parmesan, and Mozzarella cheeses in a bowl. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, over low heat, melt butter. Do not scorch. Add light cream and bring to boil. Slowly add Neufchâtel cream cheese in chunks, stirring until melted. Reduce heat to medium-low. Gradually add remaining cheeses, stirring constantly until smooth. While stirring return to boil for one minute. Add herbs de Provence. Reduce to simmer. Warm marinara sauce in another pan or microwave-safe dish. Cook ravioli as directed on package. Drain ravioli and divide into portions. Spoon cheese sauce and marinara sauce over cooked ravioli. Sprinkle with extra cheese. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve with garlic bread drizzled with olive oil.