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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Endive Apple Salad! Have you noticed how bright and beautiful the produce is right now? Sometimes I marvel at all the farm fresh fruits and vegetables imagining the flavors I can pair on a plate. It’s a good thing my husband is open to trying new things. A juicy sweet slice of red ripe apple nestled between curly-edged leaves of rich green endive become pleasing to the eye long before the first crunch is heard. Add Bleu cheese crumbles with praline pecans drizzled in a balsamic reduction sauce. Together it adds deliciousness that is unsurpassed, in my opinion.
ENDIVE APPLE SALAD
1 large Gala apple
1/4 lemon juice
1 bunch curly endive
1 small head napa cabbage
1/2 cup praline pecan halves
1/4 cup bacon pieces
1/4 cup Bleu cheese crumbles
Balsamic reduction sauce*
Pour lemon juice into a shallow bowl. Cut the apple in half. Take one portion and place cut side down in lemon juice. This keeps the apple from turning brown. Remove the apple and set aside for garnish. For the remaining apple half, core and remove seeds. Slice apple into 7 equal-size wedges; dip both sides of apples into lemon juice to coat. Meanwhile, arrange napa cabbage leaves and endive on a decorative platter, alternating for bursts of color. Place the apple half in the center and nestle one apple wedge inside a cabbage leaf, creating a pinwheel effect. Add praline pecans, bacon pieces, and Bleu cheese crumbles. Drizzle with balsamic reduction glaze.
*For my quick and easy homemade version, follow the link to
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Iceberg Lettuce Cranberry Pecan Salad! Make today an easy day. Throw together a tossed salad that will satisfy hunger pangs with the crunch of lettuce, the natural sweetness of fruit, lean meat, the salty mix of pecans, protein-packed eggs, and heart-healthy bleu cheese. Bonus points include a natural source of fiber, weight control, plus super-convenience. Not only is salad a time-saver, it is also a money-saver. Most of all, you’re worth it.
ICEBERG LETTUCE CRANBERRY PECAN SALAD
2 cups iceberg lettuce, shredded
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup mandarin orange slices
1/3 cup sugared pecans
1 cup grilled chicken, cut-up
1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese
2 soft-boiled eggs, halved
Balsamic vinaigrette, to taste
Divide iceberg lettuce between salad bowls. Top with dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, sugared pecans, cut-up grilled chicken, and bleu cheese crumbles. Place soft boiled egg half on top. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette, to taste.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Wicked Hot Wings and Drummies! Get set for an explosion of hot jerk sauce slathered over fork-tender chicken slowly cooked all afternoon. These “fall off the bone” juicy morsels will have you smacking your lips and wiping your chin. A side dish of chunky Bleu cheese dressing snuffs out the fire and tramples the heat. Keep stalks of celery handy and you’ll find yourself wondering how you finished the entire platter.
WICKED HOT WINGS AND DRUMMIES
1 1/2 cups Jazzy Jerk Sauce**
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 cup ginger beer
1 1/2 pounds chicken wings and drummies
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Mix together habanero sauce, butter, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, onion powder, and garlic powder. Bring sauce to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup ginger beer. Stir to blend. Place chicken wings and drummies in a crockpot. Cover all with sauce. Cook on High setting for 2 hours. Reduce temperature to Low setting and cook 2 1/2 hours longer. Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray with nonstick oil. Place wings and drummies on foil. Baste tops with sauce. Bake 15 minutes. Turn with tongs, baste, and bake 15 minutes longer. Serve with additional sauce. Garnish with sesame seeds. Serving suggestion: Celery sticks and chunky Bleu cheese dressing.
*The Jazzy Jerk habanero sauce may be substituted for another hot pepper sauce.
**Jazzy Jerk Sauce recipe may be found by clicking on the link below.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Oregano Roasted Fingerling Potatoes! Seasoning can change the taste of anything, especially when using fresh herbs. This is the time of year when I get excited about nurturing my herb garden. The hardier herbs, like mint, chives, and thyme withstand the winter months and breakthrough in the Spring with vim and vigor. Other favorites require renewing annually; rosemary, basil, cilantro, dill, and oregano are among them. Today’s recipe partners the delicate new fingerling potatoes, which grow small and narrow to live up to their name, alongside robust bleu cheese crumbles and the earthy flavor of fresh oregano. Together they produce a rustic dish characteristic of the south of France, Italy, and Greece. Enticing, isn’t it?
OREGANO ROASTED FINGERLING POTATOES
1.5 pound bag of petite fingerling gourmet potatoes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°. Pour vegetable oil on a baking sheet to coat the pan with a thin layer. Using a 2-quart pan on the stovetop, cut fingerling potatoes in half and place in the pan with enough water to cover. Add sea salt. Bring to a boil; cook for 7-8 minutes. Drain well. Set aside. Sprinkle dried oregano over potatoes. Cover pan with lid and shake vigorously to slightly loosen potato skins. Carefully transfer oregano potatoes to the baking sheet. Turn to coat in oil. Bake 30-40 minutes until skins are golden and crispy. Turn occasionally to cook evenly. Once the potatoes are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, transfer fingerling potatoes to a serving platter. Add bleu cheese crumbles and freshly chopped oregano. Serve immediately.