Half-Baked Skillet Pizza Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Half-Baked Skillet Pizza Dip! Who likes bread dough? I do, I do. Who keeps a bag of frozen bread dough rolls in their freezer? Me, too. Whether you’re making this amazing pizza dip as an afternoon snack, midday appetizer, or late-night dinner, you will impress yourself with the chewy bread dough base. That is, until the mouthwatering moment you feast your eyes on the gooey strands of pizza cheese. Melted mozzarella cheese pulls can stretch from the iron skillet to your mouth like a tightrope stretched across Niagara Falls. Either snap it off in one bite or twirl it around your index finger for satisfying nibbling. Did I fail to mention the layers of deliciousness? Read on to see what I mean.

HALF-BAKED SKILLET PIZZA DIP

Ingredients for Crust:

12 frozen dinner roll dough balls

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

Ingredients for Dip:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon zesty Italian salad dressing mix

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup provolone cheese, shredded

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup prepared pizza sauce

5 slices deli-style hard salami, cut into triangles (or mini pepperoni slices)

Fresh Parsley, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray an iron skillet with nonstick oil. Remove frozen bread dough rolls from the freezer. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, garlic powder, black pepper, sea salt, red pepper flakes, and parsley flakes. Mix well. Coat each frozen bread dough roll with butter mixture and arrange around the outside edge of the iron skillet. Cover pan with a tea towel, place in a warm area, and allow the dough to rise for 20 minutes for a half-baked doughy crust. Meanwhile, to prepare dip filling, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, Italian seasoning, and grated parmesan cheese. Mix well. Fold in shredded provolone cheese and 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese. Spoon half the filling into the center of the iron skillet. Add a layer of pizza sauce. Spoon the remaining cheese filling on top. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese over all. Arrange with salami or pepperoni slices. Place the iron skillet in the preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and pizza dip is bubbly. Remove from oven. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve warm.

Individual Lasagna Roll-Ups

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Individual Lasagna Roll-Ups! Lasagna can be a tedious process from start to finish. Don’t get me wrong, some days it is definitely worth the effort. When I want to simplify my life, I take advantage of the effortless idea of creating a roll-up from each noodle. Not only does it make each portion compact, but it also guarantees that every helping has all the goodies tucked neatly inside. And that’s basically what lasagna is all about, isn’t it? Think about how easy it would be for transporting to family gatherings or seasonal parties, should you choose to share. Everyone wins.

INDIVIDUAL LASAGNA ROLL-UPS

Ingredients:

6 lasagna noodles

1 pound Italian sausage, ground

1/2 teaspoon fennel

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup onion, chopped

2 tablespoons green pepper, diced

1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced

12 ounces marinara sauce

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 egg

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain. Refill pot with cold water to keep the noodles from sticking together. Set aside. In a large skillet, cook Italian sausage over medium-high heat. Add fennel, sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Crumble meat as it cooks. Add chopped onions, diced green peppers, and sliced mushrooms. Pour marinara over all. Stir thoroughly; reduce heat to a simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off heat. Spread the bottom of the prepared casserole dish with 1/4 cup meat mixture. In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, parmesan cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and chopped parsley. Transfer lasagna noodles to a baking sheet. Spread cheese mixture over the top of each noodle. Add a strip of meat mixture over the cheese layer. Roll up noodles and transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Spread remaining meat mixture over lasagna rolls. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Cover casserole with a lid or foil. Bake covered for 40 minutes. Remove lid and broil 2-3 minutes until cheese is lightly golden. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

Flatbread Gone Wild

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Flatbread Gone Wild! Have you ever peeked through the window on the oven door while food is baking? Of course you have. Everyone does. The surprise you’ll find when baking wild ramps is the leaves puff up as though filling with air like a balloon animal at a child’s birthday party. It’s fun to see and totally unexpected. They almost seem to take on a life of their own. If you’re worried about the leaves popping, take a cake tester and pierce them beforehand, just to be sure. Personally, I like to roast wild ramps long enough to char the edges for a subtle hint of smokiness.

FLATBREAD GONE WILD

Ingredients:

1 prepared flatbread

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1/4 cup marinara sauce

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 pound wild ramps, washed and patted dry

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon crushed oregano

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush the bottom of the flatbread with olive oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Bake for 5 minutes on a pizza stone. Remove from oven, brush the top of the crust with olive oil. Spread on the marinara sauce, stopping before the edges. Layer mozzarella cheese over sauce. Arrange wild ramps lengthwise over cheese. Sprinkle with sea salt and crushed oregano. Bake 20 minutes until the cheese bubbles and the edges are crisp.

Xanadu Pasta Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Xanadu Pasta Salad! At first glance, this may appear as a five-minute throw-together meal. Think again. In actuality, the magic begins once half the ingredients are combined and tucked away in the refrigerator for a couple days to marinate. At this point, the pasta actually transforms into a gourmet dish you are likely to have tasted at a family-owned sandwich shoppe or small town deli. One forkful may leave you wondering if this is all a dream. Is that music I hear in the background? Xanadu. Quickly, store those thoughts in your memory bank. I have no doubt you’ll return there for more.

XANADU PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:

16 ounces vermicelli spaghetti pasta

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons seasoned salt

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 pint red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

8 ounces small mozzarella balls, halved

1 teaspoon crushed oregano

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

Cook vermicelli according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Combine cooked pasta, kosher salt, seasoned salt, lemon juice, and vegetable oil. Pour mixture into a gallon ziplock bag. Refrigerate for two days, turning a couple times to marinate flavors. Then pour seasoned pasta into a large bowl. Spoon in red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Add small mozzarella balls. Sprinkle with crushed oregano. Gently toss. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.

Meatball Pizzetta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Meatball Pizzetta! Need a late-night snack beyond a bag of chips or a bowl of ice cream? Don’t get me wrong, there was a time in my life when I self-medicated with a pint of Turkish Coffee Ice Cream, at least 3 or 4 times a week. No regrets and certainly no judgment here. What I recently discovered, though, is a mini portion of authentic flatbread, packaged in a 4-count. Just the right size to become a pizzetta for one. I always seem to have a jar of homemade Italian marinara in my fridge. And mozzarella cheese? Well, that’s practically a staple around my house as well. Do you see the wheels turning? This is how my kitchen is stocked. Because you never know when a craving will hit.

MEATBALL PIZZETTA

Ingredients:

I mini naan flatbread

2-3 tablespoons marinara sauce, prepared

1/4 cup mozzarella cheese

3-5 small frozen Italian meatballs, thawed

1 tablespoon pickled red onions

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. If you have a pizza stone, place it on the rack while the oven is warming. Take a mini naan flatbread and place it on a plate. Spread a layer of marinara, stopping short of the edges. Layer naan with shredded mozzarella cheese. Arrange Italian meatballs on top. Transfer pizzetta to a preheated pizza stone. Bake 15-20 minutes until cheese melts and crust is crunchy. Carefully remove from oven, add pickled red onions, and slice pizzetta. Garnish with fresh basil.

X-tra Cheese, Please, Appetizer

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: X-Tra Cheese, Please, Appetizer! Ever since I visited a popular Las Vegas restaurant, I’ve been looking for a cheese appetizer like this one. It’s not the traditional gooey soupy cheese dip you swipe tortilla chips through before gobbling down. The waiter set the iron skillet in front of us and said, “This is a cheese you need to use a knife and fork with. It’s not going to jump onto the chip.” Come to find out it was flambéed over an open fire in the kitchen. Wow! And they used tequila to ignite it. I wish I could tell you that’s what I did here, but sorry, “no comprendo”. Instead I baked it at a high temperature and dredged it through a spicy honey. Show compassion. I tried.

X-TRA CHEESE, PLEASE, APPETIZER

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted

1 yellow onion, diced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey

1 teaspoon sriracha

1 teaspoon garlic habanero sauce

2 tablespoons ranch dressing

Chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 475°. Using a 10” iron skillet, warm butter over medium heat. Add diced onion and kosher salt. Sauté for 5-8 minutes, or until onions are soft and golden brown. Add Monterey Jack cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Mix thoroughly with onions. To make the spicy honey, in a microwave-safe dish combine raw Tupelo honey, sriracha, and garlic habanero sauce. Stir well. Microwave on High for 30 seconds. Stir again. Set aside. Transfer cheese-filled iron skillet to the oven. Bake 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Turn oven setting to High on Broil. Allow dark spots to appear on the surface, about 1-2 minutes. Watch carefully as this happens very quickly. Remove skillet from oven. Drizzle with spicy honey and ranch dressing. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve with tortilla chips.

Utmost Prosciutto Plate

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Utmost Prosciutto Plate! Treat yourself right by going the extra mile in gourmet treats. Something so simple, yet sublime, can change a mood from sour to exciting. We all need something to look forward to. Am I right? Fresh mozzarella is usually sold in a brine or water solution to retain its moisture, texture, and soft shape. Let it drain for a few minutes on paper towels; then dab dry and slice. By drizzling a rich olive oil over the mozzarella to enhance that delicate milky flavor, the buttery essence peeks through. Add a leaf or two of fresh basil to enrich the nutritive value. As you sit there nibbling on a slice of prosciutto, pat yourself on the back for enduring the tough times we’ve been through recently. Our home is a safe haven and we can get through whatever storm is next.

UTMOST PROSCIUTTO PLATE

Ingredients:

4 ounces fresh mozzarella, room temperature

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon dried basil

3 ounces old world prosciutto, sliced

7 ounces rustic crostini crackers

4 ounces organic green olives, pitted

Instructions:

Drain mozzarella cheese for a few minutes on paper towels; then dab dry and slice. Transfer to a platter. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with dried basil. Arrange sliced prosciutto and crostini crackers around cheese. Add pitted green olives. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve with Pinot Grigio.

French Fried Onion ‘n Pork Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: French Fried Onion and Pork Flatbread! Don’t wait all year to sink your teeth into those crispy onion toppers sprinkled over holiday green bean casserole. Be creative. The onion crunch can be added to soups, salads, burgers, and pizza, too. Simply use your imagination and I guarantee you can talk yourself into something delicious. Barbecue pork, with its sweet and tangy sauce, had me longing for a side order of onion rings. Social distancing and restrictions meant that wasn’t going to happen. So, I opened the pantry door and there on the shelf was a can of the next best thing. French Fried Onions saved the day. Set your wheels in motion, then fork it over.

FRENCH FRIED ONION ‘N PORK FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 prepared flatbread

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/3 cup sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish

1 cup seasoned pork, cooked and shredded

2 tablespoons green pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons red pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons yellow onion, chopped

1 cup mozzarella cheese, finely shredded

1/2 cup French fried onions

1 tablespoon ranch dressing, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush bottom of flatbread with olive oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal and garlic powder. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Spread the barbecue sauce over the flatbread. Layer the shredded pork on top. Add the green pepper, red pepper, and yellow onion. Top flatbread with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 8 minutes, then top with French fried onions. Bake 2-3 minutes longer. Remove from oven, slice accordingly, then drizzle reserve barbecue sauce and ranch dressing over all. Serve immediately.

Neapolitan Tomato Cheese Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Neapolitan Tomato Cheese Pizza! Before you roll your eyes, let me explain about Neapolitan pizza. The dough itself is made of four basic ingredients. I like that. The Italian flour makes the dough stretchy and easy to work into shape with your fingers. If you cannot find Italian flour, bread flour is an acceptable substitute. I went on a quest to find it, though. A Neapolitan pizza is made to be eaten with a knife and fork as a personal pan pizza. And it is not precut, simply because the center of the bottom crust is soft and chewy. Trust me, it’s worth every bite. This dough recipe will make six individual servings of thin crust pizza. Bellissimo!

NEAPOLITAN TOMATO CHEESE PIZZA

Ingredients:

4 cups Italian “00” flour plus extra flour for dusting

2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon yeast

1 1/3 cups water

1/2 cup tomato sauce

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced rounds

6 basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions:

Combine flour, sea salt, yeast, and water into a Bread Machine. Set to “Dough”. When finished, divide dough into 6 portions, cover each in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 72 hours. Remove 45 minutes prior to preparation for dough to come to room temperature. Transfer one ball of dough to a medium bowl that has a handful of flour in it. Flip to coat. Pat off excess flour and transfer it to a floured surface. Gently stretch dough, with fingertips, into a circle. Pick it up and place it on a sheet of parchment paper. With one hand in the center of the dough round, use the other hand to stretch the edge outward without tearing, rotating as needed. Place the oven rack on its highest setting. You should still be able to place an iron skillet on it. If not, lower the rack. Preheat the Broiler on High. Dust the iron skillet with flour; tap out excess. Heat the empty skillet until it is smoking lightly, approximately 3 minutes. Transfer dough to the skillet. Moving quickly, top the dough with tomato sauce, mozzarella slices, and fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle with kosher salt and drizzle with olive oil. Transfer skillet back to the broiler and cook until pizza is puffed and charred in spots, up to 4 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove from oven. Serve immediately. For more than one pizza, repeat process.