Chef’s Plate

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

Cornichons Gherkins

Red Onion

Baguette Toast

Mixed Nuts

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.

Understated Stuffed Stromboli

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Understated Stuffed Stromboli! Everyone likes finger food. Take a ready-made French bread dough, add your favorite meats, and cheeses….and Voilà, you have a speedy sandwich assembled in minutes. I often serve it with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. Leftovers make a tasty midnight snack, whether you warm it up or eat it cold. Either way, you won’t see this understated grinder hang around very long.



1 tube refrigerated crusty French bread

1 cup mozzarella cheese, finely shredded

1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded

1/4 pound deli smoked ham, thinly sliced

1/4 pound deli salami, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon butter, melted

3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

1/8 teaspoon dill weed


Preheat the oven to 375°. Unroll the dough and pat into a rectangle about 12″ x 14″. Sprinkle with mozzarella to within half an inch from the edges. Layer ham over mozzarella cheese. Top ham with cheddar cheese. Then layer salami over the cheddar cheese. Roll up lengthwise; seam side down on an ungreased baking sheet. Tuck ends under. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Garnish with dill weed. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Slice into four servings.

Tomato Burrata Crostini

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Tomato Burrata Crostini! One look, one whiff, and one bite is all you need to be satisfied with this gastronomic appetizer. The intensity of slow-roasted tomatoes releases a tangy sweetness that marries well with the luscious creaminess of burrata cheese. Now balance that out with the subtle smokiness of paper-thin hard salami intermingling with aromatic basil leaves. You have just been transported to seventh heaven, inspired by the taste of Italy. Need I say more?



1 pint grape tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 bakery flatbread, plain

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

8 ounces burrata cheese

8 thin slices of hard salami

Fresh basil


Preheat oven to 400°. Toss tomatoes in olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Warm an iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add seasoned tomatoes. Roast tomatoes 15-20 minutes until they blacken slightly and begin to burst. Brush both sides of flatbread with olive oil. Cut flatbread into 8 pieces and place on a pizza pan. Sprinkle with oregano, marjoram, basil, and garlic powder. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove. Place burrata in a shallow dish. Divide it into 8 portions, cutting slowly to keep the creamy filling in the mozzarella shell. Transfer each portion to the flatbread, spreading burrata cheese as needed. Layer thin salami over burrata. Tear or fold to fit the shape of the flatbread. Add roasted tomatoes. Bake 5-8 minutes until edges begin to char. Remove crostini from oven. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve warm.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter Z

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Zingy Weeknight Pasta! Don’t you love it when everything you need for a quick meal is right at your fingertips? Well, I do. This was one of those nights when everything in the fridge “must-go” simply because we were leaving on a trip the next day. I already had a jar of homemade marinara sauce, but feel free to substitute a store bought variety you probably keep in your pantry, next to the package of spaghetti. The chicken strips are frozen, grilled, and precooked. Don’t judge me. It works. Oh, and I actually served freshly grated parmesan cheese as a garnish, but we sprinkled it on at the table. 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 green pepper, chopped 

1 small onion, chopped 

1 clove garlic, minced

3 cups prepared marinara 

2 cups precooked grilled chicken strips, cut into chunks

1/2 pound sliced salami, cut into pieces

4 ounces spaghetti, cooked

Parmesan cheese for garnish 

In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped green pepper, chopped onion, and minced garlic. Sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer and add marinara sauce. Meanwhile, microwave frozen chicken to thaw. Cut into chunks. Add chicken and salami to sauce. Stir to mix. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, but remove the pasta 4 minutes earlier than directed since we are going to add the spaghetti to the sauce to finish cooking. Once the spaghetti is prepared to that point, ladle some of the pasta water into the sauce, about 1/3 cup. This will add wonderful flavor and help thicken the sauce nicely. Now drain the spaghetti and add it to the sauce mixture, without rinsing. Let the spaghetti finish cooking until it is al dente. Serve in pasta bowls. Garnish with parmesan cheese. (Freeze any leftovers to serve when you return from a day of travel.)

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter A

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Antipasto Salad! This recipe is for those of you, like me, who choose a zesty salad every time they visit a Deli. In a few simple steps, you can throw this together and let it marinate in your own refrigerator. Make it the night before, or first thing in the morning. By the time you’re ready for the next meal, it’s done. The flavors blend so well when refrigerated, you’ll think it was store-bought instead. Be kind to yourself. Permission granted. 
Ingredients for Pasta:

1 cup dry rigatoni 

1 Roma tomatoes, quartered 

6 slices Italian salami, quartered 

2 orange sweet mini-peppers, seeded and sliced

1/3 cup pimento-stuffed olives 

4 pepperoncini, whole stemmed

3 basil leaves, chopped
For Dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning dry mix

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar


Bibb lettuce leaves

Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water, according to package directions. Drain pasta; rinse with cold water and set aside. Combine pasta, Roma tomatoes, Italian salami, sweet mini peppers, olives, pepperoncini, and basil. Toss to mix. In a measuring bowl, whisk together olive oil, Italian seasoning mix, grated Parmesan cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over pasta mixture. Spoon into Bibb lettuce leaves. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter L

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Simple Sensations: Linguine Chicken Salami! Sometimes it’s just not possible for me to get to a restaurant for one of my favorite dishes. That’s when I prepare the dish at home. A good friend of mine shared tips on putting together a great Italian marinara sauce. It’s all about taste buds and choosing the quality of herbs. If you don’t have the extra time, simply choose a store-bought alternative until you can perfect the right combination for you. 

6-8 chicken fillets 

2 tablespoons lemon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper 

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 Vidalia onion, sliced
28-ounce can peeled tomatoes in basil sauce

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon marjoram 

1/2 teaspoon basil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper 

1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 pound Italian salami*

6-ounces of spinach linguini 

6-ounces of angel hair pasta

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded 

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

*Sliced pepperoni can be substituted for the Italian salami. 

Preheat oven to 350°. Pour lemon olive oil into a shallow skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken fillets seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Lower heat to medium. Sauté chicken until browned, about three minutes per side. Add sliced onions, cover, and cook on low setting until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes longer. Set aside. 

For sauce combine cut-up tomatoes with sauce, oregano, marjoram, basil, garlic cloves, sugar, sea salt, and cracked pepper. (At this time, I add the cooked onions to the sauce.)

Spoon 1/3 of sauce into a casserole dish. In single layer, arrange chicken fillets. Slice salami into strips, using kitchen shears, covering chicken. Pour remaining sauce over all. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Remove lid and bake 10 minutes longer until cheese turns golden brown. 

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Spoon pasta into single servings. Carefully place one fillet over pasta, making sure to add extra sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and serve. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter S

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Spicy Salami Mozzarella Pizza! Whether you choose to use a homemade pizza crust or a store-bought variety, the best part about this Italian favorite is the naturally smoked spicy salami and thick gooey mozzarella rounds. I froze pizza dough when I made a batch of Neapolitan-style crust. You can do the same so it’s only a footstep away to the best pizza crust on the planet! By baking it in an iron skillet, the heat seals in the flavor while creating a crispy crunch that’ll have you rolling your eyes in ultimate satisfaction. 

1 Neapolitan pizza crust*

1/2 cup tomato sauce

2 ounces sliced Lipari Old Tyme Hard Salami**

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced rounds

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh basil leaves

Fold each slice of salami in half and then in half again to form a triangle. Set aside. 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 spicy salami triangles. 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. Snip fresh basil over all. Serve immediately. For more than one pizza, repeat process. 
*To make your own Neapolitan-style pizza crust, click the following link.
**I receive no recompense for mentioning Lipari Old Tyme Hard Salami. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter I

%#Letter I – What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Italian Pasta Mediterranean! This exotic colorful pasta dish will have you rolling your eyes in satisfaction over the hearty gourmet intensity. Its blend of gastronomic flavor tempts the taste buds to have a second helping of this culinary delight. 

8 ounces penne pasta

Salt to taste

1/2 pound Italian salami, thinly sliced

1/2 pound asparagus spears

1/2 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes 

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon marjoram 

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Parsley Sprig for garnish 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt. Add penne pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and transfer it to a large pasta bowl. 

Next to steam asparagus, place water in the bottom half of a steamer pan set. Bring to boil. Trim ends off the asparagus. Cut into quarters. Place in top half of steamer pan set. Steam for 5 minutes until tender. 

For dressing, mix olive oil, oregano, basil, marjoram, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes in small bowl. 

Combine penne pasta, asparagus pieces, diced sun-dried tomatoes, and salami rounds. Pour olive oil dressing over all. Gently mix. Add pine nuts. Garnish with fresh parsley sprig. Serve warm with garlic toast. This is an excellent side dish to Chicken Cacciatore. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet; Letter F

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Fondue Pizza Party! Revitalize the 1970s by throwing a fondue party. Gather up the dipping forks, where everyone chooses their favorite color. Remember, these forks are for spearing and dipping only. Never allow your guests to eat from the sharp pointed ends. Another reason eating from the fondue forks is a no-no is to avoid adding germs to the fondue sauce. So, set the table and let the fun begin!

1 pound Italian meatballs, pre-cooked and ready-to-serve

8 ounces bite size dry salami or pepperoni slices

1 green pepper, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1 pound cherry tomatoes 

8 ounces mozzarella sticks, cut into chunks

28-30 ounce jar pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce


Bagel chips

Rosemary sprigs 

Heat pizza sauce to boiling, then reduce to simmer, stirring constantly. Keep warm. Transfer to a fondue pot when ready to serve. Set on low heat to maintain a constant temperature. Arrange meatballs, pepperoni slices, green pepper, onion, cherry tomatoes, and cheese chunks on one or two serving platters. Include breadsticks, crostini, or bagel chips as another option. Spear dippers with fondue forks or rosemary sprigs. Dip ingredients into the fondue sauce for pizza party magic.