Instead of having her rehearsal dinner at a restaurant, my girlfriend Ronda has decided to host it in her parents' backyard. To save money, the event won't be a formal sit-down affair, but rather a casual alfresco cocktail party with heavy appetizers. The easy menu is inspired by Italy.
First set up a huge station with store-bought charcuterie, cheese, olives, and antipasto. Next, give classic Caesar salad a portable makeover by serving on skewers. Ask a family friend to man the grill and cook up an assortment of vegetarian — asparagus and sun dried tomato, zucchini, margherita, and fontina olive — grilled pizzas. Prepare the toppings and dough in advance.
All the griller has to do is assemble and make the pizzas. Once cooked, pass around and offer to guests. To check out these recipes,
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
One 2-ounce tin anchovies, drained
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 heart of romaine, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1-inch strips
16 cherry tomatoes
Freshly ground pepper
- In a blender, combine the mayonnaise, 1 cup of cheese, lemon juice, anchovies, mustard, vinegar, garlic and Worcestershire sauce. Blend on high until thick and creamy, about 20 seconds.
- Place the dip in a bowl and top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cheese.
- Divide the romaine strips evenly among 16 skewers and thread them onto the skewers through their center rib, keeping them close to the tip. Top each skewer with a cherry tomato, garnish with pepper and serve with the Caesar dressing dip.
Makes 16 skewers.
- Appetizers, Vegetables
1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), thick ends removed
1 bunch scallions, trimmed
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed), thinly sliced, plus 3 tablespoons oil from jar
1 pound store-bought pizza dough, thawed if frozen
1 cup ricotta
- Heat grill to medium.
- In a large bowl, combine asparagus, scallions, and 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 6 to 9 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut asparagus and scallions into thirds.
- Brush a large baking sheet with 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato oil. On a lightly floured work surface, divide dough in half. Roll or stretch to form two 9-inch ovals. Transfer to prepared sheet, and brush with remaining tablespoon sun-dried tomato oil.
- Transfer dough pieces to grill. Cook until undersides are firm and beginning to char, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a large spatula, transfer crusts, grilled side up, back to baking sheet.
- Dividing evenly, top crusts with ricotta, then asparagus, scallions, and sun-dried tomatoes; season with salt and pepper.
- Slide back onto grill and cook, rotating occasionally, until crusts are cooked through and cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer pizzas to a cutting board, cut in half, and serve.
- Pizza, Main Dishes
1 large garlic clove
2 tablespoons olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
1 lb pizza dough, thawed if frozen
1 lb zucchini (about 2 large), cut diagonally into 1/3-inch-thick slices
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 lb coarsely grated mozzarella (2 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
- Prepare gas grill for cooking over moderate heat. Preheat burners on high, covered, 10 minutes, then, if necessary, reduce to heat specified in recipe.
- Meanwhile, mince garlic with a large heavy knife, then mash to a paste with a pinch of salt using flat side of knife. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 1 teaspoon olive oil.
- Stretch dough with your fingers into a 12- by 10-inch rectangle on a large baking sheet and rub with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Cover dough with plastic wrap.
- Toss zucchini with salt (1/4 teaspoon) and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl. Grill zucchini on lightly oiled grill rack, covered, turning occasionally, until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes total. Return to bowl.
- Bring dough, garlic oil, and cheese to grill area. Grill dough, oiled side down, on lightly oiled grill rack, covered, until underside is golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes.
- Turn crust over using tongs and brush with garlic oil. Sprinkle with half of cheese, then arrange zucchini, overlapping slightly, in 1 layer on cheese. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and grill pizza, covered, until underside is golden brown and cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Transfer pizza with tongs and a spatula to a cutting board, then sprinkle with oregano and drizzle with remaining teaspoon olive oil.
- Pizza, Main Dishes
2 tablespoons honey
3 cups warm water
2 packages dry active yeast
7 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
3 tablespoons kosher salt
For olive-fontina topping:
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 pound Italian Fontina cheese, coarsely shredded (2 cups)
1/2 cup pitted black Moroccan olives, chopped
For margherita topping:
2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 pound mozzarella, coarsely shredded (2 cups)
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
salt, for sprinkling
- Make the dough: In a very large bowl, stir the honey into the water until dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand until foamy, about 8 minutes. Stir in the flour, the 1/4 cup of olive oil and the salt until blended. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
- On the floured work surface, punch down the dough and cut into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place on an oiled baking sheet. Rub the dough balls with oil, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
- Light a grill. When the coals are hot, push two-thirds to one side for a hot fire; spread the remaining coals on the other side for a medium-hot fire.
- Prepare the olive-fontina pizzas: In a small cast-iron skillet, toast the pine nuts over the medium-hot fire, shaking the pan, until the nuts are golden and fragrant, about 1 minute. Arrange all the topping ingredients near the grill.
- On a lightly oiled work surface or sheet pan, press 1 dough ball into a thin, roughly shaped, 10-inch round. Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Carefully set 1 dough round over the hot fire and grill until firm on the bottom and easy to lift, about 1 minute. Using tongs, move the crust to the medium-hot fire and continue grilling until the bottom is deeply browned and blistered, about 2 minutes longer. Carefully flip the crust and return it to the hot fire until cooked through, about 1 minute.
- Slide the crust back to the medium-hot fire and top with 1 cup of the shredded Fontina and 1/4 cup each of the olives and pine nuts. Cover the grill and cook until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Transfer the grilled pizza to a cutting board; cut into pieces and serve. Grill another dough round, and top it with the remaining Fontina, olives and pine nuts.
- Prepare the margherita pizzas: Grill another dough round on both sides. Slide to the medium-hot fire, spread with 1 cup of the tomato sauce and top with 1 cup of the mozzarella. Cover the grill and cook until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and scatter half of the basil on top. Sprinkle the pizza with salt, cut into pieces and serve. Repeat with the remaining dough round, tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and salt.
Makes four 10-inch pizzas.
Make Ahead: The pizza dough can be prepared through Step 2 and frozen for up to 1 month.
- Pizza, Main Dishes