This menu of grilled food is fun for summer entertaining because it puts you shoulder-to-shoulder with your guests--you don't have to hide in the kitchen.
Start with pizza slices for appetizers. To grill them, set up an assembly line with the dough rounds and toppings. The grilled zucchini can be a cooperative venture as well.
For dinner, there's grilled Cornish hens served with more grilled vegetables--red peppers, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, eggplant and fennel. The hens and vegetables can be served at room temperature; it's not necessary to be standing over the grill for this course during the party.
No need to grill dessert, though. Just put out a platter of biscotti, a bowl of berries and glasses of chilled dessert wine.
Grilled Cornish Hens With Garlic
Active Work Time: 30 minutes
Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 15 minutes plus 3 hours marinating
Any small frying chicken will suffice here. The hens are first baked in the oven, then finished on the grill. This two-step process avoids the charring that often occurs when grilling chicken.
4 small Cornish hens or small fryers, split, backbone removed
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup minced rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Rosemary sprigs and lemon wedges, for garnish
Place the hens in a large plastic food bag. Combine the oil, garlic, lemon juice, rosemary, Dijon, salt and pepper in a small bowl (do not use a processor as the marinade becomes too thick). Pour the marinade over the hens. Through the outside of the bag, work the marinade around the hens until they are coated. Marinate them several hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Let them rest at room temperature 1/2 hour before cooking.
When ready to cook, heat the oven to 400 degrees, line a large shallow roasting pan with heavy-duty foil. Remove the hens from the marinade; place the hens, skin side up, in a single layer in the pan. Roast the hens 30 minutes.
While they roast, oil the barbecue grill racks and prepare a fire.
Finish the hens on a grill over medium-hot heat until cooked as desired, about 15 minutes depending on the heat. First, grill the skin side, then the underside.
To serve, arrange the hens on a platter and garnish with rosemary and lemons. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
8 servings. Each serving: 356 calories; 398 mg sodium; 95 mg cholesterol; 23 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 34 grams protein; 0.60 gram fiber.
Al Forno's Grilled Pizza Margherita
Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 40 minutes plus 1 hour rising * Vegetarian
This is from George Germon and Johanne Killeen, chef/owners of Al Forno in Providence, R.I.
BASIC PIZZA DOUGH
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
Stir the yeast and sugar into the water and let the mixture stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Place the flour and salt in the work bowl of a food processor. Turn on the processor; slowly pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube and let the dough mass together. Next, add the oil through the feed tube and process the dough until it cleans the sides of the bowl but is still moist. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour; if too dry, add more water. When the dough is the right consistency--moist but not so wet that it sticks to your fingers or the sides of the bowl--process until kneaded, about 40 seconds. The dough should be supple and elastic when you stretch it with your hands.
Transfer the dough to a large plastic food bag, squeeze out the air and seal the top, leaving enough room inside for the dough to expand. Place the bag in a bowl and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down. The dough can be used now or refrigerated up to five days.
Divide the dough into 4 equal portions (about 6 ounces each). Roll each piece on a floured board to make about an 8-inch circle. Stack the rounds between oiled sheets of wax paper. The dough can be rolled in advance and refrigerated several hours or frozen.
4 Basic Pizza Dough rounds
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
2 cups shredded Fontina cheese, divided
2/3 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese, divided
1 1/3 cups canned tomatoes in heavy puree, chopped, divided
Freshly ground pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup thinly sliced basil leaves, divided
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
Prepare a hot fire one side of the grill; the grill rack should be 3 to 4 inches above the heat. Set up the cool side of the rack with the pizza dough and toppings. Alternatively, set up a small table nearby for your cool side.
Gently stretch 1 dough round into about a 9-inch circle; be careful not to stretch so that holes appear. If small holes appear, work around them and do not drizzle any oil or filling into these holes. Place the dough on a large, oiled, inverted baking sheet. Gently stretch the dough more if needed (it's easier right on the sheet).
When the grill is hot, use your fingertips to lift the dough by the two closest edges and carefully drape it onto the grill. Make sure the dough doesn't droop into the flame. The dough will puff slightly and grill marks will appear, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Use tongs to flip the crust immediately over onto the cool part of the grill. Quickly brush the grilled surface with 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil. Scatter 1/2 teaspoon of garlic, 1/2 cup of Fontina and 3 tablespoons of pecorino over the dough. Spoon dollops of tomato over the cheese; do not cover the surface, leave spots of cheese. Drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of oil; lightly sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
Slide the pizza back over the heat; use tongs to rotate it so the heat is even, cooking the pizza uniformly. Check the underside to be sure it's not burning. When the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes, remove the pizza from the grill.
To serve, sprinkle it with basil and thyme. Cut into easy-to-handle finger food servings. Serve warm. Repeat with the remaining dough and toppings.
8 servings. Each serving: 474 calories; 751 mg sodium; 31 mg cholesterol; 28 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 41 grams carbohydrates; 15 grams protein; 2.04 grams fiber.
Grilled Zucchini Slices With Thyme
Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Use small, not baby, zucchini.
4 small zucchini
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Prepare a hot fire.
Cut the zucchini into 1/3-inch diagonal slices about 2 inches long. Toss the zucchini with the oil in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss until well mixed.
Grill the zucchini slices until well marked, about 2 minutes. Use tongs to flip them over; cook until just tender but not soft, about 1 to 2 minutes longer depending on the heat.
To serve, return the grilled slices to the bowl. Toss with the thyme. Taste; adjust the seasoning. Serve warm.
8 servings. Each serving: 49 calories; 296 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.39 gram fiber.
Wood block from Crate and Barrel stores.