Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 – Appetizer to Dessert on the Grill!

May 31, 2009  •  Menus, Technique, Wine

I always love a summer grilling menu with friends, so imagine my excitement to be chosen by Foodbuzz as one of the 24 food bloggers to host this month’s 24, 24, 24 event! 24 food bloggers from around the world feature 24 different menus in the same 24 hour period and then post them the following day, and my summer grill menu was selected for May. I’ll be posting the recipes for each dish during the week on this blog, but this will give you the highlights of our fun event last night. Any good summer party starts with gardens – and fortunately mine are blooming nicely…

…including the first peony to open for the season! While it can be said that grilling and dining al fresco is the quintessential sign of summer, it can also be said that fickle weather is the quintessential sign of May in Colorado. It stayed nice (and warm enough) for us to enjoy appetizers on the patio.And while I had intended to dine outside, I set up the dining room table upon seeing the black thunderheads roll in and we shifted to inside for the meal itself.
So…on to the menu! I love doing a complete menu – appetizers all the way to dessert – on the grill. Most people don’t think of grilling for some of these course, so it’s always a surprise and a delight. I think my friends thought so! We started with appetizers, and first up was a simple grilled shrimp. I marinated the shrimp in the classic combo of lemon, garlic and parsley and grilled them just until barely cooked through. You can serve shrimp like this either warm, room temp, or stick them in the refrigerator and serve them cold. My husband said he ate about 20 of these!
Next up was asparagus wrapped in prosciutto. I drizzled it with just a little olive oil and did not add any salt since the meat is so salty already. They only take a couple of minutes on each side on the grill and you have a succulent first course. Asparagus done this way can also be served as a vegetable side dish and balsamic glaze can be used as a dip or drizzle.
Our final appetizer was something new for most of my friends – grilled Halloumi cheese from the Cypress part of Greece.
This unique (and somewhat pricey cheese at about $20 per pound) somehow holds together and develops a fabulous texture and taste when grilled. We scarfed down a half pound in about 10 seconds. I know this looks burned – okay, it was actually a bit overcooked as I was busy enjoying a glass of rose wine and chatting with my girlfriends – but it tasted great cooked even to this level. Keep it on the grill long enough to really develop some color and flavor – maybe one minute less than I did!

After the appetizers we moved inside for the meal itself. First up, a grilled romaine and asparagus salad. Most people have never heard of grilling lettuce, but lots of leafy stuff works well on the grill. Anything that can hold together like radicchio or romaine is perfect. I just lightly drizzled the whole heads and the asparagus spears with extra virgin olive oil then sprinkled them with salt and grilled them until they were nicely charred. The warm charred part of the lettuce contrasts with the inside leaves that are still cool and crisp, making for a really unique salad.

I chopped the charred lettuce and asparagus and tossed them with my version of Heidi Swanson’s pine nut dressing – lemon, shallots, extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, and pine nuts. This might be my new favorite dressing!

For the entree I grilled off a large selection of vegetables – peppers, zucchini, red onions, and corn. Unfortunately, the corn was so tough it tasted like feed corn so I ditched it.
I had marinated some boneless chicken breasts in a basil marinade (kind of like pesto but without the cheese and nuts) for about 4 hours, then grilled them off on the grill so they were just barely undercooked. That allowed me to put them back in a baking dish and hold them in the oven (covered with foil) while we ate our salad without them overcooking. See how great those grill marks look?
To put it all together, I finely chopped the roasted veggies and tossed them with cooked orzo, a bit of heavy cream, and chiffonade of basil, then added salt and pepper to taste. I sliced the chicken breasts and served them atop the pasta.
Dessert, believe it or not, was also on the grill, but unfortunately it was too dark by then so I didn’t get that photographed. I’ll try to recreate it this week for photos when I post specific recipes, but this one is a winner. Quickly blanch whole fresh peaches in boiling water and slip the skins off. Cut them in half and remove the pits and grill them for a few minutes to caramelize the sugars a bit. And serve those mouth watering delights with rosemary ice cream, homemade earlier in the day. Mmmm…I might go get a bit of that leftover ice cream as a snack right now!
The final touch, for me as a trained sommelier, for a dinner like this is a fun selection of wines. We just returned from northern Sonoma wine country where we ordered way too much wine to be shipped to us, so this was a perfect chance to grab all of those 1 or 2 bottles of various wines in the cellar and offer them up.
Here’s what we had:
Columbia Crest Reserve Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills, 2005
Paul Jaboulet Aine Tavel, L’Espiegle, 2005 (rose wine is a great summer wine – especially with a grill menu like this)
Piculit-Neri Delle Venezie, 2007 (great IGT wine that was given to me by my dentist of all people!)
Zenato Valpolicella Ripassa, 2005 (Valpolicella is a bit weak and watery, but the ripassa technique gives it body much more like an Amarone)
Catena Malbec, Mendoza, 2004
Valkenberg Madonna Eiswein, 2004 (wonderful pairing with the peaches and ice cream!)
Look for the recipes on my blog this week, then get grilling with your friends! Thanks Foodbuzz – I had a blast doing this!

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