Griddle on the Grill

Griddled Bread You can grill just about anything that doesn’t fall through the grilling grate and with accessories like grilling baskets literally nothing.  Another trick is griddling–that is, putting a cast iron griddle or pan on the grate and then cook delicate foods, everything from bread to flaky fish fillets. I especially like to do this with flatbreads and pizzas too.  The flatbread is perfect because there’s no mess and it is ideal for when you want something to come off the grill for hungry people before you start grilling the sausages, steaks, or whatever.

It’s best to set the griddle on the grill once the ashes are white and to leave it there for at least 20 minutes of preheating.  The bread is going to cook fast so you will not want to wander away.  You don’t need to oil the pan either.  I like to brush the flatbread lightly with olive oil, butter, or duck fat once it comes off.  I place it on a cutting board and cut it into bite-size people for people to eat their morsels.  It’s all very primitive feeling and fun.

I usually make either bread dough or pizza dough following through with its proper rises and then flatten small balls of dough until about 1/2 inch thick and place them on the griddle.  Flip once and then serve.

You can have side accompaniments besides olive oil or butter.  A Greek yogurt dip–tzatziki–is nice as is a spicy hot chile dip.  Slices of cheese can be placed on top in the final minute of grillling as can rinsed anchovies, prosciutto, salami, sea salt and thin slivers of habanero chile.  You imagination is your guide.

Eggplant and Tomatoes for a Summer Salad

Tomato, Eggplant, Ricotta (4) There’s something about those summer vegetables especially tomatoes and eggplant that just beckon to be prepared over and over in endless variety of cooked dishes, side dishes, salads, appetizers, or any which way. I  lean towards an Italian style when preparing them and in this rendition I serve it as an antipasto usually al fresco before some grilled meat.  The recipe calls for frying the eggplant slices but if you do in fact have a grill going you can brush them liberally with olive oil and grill them.

To assemble the salad you can use a variety of multicolored heirloom tomatoes, but more important than heirloom cultivars is the that the tomato be big, juicy, and ripe.  It would be best to make your own ricotta cheese which I do by pouring a half gallon of milk into a pot with 12 drop of vegetable rennet (available at Whole Foods markets) and checking the heat with a thermometer until it reaches 150 degrees F set over a very low flame, meaning it will take about 2 hours.  I then scoop the curds out with a skimmer and let it drain in a strainer for several hours.

Once you start preparing the salad make sure it is right before serving as you don’t want to refrigerate it at any time. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

Tomato, Eggplant, and Ricotta

Olive oil for frying

2 medium eggplant (about 2 pounds), sliced 1/2 inch thick

Coarse sea salt to taste

2 pound ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick

1/2 pound fresh ricotta cheese

20 small fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat the frying oil in a pot or deep-fryer to 375 degrees F.

2. Cook the eggplant slices in batches so you don’t crowd the frying oil until golden brown on both sides, about 7 minutes.  Remove to a paper towel-lined platter to drain.  Season with salt while hot.

3. Arrange to tomatoes interspersed with eggplant on a large platter.  Garnish with dollops of ricotta cheese and sprinkle with basil leaves all over.  Mix the extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar together and drizzle on the salad. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings


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