Greetings! Even though it is officially autumn & the Northern Rockies have encountered their first winter snowstorm, I am still cooking with summer produce……I love to cook seasonally, & the local produce currently available still include gorgeous eggplants, beautiful zucchini, large, colorful bell peppers & ripe, delicious tomatoes……even at the end of September! My basil looks & tastes better than ever……the honey bees can’t even get enough……
This time of year always reminds me when I travelled to Provence in September 1999, which seems a lifetime ago……those memories of rich goat cheese & roquefort…briny olives…beautiful late summer vegetables……ratatouille…the scent of rosemary in the air…those tastes & smells are forever etched in my memory……
……I simply love those flavors. I also enjoy combining those flavors when grilling. That is how this menu, a do-ahead Provençal grilling menu was created. Autumn is a wonderful time to host outdoor dinner parties……the weather is crisp, comfortable & inviting……everyone comes dressed in their favorite sweaters or comfy jackets, enjoying Weingut Michlits Sparkling Pinot Noir……from Zeto……
……with grilled baguettes & tomatoes with roquefort & tapenade……Bert is happily grilling the honey-lemon-rosemary chicken with the pups……
……while I get to kick-back & mingle, because I did everything ahead of time! This menu is terrific because the only last-minute things left to do are toss the grilled ratatouille potato salad with the roasted garlic vinaigrette……
……& quickly sauté the green beans, the easiest green beans ever……while one of our friends pours everyone a glass of Miraval Rosé, bottled by Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt, who have partnered with Famille Perrin to create this lovely blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah & Rolle grapes……the rosé is available at Zeto. My other favorite rosé for this menu is Domaine Ott……to me, this is the best rosé ever……again, Zeto is your source for all these incredible wines.
Even dessert is made ahead of time……how does a rustic apple & goat cheese tart with rosemary-honey glaze sound? Sorry, I just didn’t want to try grilling a pie. I love this particular dessert, though, because it isn’t too sweet. It is also reminiscent of all those great Provençal flavors……I am even beginning to branch out & use apples……after all, they’re in season……
……however, my dessert wasn’t perfect. In fact, the honey leaked out from the crust, as did some of the goat cheese……which then burned……mishaps happen when one least expects it, right? I then used a knife to remove the goat cheese from the pie crust……it wasn’t beautiful, but it sure was tasty……
……which brings me to reiterate one of my top 10 entertaining pearls……
Unfortunately, not every recipe or plan works out perfectly when entertaining, or cooking, for that matter……since I am creating new recipes for every menu, sometimes something will happen, go wrong, whatever……go with the flow……if the dessert still tastes good, serve it, no matter how it looks……I made it twice & everyone loved it both times……especially served with ice cream, which made the dessert pretty……no one cared, except maybe me……if it wasn’t good, then store-bought anything is a great alternative……do you have any suggestions for the tart……use a tart pan instead? Please share your thoughts & comments……
One word of advice for fall outdoor entertaining……make sure you let your guests know that they will be dining (partly) outside so they come equipped with a sweater or comfortable jacket……we keep on hand these great cozy Woolrich throws from Amazon for our guests to use……our pups love them as well!
I hope you enjoy “A Do-Ahead Provençal Grilling Menu” as much as I enjoyed creating it! Please let me know what you think……bon appètit! Cheers!
A Do-Ahead Provençal Grilling Menu
Weingut Michlits Sparkling Pinot Noir
Domaine Ott Rosé
Grilled Baguettes with Tomatoes, Roquefort & Tapenade
- serves 6-8 as an appetizer
“easy” pearls……the baguette used in this menu came from The Taste in Asheboro, NC, my new greatest find…………if you are in the area, you must stop by & try one of their homemade, european-style pastries, breads or desserts, or have a fabulous breakfast or lunch there……one of my favorite brands of tapenade is Dalmatia Black Olive Tapenade, which is available at Plum Market & The Fresh Market……it is delicious……Émilie will eat the entire jar by herself!
1. Earlier in the day of your dinner party, preheat your grill. Cut the baguette in half lengthwise. Brush the cut sides with olive oil, then place the baguettes halves, cut side down, on the grill.
Grill for about 2-3 minutes, or until nice grill marks appear. Remove the baguettes, allow to cool for a few minutes, then wrap the halves in paper or aluminum foil. This will prevent the baguettes from getting hard & dry during the day.
2. Next, thickly slice the tomatoes (about ½-inch thick) & place on the grill. Grill the tomatoes no more than a minute per side. Allow the tomatoes to cool slightly to handle, then cut into small chunks. Place the tomatoes in a fine mesh colander to drain the tomato water, then transfer the tomatoes to a serving bowl.
Add one clove roasted garlic from the ratatouille potato salad to the tomatoes, mash & mix well. Add sea salt & pepper to taste. Cover the tomatoes & allow to sit at room temperature until ready to serve. Refrigerate the tomato water for later use.
3. Serve the Roquefort alongside the grilled tomatoes on a separate plate. Spoon the tapenade into another serving bowl. Slice the baguette halves into 1½-2 inch slices. Serve the grilled baguettes & tomatoes with roquefort & tapenade to your guests with large glasses of sparkling rosé or pinot noir. Bon appètit!
Grilled Lemon-Honey-Rosemary Chicken
- serves 6-8 as a main course
1. The day before your dinner party, pour the honey into a blender. Slice the lemons, then juice the fruit directly into the blender. Remove the rosemary leaves from the stems & add to the blender as well. Add the Herbes de Provence & black pepper.
Blend the marinade contents until completely blended……I love my Vitamix for this!
2. Trim any fat from the chicken breasts, then place in a gallon-size plastic non-resealable bag. Pour the marinade into the bag, seal it, & place in the refrigerator overnight.
3. About an hour before serving dinner, preheat your grill. Grill the chicken until nicely grilled, turning once…when the chicken is ready to turn, the chicken will easily release from the grate. Alternatively, if you are a bit of a grilling novice, use an thermometer, inserting the thermometer lengthwise into the middle of the chicken breast…when the temperature reaches 165º, the chicken is done. Remove to a plate & allow the chicken to rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve with the grilled ratatouille potato salad & easiest green beans ever.
Grilled Ratatouille Potato Salad
- serves 6-8 as a side dish
“easy” pearls……i love using an olive oil spritzer……
……to me, olive oil spritzers are the easiest way to add olive oil to veggies before grilling or roasting……spritzers also cut down on the amount of olive oil actually used, thus saving calories……something we all love……
1. The day before serving, cut off the top of the garlic bulb, then place it on a sheet of aluminum foil. Pour a smidge of olive oil over the garlic, wrap completely, and place in a preheated 300º oven for an hour. Remove the garlic from the oven & let cool wrapped in the foil.
When the garlic is cool, remove the individual cloves from their papery skins. Reserve one clove for the grilled tomatoes. Store the garlic in the fridge until ready to use.
2. Early in the day of your party, preheat your grill……alternatively, you can preheat your oven to 400º & roast the veggies in the oven instead. Slice the onion horizontally in half & place, cut side down, on the grates in the back of the grill, as it will be easier to turn the smaller veggies……or, roast the onion whole in the oven……the onion takes about 45-60 minutes to cook. Slice the eggplant & zucchini into ½-inch slices & lay on a cutting board large enough to hold all the veggie slices. Either spritz, then brush or brush the veggies with olive oil on both sides.
3. While you are preparing the veggies, boil the potatoes in salted water for 15 minutes……just until you can just stick a toothpick into the potatoes……the potatoes should be firm, not soft. Drain & set aside.
4. Place the veggies on the grill about 30 minutes after the onions have been cooking. Also, place the whole peppers on the grill……but towards the back, as with the onions, to allow easier turning of the zucchini & eggplant. Turn the veggies once grill marks develop on the grilling side. Remove from the grill when done.
Remove the onion halves & peppers when nicely browned, or even blackened……the onions will be soft & full of flavor.
5. If roasting, place the veggies on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat, & roast for 30-40 minutes, until nicely browned & the pepper skins are blistering……slice the larger potatoes in half, & brush with olive oil……roast with the other veggies. If the peppers are not quite done, leave them in the oven until the skins are really browned & blistering, about 10-15 more minutes.
6. If grilling the potatoes, cut the larger potatoes in half……spritz/brush with olive oil. Place the potatoes, cut side down, on the grate & grill until nicely brown. Place the whole potatoes directly on the grate & grill until the skin browns. Remove from the grill.
7. Wrap the peppers in foil or place in a paper bag for about 20-30 minutes……the steam from the peppers will release the skins, which can then be easily removed. While the peppers are cooling, cut the zucchini & smaller eggplant into quarters……the larger eggplants into sixths or eighths, depending on the size of the eggplant. Peel & coarsely chop the onion halves. Combine the eggplant, zucchini & onions into a bowl, tossing well. I actually use my serving bowl to make the salad, as I am not going to refrigerate the salad, so no worries……
8. Halve or quarter the tomatoes & combine in the bowl. Toss well.
9. Quarter each whole potato or halves, again adding to the bowl & combining well.
10. Remove the peppers, peel & remove the seeds. Coarsely chop the peppers & add to the salad. Mix well.
11. Coarsely chop the basil & store in a lidded container in the fridge until ready to use.
12. Make the vinaigrette……mash the roasted garlic in a bowl. Juice the lemons directly into the bowl & add a splash of olive oil……whisk together. Taste & add the Dijon mustard……taste again, & add a smidge more, if necessary……but be careful……too much Dijon will overpower the salad. Add salt & pepper, taste again……let sit at room temperature until ready to serve.
13. When ready to serve, toss the basil into the salad, then add half the vinaigrette……toss & taste……add more vinaigrette, if desired.
Easiest Green Beans Ever
- serves 6-8 as a side dish
“easy” pearl……if your beans appear limp, not crisp……your beans should snap when bent, not just bend in half……this is the time to hydrate your veggies……immerse the beans in ice cold water for at least an hour……they will absorb the water & be nice & crunchy……that is when I blanch the beans……
1. Earlier in the day or the day before your party, trim the green beans & cut the longer beans in half. The easiest & quickest way to do this is to hold a bunch of green beans……10-12……& cut the unwanted ends with scissors. Set the beans aside.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place as many beans in a colander that will fit into the pot allowing the beans to be completely immersed in the boiling water. Blanch the beans for no longer than a minute. Remove the beans from the water, rinse with tap water for a few seconds to stop the cooking process, then shake dry & transfer to a large bowl. Repeat this step until all the beans are blanched.
3. About 5 minutes before serving, melt the butter with the olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold all the green beans…I usually use a 5 or 6-quart sauté pan. Add a good shake of kosher salt & several grinds freshly ground pepper. Once the pan is hot, toss in the green beans…make sure you drain the beans once more to avoid adding any water to the pan…& sauté the green beans in the butter-olive oil mixture. Sauté the green beans for a couple of minutes, no more, as you want them to remain bright green. Remove from the heat, plate or transfer to a large bowl for serving.
Rustic Apple & Coat Cheese Tart with Rosemary-Honey Glaze
- serves 6-8 for dessert
“easy” pearl……the rosemary-infused honey is delicious……I like to serve the warm honey with the grilled lemon-honey-rosemary chicken……simply fabulous!
1. Preheat your oven to 400º.
2. Unroll the pie crust onto a Silpat. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough & increase its diameter by about an inch or so. Do not worry if the pie crust becomes uneven or runs off the Silpat. Lift the pie crust & Silpat together, laying both on a rimmed baking sheet…this is easiest done now, before you add the goat cheese & apples. Spoon, then spread the goat cheese over the pie dough in a circle, leaving approximately a 2 to 2½-inch border of dough around the goat cheese.
3. Meanwhile, combine the rosemary & honey in a microwaveable 8-ounce container, making sure to cover the rosemary completely with the honey. Microwave the honey & rosemary for three 30-second intervals on high. The rosemary leaves will release their oil into the honey, infusing it with a lovely rosemary flavor. Remove from the microwave & set aside to infuse a little longer. After about 10 minutes, remove the rosemary sprigs.
4. Using your OXO apple divider, core & divide the apples, then remove the peel. Arrange the apples on the goat cheese circle in 2 layers……
……I like to lay the first layer of apple wedges in a pinwheel……
……then I will use the remaining apple wedges & lay them vertically, so the apple overlap in a decorative fashion. Drizzle the apples with ¼ cup of the rosemary honey.
5. Lift the dough border & lay on the outer edges of the apples, overlapping the dough as you lift, to create your tart. If the dough is a little too soft, lift up the Silpat……this will help release the dough from the Silpat without tearing it. Sprinkle the apples & crust with the sparkling sugar.
6. Bake the tart for 40 minutes, until the crust is a deep golden brown. Do not worry about any goat cheese that may have leaked from the tart……it will still be delicious! Keep the tart at room temperature until ready to serve.
5. When serving, drizzle each serving of pie with additional honey. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of sweetened whipped cream as well……enjoy!