This is the stuff memories are made of. Warm summer evenings, kidlin's running in the grass, wine, fire pits, good friends and dinner on the deck. On nights like this I prefer simple food that can be served family style. This time I decided to go with a big antipasto platter of sorts. Antipasto is an Italian word that means "before" as in before a meal, like an appetizer. However, the idea for making this into the main meal came the night before I held this party during a casual evening at home. We had gone through our refrigerator and were just cooking up anything we had left over for dinner which turned out to be a bag of red bell peppers, an eggplant, a few zucchini and a half a loaf of crusty bread on the verge of going stale. We grilled the vegetables, and roasted the peppers on the grill. Then just before we sat down Jeremy put the sliced bread over the flames for a few seconds to toast it up. The Michael Chiarello in me instinctively started rubbing a raw garlic clove over the slices, infusing them with flavor. I knew at that point that our dinner was going from "just leftovers" to a really sexy antipasto sandwich. The grilled vegetables were very simply seasoned and their juices dripped into the toasted garlic bread slices, softening them up a bit.
Then my mind started going. I was really enjoying this last minute rustic Italian dinner and I just had to share. The next day, we invited a handful of friends over and I planned to recreate the grilled vegetable sandwich from the night before, only dressed up for company. I decided to keep the eggplant, zucchini and roasted red peppers the same, but add fresh mozzarella and prosciutto to the mix to satisfy our meat loving friends. Okay, and me. You all know how I swoon for prosciutto. Ha ha, I just looked up the meaning of "swoon" and the definition after "fainting" was "to be overwhelmed by ecstatic joy". I'm still chuckling. I'm going to keep it because it's actually pretty accurate.
Serving dinner like this is great because it takes the stress out of it. You prep all the veggies before hand and then hand them over to the hubby to grill while you pile the prosciutto and mozzarella on a big platter, mingle with guests and nibble on olives. When the vegetables are done, simply arrange them on your platter while the bread is grilling. Once done, just run your bread with that garlic, and serve. There is no race to the table because warm to room temperature vegetables are actually better than hot for this. I serve the red bell's whole and let my guests take one per person and cut it up themselves. It's prettier and easier that way.
After dinner we went out to the front yard for a fire pit and some play
There definitely was cuteness and playing...
A rainy sunset
There was also crying and comforting...
And always a little pouting...
But mostly, food, smiles and fun.
Antipasto Platter Dinner
6 red bell peppers
8 small-ish zucchini, cut into long 1/4" thick strips
2 medium eggplant
2 packages of fresh mozzarella, sliced
12 slices good quality prosciutto
2 loaves crusty Italian bread, sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup bottled Italian salad dressing
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling at the end
Sea salt and cracked pepper, for garnish and sprinkling
Place the cut zucchini in a large Ziplock bag and add Italian dressing. Let the zucchini marinate in the dressing for at least and hour and up to a day before grilling.
Pre-heat your grill to medium high heat. While you are waiting, place the prosciutto and mozzarella on your serving platter in neat piles.
Make the roasted red peppers first: Place your peppers on the heated grill and close the lid. Let the peppers roast for about 15-20 minutes, or until their skin is blackened all over. Keep an eye on them and turn them occasionally with tongs to ensure uniform cooking. They should be pretty charred on all sides.
While your peppers are roasting, prepare the eggplant. Cut each eggplant into 1/2" thick rounds, skin on. Toss them with the 4 tablespoons olive oil and a few generous pinches of Kosher salt and pepper. The eggplant will soak up the oil rather quickly, but try to get as much of the olive oil evenly distributed. Set aside until red peppers are done.
When the red peppers are done, take them off the grill and place them in a bowl or other container. Cover with plastic wrap and let the peppers steam for approximately 10 minutes. Take the peppers out of the bowl and let them cool. When cool enough to handle, the blackened skin should peel off easily. Set them on your platter while you finish grilling the other vegetables.
Turn the grill up to high heat and cook the eggplant and zucchini slices until lightly blackened (or not if you are not into that sort of thing. I happen to be) or cooked through and tender. Add the grilled vegetables to the platter.
Lastly, place the slices of bread on the grill for 30 seconds or so a side or lightly toasted. Rub immediately with raw garlic cloves and place in a big bowl. Set everything on the table. Serve and make open face sandwiches.