Just like breakfast in bed for Mother's Day, the cookout is a Father's Day tradition. But a backyard party can mean a lot more than hamburgers and steaks on the grill. Why not try one of these tempting alternatives to the classic holiday cookout this year?Garden grill
Fresh summer vegetables on the grill are delicious, healthy and festive. Almost any substantial vegetable will grill well. Try cutting onions, zucchini, summer squash and eggplant into thick slices, brush lightly with olive oil, season with lemon juice or salt and pepper. Cook your garden feast directly on a medium-hot grill until soft and slightly charred.
Or try threading baby onions with yellow and red cherry tomatoes onto skewers. Brush the veggies with oil, turning them often as they cook.
Corn on the cob is also a wonderful choice for grilling -- and it's easy to cook and eat if you use the husks as handles. Peel back the husks, remove one and tie it around the others to form a handle. Grill the corn for a few minutes on each side, turning as it cooks. For added flavor, serve the corn with dishes of melted butter seasoned with chopped herbs, curry powder or chile peppers.
Quesadillas -- soft flour tortillas filled with cheese and other ingredients -- are ideal fare for buffet-style service at the grill. All you need to do is set up a bar -- or table -- next to the grill with a selection of tortillas and fillings, and let your guests create their own combinations. (Keep the tortillas well-wrapped until ready to use).
Be imaginative with your choice of fillings. Consider offering a selection of raw or grilled and peeled peppers, including multicolored bell peppers, poblanos and jalapenos. Other tasty fillings include chopped scallions, red onions, tomatillos (a member of the tomato family which are delicious when grilled and then smashed), tomatoes, peeled shrimp, roasted pork, sliced chorizo sausage and shredded, cooked chicken.
The most important quesadilla ingredient is cheese, so offer a variety, such as white and yellow cheddars, queso blanco (a Mexican cheese similar to American goat cheese) and Chihuahua (a Mexican melting cheese, similar to Monterey Jack).
As your guests make their quesadillas, have them brush the bottom of a tortilla with olive oil, add toppings and cover with a second tortilla. Slide the quesadilla onto a medium-hot grill (the grid should be placed about 4 inches above the coals), and brush the top tortilla with oil. Cook until the underside is brown, then flip and grill the other side. Cut into wedges and serve immediately with a selection of salsas and sour cream.
Pizza cooked on a grill has a delicious smoky flavor, similar to a pizza made in a wood-burning oven. The cooking process is simple and quick -- recommended ingredients for any cookout.
You can prepare your own pizza dough (see recipe below), or use the store-bought variety. Divide the dough into individual-size portions for your guests. Set out bowls of your favorite toppings, such as tomato sauce, a selection of cheeses (consider fresh mozzarella, Pecorino Romano and fontina), sliced tomatoes and onions, fresh basil, roasted peppers, cooked sausage and sliced ham or prosciutto.
Stretch a piece of dough into a round, making it as thin as possible without tearing. Work the dough gently until it holds the desired shape. Place the dough on the grill over a medium-hot fire, and cook for a few minutes until the bottom is browned. Flip the dough, letting it cook a few minutes more and then flip again. Brush the crust lightly with olive oil and add toppings.
Cover the grill and cook until cheese is melted and bubbly and crust is crisp but not charred -- about 6 minutes more. For best results, keep toppings light and watch the pizza carefully to avoid burning.
If your father is fond of seafood, he'll love shellfish cooked right on the grill. This wonderful cookout idea is suitable for a backyard or beach party feast.
Use a variety of mollusks, such as oysters, clams and mussels. Heat the coals to white-hot, then arrange the shellfish in a single layer on the grill rack. Cook for approximately 3 to 5 minutes.
Fresh oysters, clams and mussels have tightly closed shells that open on their own when they are done cooking. If a shell doesn't open, you should discard it.
Serve with melted butter, lemon, cocktail sauce or another favorite dipping sauce. You can cook everything at once and serve the mollusks on a large platter or allow your guests to help themselves right off the grill.
(Makes two 10-to-12-inch pizzas)
1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 package active dry yeast
2 3/4 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl.
1. Pour the warm water into a small bowl. Add the sugar, and sprinkle in the yeast. Stir the mixture with a fork until the yeast is dissolved and the water turns a tan color. Let yeast stand until creamy, about 5 minutes.
2. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the yeast mixture and olive oil to the flour mixture. Pulse until the dough comes together, adding flour as needed until the dough is smooth but not sticky when squeezed. Transfer the dough to a clean surface. Knead four or five times, until dough forms a smooth ball.
3. Brush the inside of a medium bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, smooth-side up. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot until dough is doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
Remove the plastic wrap, and punch down dough. Fold the dough down on itself four or five times. Turn the dough over, folded-side down. Cover again with plastic wrap. Return to rest in a warm spot to double again, about 30 minutes. Punch down dough, and knead about four or five turns. Cover with plastic and let rest another 5 minutes before using.
(Prep time: 15 minutes. Rising time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.)
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