Italian grilled menu
Recipes for a classic Tuscan steak dinner.
It has been said that Tuscan cooking is the very essence of simplicity, and the region’s classic grilled steak, bistecca alla fiorentina, illustrates that notion perfectly. Hefty porterhouse steaks are seasoned simply with kosher salt and pepper (and sometimes garlic), grilled, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, and served with lemon. Prosciutto-wrapped zucchini spears and garlicky grilled polenta with balsamic vinegar-dressed grilled onions complete the menu.
If you can use a charcoal grill instead of gas, do so, because charcoal burns hotter and gives the meal a smoky taste. If you use gas, shut the cover while the food grills to trap heat. Also, since the ingredients in each dish are few, they must stand on their own, so use your best extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and small, tender, fresh local zucchini.
Tuscan-style Grilled Steak with Olive Oil and Lemon (Bistecca alla Fiorentina)
3 1½1/2-inch-thick porterhouse steaks, 1 to 1½1/2 pounds each
3 large cloves garlic, optional
Kosher salt and pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Place the steaks on a large platter, rub both sides of each steak with half of a garlic clove, if using, and sprinkle each side with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, then refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove the steaks from the refrigerator and allow to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare a medium-hot two-level fire in a charcoal grill by pushing most of the charcoal to one side of the grill to create a cooler and a hotter side, or preheat a gas grill on high. (If using a gas grill, leave 1 burner on high and adjust the others to medium.) Start steaks on the hot side and grill until browned and grill-marked, about 5 minutes; if fire flares up, move steaks to cool side of the grill until fire dies down. Turn the steaks and grill on the hot side until second side is browned and grill-marked, about 5 minutes longer. Move the steaks to the cooler side of grill and continue grilling 3 to 8 minutes longer, turning as necessary, until the steaks reach 120 degrees for rare, 125 degrees for medium-rare, or 130 degrees for medium.
Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and rest for about 10 minutes before cutting. Meanwhile, scrub the lemon and cut it into wedges. Then, working with 1 steak at a time, cut along bone to remove the meat, and then cut the meat crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices. Arrange the slices on a serving platter, drizzle with the oil, and serve at once with the lemon wedges.
Grilled Prosciutto-Wrapped Zucchini Spears
5 medium-small zucchini (about 6 ounces each), quartered lengthwise
1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
10 very thin slices prosciutto (about 5 ounces total), each slice halved lengthwise
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil, optional
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high. While the grill heats, toss the zucchini spears with oil and pepper to taste, then wrap each spear with half a slice of prosciutto. Grill the spears until the zucchini is tender and the prosciutto is crisp, about 7 minutes, turning twice. Arrange the spears on a platter, sprinkle with basil, if using, and serve warm.
Grilled Polenta with Balsamic-Grilled Onions
Start preparing the polenta at least 3 hours ahead of time. And when you move the polenta on the grill, work carefully with a very thin, heat-proof spatula. The idea is to develop a crust. If the polenta sticks, grill it another minute or two.
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1½ cups polenta (not instant)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
¾ cup grated Parmesan
2 large onions, cut into ¾-inch-thick slices and threaded onto skewers
1½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped
fresh parsley, optional
Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with about 1 tablespoon of oil and set aside. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring 4¼ cups of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and, whisking constantly, steadily and gradually add the polenta to the water. Add the garlic, adjust the heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly, until polenta is very thick (the movement of the spoon will leave a deep trail in the polenta), about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in the thyme, Parmesan, and pepper to taste. Taste the polenta and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Immediately scrape the polenta into the prepared baking pan and spread into an even ½-inch layer. Cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate until the polenta is very firm, at least 3 hours.
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high. Uncover the baking pan, place a large cutting board over it, and invert the polenta onto the board (may require some shaking or encouragement). Cut the polenta into 8 even rectangles and brush them on both sides with about 5 tablespoons of oil. Grill, without moving, until lightly crusted and grill-marked, about 15 minutes over charcoal or 24 minutes on a gas grill (keep the cover shut when using a gas grill), carefully turning them once with a thin, heat-proof spatula halfway through cooking. If desired, cut the polenta pieces diagonally into triangles and arrange them on a serving platter.
Meanwhile, brush the onions with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill until tender and browned, 12 to 14 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking time. Slide the onions off the skewers, chop them, and in a medium bowl toss them with the balsamic vinegar and parsley, if using. Arrange the onion mixture over the polenta and serve at once.
Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at firstname.lastname@example.org.