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A Taste of Tuscany in Your Own Back Yard

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Head outdoors for a relaxed feast of chicken skewers, bruschetta, and salads—all cooked on the grill.

The cuisine of Tuscany is the antidote to overambitious entertaining. Tuscans buy good ingredients and let them shine by preparing them simply. It’s the perfect approach when farmers’ markets overflow with the summer harvest. Just bring home some ripe vegetables, meats, and bread and light up the grill for a dinner with a Tuscan flair.

The is centered around skewers of chicken and sausage, accented with fresh sage (Italians call them spiedi). Then round out the menu with a pair of grilled salads: a warm pasta salad with marinated red pepper and zucchini, and a cool spinach salad with peppery grilled radicchio and shavings of Pecorino cheese. A simple rosemary- and garlic-infused olive oil flavors several of the dishes. Many Tuscan meals finish simply with fresh fruit; grilled figs with vanilla ice cream fit the bill while also satisfying the American appetie for something a little sweeter.

 

Menu Timeline

This menu is so easy, there isn’t much prep work to worry about. You can get started a few days ahead, and then a couple of hours before your guests arrive, fire up the grill for the bruschetta and the vegetables for the salads—all of them are grilled over a medium fire, so you can cook them at the same time.

Up to 5 days ahead:
  • Make the rosemary-garlic oil.
Up to 1 day ahead:
  • Marinate the chicken.
A few hours ahead:
  • Grill the bread for the bruschetta; slice and season the tomatoes.
  • Grill and marinate the zucchini and peppers for the pasta.
  • If you’re substituting regular pasta for fregola, toast it in a dry skillet.
  • Grill the radicchio and assemble the salad (without dressing).
  • Thread the chicken, sausage, and sage onto skewers.
Up to 1 hour before serving:
  • Assemble the bruschetta.
  • Grill the skewers.
  • Cook the pasta and toss with the grilled vegetables.
  • Dress and toss the radicchio salad.
As dinner is winding down:
  • Grill the figs for dessert.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1-1/4 lb. zucchini (4 small)
  • 2 small or 1 large radicchio (3/4 to 1 lb. total)
  • 6 oz. baby spinach (about 6 cups)
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 24 large fresh sage leaves
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 12 to 16 fresh Black Mission figs
Meat, Eggs & Dairy
  • 2-1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 7 or 8)
  • 1-1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage links
  • 3-1/2 to 4 oz. Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
Other Groceries
  • 1 crusty, artisan-style loaf of bread
  • 3/4 lb. fregola (available at Italian markets), or subsititue Israeli couscous or other tiny pasta
  • 1-1/2 to 2 pints vanilla ice cream
  • 1/2 cup honey
Pantry Staples
  • 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 Tbs. good balsamic vinegar (preferably aged)
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1 Tbs. red-wine vinegar
  • crushed red pepper flakes (scant 1/4 tsp.)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black peppercorns

Wine Choices: Pour a glass of Prosecco with the bruschetta. This light, crisp bubbly hails from the Veneto region of Northeastern Italy and is a wonderful apéritif. The nonvintage Bisol “Jeio” or the nonvintage Ruggeri are two of the best I’ve recently tasted.

The grilled chicken and sausage skewers need a robust red with plenty of youthful fruit, moderate tannins, and zesty acidity to complement the smoky flavors of the grill. A young Barbera will work well; the Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti and the Prunotto Barbera d’Asti are both good choices to serve with the main course and grilled salads.

If you’d like to finish the meal with something sumptuous but not overly sweet, the Bonny Doon Vineyard Muscat Vin de Glacier (look for it in a half-bottle) is delicious with the figs and ice cream.

The Menu

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