To everything there is a season, or so it is said. And that includes grilling. Not that you won't venture out on a cooler evening to barbecue some chicken, but autumn is here – almost – and the desire to dine al fresco is waning along with the summer weather.
What to do? Well, host a dinner designed to highlight the transition from outdoors to in, the transition of our gardens from green to gold and orange.
Our menu du jour — for eight of our nearest and dearest — has quasi-Southwestern undertones. It begins with Grilled Pancetta-wrapped Scallops with an Herbed Dunk.
Keep the grill fire going, though, because you'll next want to chargrill some pork chops to go with the tomatillo sauce you're going to fix. And while you're at it, throw on some baby zucchini. They'll go well with the baby spinach and avocado salad you're also going to whip up.
For dessert, we employ the pale green of pears, along with berries, to bake up a blackberry-pear cobbler.
And, in keeping with our Green Scene, don't forget to proffer quaffs of that hue. Margaritas come to mind, of course. But crisp, fruity white wines will go well. Perhaps even a red with the pork. Or beer from green bottles for an "aperitif," as well as to accompany the chops..
Have fun …
You can make the dunk in the morning and refrigerate until serving time. And, you can also wrap the scallops with pancetta and keep them chilled until you're ready to grill them.
If you want to add carbs to the proceedings, offer multi-colored tortilla chips and a couple of different salsas.
1/2 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 scallion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 small garlic clove
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
24 sea scallops, trimmed, if needed
24 large, fresh basil leaves, optional
Enough pancetta (Italian bacon) slices to wrap the 24 scallops quite well (or use prosciutto)
8 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes (just before skewering the scallops)
For the dunk, in a food processor, combine ingredients and pulse-process until parsley is finely chopped. Remove to a small serving bowl, cover and refrigerate until serving time.
For the scallops, wrap a tender basil leaf around each scallop, then over-wrap with pancetta or prosciutto to enclose well. Place on a baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. If not grilling right away, cover and refrigerate until about 30 minutes before cooking.
To grill, spray-coat a grilling rack and heat grill to medium-high. Thread three wrapped scallops onto each (soaked) skewer, leaving a bit of space between scallops. Grill until scallops are cooked and pancetta is crisp, turning occasionally, about 6 to 7 minutes.
To serve, place dunk in the center of an oval serving platter. Arrange grilled scallops around dunk. Makes eight servings of one skewer each.
Grilled pork chops, plus
In keeping with our "green" theme, we fix a tomatillo salsa (up to a day ahead) to dollop on the meat. Serve with lightly grill-toasted flour tortillas.
The chops take about 8 minutes per side to cook. The zucchini takes about 6 minutes total. So, prep the zuke ahead, then add to grill shortly after you've turned the chops to cook on the second side.
For the zucchini, trim one and a half pounds baby green (summer) squashes (at least 8 of them). In a zip-top plastic bag, combine about one-half cup olive oil, 4 cloves peeled, sliced garlic and one-half teaspoon each sea salt and coarse black pepper. Add zucchini and marinate at room temperature for about a half-hour, until ready to cook.
When ready to cook, use a fork or skewer to pierce each zucchini several times. Place on grill after you've turned the chops. Grill until tender, 6 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally. Transfer to serving platter along with finished chops.
16 tomatillos (about one and one-half pounds), husked, rinsed
5 whole garlic cloves
3 jalapeno peppers
3/4 lb. finely chopped vidalia (sweet) onion
3/4 cup (lightly packed) chopped, fresh cilantro
8 (1-inch thick, or more) boneless pork chops
1 large garlic clove, peeled, halved
Olive oil, for brushing
16 flour tortillas
For the tomatillo salsa, preheat broiler. Arrange tomatillos, garlic and jalapenos on a baking sheet (with sides) and broil until veggies are tender, and slightly charred, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool enough to handle.
Remove stems, seeds and pith from jalapenos. Place them in a processor. Add tomatillos, garlic, onion and cilantro. Process until almost smooth. Taste for salt and pepper.