Lunch for Lynne: Grilled Antipasto with Basil Oil

August 27, 2011
By Holly Jennings

We’ve had great weather for grilling enthusiasts this summer in Vermont. Until one day last week when I planned a lunch with my friend Lynne. With constant rain coming down, and a wounded chicken to tend to, I decided to cancel our lunch date. The ingredients couldn’t wait until Lynne’s next day off from the library, where she works, so I prepared Lynne’s lunch the next day and hand delivered it to her at the library, and picked up a book—an equitable swap.

 After having put Lynne to work at all previous “Lunch with Lynne” dates, this time I asked her to leaf through the club’s current pick, Global Grilling, and choose a recipe she’d like to try. She gave me a few choices, which I then narrowed down to the Grilled Antipasto with Basil Oil. The concept of an antipasto of vegetables cut into pretty ovals, painted with puréed basil and garlic oil, grilled, and served hot with grilled, molten cheese was intriguing and sounded delicious. 

The original version, made with vegetable ovals and grilled provolone

The result, both Lynne and I thought, was a good, and novel, summer lunch, made all the better with some crusty bread and a glass of wine.

Lynne likes it.

Yet as I worked, and worked, flipping all those pretty ovals, able to fit only a portion of the vegetables on the grill grate at a time, I realized I don’t have the patience required to grill several small pieces of food on medium-sized grill. So I did a makeover: To speed up the grilling time, I cut the vegetables lengthwise into planks and swapped out the longer cooking onion halves for flash cooked scallions, and served the vegetables at room temperature with ultra-thin slices of a good quality Parmigiano-Reggiano, making for a more flexible grill to table timing. (Plus, when eating the grilled antipasto hot, in the original version, I was reminded that I personally prefer grilled vegetables room temperature or cold.)

More rain and wind is on the way, via Hurricane Irene. With widespread electricity outages expected, grilling may be the only cooking medium available for all those cursed with an electric stove (counting myself among the cursed).

Adapted from Global Grilling by Jay Solomon

Quick grilled vegetables, made with planks rather than ovals

Serves 4

1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed (about ¾ ounce)

⅓ cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium eggplant, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick planks

1 medium zucchini or other summer squash, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick planks (if using patty pan squash, cut into rounds)

4 small tomatoes (such as plum or small round tomatoes), cored and halved, or several cherry tomatoes

2 bell peppers, color or your choice, seeded and halved

8 scallions, trimmed

Several ultra-thin slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano or other hard cheese of your choice, cut with a vegetable peeler or using the slicing surface of a box grater

Coarse sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the grill until the coals are gray to white or, if using a gas grill, to medium-high heat.

Combine the basil, oil, and garlic in a food processor and process until the basil is very finely chopped and the texture is smooth.

Take the outer planks of zucchini and eggplant and make diamond-shaped incisions in the skin.

Using a pastry brush, “paint” both sides of the vegetables. Coat everything completely. The eggplant planks will soak up a lot of the oil, so you may want to hit them again in spots.

When the grill is hot, clean and liberally oil the grates. Place the vegetables on the grill, beginning with the longer cooking bell peppers and eggplant, and cook, turning, until tender and they are nicely browned with grill marks. Remove the vegetables from the grill when done. The tomatoes are done when the skins begin to burst. The scallions take seconds to cook.

Arrange the grilled vegetables on a serving platter, season with salt and pepper, and top with the slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve with a crusty bread and some wine.

1 Comments to “Lunch for Lynne: Grilled Antipasto with Basil Oil”

  1. Louanne Headrick says:

    So very pleasant to see your cheerful photograpy and to visit the Randolph Library once again. Thanks for the interesting article. Eustis, Florida


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