I don’t do rustic very well. I wonder how many people born and raised in a city like New York do rustic at all. Joe, on the other hand, spent a good chunk of his formative years in rural Maryland, with a family that camped. They even had their own pop top camper. I’m sure to a little boy that was a blast. My family didn’t camp, ever. And when an uncle offered to take me and my cousins camping one weekend, I avoided it like the plague. I hear they had fun – probably because I wasn’t there complaining about the lack of indoor plumbing. Once in the very early days of our marriage Joe asked me to try camping at a weekend music festival. He had some friends with the necessary gear that we didn’t own, i.e. a tent, and who could show us the ropes. It was one of the longer nights of our marriage as I could hear every little sound from the adjacent tents in that campsite. And the ground was very, very hard under my sleeping bag. And it was hot and sweaty and the only showers to be had came from a little bag hanging off a bowl. No thank thank you. At least this weekend confirmed that this was one experience I could live without.
As I grew older, I picked up a line from another anti-camper who said “staying at a Holiday Inn is enough camping for me.” No offense Holiday Inn. I know you have indoor plumbing. We’ve also stayed in a few Bates-type motels over the years, that I would say were just one step away from camping. The musty smell, the dead bugs on the window, the rusty plumbing, not much of an improvement. As I said, I don’t do rustic well.
Except, when it comes to food. Rustic cuisine, nothing too fussy, just good basics cooked over a hot fire, that’s my favorite way to eat. Summertime obviously presents many rustic opportunities, not just the camping variety but the cooking type. The grill is always standing ready, and no one hesitates to step outside to do just that. Which is how last night’s dinner was inspired, a pizza on the grill. The pizza had been scheduled for last Friday night, but our restaurant outing changed my plans. The ingredients were in house, and I didn’t want them to be wasted, and so the pizza was rescheduled. A pizza, with a salad to top it with… or not.
Grilled White Pizza with Fennel Salad is my kind of meal. The ingredients were fresh, but most of the prep work had been done already. I purchased the pizza dough from a local supermarket that also sells pizzas; I purchased the grated parmesan cheese; I even bought the diced prosciutto (which if you look at the recipe you’ll see should have been pancetta, but I picked up the wrong container of diced meat!). A little rolling and olive oiling, some frying and topping, so easy a child could do this part. When it was time to grill the dough things turned a little bit trickier, but I decided to be brave and follow the recipe instructions for cooking the dough right on my grill grates, instead of on a baking sheet or my pizza pan made for the grill. Guess what? It worked and the pizza didn’t stick!
While the pizza was grilling I sliced up the escarole and fennel for the salad and tossed them in a large bowl with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and spices.
When Joe saw the topped pizza come off the grill, he commented on how wonderfully rustic it looked. Yep, that’s my kind of rustic, Joe.