The air is warm and the sun is shining. After an endlessly long winter and an inconceivably rainy spring, summer has arrived. And, despite the praying and wishing and waiting for it to come, it seems to have arrived overnight. I sit outside by Henry’s parents’ pool, perfectly comfortable in nothing but a bathing suit, and somehow have a hard time remembering any transitional period, any “warm-ish” days that separated the stark cold of winter and the glorious warmth of summer. I look out at the trees, lush with vegetation, and think – when did this happen? Last I looked, the trees were almost bare – sticks filled with tiny buds and the mere promise of green. Now, as if overnight, every tree is abundantly green.
This year’s first evening of outdoor cocktails and a grilled dinner happened unceremoniously – as if we had never stopped, as if winter never happened. Zucchini and asparagus were tossed in olive oil and salt and grilled until charred and tender, arranged on top a grilled pizza crust, and sprinkled with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. The pizza was then topped with dollops of fresh ricotta cheese and chopped parsley. Every bite was comforting yet intricate. The crisp bite of the crust, the saltiness of the Parmigiano, the juicy burst of the vegetables, and the cool, creaminess of the ricotta and washed down with a chilled Verdicchio – everything reminiscent of the beginning of a new summer, and a summer that never left.
Grilled Flatbread with Zucchini, Asparagus, and Ricotta
(these measurements are all approximations, as I didn't measure when I made this. Use your judgment - this is not a recipe to fuss over)!
1 zucchini, cut into 6 equal sized strips
1/2 a bunch of asparagus, ends snapped off
store-bought pizza dough
about 1 cup of whole-milk ricotta cheese
1-2 cups of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
about 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Allow the pizza dough to come to room temperature to allow for easy handling. Meanwhile, preheat a charcoal or gas grill. Toss the zucchini and asparagus with about 2 T of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place the vegetables on the hot grill and cook until charred and tender, about 5-15minutes (depending on the heat of the grill). Remove and set aside.
If using a charcoal grill, let coals cool slightly or, if using a gas grill, lower the heat. Meanwhile, stretch pizza dough to a large circle on a cookie sheet or pizza stone (making sure that the dough is not too thin in any area, as it will burn on the grill). With a pastry bush or spoon, spread about 1T of olive oil over the top of the dough. Carefully transfer the dough to the grill (olive oil side down) and let cook until browned on one side, less than 5 minutes (keep an eye on it, as it will burn very quickly if unattended to)! Brush the upside with remaining 1T of olive oil. Flip the dough, and immediately top the browned side with shredded Parmigiano Reggiano and grilled vegetables. Once underside is browned and cheese is melted (again, less than 5 minutes), transfer the the pizza back to the cookie sheet or large serving platter. Top with dollops of ricotta cheese and sprinkle with fresh parsley.