This weekend was very special for my family and I. My sister got engaged!!!
Not only was this super exciting, but it happened to be on one of the most beautiful places on earth – Block Island. For those of you who don’t know about Block Island, let me shed some light. This is a place where peace meets beauty all tied together by a gloriously rocky island coastline. It reminds me a lot of Tuscany but feels like you’re taking a step back in time. Rock walls separate houses, everyone gardens and mopeds speckle the island as much as the sun does.
You can catch a pina colada at Ballard’s or pack up to a peaceful house to relax away from the bustle of town.
Dan had been planning this for months and so did our family. His logistics included where to propose, how to get her on the private beach then back up the stairs where the whole family waited holding roses! We had an absolute blast planning this and thankfully, it all worked out smoothly!
The engagement was beautiful! We were so excited to spend time with family. But, at the end of the day, what’s a party without great food?
In planning this menu I was thinking, what should I bring that is simple, portable by ferry, elegant and delicious! Man, that’s big shoes to fill for 11 people. Aside from picnics, grilling and bonfires by the beach, btw, I love nothing more in life. SO! Let’s get thinking. How to create an entire menu using one grill. Here are some ideas.
First, we start with the table. It should be welcoming but fun. It should be rustic. A setting that accents the setting around you – in this case, the beach!
A simple blue tablecloth, yellow napkins and easy bouquet. Sunflowers are a piece of cake.
If you’re a big fan of nautical colors, this could easily be done with white and blue checkered linen, navy napkins and red roses.
Everything is easier when it’s made or marinated overnight. All of the items below were made the night before and taken with us in our car, in a giant cooler onto the ferry. Therefore, salad’s usually eaten hot, must be transported deliciously, cold. The theme of the day should definitely be the grill.
Grilled Belgian endive salad with Pear: I love endive. YUM. Grilled is the best. It’s a bitter veg but grilled takes on a milder flavor. Slice each endive in half, brush with olive oil and place on grill. Thinly slice 1-2 Bosc pears (the brownish looking pear). You can also grill these. If you’re taking it to the beach, I like to marinate mine in a large ziploc bag with apple cider vinegar, orange juice, lemon juice, touch of honey. The pears become softer in texture, but still crisp and accent the salad. Layer your platter with Frisee lettuce or arugula, (aka funky greens). Top with one half of grilled endive. Gently place pear slices on top. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts (toast for a few minutes in low heat pan) and dried cranberries. Top with crumbled roquefort cheese and thinly sliced chive. I like to use a champagne vinaigrette for this or a freshly made dressing. (Oil, vinegar, orange juice, lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper).
Orzo Pesto Shrimp Salad: 1 package of orzo pasta, 1 tub store bought good pesto (or make your own), 1 lemon, 1 diced cucumber or cherry tomato your choice, 1 lb 26-30 shrimp or jumbo shrimp raw unpeeled.
Wash, peel, devein shrimp. Sautee minced garlic on low, add 1tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp white wine, 1/2tsp salt, pinch of pepper, red pepper flake for heat. Sautee shrimp about 10 minutes on low. Let cool. Boil pasta until al dente. Don’t forget to salt your water, salty like the sea. Let pasta cool. Combine pasta with a little butter for moisture. Add pesto, shrimp, lemon juice, diced cucumber. Mix in crumbled feta cheese. Cover and store overnight.
Caprese Salad: Transports well, easy to make. 1 large ball of good mozzarella (Wholefoods or local market). Nothing is worse than a stiff mozzarella. Basil, sliced. Beefsteak tomatoes, ripe. Slice tomato, layer with mozzarella on a large plate, top with basil leaves. Drizzle with herb infused olive oil. I use Sotto Voce, it’s the best infused oil. Top with cracked fresh black pepper, course sea salt. Do not oil, salt and pepper until ready to serve.
Asparagus: 1-2 bunches of asparagus spears. Not too thin or they will be mushy. Wash, brush with olive oil, lemon juice, salt. Place on grill and turn until soft but still crisp, about 7 minutes. Finish with lemon and course sea salt.
Roasted red potatoes: Boil one bag of baby red potatoes in salted water until fork tender. In a tin foil pan (similar to chicken roasting pan), combine olive oil, potatoes, 2-3 bunches rosemary plucked from stem and coarsely chopped, salt, pepper, garlic. Bake on 450 degrees until crispy edges.
Grilled rustic corn: Peel or husk it, but not all the way. Place corn on tin foil sheet, add 1 tbsp of salted butter, salt, pepper. Wrap foil around the corn. You can store these overnight and have them ready. Wet ends of husked corn so they won’t burn on grill. Place on grill and keep turning, about 5 minutes. Take foil off, grill for 5 minutes to brown the corn. Top with (if desired):
- Queso fresco cheese
- black pepper
Steaks: Filet, Ribeye and New York Strip are my favorites on the grill. Ribeye is marbled and fatty packed with flavor. Filet is melt in your mouth and strip offers a strip of fat down the side that helps flavor the meat. Season the steaks liberally. I like to put a dry rub on it, they are easy to purchase at any grocery store. Or simply, coarse sea salt and LOTS of fresh cracked black pepper.
Once you put your steak on the grill, don’t touch it. Let it sit for 3-4 minutes. Flip it only once and let it sit.
To test your meat, I like to use a little restaurant trick I learned from waitressing during college at a steakhouse. The hand rule. No this is not a puppet show.
When you hold your left hand open, take your right hand and touch the pad of muscle under your left thumb. That’s what a rare steak feels like. Next, put your first finger to your thumb. Again, touch the pad under your left thumb – that’s what a medium rare steak feels like. Next, middle finger is medium. Ring finger is medium-well. Pinky, not included here because you get the picture, is a well done steak. While it’s grilling, poke the steak, poke your hand. That’s how you know your steak’s “done-ness”.
Lemon pesto Salmon: 1/3 lb or if you’re like my boyfriend, 1/2 lb pieces of fresh salmon. Marinate overnight with garlic powder, ground cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, dill, pesto, olive oil. Grill skin side down on high for 4 minutes. Add juice of lemon prior to cooking. You don’t want to marinate in lemon because it starts to break down the fish. That is basically how ceviche is made. Gently flip and grill for another 4-7 minutes until center is almost fully cooked. Try not to overcook the salmon, you want it almost fully cooked in the middle but not overdone. Sprinkle with lemon juice and top with chopped dill.
Set your table…
And enjoy the view!
Here are some more great memories from the trip! Congrats Natalie and Dan!!