Scott Conant knows Italian food.
Named one of the 10 best new chefs in the country by Food and Wine magazine in 2004, Conant specializes in Italian food. In his cookbook, "Bold Italian," he makes his dishes tasty yet simple -- to be made and enjoyed at home by novices and pros alike.
Get a taste from some recipes below, and for a full list of recipes to complement any occasion, click here.
Grilled Chicken With Charred Lemon and Heirloom Tomatoes
Serves four to six.
Maybe it's my suburban upbringing, but I don't really feel as if summer has come until I see flames shoot out from the barbecue and smell the distinct aroma of chicken charring. That smell means I'm going to get my grilled chicken the way I like it, with some of the pieces quite blackened. I may not want to eat the burned skin per se, but I know the meat underneath is going to taste smoky and delicious. Though I am nostalgic for some aspects of the backyard barbecue, one thing I don't miss -- aside from the mosquitoes -- is the taste of lighter fluid. If you do cook this chicken over a real fire (and not a gas grill), consider using hardwood coals, such as charwood, instead of charcoal. And light them with a match.
1¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 lemon, sliced
2 bunches scallions, roots trimmed
2 medium onions, thickly sliced
Pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes
2 whole chickens, cut into pieces
2 to 3 anchovies, well rinsed (optional)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
6 to 8 medium, very ripe heirloom tomatoes or juicy beefsteak tomatoes, cut into wedges
4 to 6 slices ciabatta bread
1. Marinate the chicken: Combine the 1 cup of olive oil, the lemon slices, scallion and red pepper flakes in a large bowl or large zip top bag. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat. Marinate for at least a few hours refrigerated.
2. Grill the chicken: Prepare the coals on an outdoor grill to medium-hot or heat a gas grill. If using coals, bank them to one side of the grill so that one side is hot and the other less so. Season the chicken pieces well with salt and pepper and then dump them, as well as the onions, scallions and lemon slices onto the grill. (You may lose some scallions or lemons, but hopefully, most won't fall through the grates.) Put the cover on the grill to increase the heat. The grill will smoke like crazy, but try to resist opening the lid for 7 minutes or so. When you do, turn the chicken pieces over, and continue cooking, most of the time with the lid on, until done, about 35 minutes. If the chicken, lemon and onions are getting too charred, reduce the heat or move them to a cooler part of the grill.
3. Make a vinaigrette: Meanwhile, finely chop the anchovies, if using. Combine them with the vinegar, the ¼ cup olive oil, and the parsley, and whisk well.
To serve: Brush the slices of bread with olive oil and grill on both sides. Divide the chicken, lemon, scallions, and onions among serving plates. Put the wedges of tomato alongside and drizzle the tomatoes with the vinaigrette. Serve with the grilled bread.
Makes 4 servings
1 pound zucchini
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts (pignoli), lightly toasted in a dry skillet
15 whole mint leaves, stacked, rolled tightly, and sliced thinly crosswise into a chiffonade
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Cut the zucchini lengthwise into slices ¼ inch thick. Put the slices in a colander and toss with a teaspoon of salt. Let them drain for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over very low heat. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and let cook in the oil just until the garlic takes on a golden hue. Be careful not to let either burn; if your stove has difficulty keeping a low simmer, you may need to turn it on and off.
3. Heat your grill to medium-high or a grill pan. Pat the zucchini dry with paper towels and brush both sides with the flavored oil. Grill until nicely marked and cooked through, 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the slices to plates or a platter, strew the pine nuts and the mint over them, and season with black pepper, if you like.
Both recipes courtesy of Scott Conant, from his cookbook, "Bold Italian," published by Broadway Books, 2007.