Although it was technically my older brother's birthday dinner that we were preparing, I was as excited about the evening as he, since one of my favorite ways to cook is in the wood-burning outdoor oven. There is something about eating food from the outdoor oven that is so rustic and earthly, and yet so simply gourmet. Hopefully this post can provide you with some springtime outdoor cooking inspirations. The menu would consist of homemade pizzas, roasted broccolini, Tuscan ribs, and of course dessert.
It was a cool but sunny spring evening, even if it was a little too cool to side outside.
We set the table inside, decorated with super fresh orchids.
As friends arrived we slid the first pizza onto the hot oven floor. Margherita pizza (my favorite). The dough had been made, risen and tossed by hand earlier in the afternoon. The tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella were laid gently on top of the dough with a toss of olive oil, just before we slid it into the 700 degree oven. After five minutes of turning the pizza and mainly just trying to keep it from burning, I pulled it out of the heat and sprinkled on the fresh torn basil leaves.
Needing the perfect Italian cocktail to complement the food, it was time for a New Negroni (a recipe taken from the NY times Tipsy Diaries). The cocktail is simple but needs a bit more work than if you are used to just pouring in the alcohol, juice, and swilling. This one requires cutting an orange into small slices, soaking them overnight in sweet vermouth, then charring them over a flame...and finally mixing the drink, (which includes sparkling wine)...but it is every bit worth the effort.
The next was a roasted red pepper (roasted in the oven) and sauteed mushroom pizza. The crust was perfectly crunchy on the outside, while soft, warm and light on the inside.
After pausing for a few slices, we roasted up the broccolini with only olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Rubbing the ribs with salt, pepper, olive oil and a freshly chopped confusion of fresh sage, rosemary, garlic and oregano. We put them in a heavy bottom pan in the oven and based them with a 1/2 bottle of white wine while they cooked.
As we let the oven's fire die out, we got much more lively inside
as we all ate and drank very well.
The finale, however, was not cooked in the wood oven, because baking in it, is still a bit of a challenge that I did not feel the thrill to risk that evening. We finished the meal with chocolate pecan bourbon pie. Crunchy, sweet, salty and delicious...