A Columbus Day Cookout


You say your grill is now covered with leaves? You think it's too cold to cook outside anymore? You just know the neighbors will think you are crazy? Well, that's the same sort of thing that they said about Christopher Columbus, and look what happened when he looked beyond the traditional boundaries!

Cookbook author and lifelong grilling aficionado, Melanie Barnard, speaks from her own Italian heritage and suggests that you follow Columbus' lead-look beyond summer for your grilling pleasure. In fact, autumn can be the best grilling season of all, maintains Barnard. The weather has changed from blistering heat to a welcome coolness that restores summer's flagging appetites. You may have had your fill of burgers and barbecued chicken until next spring, but autumn is the time to approach grilling in a new and heartier way.

Try grilling Cornish game hens for a tailgate party, or a pork tenderloin fragrant with herbs to re-energize the family after a day of raking leaves. Grilled turkey breast is a perfect warm up for the Thanksgiving feast yet to come, and a grilled marinated steak is a welcome surprise any time of year! Each one is so easy to do with just an hour or two of marinating in bottled Italian dressing.

One of the best ways to celebrate the season is to grill those wonderfully sweet, last-of-the-harvest vegetables. In honor of Columbus Day, team them up with spicy Italian sausages for a tantalizing Grilled Sausage and Vegetable Pizza. Bottled Italian dressing has an authentic Italian heritage, and is perfect for grilling since it is both a terrific marinade and adds a distinctive flavor to the pizza.

Pizzas baked or grilled in wood-fired ovens are an Italian classic, and they are certainly the last word in avant-garde casual dining in America these days. With your backyard grill, you can have a piping hot, contemporary-style grilled pizza in about as much time as the local pizzeria delivery service will take to bring one to your door. And better yet, you can personalize the pizza for everyone!

Our pizza uses green bell peppers and onions, both of which grill to a sweet woodsy flavor. Equally delicious toppings would be grilled sliced eggplant, zucchini, portobello mushrooms, broccoli, or even potato slices. Simply brush the vegetables with bottled Italian dressing, and grill them until tender along with pre-simmered Italian sausage links. Toast prepared Italian bread shells or split English muffins on the grill, spread them with bottled marinara sauce, then add the toppings and melt some cheese in the last few seconds on the grill.

There are endless variations for this pizza. Make a trendy "white" pizza with fresh or canned chopped clams sprinkled on grilled bread that has been flavored with bottled Italian dressing. Or, make a classic Italian pizza Margharita with thinly sliced fresh tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and a drizzling of bottled Italian dressing. Evoke images of the Riviera with a Nicoise pizza of roasted peppers and sliced black olives. Even the traditional cheese and pepperoni is made more interesting when grilled.

Like Columbus, look beyond your traditional grilling horizons, and you will discover a whole new world of hearty, flavorful food!


Grilled Sausage and Pepper Pizzas


4 servings

  • 3/4 pound lean hot or sweet Italian sausage links or turkey Italian sausage links
  • 1/2 cup bottled Italian dressing
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
  • 2 medium green bell peppers, seeded and quartered
  • 1 large sweet onion, such as vidalia, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 packages (8-ounces each) individual Italian bread shells, or 4 sandwich size English muffins, split
  • 1 cup prepared marinara or pizza sauce
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) shredded Mozzarella cheese

Prick the sausages with a fork, then place in a skillet. Add about 3/4 cup of water, cover the skillet and steam over medium heat, turning once, until the sausages are no longer pink, about 10 minutes. (The sausages can be steamed a few hours ahead and refrigerated. Return to room temperature before continuing.)

In a small bowl, combine the Italian dressing and rosemary. Split the sausages lengthwise. Brush the sausages, peppers, and onions with about half of the Italian dressing. Grill the sausages and vegetables over medium coals, turning once until the sausages are browned, and the vegetables are tender, 7 to 10 minutes. About 2 minutes before the vegetables and meat are done, grill the tops of the bread shells or the cut sides of the English muffins until lightly toasted.

Remove bread, sausages, and vegetables from the grill. Quickly slice the sausages and peppers into large chunks, and separate the onion into rings. Turn bread, toasted side up, spread with the marinara sauce, top with the sausages and vegetables, drizzle with remaining Italian dressing, and sprinkle with cheese. Return the pizzas to the grill. Cover and grill until cheese melts and underside of bread is toasted, about 1 minute. (If you don't have a covered grill, it will just take a bit longer to melt the cheese, or you can finish melting the cheese under the broiler.) Garnish with sprigs of rosemary. if desired.


Compliments of Wish-Bone Dressing

This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified January 2007

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