I have great respect for hostesses who really get timing.
It's a refined skill, to be able to sweep courses in front of a crowd in a timely manner for tummies and for the food. When I entertain, what to serve revolves around my need to put the best on the table and not sit down sweating and panting from the effort.
Recently we had grilled pizza in the yard with a couple of friends. If you read Suite Apple Pie, you know we love grilled pizza dough (here and here for starters), but it's a tricky thing. I can't imagine doing this for more than 5 people. You can only fit so much on the grill at a time (as I discovered here- one large pizza turned into two when the dough was too big to transfer to the stone). You also have the problem of quantity- too many people and you'll be churning out batch after batch all night long. As chef you'll get to nibble a few crusts after everyone else finishes their meal.
This effort turned out well with these fig and goat cheese flatbreads as a first course of pizza. When these were half-consumed I fired round two. A margherita pizza was a nice contrast; not a great match together but delicious separately. These flatbreads were a little thick for my taste- chalk that up to my nerves about the experiment. Dough never ceases to surprise me. Next time friends, next time.
Regular olive oil and balsamic would work fine to dress the arugula. I provide instructions for use on my own gas grill that I've learned through trial and error. Every grill is different, so use mine as a guideline and modify for the equipment you have.
Fig and Goat Cheese Flatbreads
1/3 semolina pizza dough recipe (ballpark), split into four balls and risen
4 fresh figs, peeled and smooshed into a paste
6 more fresh figs, sliced
1/2 log fresh goat cheese, crumbled
3 cups arugula
1 Tbs toasted walnut oil
2 Tbs fig balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Preheat a pizza stone on an outdoor gas grill to at least 475 degrees.
Roll out one ball of dough on a lightly floured work surface. Transfer to a lightly floured pizza peel or wooden cutting board. Repeat with the remaining three dough balls.
When the grill is ready, transfer the flatbreads to the stone. Use your hands and work quickly. Shut off the heat directly beneath the stone to prevent burning. Shut the grill and monitor the temperature; turn the heat back on low to maintain the high temperature if necessary.
Grill the flatbreads for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly dress the arugular with the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and prep your toppings grill-side. Open the grill and brush with the fig mush. Add the sliced fresh figs and the crumbled goat cheese, and cover with the lid again. Grill for another 4-5 minutes until the dough is golden brown and the cheese is melty.
Remove the flatbreads back to the pizza peel/cutting board and top with the arugula salad. Allow to cool a few minutes before serving (so you don't burn your mouth on the cheese!)