James Says This is The Best One Yet (and He Should Know)

The menu was very green and white, much like our dining room.

The menu was very green and white, much like our dining room.

What’s for Dinner is back!  Our celebrity guest this time was Kate (Hi Kate!), who has sat at many a Howson dinner table and most likely expected to come away disappointed and still hungry. NOT THIS TIME. At least she didn’t say as much, although we all agreed that the pizza crust was sub-par (more on that later), and James remarked that the bean salad was bland. But James drinks Four Alarm Fire Hot Sauce directly from the bottle, for BREAKFAST.  Plus, he said this was the “best one yet,” meaning of the meals we’ve made from Martha Stewart Living, so I am once again confused by him (more on that later too. maybe.)

These things we know for certain:  a.) Kate got enough to eat. Finally!, b.)  Grilling pizza crust is just logistically odd and near impossible if using gluten-free pizza dough, and c.)  I still am not a huge fan of grilled vegetables, but I do like watching Susan drop them into the open flame.

The Menu:

  • Butter Beans with Mint
  • Grilled Pizza with Fontina and Arugula
  • Grilled Radicchio, Summer Squashes, and Scallions
  • Gelato Affogato

Susan grills!

Susan grills!

The most notable things about preparing this meal was the hunt for store bought, frozen pizza dough and the fact that Susan had never used a grill before. For the former, we had no luck at Kroger, didn’t check Ukrop’s and wound up with dairy, wheat and gluten-free dough from Ellwood Thompson’s (on sale. a first!). Trader Joe’s is rumored to have good frozen dough, but I was so flustered and addled by my Short Pump mall experience the day prior, I completely forgot to stop at TJ’s afterward. A return trip was, of course, out of the question.

Season add-on: Hanover tomatoes!

Season add-on: Hanover tomatoes!

As noted earlier, the absence of gluten in the dough would later prove pivotal during the preparation process (we had to bake it rather than grill it), and it came out sort of spongy and dry all at the same time. We added tomatoes to the pizza topping, which previously just called for Arugula, because the entire meal was very green and white. The fontina would have been better with a flakier, lighter crust. Fontina is a salty cheese and needs quality starch.


The bean salad – which called for lemon zest, hot pepper, mint, onions and oil – was served over prosciutto and was my favorite part of this meal.

Susan grills!

Susan continues to grill! (Note makeshift tinfoil grill "basket." Patent-pending.)

Considering that our collective grill experience consists of lighting sticks on fire during the 45 minutes it took our dad to light charcoal (our family did not believe in lighter fluid, nor in preventing 7-year-olds from lighting sticks on fire), we did pretty well. Lost a few squash, but I mean, how close together are the tines(?) on Martha’s grill? Here again we added tomatoes and put them on a special tinfoil rig courtesy of James. They are way too watery to be placed directly on the grill. In short, this part was a success, although labor intensive as the veggies are only on the grill for 4 minutes, and you have to flip them after 2 minutes,  AFTER brushing them with olive oil.

Finished product!

Finished product!

(Aside: The chefs were drinking James’s Special Limeade and Barbara’s Special Iced Tea w/ Orange Juice during the making of this meal.)
Gelato Affogato basically means ice cream drowned in coffee (no, literally, “affogato” means “drowned” in Italian) and in this case stood for high quality chocolate ice cream topped with whipped heavy cream and a drizzle of decaf (It was Sunday night, ok?), garnished with two coffee beans in glass coffee mugs and one official U.S. Senate high ball glass. Martha calls for espresso but we gave our machine to the UPS guy years ago.
Changes we made:
  • Added tomatoes to both pizza and grilled vegetables because it’s August, and there’s no excuse not to use them (recommended based on time of year).
  • Used gluten-free, wheat-free and dairy-free storebought, frozen pizza crust (not recommended).
  • Baked rather than grilled pizza because consistency of dough made it impossible to transfer from baking sheet to grill.
  • Used coffee rather than espresso (a personal choice, but the coffee worked just fine). Could have also added biscotti.

Verdict: a Marthable meal, with lots of room for modifications, but no room for gluten-free pizza crust.

[by Lesley]


  1. Beth · August 7, 2009

    thank GOD marthable is back! how i’ve missed you!

  2. Mom · August 13, 2009

    As usual, girls, you are wonderful…I loved the descriptions, the “being frank” (a reference to “Loving Frank” the book, get it?) Heh. The table looked beautiful and summery, as did the handsome folks around it. The photos were especially good too, making me want a second dinner tonight, so I am headed for the fridge. Kudos to all. Love, Mom

  3. Kate · August 14, 2009

    Delicious, and certainly filling! Gluten or no Gluten, I enjoyed it. Glad to be a part of any cooking experiment – especially one that involves Susan attempting to grill.

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