This time of year, my oven becomes a secret closet for unused pots and pans.It remains cold and dormant through most of the month. Why would I heat up, dirty and spend unwanted time inside when I can cook outside nursing my little grill while enjoying the porch. Grilling can bring out the best, and steaks are not the only food rendered mouthwatering delicious by the grill.
Of course, steak, chicken, shrimp, scallops and fish are delightful proteins on the grill and rightfully are the focus of many recipes. The grill that only cooks meats, however, is a sad and underutilized hot top indeed.
The true art of grilling is best realized when cooking vegetables. Long, tender vegetables that can sit on the grill, sliced thin, quartered lengthwise or left whole are my favorites because they are quick, easy, and elegant — not to forget scrumptious. Summer squash, zucchini, asparagus spears, long green beans and eggplant are a few. A brushed coating of olive oil seems to be the secret to bringing out the umami flavor. Cooking long enough to keep the char light and using a medium heat to help the vegetables caramelize seem to be the best ways to grilled vegetable success. If your goal is restaurant-worthy crosshatch marks, wait until the grate leaves a set of lines, and then rotate the vegetables 90 degrees. It is surefire advice for lip-smacking success.
Cauliflower cut into top down half-inch steaks, coated with seasoned olive oil and cooked on the grill becomes the perfect platter for sautéed vegetables, cheeses and sauces.
Try this recipe for broccolini: Heat the grill to medium-high. Toss together broccolini, olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper in a bowl. Grill broccolini, turning occasionally, until charred, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop; return to bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of Parmesan, 2 teaspoons lemon zest, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl. Serve warm.
Kebabs are a grilling must.Meats, chicken, shrimp, scallops, peppers, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and quartered artichoke hearts are easy examples of food you can stick it too. Just the right size for a heavy appetizer or small dinner. Use any favorite marinade, oil and vinegar based salad dressing or lemon juice with fresh herbs. Onions become delightful bites of caramelized sweetness. Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes beforehand to keep them from burning.
Corral those veggies using skewers. Try asparagus spears that are no thicker than half-an-inch. Bunch six or seven trimmed spears together, and thread a skewer through the upper third of spears, gently turning skewer to keep spears from breaking. Repeat at the bottom of the bunch, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat, turning once, until marked and just tender—about nine minutes in total. Serve with grilled lemon halves.
Do not forget a north country favorite — corn on the cob. Buy it with the husks on and check for plump, uniform kernels. Grill, then season with brushed on herb butter, infused oil or crumbled cheese. You can also husk the cob and put the lightly oiled corncob directly on the grill for a slightly charred flavor.
Marinate mushrooms and brush off any excess liquids. Grill mushrooms, gill sides up, over medium-low heat with grill covered until they are marked and softened, about 15 minutes. Flip mushrooms and grill until cooked through (do not char gills), no more than two minutes
The grill brings out the best of the humble potato. It is like a white wall begging for an artistic touch of versatility, diversity and elegance. Potatoes can be coated with olive oil and simply put on the grill until crisp on the outside and flakey, soft in the middle. Potatoes can also be sliced lengthwise into half-inch ovals. Coat with olive oil, a touch of salt, pepper and fresh rosemary and grill until the coating is slightly crunchy with a tender center. Try grilled potato fans filled with tender onions, roasted garlic cloves and parmesan cheese. Make cuts across the potato brushed with oil so it “fans” out fill and roast.
Food does not have to cook directly on the grill. Use a cast iron skillet for warming up dips, sauces and keeping foods hot, such as baked beans. Wrapping vegetables in aluminum foil will result in tender and juicy while an open grill results in charred and smoky.
Cathy Moore is a registered dietitian-nutritionist and the agriculture program leader at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson county. Contact her at 315-788-8450 or email@example.com.