By Jennifer Whipple for Problem Solvers Photographs courtesy of Problem Solvers
When the temperature rises, the kitchen becomes less pleasant. Never fear—that’s when the grill takes center stage! Whether you favor gas, charcoal, or wood, nothing says “summer” quite like cooking outdoors. And while hot dogs and hamburgers may be a summer staple, you’re not doomed to a season of eating nothing else—with the right tools, you can grill most anything, from salad to dessert! Here are some possibilities you may not have considered:
Veggies & Fruits
With the way it enhances their natural sweetness, it’s no wonder grilling is becoming summer’s go-to way of prepping fruits and veggies. Don’t let the thought of it intimidate you—with a little know-how and the right techniques, it’s actually quite easy.
Most outdoor cooks’ main concern when grilling vegetables and fruits is to keep them from sticking or falling through the grill grates while cooking. The first problem can be addressed by brushing the food lightly with oil; the second by using a non-stick grilling basket to keep it together.
Some veggies (like peppers, summer squash, mushrooms, and tomatoes) should be put on the grill raw. Others (like carrots, potatoes, and artichokes) should be steamed first until just barely tender (make sure to pat them dry, then lightly brush with oil before putting on the grill). Get creative and experiment with herbs, rubs, and marinades for extra flavor.
As for fruit, watermelon, peaches, plums, and pineapple: all can take the heat! Save the firmest, least ripe fruits for grilling, and soak them in liquor or drizzle with honey before cooking to add an extra burst of flavor. Top with ice cream or whipped cream and serve with a slice of grilled pound cake for a tasty, elegant dessert.
Move pizza night to the patio! The grill is the next best thing to prepping a pizza in a brick oven. And it’s a lot easier than you might think: the trick is to lightly oil the grill grates and pre-heat the grill on high while covered for ten minutes before reducing heat to medium prior to grilling the crust.
Lightly brush crust with oil and grill uncovered until underside is golden brown (about 2-3 minutes on a gas grill, 4-6 on a charcoal grill). Carefully flip it, then add toppings (if using pre-cooked meats, place on top of sauce and cover with cheese). Grill pizza covered (about 3 minutes on a gas grill, 5 minutes on a charcoal grill) until the underside of the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.
Go beyond the bun with sweet and savory ideas that can serve as a complete meal, party appetizers, or a quick snack:
Easy to make and always delicious, kabobs are a perfect way to prepare up a complete meal from the grill! Don't limit yourself to the traditional beef-onion-tomato. Try mixing things up with fun combinations, like a Creole-inspired shrimp with chunks of sausage and corn on the cob; pork with baby potatoes and pieces of apple; chicken, pineapple, coconut and more…the sky's the limit! To continue the theme, you can even serve them with dessert "kabobs" made up of berries and marshmallows and drizzled with chocolate. There are easy tools out there that can help you load and unload your skewers quickly, too, so there’s no excuse for not giving kabobs a try.
These bite-size burgers are a big hit at parties and barbecues. They make ideal hors d’oeuvres and snacks, plus they’re perfect for kids or for people trying to control their portions. And with helpful “sizers” like the 3-in-1 Burger Press, it’s easy to enjoy them at home!
Grilled beef, pork, chicken and fish, seasoned and marinated, make wonderful fillings for tacos. You can even heat the shells on the grill—hard shells will gain an extra crispiness, while soft shells will take on a smoky flavor.
Appetizers & hors d’oeuvres
Supply your summer party with toasted bread topped with grilled peppers and squash, grilled bacon-wrapped scallops, simple shrimp skewers, and even grilled salads.
As the finishing touch, there’s nothing better than the combination of sweet and smoky for a summertime dessert. In addition to grilled fruit and dessert kabobs, there are all sorts of tools to help you whip up desserts beyond the traditional s’mores. Craving popcorn? There are poppers specifically made for the grill. Looking to really wow your crowd? A pie iron will have you turning out breads, pies, and other pastries straight from the grill and looking like a true grill master!
Are you all fired up yet? If so, let your imagination run wild, and explore new ways to let your grill bring friends, family, and food together outdoors this summer.
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By Pamela Crawford, author, Easy Patio Veggies & Herbs
Photographs courtesy of Pamela Crawford
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