Ex­pand grilling reper­toire past burg­ers, steaks

Veg­eta­bles, fruit, bread, even cheese do well over the coals

Albuquerque Journal - - FOOD - BY BRET SARNQUIST

Think you’re a grill mas­ter? If so, well done — grilling is gen­er­ally a healthy way to cook, and the fla­vor can be ter­rific — but here’s a chal­lenge: try grilling bread, veg­eta­bles or fruit.

For many peo­ple, grilling equals meat. Whether it’s burg­ers, a steak or bird, meat is usu­ally what gets at­ten­tion on the grill. Out­side of the U.S., how­ever, cook­ing over open flame is more com­mon, and ev­ery­thing from veg­eta­bles to tofu to fruit goes on the grill.

There is a even a tra­di­tion in Greece and Turkey of grilling cheese; hal­loumi (or hel­lim) is a firm goat/sheep milk cheese that doesn’t melt over heat, and is of­ten mar­i­nated in olive oil and herbs and then fried or grilled. It’s de­li­cious on

a ke­bab or as an ap­pe­tizer.

Be­sides the nov­elty of grilling un­usual foods, there are pos­si­bly other ben­e­fits as well. Meat is ex­pen­sive, and there is in­creas­ing con­cern about chem­i­cals formed when meat is well done or charred. At can­cer. gov, the sci­en­tists at the Na­tional Can­cer In­sti­tute re­port meats cooked at high tem­per­a­tures, smoked or charred had sig­nif­i­cant lev­els of two chem­i­cals that “… cause changes in DNA that may in­crease the risk of can­cer.”

Grilling veg­eta­bles, veg­gie burg­ers and fruits, on the other hand, does not ap­pear to gen­er­ate the same amount of those chem­i­cals. If the words “veg­gie burger” make you cringe, it’s worth try­ing some of the new prod­ucts that are avail­able. Even Sonic has a veg­gie burger and a new part-veg­etable burger (it’s 25 per­cent mush­rooms) get­ting good re­views. One brand of veg­gie burger is even us­ing heme, a com­pound found in red blood cells as well as some plants, to give their burg­ers a pink­ish color and a meaty fla­vor with a bit of that tang char­ac­ter­is­tic of rare beef.

If you’re in­ter­ested in ex­per­i­ment­ing with meat al­ter­na­tives on the grill, I’d rec­om­mend start­ing with a clas­sic veg­e­tar­ian sum­mer cook-out menu: veg­gie burg­ers with tra­di­tional fix­ings, zuc­chini and grilled pineap­ple slices for dessert. It’s a beau­ti­ful plate when as­sem­bled, with the fa­mil­iar-look­ing burger on one side, the salty and sa­vory grilled zuc­chini slices on the other, and a slice or two of pineap­ple, warm and lightly touched with grill marks, on the side for a sweet fin­ish.

Find a veg­gie burger you like, as well as the bun and fix­ings that you pre­fer, for the main part of the en­trée. I’m par­tial to a black-bean-based burger with a slice of green chile, tomato, fresh ro­maine let­tuce and avo­cado, but burg­ers are a per­sonal thing. With grilling fruit or veg­eta­bles, the main trick is not over­cook­ing them, oth­er­wise they can be­come limp and overly smoky.

So take a day, now and then, and step away from the stan­dard grill menu. Grilling new foods can be healthy and can en­hance your rep­u­ta­tion as a grill mas­ter, es­pe­cially as your guests savor that last sweet, smoky and un­ex­pected bite of fruit warm off the grill.

GRILLED ZUC­CHINI

1-2 large zuc­chini (or 3-4 smaller ones)

1 ta­ble­spoon olive oil

Kosher salt and black pep­per, to taste

Pre­heat your grill on high for about 5-7 min­utes and clean the grill bars well.

Wash the zuc­chini and trim the ends, then cut length­wise into strips a bit thin­ner than ½ inch. The strips should be long (as long as the orig­i­nal zuc­chini) and skinny, with a flat (cut) sur­face on ei­ther side. Toss the strips into a large bowl, and then driz­zle with the olive oil plus a small amount of salt and pep­per, toss­ing fre­quently to en­sure a thin even coat­ing of oil.

Turn the grill down to medium, and lightly oil the grate by rub­bing the grill bars with a pa­per towel coated with a bit of oil. Lay the zuc­chini strips across the grate, try­ing not to over­lap them, and close the grill for 3-4 min­utes. The zuc­chini should be lightly browned and start­ing to soften.

Turn each strip over to grill the other side for an ad­di­tional 2-3 min­utes, or un­til the strips are browned on the other side and cooked through (but not limp). Serve im­me­di­ately.

GRILLED PINEAP­PLE

28-ounce can of pineap­ple slices in pineap­ple juice

Co­conut oil spray (or a sim­i­lar pan spray made with a healthy oil)

½ tea­spoon mo­lasses (optional)

About 4-8 hours be­fore you plan to grill, open the can and drain, re­serv­ing about a quar­ter cup of juice in the fridge. Pat the pineap­ple slices dry and then put them in the fridge un­cov­ered on a cool­ing rack (so air can cir­cu­late around both sides).

About an hour be­fore you plan to grill, take the slices out to warm up a bit. Just be­fore you throw them on the grill, spray very lightly with the oil spray. Cook 2-3 min­utes per side, un­til start­ing to brown and soften. Serve im­me­di­ately.

Optional: Mix the mo­lasses with the ¼ cup of re­served pineap­ple juice, and lightly brush on both sides of the pineap­ple when you flip the slices for a darker color and more caramelized fla­vor.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Sa­vory grilled zuc­chini slices are the per­fect ac­com­pa­ni­ment to sum­mer sup­per off the grill.

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