Expand grilling repertoire past burgers, steaks
Vegetables, fruit, bread, even cheese do well over the coals
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.
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.
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.
Savory grilled zucchini slices are the perfect accompaniment to summer supper off the grill.