It’s time to think inside the hood.
Grilling season lures cooks outside with smoky scents under sunny skies. Firing up the grill keeps the kitchen cooler and makes any meal seem special.
“It’s that time of the year when I tend to gravitate away from the indoor kitchen to the outdoor kitchen,” said Jeff Anderson, Safeway’s executive chef, who develops recipes for the supermarket chain. “I’m always grilling.”
But why limit the outdoor menu to burger, hot dogs and steaks? Adventurous cooks prove almost anything can be grilled.
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“It’s crazy what people are starting to do,” Anderson said. “You have fun with it. The spontaneity of cooking leads to more discovery.”
Pizza, fruit, melon, lettuce, bacon, even chocolate can be cooked over flame. The trick is to watch the heat – and the food. Don’t just walk away while cooking items with high sugar or fat content. Melting fat can drip; sugar chars fast. Be prepared for flare-ups.
Only pizza really wants high heat; most other foods need low or indirect heat for best results.
“Grilled pizza is phenomenal,” said James Schend, food editor of Taste of Home magazine and a dedicated grill master. “It’s just because you need that high heat to develop that flavor and crust that you just can’t get in a regular oven. Not only does it taste great, on the grill, it’s fast! A (small) pizza cooks in five to six minutes.”
Because the crust cooks so quickly, prepare all the other ingredients ahead of time, Schend advises.
“This is a great use of leftovers, especially chicken,” he said. “You can even use store-bought pizza dough; it works great on the grill. You can make small individual pizzas and let each person customize it the way they like.”
Or grill some items to top the pizza before assembling. Some suggestions: green onions, sliced bell peppers, squash, asparagus or stone fruit.
“I love grilling fruit,” Schend said. “Any stone fruit – peaches, nectarines, plums – are exceptional on the grill. It brings out so many flavors. I really love grilling cherries. Pit and put them in a grill basket. Roll them around a little while they’re heating. Then toss them with a little brandy. It’s a quick and easy dessert.”
Most fruit cooks fast; just one to two minutes a side over low heat. Lightly oil the fruit before putting it on the hot grill.
“Peaches are a favorite; just cut in half, remove the pit and grill each side, just enough to get grill marks,” Schend said. “But when grilling, look for firm fruit. Don’t use any really really ripe peaches or it will be a mushy mess on the grill.”
Melon cut in 1-inch-thick slices or cubed on skewers grills quickly; just 60 to 90 seconds a side.
“Watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew; they all work,” Schend said. “You just want to cook it long enough to get grill marks. The key is after you grill it, let it rest five minutes before serving. Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar glaze, add salt and pepper, maybe some chopped fresh mint. It’s a quick appetizer or summer salad.”
Schend uses this same grilling method for pineapple and bananas, one or two minutes a side. He serves the grilled pineapple or bananas over ice cream with a butterscotch sauce or as a grilled version of bananas foster.
“It comes together very quickly and, if you’re having a barbecue, really impresses your guests,” he said.
Almost any vegetable can be grilled, Schend said. Harder root vegetables such as potatoes, yams and carrots benefit from partially cooking or steaming until almost done before grilling.
“Straight on the grill, they never really get cooked all the way through,” he explained. “The outside will be too cooked, the inside barely cooked at all. (Partially cooking) ahead solves that.”
Asparagus, summer squash, eggplant – all cook well on the grill. Use a grilling basket and lightly toss the food with oil beforehand.
Romaine lettuce makes a great grilled Caesar salad. Quarter the head lengthwise, lightly brush with olive oil, then grill 30 seconds a side.
“You want it on and off there just long enough to barely wilt,” Schend said.
Anderson loves grilled avocado. With char marks, a grilled half can become the basis for a salad or served atop chicken. Or it can top toast, also cooked on the grill.
“Avocados are so underrated,” Anderson said. “You can use them hot or cold. You can put them on an artisan baguette for a quick and easy breakfast, lunch or appetizer. Avocado toast looks great, smells great and tastes great. Crumble up a little bacon on top; what’s not to like?”
Speaking of bacon, Schend has experimented with grilling thick slices.
“You have to be careful and really keep an eye on it,” he said. “I do only three slices at a time, with indirect heat, and I turn it a lot. But it’s delicious.”
As for other meats, Anderson uses a cast-iron skillet on top of the grill to make his burgers. He flattens the patty very thin before cooking.
“It makes it almost caramelized on the outside,” he said.
Schend adds 2 tablespoons of ice water per pound of lean meat to keep his burgers moist. He puts a dimple in the middle of his burgers, too. “It looks almost like a doughnut,” he said. “But as the meat cooks, that dimple will fill up. Instead of round ball-like burgers, the finished burger comes out just right.”
Anderson has a go-to marinade (orange marmalade, Sriracha, soy sauce, orange juice, mustard) for chicken, which he grills in large batches. That grilled chicken then will be ready for salads, pizza, pasta or sandwiches.
Schend grills his chicken spatchcocked style, removing the backbone and flattening the bird for faster cooking.
For dessert, grilled fruit can top grilled pound cake. “Just slice and grill, about a minute a side,” Schend said.
Or make grilled chocolate s’mores, a cookout favorite. For his magazine, Schend and his crew tested several variations. Among their favorites was a foil-wrapped s’more that tucks the melted chocolate inside a tortilla.
“People don’t expect it,” Schend said. “I love doing stuff people don’t expect.”
Editor’s note: This article was changed May 25 to correct James Schend’s title.
Basic grilled pizza
Makes one large (12-inch) crust, serving 6-8
Recipe adapted from Taste of Home magazine.
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Sauce of choice
Start charcoal fire or pre-heat gas grill to medium-high heat.
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the oil, sugar, salt and 1 1/2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a firm dough. Turn onto a floured surface; cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
Roll into a 12 to 13-inch circle, building up edge slightly. Do not let rise.
Lightly oil both sides of crust. Carefully slide crust onto grill. Cook 3 to 4 minutes until bottom is lightly browned and top looks set.
With long-handled tongs, carefully remove crust from grill to a platter or baking sheet, and flip it, grilled side up. To grilled side, lightly brush on sauce, if desired, and add toppings. (Remember: Don’t load it up too much. Excess sauce and/or toppings can make the pizza difficult to handle on the grill.)
Carefully, slide the pizza back onto the grill. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes until the crust is done and cheese, if used, is melted. Remove from grill. Slice and serve.
Glazed spatchcocked chicken
“A few pantry items inspired this recipe, which I’ve since made for small weeknight meals or for big parties,” said James Schend, editor of Taste of Home magazine.
1 cup white wine or chicken broth
1 cup apricot preserves or quince jelly
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
1 broiler/fryer chicken (3 to 4 pounds)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
In a small saucepan, bring wine or broth to a boil; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until wine is reduced by half. Stir in preserves and mustard. Reserve half of the glaze for basting.
Cut the chicken along each side of the backbone with shears. Remove the backbone. Turn the chicken breast side down, and press to flatten. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place chicken on greased grill grate, breast side down, covered, over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes or until nicely charred. Turn chicken, grill until a thermometer reads 170 to 175 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh, brushing occasionally with reserved sauce mixture; about 30 minutes.
Remove chicken from grill; tent with foil. Let stand 15 minutes before carving.
Chef Jeff’s Signature chicken marinade and grilled chicken boneless breasts
Jeff Anderson, Safeway’s executive chef, swears by this marinade for grilled chicken. He’ll grill a batch of marinaded boneless breasts, then use that cooked chicken for grilled pizza, salads, pasta and other dishes. He uses all Signature store brands. Recipe courtesy chef Jeff Anderson, Safeway.
1 cup orange marmalade
1 to 3 tablespoons Sriracha sauce (to taste)
½ cup soy sauce
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
Eight 6-ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts
Whisk marinade ingredients together and use immediately or refrigerate for later use. For best flavor, marinate boneless skinless chicken breasts for 3 to 4 hours before cooking.
Once marinated to your liking, grill chicken breasts for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Remove from heat and let chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Grilled chocolate dessert wraps
Think of these as grilled s’mores in a tortilla. Add some crushed graham crackers to the mix for even more s’Mores flavor. Recipe adapted from Taste of Home magazine.
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
4 flour tortillas (8 inches)
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
Vanilla ice cream, optional
Chocolate shavings, optional
Spread 2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter (not chunky) on each tortilla. Sprinkle 1/4 cup marshmallows and 2 tablespoons chocolate chips on half of each tortilla.
Roll up, beginning with the topping side. Wrap each tortilla in heavy-duty foil; seal tightly.
Grill, covered, over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until heated through.
Unwrap tortillas and place on dessert plates. Serve with ice cream garnished with chocolate shavings if desired.
Grilled pineapple butterscotch sundaes
Recipe adapted from Taste of Home magazine.
2 fresh pineapples
6 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup butter, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups vanilla ice cream
Peel, core and cut each pineapple into six spears. In a small saucepan, melt 6 tablespoons butter with sugar and nutmeg. Brush over pineapple.
Grill pineapple, covered, over medium heat or broil 4 inches from the heat for 7 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned, turning occasionally.
For sauce: In a small saucepan, melt remaining butter. Stir in brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla and salt.
Serve sauce with ice cream and grilled pineapple.
Chef Jeff Anderson of Safeway likes this toast for breakfast, lunch or appetizer. If desired, grill the avocados, too, before slicing.
1 loaf French bread or baguette, sliced in half lengthwise
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 ripe Hass avocados
Pinch of Kosher salt
Pinch of fresh ground black pepper
4 slices uncured bacon; cooked
Fresh lemon wedge
Toast baguette halves on the grill over medium low heat.
Remove bread from grill. Rub garlic cloves over toasted surface of bread and drizzle with olive oil.
Top with sliced avocado and season with salt and pepper. Top with crumbled cooked bacon.
Garnish with a lemon wedge and serve.
Grilled fruit sundaes with strawberry sauce
Grilling fruit transforms it in just a few minutes, making it plumper, juicier and more deeply flavored as the heat caramelizes its natural sugars. It’s the perfect way to enhance summer favorites such as peaches, plums, cherries and grapes. You'll need to soak a bamboo skewer in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling, or use a metal skewer.
Make ahead: The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Recipe from Ellie Krieger.
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon boiling water
About 5 large strawberries, hulled and chopped (5 ounces total; defrosted, with juice, if using frozen)
10 seedless green grapes
1 medium peach or nectarine, ripe but firm
1 medium plum, ripe but firm
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 1/3 cups regular or low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt
Fresh mint, for garnish
Prepare the grill for direct heat or preheat a gas grill to medium (375 to 400 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal; once the coals are ready, distribute them evenly in the cooking area. For a medium fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 6 to 7 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames.
Combine the honey and boiling water in a liquid measuring cup, stirring until the honey has dissolved. Pour into a blender, then add the strawberries; purée until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a container, pressing the purée through with a spoon. Discard the solids; cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 3 days).
Spray the grill grate, a vegetable grilling basket or a grill pan with cooking oil spray; if using the basket or pan, place it on the grill. Thread the grapes onto the skewer. Cut the peach or nectarine and the plum in half, and discard the pits, then cut each half vertically into 2 round slices. Brush the fruit slices with oil on both sides and place them on the grate (or in the basket or pan). Cook uncovered for 2 minutes on one side, then turn and cook for 1 minute on the second side, until the fruit has softened and grill marks have formed.
Transfer the fruit to a cutting board, allow to cool slightly, then cut it into 1/2-inch pieces. Place the skewer on the grill; cook uncovered for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until the grapes are lightly browned. Remove from the skewer and cut each grape in half.
To serve, spoon about 1/2 cup of fruit into each small bowl or parfait glass. Top each portion with a 1/3-cup scoop of the frozen yogurt, then drizzle with the chilled strawberry sauce. Garnish with mint; serve right away.
Grilled peach pizza with prosciutto
Recipe from Martha Stewart, adapted by the St. Lois Post-Dispatch
3 pre-made pizza dough crusts, or flatbreads, pita or naan
2 peaches, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
12 thin slices prosciutto, cut in half
1/3 cup fresh basil
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Heat a grill or grill pan on high heat and grill pizza crusts, flatbreads, pita or naan until grill marks are dark. Set aside.
Grill peach wedges until caramelized, about 2 minutes per side.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, or lower grill temperature to medium. Spread cheese on grilled pizza crusts. Bake or grill crusts (covered with a lid) directly on grates until cheese melts and is bubbling, about 8 minutes (time may vary slightly if grilling). Remove from oven or grill. Top with peaches, prosciutto and basil. Drizzle with oil.
Per serving: 841 calories; 49g fat; 24g saturated fat; 167mg cholesterol; 45g protein; 58g carbohydrate; 15g sugar; 4g fiber; 1,828 mg sodium; 15mg calcium