Summer heat hit hard and fast this year, and I am not complaining! Is it just me, or is everyone in a better mood when the sun comes out? I mean, what’s not to love about summer?! This time of year means juicy peaches, flip flops, swimming, hiking, watermelon & tomatoes salads, warm summer evenings that never seem to end, beach games, and refreshing rosé. And, of course, backyard BBQs, one of the great joys of the summer.
Although my household does it’s fair share of grilling all year long, it’s just not the same in the winter. Summer grilling is not only relaxing and fun, but I also love the smoky flavor it imparts on food and it’s charming simplicity. Even someone who loves to cook as much as I do appreciates less prep time and more outdoor time.
The past few summers, it has been a blast thinking outside the box and grilling all kinds of crazy fruits and veggies - from peaches to avocado. I also love good old-fashioned BBQ chicken and a burger now and then.
One cautionary note about grilling meat, poultry or fish: When animal proteins char over super high heat, they can form cancer-causing compounds (you may have heard of HCAs). (Don’t worry, the char on veggies is NOT dangerous)
When grilling meat or fish, follow these tips to prevent charring:
- Make a Marinade: Marinating for at least 30 minutes (think citrus, vinegar, soy sauce, wine or beer-based sauces) can reduce the carcinogens by over 90%.
- Go Low and Slow: Cook meats slowly over low temperatures to prevent charring, preserve moisture, boost flavor, and savor the evening.
- Prevent Flare ups: Avoid using high flame starter fluids (come on, yuck!) that cause charring. Trimming off the fat before grilling also helps to prevent flare-ups.
Now on to the fun stuff, a festive summer meal, all on the grill:
Charred corn salad with basil, feta & tomatoes
Juice of 2-3 limes
½ cup olive oil
6 ears of corn, shucked
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup of fresh basil, chopped into thin ribbons
½ cup low-fat feta, crumbled
Sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste
- Lightly brush ears of corn with olive oil and grill over medium-high heat. Turn ears frequently to lightly char each side. Cook for about 10-15 min total.
- Remove ears of corn from grill and cut the kernels off of the cob.
- Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Taste for salt, lime and spice and adjust as desired.
- Serve room temperature or chilled.
Mixed Veg Kabobs
Kabobs are a sure-fire crowd pleaser. They’re colorful, fun to eat, and a great way to get your guests engaged by having everyone create their own veggie combo.
Almost any vegetable is crazy delicious when brushed with olive oil, salt & pepper, and lightly charred.
My favorites: eggplant, red onion, mushroom, fennel bulb, broccoli florets, sweet potato, red and green peppers, and even garlic cloves.
Honey-Soy Grilled Pork or Tempeh
This simple marinade adds amazing flavor and juiciness to lean cuts of pork (think tenderloin, or loin chops). Be sure to trim off any visible fat on the edges the pork.
If you’re more on the veg side of life, or want to give your GI tract a boost of probiotics, this recipe will also knock your socks off as a tempeh marinade.
Note: Lean cuts of pork can be dry, so a long marinade really helps. I recommend a 12-24 hour marinade in the fridge.
Serves: 8 Ingredients:
½ cup honey
½ cup soy sauce
Juice from 1 lemon
¼ cup Dijon mustard
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
4-6 pork chops (depending on how thick) or 2 8-oz packages of tempeh
- Ideally, begin to marinade the day before. If that requires too much planning, which I totally get, shoot for at least a 30 minute marinade.
- Prepare by thoroughly mixing all ingredients (minus pork or tempeh).
- Put protein in a large plastic bag, pour sauce over it, seal tightly, turn to coat, then let marinade in the fridge.
- When ready to cook, turn grill up to high. Discard the marinade, then grill protein for 3-5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat then let rest pork for 10 minutes before digging in. (Tempeh is ready to enjoy as soon as it comes off the grill)
Sweet Grilled Peaches
Dessert on the grill? Oh yeah!
Grilled peaches (or really any stone fruit- plums, apricots, nectarines, pluots) is probably one of my favorite things ever. They’re make for an irresistible sweet/savory dessert or a juicy addition to a summer salad.
Serves: 8 Ingredients:
4 ripe, firm peaches
½ cup nonfat yogurt
4 TBSP honey
½ cup chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds
Sprinkle of cinnamon
- The most important step is choosing the fruit. They should be fully ripe and flavorful (make sure they pass the taste test :), yet still firm.
- Cut the fruit in half, lengthwise, twist each half in opposite directions until they pull apart and you can easily remove the pit.
- Grill over low or indirect heat, to let them caramelize and brown without getting over cooked. They should still be firm enough to flip with tongs- about 2-4 minutes on each side.
- Remove from grill, drizzle each half with non-fat yogurt, honey, chopped nuts and a cinnamon sprinkle.