TIME TO GET YOUR GRILL ON!
Olympia has encountered some very hot days the last few summers, and I know I’m not alone in living in a house that doesn’t have air conditioning. One of the best ways I’ve found to still enjoy cooking on days when the temperature rises is to rely on my outdoor grill. It keeps the heat out of my kitchen and gets me thinking in new and creative ways about summer’s bounty. I’m still discovering all the foods that emerge from a grilling session with a whole different personality from what I’m used to in my kitchen. I’ve also discovered that experimenting with marinades, sauces, dips, dressings and salads that go well with grilled food is a big part of the fun (and can be prepped earlier in the day when I still want to be in my kitchen). Here’s to another summer of food adventuring – enjoy it while it lasts!
Try a wire grill basket, a tray, or a wok!
Purchasing a couple of these grill tools takes away the headache of veggies and smaller cuts falling through the grates, allows for easier oiling of the surface to prevent sticking, and helps when you need to move part of your meal away from the heat faster than other parts.
PEACHES, APRICOTS OR NECTARINES
There is more fruit you could add to this list, and grilled fruit experimentation is a must during the stone fruit season. Cut fruit in half and remove any pits, then coat lightly with oil. For a sweet-savory side dish, sprinkle on a little salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar, then grill for a few minutes per side. And for dessert, dust with brown sugar, then place the halves on a clean part of the grill for a few minutes per side before serving with ice cream or pound cake (or both).
Some get better success from soaking the corn in cold water for 30 minutes, peeling back the husk, remove the silk, return the husk; then grill for 15–20 minutes, turning frequently. Others find they like it just fine if you remove some of the silk and toss it on the grill for 20 minutes or so, turning it with some frequency.
Yes, you can grill carrots! It’s easier to get these cooked through if you boil them for a few minutes before grilling, but small fresh ones can be grilled raw. Very good brushed with butter, grilled carrots should take about 20 minutes to finish. Leave a bit of the top on for an easy eating handle.
Wash fresh mushrooms quickly under running water; then pat dry. Skewer or place in a grill basket. Brush with oil and grill for 5–7 minutes. Whole portabello mushrooms take 10–20 minutes, depending on their size. Mushrooms are also great slow-cooked or smoked.
Slice thickly and brush with oil. Cook onions directly on the grid at medium high heat until they start to turn brown. You can also roast an onion by cutting it in half, wrapping it in foil with a little butter, and cooking it for about 30–45 minutes at medium heat.
Grill whole peppers at high heat until skin is charred black, about 15–20 minutes. Cool in a paper bag for 15 minutes to loosen blackened skin. Peel and remove seeds. Peppers also work well cut up and skewered or added to a mixed wire grill basket.
Wrap baking potatoes in foil. Cook at medium heat for 25–30 minutes or until tender, varies on size of potato. This is a good way to start potatoes intended for salad, without having to boil them in the kitchen.
SUMMER SQUASH OR ZUCCHINI
Squashes respond very well to marinades so don’t forget to start soaking these early. Slice into long strips and use a basket or tray to help keep them from slipping through when you turn them 3 or 4 times during cooking, for about 8 minutes. Also good chunked into skewers.
You can cook shellfish on the grill. If they are large, such as prawns or crab you can grill them directly on the grid. Smaller shellfish, such as mussels, clams, oysters, scallops or shrimp can be skewered or cooked in a basket. Shrimp take about 8–12 minutes depending on their size.
Choose steaks that are no thicker than 1 1/2 inches, and which have some visible fat marbling for tenderness. To keep the juices intact, use tongs rather than a fork to turn your meat. At the hottest setting, sear for 1–2 minutes per side. Then move to a medium heat and cook for about 4 minutes per side for rare (it will feel fleshy to touch), 6 minutes per side for well-done steak (it will feel firm).
Firm fish, such as tuna, salmon or halibut can be cooked directly on the grill if handled carefully. A hinged wire grill basket can help for cooking whole fish or tender fillets, or experiment with cedar planks (soak first!). Grill fillets at medium to medium-low heat. Fish can cook quickly so turn only once to keep from crumbling.
By Maureen Tobin, Staff Member