Get Your Grill On
On the West coast, many grill outdoors practically the year 'round. But for the rest of the country, it usually takes a stretch of warm weather to signal that it's time to dust off the barbecue and get cooking. Grilling is great–it's easy, it's quick, there's not much to clean up, and it's a fun way to spend time with family and friends. If your grilling experience hasn't taken you beyond chicken or burgers, maybe this is the year to try something new.
There's no question that meat and poultry can taste great after the barbecue treatment. The trick is to keep the grill temperature moderate. When the heat's too high, you run the risk of charring the outside of your meat, while leaving it uncooked in the middle. And, if you leave meats over high heat for too long to make sure they're cooked all the way through, they can end up tough and dry.
One technique that works really well with chicken is to partially precook it in the microwave. Remove the skin, and then rub the chicken pieces with a bit of olive oil and your favorite seasoning. While your coals are heating up, microwave 4 to 6 pieces at a time on high for about 15 minutes. Then, transfer the chicken to your heated grill to finish cooking, and turn the pieces frequently. You'll reduce your cooking time by about half and your chicken will end up tender and juicy.
Fish is tricky to grill since it tends to flake apart. What works best is to make kabobs with pieces of firm fish like swordfish or tuna, or whole peeled shrimp. You can also grill whole fish or fish filets on a piece of foil or in special fish grilling baskets. No need to pre-cook, though, since fish cooks so quickly.
While the grill is hot, why not take advantage of the heat to cook your side dishes, too? You can grill almost any veggie –but thick slices of eggplant, summer squash and onions are especially good. So are pepper wedges and asparagus spears. Thickly sliced potatoes are great grilled as a side dish on their own, or in a grilled potato salad. Brush veggies and potatoes with a little Italian dressing and place them along the sides of the grate where there's less heat, and flip them over frequently until they're tender.
If you've never grilled fresh corn, you're in for a treat. Simply pull back the husk and remove the silk, then brush the cobs lightly with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap the ears back in the husk and put directly on the grill. Turn them frequently, and they'll be done in about 15 minutes or so.
You can even grill up some dessert! Pineapple, apples, peaches, nectarines and bananas all take well to a little time over the flame and they're easy to prepare. Just core the pineapple and cut into rings or, use canned juice-pack pineapple ring. For the apples, peaches or nectarines, simply remove the cores and leave the skins on. Then grill along the outside edges until the sugars start to caramelize and the fruit is tender. Grilled fruit is delicious on its own, but you can dress it up with a drizzle of citrus juice or cinnamon and then enjoy it on top of frozen yogurt.
Susan Bowerman is a paid consultant to Herbalife.