Grilling: Not just for meat
The grill is not just a place for meat anymore. Some of my favorite foods to cook on the grill are fruits and veggies.
Grilled fruits are also becoming very popular. Have you ever tried grilled pineapple or peaches over vanilla ice cream?
When cooked on the grill, the natural sugars of fruits and vegetables caramelize, and they take on a delicious sweet and slightly smoky flavor.
Pick fruits and veggies that have a firmer texture and avoid those that are on the verge of being over-ripe.
They will have a tendency to become too soft and break apart when exposed to the high temperatures. (A good rule to follow is that if you can firmly grab it with a pair of tongs and not damage the flesh, you are good to go.)
There are many options, but here are some great choices to start. For vegetables, go for asparagus, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, corn cobs, carrots and zucchini (cut thick and peel on).
Some fruits that work well are pears, peaches, apples and pineapple.
Another factor to take into consideration is the density, or hardness, of the fruits or vegetables you will be grilling, as that will affect cooking times. The more dense items may need to be precooked. You can partially precook carrots, potatoes, beets or any other hard root vegetables, so they will cook in the same amount of time as vegetables with higher water content, such as onions, zucchini, peppers and mushrooms.
When it’s time to grill, be sure to use a medium to high heat. When using a charcoal grill, high heat means a slight ash color begins to form on the outside of the charcoal. If your grill temperature isn’t high enough, the sugars in your food won’t caramelize and, although delicious, you will get the same end result as oven roasting.
Be sure to brush all of the fruits and veggies with a light coating of flavored oil. A blend of olive oil, garlic and herbs works well for veggies. Stick to an oil with less flavor, such as grape seed oil and possibly a touch of lemon juice or maple syrup, for the fruits.
For a time-saving tip, use a re-sealable plastic bag, put the ingredients in and the flavored oil, seal and then gently shake until all pieces are evenly coated. Grill each piece until it can be pierced easily with a knife, about 10 minutes.
Today, I am sharing two of my favorite summer non-meat dishes, a grilled peach, gorgonzola and arugula salad and a really tasty charred orange rum punch.
The sweet and smoky flavors of the fresh grilled peaches are a perfect contrast to the cool, tangy gorgonzola cheese, tart raspberries and balsamic glaze.
The char-grilled orange adds a new depth and sense of warmth to the light and fruity summer cocktail drink.
2 oranges cut into 8 wedges each
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup rum
Ginger Ale to taste
Preheat grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Grill orange wedges until dark grill marks appear and the edges are slightly blackened (about 3 minutes on each side).
Remove wedges from grill. Reserve four for garnish. Place remaining wedges in medium sauce pot with orange juice, brown sugar and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat and let mixture cool with oranges in it.
Squeeze juice from the wedges and strain mixture into a pitcher. Discard orange peels. Add lime and pineapple juice to the pitcher. Stir in rum.
Fill cocktail glasses half and half with punch mixture and ginger ale. Garnish with lime wedge and charred orange slice.
GRILLED PEACH ARUGULA SALAD WITH RASPBERRIES AND BALSAMIC
2 cups arugula leaves
2 peaches, quartered and pits removed
1/2 cup raspberries, fresh
1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 balsamic glaze (I use Gia Russa brand)
Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Lightly spray each peach with a small amount of pan spray. Grill each wedge until marks appear and fruit becomes tender. About 3 to 4 minutes each side. Divide arugula on chilled salad plates. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic glaze over the top. Divide raspberries and cheese over the top. Garnish with two wedges of peach per salad.
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Karley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her food blog at EverydayGourmet.AreaVoices.com.