10 Foods You Never Knew You Could Grill
Grilling allows us to play out our primal fantasy, that inherent human urge to add food to fire. The smoke, the heat, the flames, the aroma of burning bits clinging to grill grates—all of it melds together to create a full sensory experience that sets summer-time grilling apart from any other form of cooking preparation.
Because of its relatively simple design, the grill is an adaptable and versatile tool. Sure, it's a great way to quickly sear steaks and hamburgers or get clean black lines across your hot dogs and sausages, but the grill can do so so so much more. That smoky, charred flavor marries beautifully with a whole spectrum of food groups: savory and sweet, fruits and vegetables, pizza and guacamole…
Experimenting with your grill is an excellent way to explore new ingredients that you otherwise may have overlooked. A simple piece of watermelon or tofu or romaine lettuce gets new life after a few minutes on a hot grate—and the flavor is unparalleled. For the summer season, make the grill submit to your culinary whims, and load it up with unconventional ingredients and plant-based proteins. Need some inspiration? Check out the Meatless Monday roundup of foods that you never knew you could grill.
The structure and natural design of the avocado makes it an excellent candidate for grilling. Simply split in half lengthwise, discard the pit, and brush with some olive oil plus a sprinkling of salt and seasonings. Place the avocado halves cut-side down on a medium-hot grill for 4-6 minutes and serve. You can make a tremendous smoky guacamole or top the avocados with a bright and refreshing pico de gallo.
The grill can even help you satisfy your sweet tooth. Pound cake, especially the stale and store-bought varieties, holds up surprisingly well to the kiss of the flames. Cut the cake into thick slices and lightly butter or oil each side before placing on the grill. Carefully cook each slice for 2-3 minutes, flipping once to ensure the cake doesn't burn. Take off the grill and serve with fresh fruit or fruit compote and top with a dollop of homemade whipped cream or topping.
This is a fun idea for cocktails, pesto, or salsa verde. When grilling herbs you want to be quick and efficient, because even the heartier, woody herbs, like rosemary and thyme, need only around 15 seconds on the grill. After a quick scorching, carefully remove the herbs and gently muddle them in either a cocktail shaker or mortar and pestle, depending on what you're cooking.
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire is iconic Christmas fare, but you can roast any variety of nuts and seeds all year long. Spreading a layer of almonds, shelled walnuts, pecans, or pumpkin seeds on a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the grill is an excellent way to add tremendous smoky flavor. Remember to grill over low or indirect heat (250° to 350°F) for around 15 minutes or until they become fragrant.
An unexpected addition to your grilling lineup, skewers of pitted olives can add a charred, briny pop to salads, appetizer platters, or pasta salads. Just toss the olives (Kalamata, Manzanillas, or another other variety of large green olives ) in a bit of olive oil and herbs and push on to a skewer before adding to a hot grill. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until warm and serve immediately.
Once you get the hang of grilling pizza you won't ever want to make it in the oven again, especially in the hot summer heat. It takes a little finesse and timing, but the key to successful grilled pizza is to pre-grill the crust lightly on one side and lay it on a cooling rack. This gives the pizza a little more structure and also helps you avoid the unforgivable error of presenting under-cooked dough.
Next, add the toppings (sauce, cheese, veggies, etc.) to the pre-grilled side and return the pizza to the heat, and wait a few more minutes or until the top starts bubbling. Final step is to take the pizza off the grill and rest it for a couple minutes before slicing.
You're probably wondering why you've never grilled a quesadilla before. Don't fret, you can start today. A grilled quesadilla is charred and crispy, evoking memories of meals cooked over the campfire. Assemble the quesadilla as you normally would, making sure it is well sealed and slightly oiled before adding it to the grill grates. Grill for a total of around 5 minutes, flipping the quesadilla halfway or until all the contents are sufficiently heated.
This technique for grilling romaine lettuce is guaranteed to impress your guests. Simply quarter the head of lettuce and coat each piece with a thin layer of olive oil. Get the grill nice and hot and sear each piece of lettuce for between 15-20 seconds or until the ends are charred and crispy (this may take longer depending on the heat of the grill). Then add a little bit of your favorite dressing between the folds of the lettuce and return to the grill and close the lid. In a minute or two, your grilled salad will be ready to serve.
Yes, even tofu develops that rustic charred flavor after spending some time on the grill. But not all tofu has the same texture and consistency, so when you're grilling, you'll want to use an extra-firm (non-silken) variety. Pressing tofu is an important step in the grilling process because it removes the excess moisture and will allow the slabs to develop those desirable grill marks. Once sufficiently pressed, you can cut the tofu into slabs and either stick it in a marinade overnight or just throw directly on the grill with a light coating of oil. Grill on medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes flipping one time midway through the cooking process.
Even fruits can benefit from a quick flick of the flame. The best way to grill watermelon is to sprinkle both sides with a bit of sugar and salt, and lay across hot, oiled grill grates for around 3 minutes per side. This should result in some pretty grill marks and nice caramelization.
The above ingredients are just a small sampling of what you can add to the grill, but they are sure to make your summer cookout stand out from all the others. Remember, the grill is your canvas, so don't be afraid to get creative and experiment with different food and flavors.