Grilling is one of the healthiest ways to cook, if you do it right!

By choosing foods that are low in fat, high in nutrients and full of flavor you can get great meals that are also healthy. Use marinades, not only to add extra flavor, but also to reduce the formation of cancer causing substances on foods. A marinade containing olive oil and/or citrus juices can reduce the formation of these chemicals by as much as 99% and, since, marinades tenderize meats, you will have a much better meal.

There has been a lot of talk about grilling and cancer. While the risk is real and you really need to keep this in mind, there are some simple things you can do to greatly reduce the cancer risk.  Two primary substances, Heterocyclic Amines (HCA) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) are chemicals that form on  food, primarily meats, when they come  in contact with intense heat and flame. They are known cancer causing agents, so you need to reduce their formation, as much as you can. HCAs and PAHs are formed mostly from fat. Either by fat being heated to extreme temperatures or by the smoke created by fat burning. For the most part, this applies to meat fats and not just the grease and fat from what you are cooking, but from the build up on the bottom of your grill.

Scientists at the Food Safety Consortium project at Kansas State University have discovered that herbs of the Lamiaceae family (basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage) used in marinades, reduced HCA formation dramatically.   These herbal antioxidants reduce the formation of chemicals when meat is grilled and, also happen to be,  herbs traditionally used in Italian cooking.


To reduce the risks follow these basic tips:

  • Keep your grill clean. A clean grill not only cooks better it is safer in every way.
  • Trim excess fats from foods. These fats are the troublemaker, so keep it to a minimum.
  • Use marinades based on olive oil and/or citrus juices.
  • Avoid flare-ups. Flare-ups burn foods and this increases HCA formation.
  • Don’t overcook foods. The charred bits on foods are the largest sources of PAHs and HCAs, so if you have charred sections of meat cut them off.
  • Use herbs like basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage to add flavor and reduce HCA formation in foods.
  • Grill extra vegetables to accompany meats. They do not form HCAs like meats do, plus the antioxidants they contain may help to lessen some of the damage HCAs and other cooking toxins cause in your body.

 Appetizers

Clams Oreganato on the Grill

Serves 4 as an appetizer

  • 1 cup Progresso Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped very fine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 12 cherrystone or littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 3-4 tablespoons low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Heat grill and coat the rack with vegetable oil.  Dip each closed clam in water (this will add steam) and place on the grill so that none of the clams are overlapping. Close cover and grill for approximately 4-5 minutes or until clam shells open. Check often for clams that have popped open. Remove clams  with tongs to a platter as soon as they open their shells.

In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, oregano, crushed red pepper and salt. Add the olive oil and stir until well combined. Add enough of the chicken stock to moisten the bread crumbs..

Top the bottom half of the clams with the bread crumb mixture, dividing mixture evenly on top of each clam, and place back on the grill. Close grill cover and for about 1 minute or until just heated through. Serve with lemon wedges. 

Origins of Bruschetta

Bruschetta comes to us from Central Italy where it’s chiefly eaten as an appetizer or snack. The most basic bruschetta begins with tomatoes, good quality olive oil, garlic, vinegar, and onions.  Depending on the combinations of ingredients you use, you can take this dish, from such a basic foundation, to one that is a uniquely- flavored creation.

Grilled Vegetable Bruschetta

1 small eggplant (1/2 – 3/4 pound)
1 small zucchini summer squash
1 large meaty tomato (about 1/2 pound)
1 red bell pepper
1 Vidalia onion, peeled
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, cut in half
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
6-1″ thick slices fresh Italian bread
1 cup (about 4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
Balsamic vinegar

Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut the squash into long diagonal 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut the  onion and tomato into crosswise 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut the pepper into quarters.  Season vegetables with kosher salt, pepper and brush with olive oil. Brush bread slices with a little oil.
Put all the vegetables on the grill, except the tomato. Grill on medium high heat until cooked through and grill marks are formed, about 10 minutes. Grill the tomato slices about 2 minutes.
Grill one side of bread until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Remove bread and vegetables from grill.  While the bread is hot, rub the toasted side of each piece with garlic .
Chop vegetables into very small dice and add basil. Serve chopped vegetables on bread slices, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Main Dishes

Spinach Pesto

  • 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Combine the spinach, pine nuts, lemon juice, and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse. With the machine running, gradually add the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy.  Stir in the Parmesan. Season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste.  This pesto freezes well if you have it leftover.

Grilled Boneless Chicken Breasts

Prepare grill and oil grates.
Brush 4 boneless chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  

Grill 5 minutes each side..  Top with a tablespoon or two of Spinach Pesto.
Spinach Pesto is also goes well with grilled scallops.

Grilled Fennel-Garlic Pork Chops

Fennel seed and pork are a fairly typical Italian combination.

  • 1 tablespoons whole fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons  olive oil
  • 4 (¾-inch-thick) loin bone-in pork chops
  • Vegetable oil for brushing grill rack

Grind the fennel seeds and crushed red pepper flakes in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle (or, if you don’t have either of those, in a plastic bag with a rolling pin). Combine them in a  bowl with the garlic, salt and enough of the olive oil to make a paste.

Pat the chops dry with paper towels, then spread the fennel-garlic paste over both sides of the chops. Let sit for 30 minutes (or up to a few hours, if you put them in the refrigerator;  bring back to room temperature before cooking).

Grill the chops for 1-2 minutes per side over a hot fire, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for another 5-10 minutes, turning once or twice, until the internal temperature reaches at least 137 F. Let sit for a few minutes. Serve with a green salad.   4 servings

Grilled Bone-in Chicken Breasts and Legs with Tomato Olive BBQ Sauce

Tomato Olive Barbecue Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 tablespoons steak sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Sambuca, (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt to taste

Instructions:

  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, reduce heat, cover, sweat in the oil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic,  stir and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Pour in the red wine and balsamic vinegar, tomato puree, tomato paste, olives, honey, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, Sambuca, and salt and pepper.
  • Raise heat to high and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let cool down to room temperature.

Chicken Ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in chicken breasts and 4 chicken legs with thighs attached

Instructions:

  • Prepare grill for medium indirect grilling.
  • Brush each piece of chicken with barbecue sauce.
  • Grill indirectly until juices run clear, about 15 to 20 minutes.  The chicken needs to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  • Remove the chicken from the grill, cover and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.
  • Serve with remaining BBQ sauce for dipping.

Swordfish Kabobs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 pounds swordfish steaks, cut into 1-inch pieces (try to get 12 evenly cut cubes.)
4 medium red onions, peeled and quartered
12 (1-inch) pieces red bell pepper
12 cherry tomatoes
Vegetable oil

Combine first 10 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; add swordfish fish cubes. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning once.
Prepare grill and oil grates. Remove fish from bag; discard marinade. Thread swordfish cubes, onions, and bell pepper alternately onto each of 4 (10-inch) skewers. Thread cherry tomatoes on a fifth skewer and set aside.
Place swordfish kabobs on grill and grill 8 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning once. After 4 minutes, place the tomatoes on the grill and rotate after two minutes. Serve tomatoes with fish kabobs and garnish with lemon slices. Serve with rice.
Serves 4.


Florentine Steak

Bistecca alla Fiorentina is traditionally made using T-bone or Porterhouse steaks, but you could make it with rib eyes, strip loins, sirloin, or even fillet steak.
As long as the meat is of a very high quality (organic, grassfed is best), it will taste delicious, even if it’s not entirely authentic!  It is healthy only if you keep portions small – about 4 oz. per person.
The marinating time is quite long, so make sure you start this dish at least a day before you want to eat it.


  • 2 10 oz. T-bone steaks
  • 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar or lemon
  • High quality extra virgin olive oil


Put the steak in a shallow dish. Mix together the olive oil, rosemary, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the steak, cover  and let rest in the refrigerator to marinate for 24 to 48 hours.
Heat a grill until it is very hot. Grill the meat to taste, turning to cook the steak evenly on both sides. Traditional Bistecca alla Fiorentina is served rare to medium-rare; test for doneness using an instant-read thermometer.  Cook to an internal temperature of 130 to 135°F for medium-rare or an internal temperature of 120 to 125°F for rare.

Remove steaks from grill, and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Slice steak across grain, then place slices on heated dinner plates.   Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar or lemon juice and olive oil and shave some parmesan cheese over the top. Season to taste and serve. Good with an Arugula Salad.
Serves 4 or more

Dessert

Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone Cheese

  • 4 firm, ripe peaches, pitted and halved
  • olive oil for brushing the cut sides of the peaches
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 8 teaspoons fig jam
  • Mint leaves

Brush peaches lightly with olive oil. Place the peaches on a greased grill rack, cut side down, and do not move the peaches in order to get grill marks on them. It takes about 2 to 3 minutes per side to get those grill marks.  Continue grilling the peaches until slightly softened and heated through, about 5 to 6 minutes total. Turn the peaches over and warm a minute or two.

Mix together the mascarpone cheese, Amaretto and honey.
To serve peaches, place a teaspoon of fig jam in the hollow where the pit had been and top each with a tablespoon of the mascarpone mixture.  Decorate with mint leaves.

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