Summer may be nearing its end, school might be back in session (in the south, they are), but some of the best great weather is yet to come. These can, also, be the best grilling days of all. So, keep cooking outside. In fact, keep it outside start to finish. In other words, grill your entire meal outside next time you fire up your grill and especially for this weekend’s Labor Day get together. Some ideas to get you started are listed below:

Appetizers

Slice prepared polenta (available in most grocery stores). Brush with olive oil and grill on both sides. Top with chopped fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and shredded Parmesan cheese. Move to an indirect heat spot on the grill, lower the lid and heat until the cheese melts. Cool slightly and serve as a first course appetizer with an arugula salad.

Side dishes

Grilling vegetables brings out all the natural sweetness of the vegetables. Just about anything works.

Grilled corn: If you haven’t tried this yet, you must. Pick up freshly picked corn from the closest farmer’s stand. Pull husks back about half way and remove corn silk. Pull husks back up and soak ears of corn in cold, salted water for at least 30 minutes. Heat grill to high and place corn on the grill, turning every few minutes. The husks will get well charred. Cook 15 to 20 minutes. To serve, pull husks down, but don’t remove them – the husks form a handle for the corn.

Grilled potatoes: Slice long russet potatoes or sweet potatoes lengthwise to about 1/4-inch thick. Oil very lightly and season with salt and pepper (or seasoned salt). Grill over slightly indirect heat until softened.

Grilled green beans: Lightly toss green beans with olive oil, salt and pepper and place them on the grill ACROSS THE GRILL GRATES or use a grill basket. If you place them lined up with the grill grates, the beans will roll right through the grill. Let them char slightly, rolling them along to turn them and cook all over.

Bread

Garlic Bread: Slice good, hearty Italian bread into 1/2-inch thick slices. Grill both sides until toasted. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and rub with a garlic clove. Add a grating of Parmesan. (This is the classic base for a good bruschetta, too! Just top garlic rubbed toasts with chopped tomato tossed with fresh basil.)

Dessert

Grill slices of angel food cake or pound cake, homemade or store-bought. Top the grilled cake with a scoop of frozen low-fat yogurt or ice cream. Add toppings, if you like, (caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, fresh summer fruits).

Grill slices of fresh pineapple. Sprinkle with a little brown sugar, lower the grill lid and let the sugar melt lightly. This is also great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Labor Day Menu On The Grill For 8

Appetizer Course

Grilled Arugula Bruschetta

Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf crusty Italian bread, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices (16 slices)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese 
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped arugula
  • 8 tablespoons basil pesto
  • Cucumber rounds and slices of lime to serve on the side

Directions:

For a charcoal grill, grill bread over medium coals for 2 to 3 minutes per side or or until lightly toasted. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place bread on grill rack; grill as above.) Remove bread slices from the grill.

Rub one side of each toast with garlic; brush with olive oil. On each slice of toast layer 1/2 tablespoon pesto, 1 tablespoon arugula and 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese.

Return bruschetta to grill; grill for 5 minutes more or until cheese starts to melts and remove to a serving platter containing cucumber rounds and slices of lime.

 

Main Course

 

Grilled Chicken with Apricot-Balsamic Glaze

This simple glazed chicken is perfect for a small cookout. The glaze has just the right amount of sweetness and can be made ahead. To get the mix of thighs, drumsticks and breasts, you’ll need to buy two whole chickens and cut them into parts yourself or you can look in your store’s display case for bone-in parts that are about the same size—legs about 5 oz. each, thighs about 6 oz. and breast halves about a pound each.

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves (preferably without corn syrup)
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil for the grill
  • Two 4-lb chickens, each cut into 8 pieces, or 5 to 6 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, drumsticks and breasts, each breast half cut into two pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the preserves, vinegar, red pepper flakes, rosemary and a large pinch of salt; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. (If making ahead, store covered in the refrigerator. Before using, warm over low heat or microwave to loosen the consistency.)

Prepare a medium gas or charcoal grill fire. Using a stiff wire brush, scrub the cooking grate thoroughly. Dip a folded paper towel into vegetable oil and, using tongs, rub it over the grill grate.

Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Set the parts skin side down on the grill. Cook, covered, until the skin is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stay near the grill, especially during the first 10 minutes, to manage any flare-ups, by moving pieces out of the way. If the chicken is browning too quickly, turn the heat down slightly or close the vents partially. Flip the chicken and cook until an instant-read thermometer reads 165°F in the thickest part of each piece, 5 to 10 minutes more. The thighs, legs and thinner breast pieces will cook a little faster than the thicker breast pieces. Transfer each piece to a platter when done and tent with foil.

When all the chicken is done, brush it with the glaze on all sides. Return the chicken to the grill and cook for another minute or so on each side to caramelize the glaze. Brush the chicken with any remaining glaze and serve.

Grilled Herbed Fingerling Potatoes

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs fingerling potatoes, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Directions:

Light the gas or charcoal grill. Combine potatoes and herbs in a large bowl.

Combine oil and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle over the potatoes and toss well to coat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Arrange the potatoes on a large piece of heavy duty foil and fold the edges to make a packet. (You can also make two separate packets, if that fits better on your grill.)

Place the foil packet on a hot grill over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender, turning and shaking every 5 minutes.

Grilled Zucchini Salad with Mozzarella and Dill

Makes: 8servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch planks
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, pulled into large pieces
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely snipped fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

On a baking sheet arrange zucchini in a single layer. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

For a charcoal grill, grill zucchini directly over medium coals about 8 minutes or until tender, turning once. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat. Place zucchini on grill grate over direct heat. Cover and grill as directed.)

On a serving platter arrange grilled zucchini and mozzarella. Sprinkle with dill and crushed red pepper. Drizzle with lemon juice and the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil.

Dessert Course

Chocolate-Sauced Kabobs

Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1/3 cup butter or butter alternative, such as Smart Balance
  • 3/4 cups sugar or sugar alternative, such as Truvia
  • 3/4 cups canned evaporated milk 
  • 3 medium ripe nectarines or peaches
  • 1/4 of a pineapple
  • 3 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 8 whole strawberries, stemmed

Directions

For sauce, melt chocolate pieces and butter in a small saucepan over low heat or on the side of your gas grill, if you have a side burner. Add the sugar. Gradually stir in the evaporated milk. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cook and stir over low heat for 8 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.

Remove pits from nectarines or peaches; cut fruit into wedges. Cut the pineapple and bananas into 1-inch chunks. Alternately thread the peaches or nectarines, pineapple and bananas on eight 12-inch-long skewers. Add one strawberry to each skewer.

Grill kabobs about 5 minutes, turning once. To serve, push fruit from skewers onto dessert plates. Drizzle with the warm chocolate sauce. 

 

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