Whether you’re grilling vegetables, poultry, beef, pork or seafood, it only takes a little flavor to make everything taste good.
Dry rubs will add depth of flavor to your favorite grilled foods. They are great for tofu, fish, pork chops or ribs, chicken breasts and vegetables.
Prepared dry rubs already contain the right mix of flavors ranging from Asian to Mediterranean styles. Or mix your own rub and store in an airtight glass jar in a cool place.
Three to four tablespoons of spice rub should be enough for two pounds of food.
To apply a rub, sprinkle it over your choice of meat, poultry, fish or vegetable and lightly rub into the surface with your hands. Or place the rub in a large plastic bag with the meat and shake to coat. Then let the food sit in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Marinades enhance flavor and can increase the tenderness of many types of meat, poultry, seafood and produce.
For best results:
Marinate seafood and vegetables for 20 minutes to develop flavor.
Marinate poultry for up to an hour for best results. For some cuts, longer than 1 hour may be too long and the poultry can either toughen or get mushy.
Beef and pork will benefit from 30-60 minutes of marinating, but can also be left to marinate overnight.
Experiment with flavor: try using wine, beer, fresh juice, spices, herbs or a combination.
Wait to brush on any sugar-based barbecue sauce or other ingredients until the final 5-10 minutes of grilling. This allows the charcoal flavor to penetrate the food first and prevents the sauce from becoming charred.
Check my recipes from last July on Rubs and Marinades For Your Summer Grilling.
GRILLING VEGGIES AND FRUITS
Grilling intensifies the natural sweetness and flavor of most vegetables and fruits.
To achieve good results:
Use a light brushing of oil on vegetables and fruits to prevent sticking. A non-stick grate, grilling basket or foil packets, lightly coated with oil, can also be helpful.
Some vegetables (including artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, parsnips and potatoes) can be precooked to shorten grilling time and ensure that the inside and outside cook evenly.
To precook: Steam or blanch the vegetable until just barely tender. Pat dry, brush lightly with oil, then grill until completely tender and lightly browned.
Veggies like eggplant, fennel, onions, mushrooms, peppers, sweet potatoes, summer squash and tomatoes should be raw when placed on the grill.
Ideal fruits for grilling should be firm and barely ripe. Watermelon, pineapple, apples, peaches and pears can all take the heat. Soak them in a marinade or drizzle with honey before grilling for added flavor.
Meaty portabella mushrooms are a great burger substitute, while button mushrooms are excellent for use in kabobs.
Cook all fruits and vegetables directly over moderately hot coals or use the indirect heat method. Rotate or move them to a cooler part of the grill during cooking as necessary to ensure that the outside isn’t cooking too quickly.
Grilled Caprese Appetizer
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling the grill
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes
- 1 (12-ounce) container fresh mozzarella, drained and cut into (1-inch) chunks
- 1/2 loaf ciabatta bread, cut into (1-inch) cubes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup basil leaves
Brush the grill grates with oil and heat the grill to medium.
Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.
Alternating ingredients, thread tomatoes, mozzarella and bread onto 8 skewers and brush them all over with oil.
Grill skewers, turning once, just until the cheese starts to melt and the bread shows grill marks, 2 to 3 minutes total.
Transfer the skewers to a platter, drizzle with vinegar and garnish with basil.
Grilled Zucchini with Olive Dressing
- 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata or other black olives
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Oil the grates and prepare a grill for medium-high heat cooking.
In a blender or food processor, combine olives, vinegar, pepper, 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt; blend until smooth and set aside.
Place zucchini in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice, garlic, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Grill the zucchini on both sides until well-marked and tender, about 5 minutes per side.
Layer zucchini on a serving platter, drizzle each layer with some vinaigrette and sprinkling with some tomato. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.
Quick-cooking seafood is a great choice for grilling, especially on busy weeknights. When grilling seafood take extra care not to overcook it.
When it comes to seasoning, it’s best to select lighter marinades and seasonings that do not mask the delicate flavor of the seafood.
Oil fish well to help keep it moist.
Fish cooks quickly using the direct heat method. Remove it from the grill as soon as it’s done; it will continue to cook once it has been removed from the fire.
Once you place fish on the grill, don’t touch it for at least three minutes. A crust needs to form on the outside, which will allow the fish to naturally pull away from the grates. Once the crust has formed, it can be turned over without sticking or falling apart.
Thin pieces of fish can be wrapped in foil and grilled.
Firm fish, such as swordfish and tuna, are ideal for cooking on the grill.
Placing fish on cedar planks when grilling imparts a subtle woodsy flavor. Try different woods for slightly different flavors. Soak the plank in water for at least an hour prior to grilling to prevent it from catching on fire. Most fish fillets will cook on a plank, without turning, in about 20 minutes.
Fish is naturally tender and should not sit in an acid-based marinade (like lemon juice) for longer than 20 minutes, or it will start to “cook” the fish, turning it mushy.
Choose jumbo varieties, which are easier to handle. These can also be butterflied (leave the tail intact when shelling, then slice along the back of the shrimp without cutting all the way through).
Shrimp should be marinated or brushed lightly with oil.
Cook shrimp just until they turn pink and opaque, about 5-7 minutes. Turn them halfway through cooking. Take care not to overcook shrimp or it will become tough.
Use an oiled grill basket or skewers to contain shrimp so they don’t slip between the grates.
Rosemary Salmon Kabobs
- 1 pound boneless, skinless wild caught salmon fillet, cut into large chunks
- 1 zucchini, sliced into thick rounds
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into chunks
- 1 large red onion, cut into chunks
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (Meyer lemon, if possible)
Place salmon, zucchini, bell pepper and onion in a shallow baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Whisk together the garlic, rosemary, oil and lemon juice in a small bowl. Pour mixture over the salmon and vegetables, toss and marinate for 30 minutes.
Oil the grates and preheat a grill for medium-high heat cooking. Skewer the salmon and vegetables, reserving the marinade. (If using wooden skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes before assembling.)
Grill kabobs, turning once, until salmon is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. While the kabobs cook, boil the reserved marinade in a small saucepan for 5 minutes. Drizzle over the skewers just before serving.
Grilled Shellfish and Vegetable Packets
Use any combination of shellfish and vegetables that appeal to you.
- 8 small red potatoes, halved
- 8 small (mini) bell peppers, cut in quarters
- 8 cherry tomatoes
- 2 ears of corn on the cob, cut in fourths
- 1 small red onion, cut into 8 wedges
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 16 small oysters, scrubbed or 16 shrimp, peeled
- 16 littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 16 large mussels, scrubbed
- Chopped chives for garnish
- Warm crusty bread, for serving
Heat a gas grill to high.
In a large bowl, drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and season with salt.
Tear off eight 16-by-18-inch pieces of heavy-duty foil. Layer the sheets in pairs. Divide the shellfish evenly among the four pairs of foil and drizzle with olive oil.
Arrange the vegetables over the shellfish and drizzle with more olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of water to each. Fold the foil tightly into neat rectangular packets.
Arrange the packets on the grill. Cover and cook over moderately high heat, rotating once or twice, until the packets are puffed and sizzling, about 25 minutes.
Carefully open the packets, watching out for the hot steam and garnish with chopped chives. Serve with the bread on the side.