The grill or fire pit has held an important place in virtually every country and culture throughout history. Although we often use the terms “grilling” and “barbecuing” interchangeably, there is a difference! Barbecuing involves cooking foods slowly at a low temperature using indirect heat. Often, barbecue is cooked in a smoker or fire pit. This method provides a delicious, smoky flavor and exceptional tenderness, but it takes time — from a few hours to all day. Barbecuing works best for large cuts of meat or turkeys and for tougher cuts like brisket or spareribs that benefit from long slow cooking.
Charcoal grills provide a more distinctive flavor and backyard aroma and it’s easy to combine wood chips or other natural ingredients with the coals for additional flavor. However, charcoal is messy and sometimes difficult to ignite and, once lit, it takes a little while to reach the desired temperature. (Hint: To avoid lighter fluid, try using a starter cone or chimney starter.) Gas grills ignite easily and maintain an even temperature from start to finish, but they are more expensive than charcoal grills, they do not provide a smoky flavor and they are not suited for burning wood chips. To cook indirectly on a gas grill, leave one burner off and place the meat on the grate directly over the cool burner. For a charcoal grill, pile all the coals along the sides of the grill and place the food in the center, away from the hot coals. Place a metal drip pan beneath the grate where the food will sit, to collect juices as it cooks.
Tips for Prepping and Heating the Grill
- Clean your grill, especially the rack, before each use.
- Oil the rack prior to heating to prevent food from sticking.
- The area of the fire needs to be wider than the area of the food you’re grilling. If you are cooking a variety of items using charcoal, pile coals at different levels to achieve the right level of heat for each item.
- Preheat your charcoal grill and don’t skimp on the charcoal. Light the coals at least 30 minutes before you plan to begin cooking. Do not put foods on the grill until the fire dies down to glowing coals.
- Even gas grills need to preheat. Turn on the flame at least 15 minutes before putting food over the fire.
Grilling Beef & Pork
The appropriate heat level and cooking time are crucial for grilling meat that is tender and juicy. Each type of cut has its own rules:
- Use direct heat for sausages, chops, steaks and hamburgers and indirect heat for roasts and larger cuts of meat.
- Slash the edges of steaks and chops on the diagonal, about ¼ inch into the center to prevent the edges from curling.
- Resist the urge to squeeze or press down on your meat! This will result in a tougher, less juicy cut.
- Steaks like filet mignon, rib eye, top sirloin and New York strip are naturally tender and need nothing more than a seasoning rub or a bit of salt and pepper.
- Pork needs a marinade or a rub before being placed on the grill.
- Pork spare ribs and baby back ribs can be pre-baked and then grilled to achieve a smoky flavor.
- Start sausage on high heat to get a grill marks on the outside, then move it to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking.
Whether you choose chicken, duck, turkey or game hen, using a dry rub or marinade will maximize flavor. Once you’ve selected your specific poultry and seasoning method, prep the grill and cook accordingly:
- Thin pieces of poultry can be cooked over direct heat; larger pieces of chicken should be cooked over indirect heat.
- Cook whole and butterflied poultry breast-side down.
- Place a drip pan under a whole chicken and turkey breast to catch juices.
Quick-cooking seafood is a great choice for grilling on a busy weeknight. 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 seafood.
- Oil fish well with a neutral-flavored oil such as canola 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 put the fish on the grill, don’t touch it until a crust forms 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, so they do not fall apart or use an oiled grill basket or skewers for shrimp and scallops.
- Firm fish, such as swordfish, are ideal for cooking on the grill.
- Placing fish on cedar planks when grilling imparts a subtle wood 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.
- Shrimp should be marinated (with or without the shells) or brushed lightly with oil.
- Cook shrimp until it turns pink and opaque, about 5-7 minutes. Turn it halfway through cooking. Take care not to overcook or it will become tough.
Grilling Veggies and Fruits
Grilling intensifies the natural sweetness and flavor of most veggies and fruits. To achieve good results:
- Use a light brushing of oil on vegetables and fruits to prevent sticking. A grilling basket or foil packets lightly coated with oil can also be helpful.
- Leave the husks on corn to act as a natural insulator, keeping the steam in and preventing the corn from drying out.
- Some veggies (including artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and winter squash) can be pre-cooked to shorten grilling time and ensure that the inside and outside cook evenly.
- Veggies like eggplant, fennel, onions, mushrooms, peppers, sweet potatoes, summer squash and tomatoes should be raw when placed on the grill.
- Watermelon, pineapple, apples, peaches and pears can all take the heat. Soak them in liquor or drizzle with honey before grilling for added flavor.
- Meaty portabella mushrooms are a great burger substitute; while button mushrooms make for tasty 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 doesn’t cook too quickly.
Quick Homemade Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can No-Salt-Added Diced Tomatoes
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 4 tablespoons onion, minced
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Put all ingredients into a small saucepan, cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Carefully transfer to a blender and process, adding a few tablespoons of water as needed to make a smooth purée. Set aside to let cool, cover and chill until ready to serve. Reheat, if desired.
Grilled Chicken with Homemade Barbecue Sauce
Serve with coleslaw.
- 6 chicken legs with thighs attached or small bone-in breast halves (3 3/4 lbs. total)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Homemade barbecue sauce, recipe above
Coat chicken with the oil.
Build a charcoal or heat a gas grill to medium (350°F to 450°F); you can hold your hand 5 inches above the cooking grate only 5 to 7 seconds.
Grill chicken until browned all over, about 15 minutes, turning occasionally. Generously brush with some of the barbecue sauce and cook a few minutes; repeat turning and brushing 2 more times, until chicken is well-browned and cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes total.
Barbecued Beef Ribs
Serve with Potato Salad and Sliced Tomatoes.
- Rack of 6 beef ribs, at room temperature
- Homemade Barbecue Sauce, recipe above
Light a grill. Cut in between the bones to separate the rack into individual ribs. Grill the ribs over moderate heat, turning, until crusty and sizzling, about 10 minutes. Brush generously with the barbecue sauce and grill, turning, until deeply glazed, about 5 minutes longer. Serve the ribs, passing extra sauce on the side.
Grilled Lamb Chops with Roasted Garlic
Serve with a Cannellini Bean Salad.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 1 garlic clove, minced, plus 2 heads of garlic, halved crosswise
- 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 8 lamb loin chops
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large, shallow dish, combine the 1/4 cup of olive oil with the thyme, minced garlic, rosemary and oregano. Add the lamb chops and turn to coat with the marinade. Refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set the halved heads of garlic cut side up on a large sheet of foil and drizzle with oil. Wrap the garlic in the foil and roast for 1 hour.
Light a grill. Remove the chops from the marinade; discard the herbs and scrape off the garlic. Season the chops with salt and pepper and grill over moderate heat until lightly charred and medium-rare, 5 minutes per side. Grill the lemon slices until light grill marks appear. Serve the chops with the roasted garlic and lemon slices.
Grilled Swordfish with Tangy Onions & Fennel
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 4 red onions (1 1/2 pounds), thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 small fennel bulbs, cut through the cores into 3/4-inch-thick wedges
- Four 6-ounce swordfish steaks, about 3/4 inch thick
In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat until lightly golden, about 4 minutes.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and light golden, about 15 minutes. Add the wine, vinegar, sugar and bay leaf and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard the bay leaf and keep the onions warm.
Meanwhile, preheat a grill. Brush the fennel wedges with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the fennel over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until crisp-tender and lightly charred, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Brush the swordfish steaks with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the fish over moderately high heat until browned on the outside and just white throughout, about 3 minutes per side. Spoon the onions onto a serving plate and arrange the swordfish steaks and fennel on top. Scatter the capers and pine nuts over the fish.
Grilled Sausage and Pepper Salad
- 4 fresh pork or turkey Italian sausages
- 1/2 white onion, cut into thick rings
- 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 3 jarred fire roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
- Italian vinaigrette, recipe below
Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill sausages and onion, turning occasionally, until onion is tender, 8 to 10 minutes, and sausages are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, slice sausages thickly on the bias and cut onion into chunks. Toss romaine, feta and red peppers in a large bowl. Drizzle with the Italian Vinaigrette. Spoon romaine mixture onto plates and top with sausages and onion.
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian mixed herbs
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard
- 3 teaspoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
Whisk all ingredients together, drizzling olive oil in at end, a little at a time.
Yields: 3/4 cup
- Tips for grilling out safely (rockrivertimes.com)
Memorial Day is the gateway to summer and it conjures up images of picnics, barbecues and parades. Originally the holiday was charged with deeper meaning and it was called Decoration Day – a day of remembrance for those who died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is about reconciliation and about coming together to honor those who gave their lives.
Memorial Day is the time to wear poppies, fly the flag and place flowers on the graves of military personnel. Many volunteers and volunteer organizations march in patriotic parades. Frequently there is a reading of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Patriotic speeches are made and declarations by The President and Heads of the Armed Services are also read. We all take time on this special day to remember the human sacrifice it has taken to establish and maintain our great country. Later in the day, time is set aside for picnics, BBQ parties and other outdoor activities.
Instead of spending money on store bought pasta salads, meat trays, fruit and dessert, save money by making these simple dishes yourself. Here is a suggested menu with beverage ideas to help you get you started.
What Drinks Go Well With BBQ?
Soda, beer and iced tea are a good start. Provide pitchers of punch or lemonade or mix up a few sensational summer cocktails. Put a twist on some old classics or try some fresh new blends to quench that thirst.
Try this Italian Cocktail Punch
- One 750-milliliter bottle Aperol or Compari (Italian Liqueurs)
- One 750-milliliter bottle Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine)
- 750 milliliters chilled seltzer
- Fruit slices, for garnish
In a pitcher combine the Aperol, the Prosecco and the seltzer. Pour into ice-filled glasses and garnish each drink with fruit.
Keeping it simple with wine:
The grill serves up such a wide range of foods that pairing them with beverages can be seen as either a challenge or the result of your imagination. Luckily, the spirit of outdoor dining—including the tendency to serve lighter beverages—simplifies the choice.
Sparkling wines beat the heat and play well with almost any grilled food. Stick with wines like Prosecco, Cava or a light California sparkling wine.
White wines are clearly suited to grilled fish and chicken and some pork recipes, even those that call for blackened preparations or spice rubs. The high acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc or a cool Sancerre (made from the same grape)—pairs perfectly with such meats. Choose a white Burgundy or Chardonnay for richer fish, like tuna, trout or salmon. Chardonnay is also the best pick for veggie burgers and sometimes regular hamburgers that have a mushroom sauce.
There’s no question that rosés are a perfect fit for casual outdoor dining. Served cool, these wines have a bit more acidity than white wines and can handle grilled flavors. Among the favorites in this category are Bandol from Provence, Tavel from the Rhône Valley and a number of rosés from California made from the Sangiovese grape.
When pork, smoked meats or shellfish are on the menu, a Pinot Noir from Oregon or the Russian River Valley or a Burgundy is best.
If you’re serving hamburgers, steaks or barbecued ribs, only the big red wines will do. Bordeaux, California Cabernet and Barolo are perfect matches, but if the meat has a spicy rub, try Zinfandel or an Australian Shiraz or Argentine Malbec.
Pimento Ricotta Spread
Serve with toasted baguette slices or flatbread and cut up vegetables.
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 15 ounces fresh ricotta (1 1/2 cups)
- Kosher salt
- 2/3 cup well-chopped drained pimentos (from one 8-ounce jar)
- 3 ounces light cream cheese
In a food processor, puree the ricotta and cream cheese. Add the pimentos and crushed red pepper and pulse until the pimentos are minced. Season with salt.
Iced Mint Green Tea Punch
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves
- 6 green tea bags
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 8 cups boiling water
- 4 cups Limoncello
- Lemon slices, for garnish
Combine mint leaves, tea bags, honey and boiling water. Let steep for 5 minutes; remove tea bags. Pour into a pitcher and refrigerate until chilled.
Stir in Limoncello, ice cubes and lemon slices just before serving.
Rosemary-Skewered Artichoke Chicken
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1-1/2 pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 6 fresh rosemary stems (18 inches)
- 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and halved
- 2 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1-inch slices
- 6 cherry tomatoes
In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the oil, dill, oregano, lemon peel, garlic, salt and pepper; add chicken. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel bark from the bottom half of each rosemary stem and make a point at each end; soak in water until ready to use.
Drain and discard marinade. On soaked rosemary stems, alternately thread the chicken, artichokes, squash and tomatoes. Position the leaf parts of the rosemary stems so that they will be on the outside of the grill cover. Pointed ends toward the back of the grill.
Using long-handled tongs, moisten a paper towel with cooking oil and lightly coat the grill rack. Place skewers on the grill.
Grill, with the cover slighly ajar, over medium heat for 10-15 minutes on each side or until chicken is no longer pink and vegetables are tender.
Grilled Marinated Flank Steak
- 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated zest of a navel orange
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
- 1 1/2 lb flank steak, trimmed
- 2 red onions, peeled and cut into 1 inch slices
- 2 large navel oranges, peeled & sliced thin
- 8 sprigs mint — for garnish
In a shallow glass or ceramic dish, combine garlic, orange zest, juice, vinegar, pepper, mustard and chopped mint. Add steak to marinade; turn once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, turning steak twice in the marinade.
Remove steak from marinade, scraping any bits of marinade clinging to meat back into the bowl. Transfer marinade to small saucepan and bring to a boil; reserve.
Lightly grease grill rack with vegetable cooking spray or oil.
Preheat charcoal grill until coals have turned a gray ashy color or preheat gas grill according to manufacturer’s suggested time on high heat.
Place steak on grill 4 inches from heat source and sear 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Brush with a little reserved marinade and continue cooking, covered (with lid down or tented with foil on a charcoal grill), for approximately 4 minutes, brushing frequently with marinade.
Place onion slices on the grill and baste with some of the marinade. Cook until lightly brown about 3 minutes on each side.
Transfer to a carving board, tent with foil, and let rest for 7 minutes before slicing.
Arrange orange slices and onion slices in overlapping pattern around the outside of the platter.
Slice steak diagonally across the grain into very thin slices. Arrange down the center of the platter and garnish with mint.
Grilled Peach Salad with Pecans
- 4 large peaches
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 tablespoons raspberry flavored vinegar
- Kosher salt to taste
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 2 heads romaine lettuce
Preheat grill or a grill pan over medium-high heat and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Cut peaches into six slices each; discard pits. Cook peach slices until grill marks appear (no need to completely cook peaches). Remove from grill and let cool at room temperature.
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Heat a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Add butter, pecans, sugar and cayenne pepper. Cook while stirring constantly until sugar dissolves and turns golden brown.
Remove pan from heat and cool to room temperature.
Slice both heads of romaine into six sections. Place lettuce and peaches on a plate and top with dressing and pecans.
Green Beans and Tomatoes
- 2 pounds green string beans (or a mixture of yellow and green)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the beans until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain the beans and spread them on a large baking sheet to cool. Pat dry.
In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the shallots and basil and season with salt and pepper. Place the beans and tomatoes in a large bowl, add the oil mixture and toss well.
Transfer to a platter for serving. Can be made early in the day and served room temperature.
Strawberry Layer Cake
- 1 1/4 cups sliced strawberries
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg whites
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 teaspoon red food coloring
- Cooking spray
- 1/3 cup (3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (orange-flavored liqueur)
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 12 whole strawberries
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray.
To prepare cake:
Place sliced strawberries in a food processor and process until smooth.
Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk. Set aside.
Place granulated sugar and the 1/2 cup butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer; beat at medium speed until well blended.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in egg whites.
Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Add pureed strawberries and food coloring and beat just until blended.
Divide batter between the twp pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake layers comes out clean.
Cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from the pans and cool completely on wire racks.
To prepare frosting:
Place cream cheese, 1/3 cup butter and liqueur in a medium bowl; beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until blended. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat just until blended.
Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.
Cut 1 whole strawberry into thin slices, cutting to, but not through, the stem end. Fan strawberry on top of cake. Cut remaining 11 strawberries in half. Garnish the sides of the cake with the strawberry halves.
- Memorial Day Grilling Tips (everyjoe.com)
- On Memorial Day … (americanslivingfree.com)
- Those Summer BBQs: How To Decorate (littlebitofcharm.wordpress.com)
Labor Day was first celebrated on Tuesday, September 5th, 1882. Two years later, in 1884, it was celebrated on the now-traditional first Monday in September. Originally celebrated in New York, by 1885, it had spread to many industrial centers of the country. This holiday originated in other countries first, then in Canada in the 1870s. In the aftermath of many deaths from the hands of the US military during the 1894 Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland made reconciling with labor a priority and the holiday in the US emerged.
There is some dispute as to who first proposed the Labor Day holiday. Some records show that it was Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a holiday to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold”. But McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Recent research shows that the originator of Labor Day may have been Matthew Maguire of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, NJ. Maguire may have proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as the secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted the proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic. By 1894, 23 states had adopted Labor Day legislation and in June of that year, Congress passed Federal legislation recognizing the first Monday in September as Labor Day.
Over the years, many traditions have been added to the US holiday including parades, festivities for the family, BBQs, water sports, fireworks, and public events. Many people also view Labor Day as the end of summer. It has become a day of rest, relaxation, and spending time with the family. Labor Day weekend is also the start of football season for the US. So, as you take your final trip to the beach or fire up the grill for your Labor Day picnic, take a moment to commemorate the founders of Labor Day, both of them! (Source: US Department of Labor)
Menu For Your Get Together
Rosemary-Lemon White Bean Dip
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage, extra for garnish
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- Two 19-ounce cans low sodium cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Cayenne pepper
- Pita chips and Cut Up Vegetables, for serving
In a medium skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the garlic, sage and rosemary and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until fragrant and the garlic is just beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add the beans and toss to coat.
Transfer the cannellini beans to a food processor. Add the lemon juice, season with salt and cayenne and process to a fairly smooth puree. Transfer the dip to a small serving bowl, drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top and garnish with fresh herbs. Serve with pita chips and veggies.
Grilled Chicken Stuffed with Basil and Tomato
Before grilling, soak the toothpicks or wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes to prevent them from burning. Butterflying the chicken — splitting each piece in half and fanning it open like a book — creates two layers to contain the stuffing.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 ounces each)
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
For The Stuffing:
- 12 fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
- 2 beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
Butterfly chicken breasts: Put halves on a cutting board, smooth sides down, with the pointed ends facing you.
Starting on one long side, cut breasts almost in half horizontally (stop about 1/2 inch before reaching the opposite side). Open cut breasts like a book. Place each breast between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and pound lightly to even out the thickness of the cutlets.
Sprinkle each piece all over with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate, and coat both sides with garlic and oil. Let stand 30 minutes.
Heat a grill or grill pan until medium-hot.
Place 3 basil leaves on the bottom half of each opened chicken breast; top each with 2 slices tomato and one slice of cheese. Fold over other half of chicken breast, and secure with two toothpicks or short skewers.
Grill chicken breasts, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and no longer pink in the center, about 15 minutes. Place on a clean serving platter; garnish with basil.
Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad
It is always a good idea to offer a vegetarian option for your friends. This salad can serve as a side to the chicken entree or a main dish option for vegetarians. If they are vegan, then leave the parmesan cheese out of the dressing and serve it in a bowl to sprinkle on top of the salad.
- 1 pound fusilli or pasta of your choice
- 2 medium eggplant
- 2 medium zucchini
- 2 medium yellow summer squash
- 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 medium sweet red pepper, cut in half and seeds removed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
- 2 cans (2-1/4 ounces each) sliced ripe olives, drained
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and place in a large bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, cut the eggplant, zucchini and summer squash lengthwise into 3/4-in.-thick slices. Brush the eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, red onion and red pepper with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Grill vegetables, covered, over medium heat for 4-6 minutes on each side or until crisp-tender. When cool enough to handle, cut into cubes.
Add the tomatoes, olives, parsley and grilled vegetables to the pasta.
In a small bowl, whisk the vinaigrette ingredients. Pour over salad; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until serving.
Serving size 3/4 cup.
Grilled Corn on the Cob
- 8 ears corn
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
Preheat grill to medium-high.
Combine oil, minced garlic, minced chives and hot sauce in a small bowl.
Brush husked corn with oil mixture. Grill the corn, turning occasionally, until some kernels char a little and others are light brown, 6 to 10 minutes.
Green Bean Salad
- 1 pound green beans—halved on the diagonal
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts (pignoli)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Toast the pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat until lightly browned (about 2 minutes). Set aside.
Cook the green beans in rapidly boiling water for 6 minutes, then refresh under cold water and drain.
Add all the remaining ingredients, except pine nuts, to a screw top jar and shake to combine.
Place the green beans in a serving bowl, pour over the dressing mixture and stir to combine thoroughly.
Let stand at room temperature. Stir in the pine nuts just before serving.
- 1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup light sugar alternative, such as Truvia for Baking or Light Domino Sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup water
- 1 1/2 cups fresh sliced strawberries
- 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
- 1 cup fresh blackberries
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1/3 cup fat-free milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 /4 teaspoon almond extract
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Grain flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
In a small heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and water until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in berries. Transfer to an 11 x 7-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray.
For topping, in a small bowl, beat sugar and butter until crumbly, about 2 minutes. Beat in milk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into butter mixture just until blended. Drop by tablespoonfuls over fruit mixture.
Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until filling is bubbly and a toothpick inserted in topping comes out clean. Serve warm.
- NYT 1887-09-06: “Labor Day” (lvtfan.typepad.com)
- Labor Day Weekend: Meal Plans and Favorite Recipes (faithfulprovisions.com)
- Seattle among top travel destinations for Labor Day (slide show) (bizjournals.com)
Healthy Tips from Grill Master: Steven Raichlen
Steven Raichlen, who changed the grilling world forever with his Barbecue Bible, gives us an excellent book for the backyard griller. This “How To” book delivers great instruction and information on virtually every grilling task. If you’re just starting out with grilling, this is a perfect book for you. Even if you’ve been grilling for years, you’ll learn a lot here. Steven Raichlen’s book is more about the techniques for grilling than offering a variety of recipes.
Grilled Chicken Thighs
1. Go with thighs, which have deeper, richer chicken flavor than breast meat. They can withstand the dry heat of the grill and stay moist.
2. Dark meat is fattier than white, so to cut your sat fat intake, take the skin off. But, leave the bone in.
3. Coat the chicken with a bold spice rub to amp up flavor.
4. Grill the chicken over indirect heat. Putting the meat over the cooler side of the grill cooks it slowly, gently, and evenly and ensures the glaze won’t scorch.
5. Finish it for five minutes over direct heat to add delicious light charring and caramelize the glaze.
Grilled Vegetable Salad
6. Go with a variety of produce for color and texture contrasts: corn, bell peppers, and green onions.
7. Add avocado to the mix: People don’t think to grill avocado, but it adds fantastic smoky depth to the buttery fruit.
8. Crank up the grill heat to high for optimum charring—it’s the browned and blackened bits that really make the salad shine.
9. Watch carefully, since each item has its own ideal doneness—the green onions need to brown and wilt slightly; the peppers should fully blacken so they can be easily peeled; and the corn has to be turned often so it browns evenly. The avocado gets just a minute or two or it will become bitter if cooked too long.
10. Bring the chopped salad together with some cooked beans, a touch of earthy herbs, and fresh lemon juice to brighten flavors.
11. Score the beef lightly to help the marinade penetrate quickly and keep the steak flat while it cooks. For marinade idea see post: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/08/07/what-makes-a-good-marinade/
12. Keep it juicy and tender by letting it rest for several minutes after cooking, then slicing thinly against the grain: Flank steak turns tough if sliced with the grain or into thick pieces.
13. Add salt just before grilling, after the steak comes out of the marinade. (If you add salt to a wet marinade, you will lose some of it with the discarded liquid.)
14. Add smoked paprika to the spice rub. The steak doesn’t spend long on the grill, so paprika boosts its open-fire flavor.
15. Buy flank steak: It’s lean—with almost 30% less saturated fat.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin
16. Choose a lean pork cut. Not all parts of the hog are fat bombs. Go with grill-friendly tenderloin: It’s a leaner cut than pork loin chops, saving you as much as 3g sat fat per serving.
17. But tenderloin is extremely mild-tasting, so pair it with big, strong flavors: salty sauces, peppery ginger, tangy vinegar, and fiery chiles.
18. Slice meat into thin medallions before marinating it. This increases the surface area for the marinade to coat and helps the flavorings fully permeate the pork.
19. Thread the meat onto skewers so it’s easier to handle on the grill. Then, cook over very high heat; it’s how you get those delicious crispy, blackened bits on the edges of the meat.
20. Pack the pork up in lettuce wraps loaded with fresh, crisp veggies, fragrant herbs, and toasted nuts. It’s the perfect setup for a casual, serve-yourself kind of gathering.
21. Since the skin won’t be in direct contact with the grill to get nice and crisp, go with skinless fillets.
22. The smoky fish can stand up to the spicy sweetness of a tropical fruit salsa. Prepare it before cooking the fish so the flavors have time to meld.
23. Grill on cedar planks: Rich wood smoke infuses the salmon.
24. Put the lid on the grill so the fish bathes in cedar smoke, the main “seasoning.”
25. Choose salmon: Packed with flavor and heart-healthy fats, it can handle the grill. Flaky fish like cod, sole, and tilapia tend to fall to pieces.
26. Start with ground buffalo. It has fewer calories and as much as half the sat fat of 90% lean beef, but boasts big, meaty flavor.
27. Add some Parmigiano-Reggiano to the patties—it kicks up the savory taste and seasons the burgers from the inside.
28. Stir in a splash of extra-virgin olive oil. A little heart-healthy fat added to the patties helps keep the extra-lean burgers moist.
29. Make a kickin’ condiment: Slow-roast tomatoes to intensify their sweetness. (see post: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/07/26/italian-tortasavory-pies/). Add a little tangy balsamic vinegar and peppery basil, then puree the mixture into a ketchup.
30. Grill the burgers over high heat to no more than medium so they don’t dry out. Toast the buns on the grill to add a little crisp texture and some lightly charred flavor.
Here Are Some Of My Favorite ” Good For You” Burger Recipes For Your Next BBQ:
Grilled Grass Fed Beef Burgers
Grass Fed Beef cooks as much as 30% faster and needs a lower temperature than grain fed beef. There is less fat on grass fed beef and it melts at a lower temperature than the grain fed beef.
- 1 1/4 pounds ground grass fed beef
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh finely chopped rosemary
- 2 teaspoons fresh finely chopped sage
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
Mix the garlic and spices into the meat. Form beef into 4 patties. Make a slight indentation in the center of each burger to avoid burger bulge – the tendency for the burger to get too big in the middle.
Rub burgers with 2 teaspoons oil.
Cook on medium low heat on a gas or charcoal grill, covered, turning once, about 6 minutes total for medium-rare or to desired temperature.
Serve burgers on whole wheat buns with cheese, tomato slices, lettuce, red onion slices, and any other condiments you wish (mustard, ketchup, mayo).
Mushroom-Rice Burgers with Cheddar Cheese
The following recipe combines mushrooms, oats and brown rice into a patty that looks like a hamburger and has a rich, earthy flavor. It’s also a great way to use up leftover brown rice. Note that vegetarian burgers are more fragile than meat burgers. Cook them on a well-oiled vegetable grill grate (see picture in this post) and turn as gently as possible with a wide spatula.
For the burgers:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 ounces white mushrooms, wiped clean with dampened paper towels and finely chopped
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- 1/2 cup quick oats
- 4 ounces coarsely grated sharp Cheddar cheese (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
- 1 large fresh, ripe tomato, thinly sliced
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced (optional)
- Pickle slices
- 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
- 4 whole-wheat hamburger buns
- Ketchup and/or mayonnaise and/or mustard
1. Prepare the burger mixture.
Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft but not brown, about 4 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes.
2. Stir in the brown rice and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the oats, cheese, bread crumbs and egg. Add salt and pepper. Cover the mixture and refrigerate until firm, 3 to 4 hours.
3. Line a baking sheet or large plate with plastic wrap. Wet your hands slightly and form the vegetable mixture into 4 patties. Place the patties on the prepared baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
4. Preheat grill to high.
5. When ready to cook, place a vegetable grill grate on the hot grill and preheat it for 5 minutes. Oil the vegetable grate and place the patties on it. Grill, turning carefully with a spatula, until nicely browned on both sides, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Aas the burgers cook, toast the buns over the flames as well.
Serve as you would any burger, with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and condiments.
Turkey and Vegetable Burgers
The vegetables in this turkey burger mixture not only contribute lots of vitamins and nutrients, but they also help to moisten burgers that can otherwise be quite dry. Make sure to buy lean ground turkey breast.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely diced onion
- 1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
- Salt to taste
- 1 large garlic clove, green shoot removed, minced
- 2/3 cup finely grated carrot (1 large carrot)
- 1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey breast, preferably organic, from humanely raised turkeys
- 2 tablespoons prepared barbecue sauce or see recipe for Quick BBQ Sauce below
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Canola oil for the skillet
- Whole grain hamburger buns and condiments of your choice
1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes, and add the diced red pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and the grated carrot and cook, stirring, for another minute or two, until the carrots have softened slightly and the mixture is fragrant. Remove from the heat and cool.
2. In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey with 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce and ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper Add the sautéed vegetables and mix together well. Shape into 6 patties, about 3/4-inch thick and place on a plate. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
3. Heat a nonstick griddle over medium-high heat and brush with a small amount of canola oil, or prepare a medium-hot BBQ grill and cook the patties for 4 minutes on each side. Serve on whole grain buns, with the condiments of your choice and additional BBQ sauce.
Yield: 6 burgers.
Advance preparation: You can make this turkey burger mix, shape into patties and freeze for 2 or 3 months. Thaw as needed. The mix will keep for a day in the refrigerator, but check the use-by date on the turkey package.
Quick BBQ Sauce
- 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/2 teaspoon dried yellow mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic
- Hot sauce, if you like it spicy
Purée all sauce ingredients in a food processor until very smooth.
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