With the brief, if glorious, respite from 100-plus degree weather, we took again to outdoor activities that, for many of us, have been shelved since late May. And though fall may be upon us, we have at least a solid three weeks, if not more, of summery weather perfect for cranking up the grill and cooking outdoors.
When it comes to grilling, the question is not so much "can you" as "should you," and the answer is almost invariably yes. It's no secret that we love meat here at City of Ate, but few among us are wholly immune against siren call of expertly prepared not-meat things. The key with grilling things of the herbivore variety is basically the same as with meat: high-quality cuts (or ... picks?); marinated (or not marinated) wisely; paired judiciously to enhance and/or supplement the flavor, without overwhelming it.
Virtually anyone can quickly construct a list of things that might be good tossed on. Grill a pineapple? Who hasn't. Try a Brussels sprout? Do it. So we've constructed a brief and by no means comprehensive list of ideas to expand upon more obvious experimentation.
1. Grilled banana split -- There is a host of information online about grilling bananas for splits -- some sites suggest leaving on the peel, others say brush the fruit with olive oil and place it directly over the fire -- but regardless of your chosen methodology, the gist is simple. Some folks grill and then top with traditional accouterments like chocolate syrup, dollops of ice cream, nuts (we highly recommend pistachios) and cherries on top; others prefer to stuff, focusing on melting sweets like solid chocolates, nut butters (if ever one needed an excuse for Nutella...), and even crushed Oreos or toffee.
2. Grilled pizza (or pasta) -- Most of us don't own the type of wood-fire oven that makes spectacular thin-crust pizza, but a grill can be a solid runner-up, with the smoke lending a distinct flavor. While the basic technique is pretty self-explanatory, finding more information online is easy as ... pie. Since you already have out the sauce, toss on some raviolis, as well.
3. Corn -- It goes without saying that practically any starch or green veggie (okra, endives, artichokes, etc.) can be tossed on to supplement a barbecue; however, you can things it to the next level with the right rub or dip. This recipe uses mayo (actually Veganaise), Cotija cheese, cayenne, chile powder, garlic and sour cream. Whereas this one goes an entirely different direction with a buttery glaze mixing honey, ginger and a sweet barbecue rub.
4. Figs with ricotta -- Having never met a fig we didn't like, it's an obsession that might make worth moving to the Mediterranean merely for the best variety. While many fruits (peaches, apples, pears) are spectacular on the grill, figs paired with honey, brown sugar and ricotta absolutely take the cake. In fact, it's like eating an entire cake, for significantly fewer calories (you could, after all, go for a non-fat or skim ricotta, but that's just crazy.) This recipe adds vanilla, mint and candied lemon for extra pizzazz, but if you don't have time for such fanciness, a pure grilled fig easily stands on its own.
5. Brie with honey, nuts and fruit -- Notice we didn't say grilled cheese sandwich. The relatively simple childhood fav has more iterations than we could reasonably list from the purist's American on white with Campbell's tomato soup to this scrumptious green goddess as many ingredients as a full-blown entree. Sandwiches aside, there is one idea you might have overlooked. Rather than baking a wheel of Brie, pop it on a cedar plank and grill away. Like this recipe suggests, its good topped with honey, nuts and dried fruit.
6. Charred romaine with pine nuts -- You could have a salad. Or you could have something grilled. If you have to go with the former, char the hell out of it for good measure. This recipe adds olive oil and a vinaigrette with pine nuts (which can improve the taste of practically anything).
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7. Grilled strawberry shortcake -- Can you grill poundcake? Yes. Can you grill strawberries? Yes. Why would you do it any other way. It's pretty self-explanatory, but here's where someone did it on kebabs. While we're at it, grill a cookie, grill a cupcake, grill a birthday cake, see if we care.
8. Avocado -- Avocado is the best fat kid food that is actually nutritionally justifiable: it tastes like it has a million calories, but also gives you the kind of fat your body needs to function, which sure is nice of it. Also nice, is the hole that ginormous seed leaves, just asking to get stuffed with black beans, pico, corn, bacon, cheese, shredded chicken or other southwestern flavors. Or, just mash it up for a smoky guac.
9. Poblano peppers stuffed with goat cheese, bacon and pecans -- Like with most fruit and veg, the sky is limited when you decided to grill peppers: tomatillos, jalapenos, bell, etc. Poblanos are nice because of their size and stuffability. If you can't stand the heat, swap them out with a nice bell, but you will really miss out. Tempered by the creamy goat cheese in this recipe, the peppers kick, but the bacon and pecans add another dimension to turn down the spicy noise.
10. Rice balls -- We're not being lewd. Yaki onigiri are Japanese grilled rice balls, made from short grain rice and roasted sesame seeds (optional). It's a simple concept -- brush on a little butter and soy sauce and voila. The texture is crispy, crunchy delicious, and here are more details. Dip in soy sauce and add a touch of Wasabi, if you can handle it.