The only thing more satisfying than the smoky aroma of hamburgers, steak or fish cooking on the grill is eating it. No matter how you slice it, food always seems to taste better when cooked outdoors on the grill or over an open flame. So grab your tongs and spatula, fire up the grill, and get ready to enjoy the best in flame-flavored food.
—A good marinade or rub makes meat more tender and flavorful. Rubs and seasonings are best applied to raw meat or fish from one to several hours before grilling. Marinate meat from a few hours to 24 hours before grilling.
—Keep it simple and soak meat in beer, wine, soda, pineapple juice or lemon juice. Or experiment with any of these tasty combos: lemon juice, soy sauce and sesame oil with fresh garlic and ginger; red wine and olive oil with shallots, rosemary and thyme; or beer, barbecue sauce and crushed pineapple.
—Lightly brushing each side of the meat with a cooking oil or spray will help keep your fresh catch or meat succulent during the grilling process.
—Wrap meat with a slice or two of bacon held together with a toothpick. Cook to just the right degree of doneness for the type of meat or fish you are grilling.
—Direct grilling cooks foods quickly at medium-high heat directly over the fire. This method is best suited for grilling burgers and small or thin cuts of meat or veggies less than two inches thick.
—The indirect method cooks food at a more moderate temperature (275 to 350 degrees). Depending on your heat source, this can be done by grilling meats next to the fire, controlling the heat by using the vents and/or closing the lid, lighting only the outside burners on a gas grill, or turning the burners up or down. This slower cooking and low-temperature grilling works best when cooking larger, tougher or fattier foods.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
1 medium (or 2 small) eggplant (about 1 pound), sliced lengthwise
1 large red bell pepper, quartered lengthwise
1 large (or 3 small) zucchini (about 1 pound), sliced lengthwise*
1 pound tomatoes, cut in wedges**
1/2 red onion, cut in half*
1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, according to taste
* Cut into bite-size pieces if using a nonstick grill basket or grilling grid.
** Cherry or grape tomatoes may be left whole.
To prepare dressing, whisk together the oil, garlic, oregano, salt, and lemon-pepper seasoning in a small bowl; set aside.
Prepare grill. When grill is hot, lightly brush eggplant, pepper, zucchini, tomatoes and onion with the dressing and place on grill. (Or, place eggplant and pepper on grill; put zucchini and red onion in a grill basket or on a grilling skillet, with tomatoes on top of the onions, and place on hottest part of the grill.) Close lid and grill 5 to 8 minutes on each side or until tender. If using a grill basket or grilling skillet, grill about 15 minutes or until onions are tender. Let cool.
To prepare ratatouille, coarsely chop vegetables and place in a serving bowl. (Vegetables in the grill basket can go into the bowl as is.) Toss grilled vegetables with red wine vinegar and any remaining dressing. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Corn on the Grill with Cumin-Lime Butter
(Grilling the corn with a thin layer of husks around each ear steams the corn to perfection and keeps the kernels from becoming dry and chewy.)
4 ears of corn
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
Prepare grill. Peel off the excess husks from the ears, leaving a few layers for protection. Pull remaining husks back from corn, keeping them attached at the base. Remove silks and push husks back around ears. Rinse corn and tie husks in place with string or dental floss, if needed.
While the grill is heating, mix the melted butter, lime juice, cumin, and garlic salt together in a small bowl.
Place corn on grill rack and grill for 15 to 25 minutes, turning the ears every few minutes or until the first layer of husk is completely charred. (If using charcoal, put corn on the grill just after the coals have died down but are still red-hot.) Length of cooking time will vary depending on the temperature of your grill and the variety, tenderness and size of the corn. The husks will separate lengthwise somewhat, allowing some of the kernels to brown. The more browning, the sweeter the corn. You can also peel back the husks the last several minutes on the grill to brown all the kernels, if desired.
Transfer grilled corn to a serving platter. Peel away blackened husks and serve with the cumin-lime butter.
Lemon-Mustard Cedar-Planked Salmon
(Any untreated wood good for smoking can be used as grilling planks. Western red cedar is the most popular, but alder, maple, hickory and cherry or apple also work well.)
1 cedar grilling plank
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2- to 2-pound salmon fillet
Soak the cedar plank in water for at least 2 hours. Set grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium heat. For charcoal grilling, once briquettes are dotted with gray ash, move equal amounts to opposite sides, add several more briquettes to each mound of coals, and place the plank over indirect heat in-between the coals.
In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, soy sauce, mustard, honey, both oils and garlic powder. Brush part of the sauce on the flesh side of the fish; keep remaining sauce refrigerated.
Place soaked plank on hot grill grate, close lid, and grill for 5 minutes or until the bottom is lightly charred. (Keep a water-filled spray bottle handy to douse any flareups should the plank start to burn.) Carefully turn plank over and move to the cool side of the grill.
Place salmon, skin side down, on charred side of plank. Cover and grill 15 to 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. (Open vents as needed to surround the food with smoke and to maintain temperature.) Baste the fish with the remaining sauce every 5 to 10 minutes. Cooking time will vary, depending on the grill temperature and the size and thickness of the fish.
Oregon-based Kris Wetherbee is an internationally published author, food writer and recipe developer. (kriswetherbee.com)