Creative Cooking: Grill Magic
Ah, the grill. cooker of all things fleshy. master of sausages, wursts and brats. Tamer of burgers, steaks and chops. Lord of fish and fowls. King of fruits and vegetables.
Wait, fruits and vegetables?
So often we think of our grill as the domain of all things meat. But the truth is, just about everything you want to eat tastes a little better when it’s been thrown on the grill.
Take that picture to your right. Just the grill marks alone make everything look that much more delicious. In fact, grilling does just that. All of those veggies were just lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, tossed in a little blended oil and thrown on the grill. They need no sauces, creams or dressings.
“Grilling is like roasting at high heat,” says Greg Scarlato, chef at Angelina’s in Bonita Springs and the man responsible for those veggies. “It’s all about intensifying the flavors.”
Scarlato’s best advice for grilling vegetables: Find what’s in season. “Nature just knows when things taste their best.” Tough to argue with that. Right now, you are likely to find a lot of great squashes, gourds and stone fruits that work well on the barbie, he says.
My suggestion: Try slicing some sweet potatoes into inch-thick discs, tossing with a little salt, pepper, olive oil and a pinch of ground cayenne pepper. Grill for about five minutes per side or until just fork tender, and you’ve got a great side dish to that aged T-bone you are grilling up next to it.
Suddenly, eating healthy isn’t sounding all that bad. And it’s not just your typical hearty vegetables that work on the grill.
So far this summer, my grill has seen staples like asparagus and onions, but also romaine lettuce (cut in half lengthwise and charred lightly on both sides, drizzled with some homemade Caesar dressing and sprinkled with toasted panko bread crumbs).
Scarlato is loving grilled watermelon. He suggests a salad of fried goat cheese, arugula, grilled watermelon chunks and shrimp.
So fire up the grill (and let it get good and hot) and reach for what’s in your crisper.
Executive Editor Jonathan Foerster is a former food writer and dining critic for the Naples Daily News.