Ah, summer. Nothing like firing up the old Weber, moving your usual kitchen mess to the outdoors, and enjoying the delicious results of a fresh-grilled dinner. But we fear we’ve gotten caught in a rut in our grill habits: burgers, the occasional steak, a variety of brightly colored shish kabobs. We wondered if we weren’t taking full advantage of our favorite seasonal appliance. So we asked some grilling aficionados in various restaurants and our own staff to see how we can fire up our grilling inspiration this summer.
How did it take me so long to discover the wonder of grilled fruit? It smells great, it looks great, and it tastes even better. My first (and favorite) fruit-on-the-grill experience was grilled peaches, which only require a little olive oil to turn into an insanely delicious, juicy dessert. I used this recipe (more of a guide, really) from The Kitchn, based on the photos alone; it did not disappoint. I’ve paired grilled peaches with ice cream—insanely good—and used thick wedges as a cocktail garnish with a bourbon peach smash. But frankly, as tasty as those were, they’re best just as they are. Peach, olive oil, grill, wait, enjoy.
—Allison Shoemaker, contributor, The Takeout
I love to do a whole tandoori-style cauliflower on the grill. I love the warming flavors of spices like cayenne, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, and coriander in the Summer. The charred parts on the outside of the cauliflower are the best and most important parts, in my opinion! I eat it as the main dish, but non-veggie people can totally add this as a side.
—Angela Garbacz, owner/head pastry chef Goldenrod Pastries, Lincoln, Nebraska
Have you ever tried grilled salsa? You should. It’s not really a bowl of salsa thrown on the fire, but grilling every component of a pico de gallo—tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, garlic, and yes, even the lime (halved, cut side down). After charring it (I’d take off the blackened skins of tomatoes), chop up the ingredients as usual. You’ll get an incomparable smokiness like you’ve never experienced before.
—Kevin Pang, editor-in-chief, The Takeout
For our summer menu, we will have octopus teriyaki. We braise the octopus first, then finish them on the grill. To serve, we brush the grilled octopus with a housemade black garlic teriyaki for an extra tender and flavorful bite.
—Maiko Kyogoku, owner, Bessou, New York City
Scallions with romesco sauce
A few years ago, a friend of mine turned me on to grilled scallions with romesco sauce. (I think he was likely using this Florence Fabricant recipe.) I would have never thought to grill scallions—green ends and all—but the high heat brings out both a sweetness and an earthy char that makes the green onions a wonderful side for steaks or seafood. Now grilled scallions are one of my summer go-tos.
—Kate Bernot, associate editor, The Takeout
It only works on a charcoal kettle grill—place the dome lid long enough for it to get hot. Spread coals in a single layer on the bottom and bunch up more coals around the edges to brown the crust, place the grill grate on the highest level, shape your dough and build your pizza on a pizza peel like usual, just be extra careful sliding it onto the grill! Close the lid and bake like normal. Use toppings on this pizza sparingly, go thin thin thin—think Neapolitan style.
—Paul Fehribach, owner and chef, Big Jones, Chicago
Camembert and meatloaf (not together)
One thing that I’ve done before is to grill a small format, soft bloomy rind cheese, such a Camembert. It goes really well with jam (homemade is great) and some grilled sourdough bread. Simply coat the cheese with a nice olive oil and put on hot grill for 30 seconds-1 minute each side, until you get nice grill marks, and serve.
Another thing that is really fun on the grill is meatloaf. It’s a bit more labor intensive because you have to make, cook and fully cool a meatloaf. Once you do that, slice it 1/4 of an inch thick and oil each side, then grill for about a minute per side until it is just hot and serve with any sides you like (potatoes, bbq sauce, make it into a sandwich, etc). The outside gets crispy and charred, while the inside should stay nice and moist.
—Chef Ryan Brosseau, Le Sud (opening in Chicago this summer)
One of my favorite things about living in England was the grilled breakfasts. I worked in a hotel, and the cook would make us whatever we wanted in the morning: My go-to was usually grilled mushroom and tomato on top of grilled bread. But I’d forgotten all about that beloved meal until some neighbors had us over for dinner recently and they placed some brown bread on the outdoor grill. A hearty, whole-grained brown bread was delicious brushed with butter and grilled on both sides. I loved it, but turns out that some nice thick slices of french or Italian bread (dabbed with that butter, don’t forget) turn out even better. Maybe add some garlic or other herbs to that butter and you may bypass your meat course entirely.
—Gwen Ihnat, deputy managing editor, The Takeout
Whether smoked, planked, or skewered, the natural sweetness in seafood is a great match for the subtle smokiness and char that open fire cooking creates. It can both compliment and enhance the delicate flavors of many fish.
—Kyle Bart, chief monger/general manager, Wixter Market, Chicago
Wixter Market’s Salmon Burger
(makes four 6 oz. patties)
- 24 oz. salmon, chopped
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp. salmon rub
- 1 Tbsp. Haku Whiskey Barrel Aged Shoyu
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 4 buns (whole wheat, brioche, or potato rolls)
- Butter or olive oil
- Toppings of your choice (lettuce, tomato, onion, sauerkraut, pickles, mild cheese like jack and havarti)
Preheat grill or grill pan (a cast-iron skillet or other heavy pan also works well). In a bowl, mix together all the burger patty ingredients. Split into four even-size portions and form into patties. Put a slight indent in the middle of each patty to keep them from ballooning.
Cook burgers on medium high heat, turning once, until browned on each side and just cooked through in the center. About 4 minutes per side.
Toast buns with a bit of butter or olive oil. Assemble burgers with toppings of your choice and enjoy!
Okay commenteriat, over to you. What are your favorite non-traditional foods to grill?