As the temperatures rise in July, kids dash in and out of sprinklers in yards all across town. Teenagers take every opportunity to visit the nearest pool, and cooks near and far inevitably turn to the grill for great summer fare. Sure, you may have mastered the old standbys: hot dogs, hamburgers, maybe some chicken wings or even a Boston butt. Delicious, yes, but these hunks of protein barely scratch the surface of your Weber’s abilities. Fruits, vegetables and even desserts, that’s right, are begging for their chance to soak up a little summer heat on local backyard grills. A generous slosh of olive oil is usually all that’s required to go from plain Jane food to smokin’ hot originals. It’s time to give some new dishes their chance to catch fire.
Know Your Terminology
The grill space directly over lit coals or a heat source. It cooks with a high heat and is great for searing and charring.
The opposite side of the grill, where a lower, “slower,” fire cooks more gently and evenly.
Tools of the Trade
Long-lasting with a slow, even temperature, briquettes have been the backyard favorite for ages. They do, however, contain additives and chemicals.
Natural hardwood lights faster, burns hotter and produces less chemical smoke but burns out more quickly.
While it might sound crazy, grilling greens, such as kale, radicchio or Swiss chard, is the way to go. The leaves caramelize, the edges char and you are left with a smoky crunch that adds layers of flavor to your plate.
Slice romaine hearts in half lengthwise and brush generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Place facedown over a medium fire and grill 1 – 3 minutes. Flip briefly and then remove to a platter. Place each half on a plate and top with a drizzle of Caesar dressing and a few shards of freshly grated Parmesan.
Once dinner has finished grilling, make way for dessert! Place scoops of cookie dough on a baking sheet and place on the grill grate over an indirect fire (about 350 degrees). Close the lid and cook for 12 minutes without opening the lid during cooking. You can also press your cookie dough into a cast iron skillet and place on the grill, cooking in the same way for 25 minutes.
Slice a round loaf of rustic bread into 1-inch-thick slices. Brush generously with olive oil and place over a medium fire until the edges begin to char and the bread is toasted with grill marks. Flip briefly and then remove to a platter. Sprinkle with a generous dash of crunchy sea salt. Serve in slices or cut in cubes to top salads or serve alongside Romesco sauce for dipping.
Slice a pineapple longways into spears. Brush with olive oil and dust with cayenne pepper to taste. Grill, turning occasionally, until slightly charred on all sides, for approximately 10 minutes. Remove to a platter and drizzle with honey. Serve with vanilla ice cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon as a dessert, or chop pineapple and mix with tequila, lime juice and sparkling water for a smoky pineapple margarita.
Peach and Prosciutto
Slice a fresh peach into 1-inch slices and wrap with a strip of prosciutto. Brush with olive oil and grill, turning occasionally, until slightly charred on two sides. Remove to a platter and drizzle with honey and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve as an appetizer.
Mexican Street Corn
Pull the husks back on fresh summer corn, but don’t remove. Tie the leaves in a knot to form a handle and prevent them from burning. Brush the corn with olive oil and roll on the grill until the kernels are charred. Remove to a plate and top with a slather of mayonnaise, a sprinkle of chili powder, a squeeze of lime and a few crumbles of Cotija cheese (feta will do in a pinch).
Wash and halve a medium-sized sweet potato longways, leaving skin on. (Leave small potatoes whole.) Coat generously with olive oil and add a sprinkle of kosher salt. Place potatoes skin-side down over an indirect fire and cook for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. When potatoes are tender and cooked through, move to the hot side of the grill for 5 – 10 minutes to char. Serve warm with a sprinkling of salt.