It may be September but it’s not time to close up the barbeque yet! Quite the contrary – there are actually tons of great produce that peak in the late summer weeks such as tomatoes and sweet corn, making it prime time to try out fresh, healthy and deliciously grilled meals. We use our grill constantly throughout the entire year, but warm weather is when we become quite obsessed with trying out new recipes to throw on the barbeque. What’s so great about grilling food is that it pretty much guarantees that you are maximizing flavor with minimal effort and technique. You don’t need to be a culinary expert to grill, there is almost no preparation required for most things, and best of all, grilling lends itself to limitless potential for healthy eating. If you are used to just firing up the barbeque for the occasional hot dog or hamburger during summer months only, I encourage you to think out of the box and explore what else the grill can do for your meal repertoire.
Below I’ve highlighted some of our favorite atypical items to grill, along with some ideas of how to utilize them. And here’s the best part: all anything really needs before it goes on the grill is just a quick toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. That’s all it takes to achieve dynamic flavor profiles and transform regular ingredients into something so much more.
Bok Choy: This is my all-time favorite vegetable to grill. If you’ve never had bok choy to begin with, give it a try! This cruciferous veggie is chock full of potassium, vitamin K, C, A, and lots of antioxidants. I love to braise it with ginger and sesame oil, or add it to stir fries, but when I tried grilling it, I fell in love with it even more! The slight char that is achieved adds a smoky depth that is indescribable. It becomes crunchy, rich, and holds up so well to deliciously salty and complex Asian dipping sauces. I love to pair it with sticky Jasmine rice and hoisin chicken skewers. Mmmm!
Grilling Tip: Cut your bok choy into bite size pieces or strips, toss in your basic oil, salt, and pepper preparation, then string onto skewers to grill. It is a delicate item to grill, so use low heat and don’t overdo!
Red Onion: Grilled red onion comes in a close second as my favorite barbequed veggie. They are a perfect side dish for steaks and other grilled proteins, in salads, and are to die for dipped in vinaigrette or creamy Tzatiki sauce. The stringent quality of raw onion is eliminated and in its place is just smoky, sweet, caramelized goodness! Grilling Tip: To make sure your onion rings do not fall through the grates, use only the largest cut rings. Or, you may also string smaller rings on skewers.
Pineapple: Delicious on its own, as a side dish with some simple teriyaki chicken and rice, or perfect in Caribbean –style salads, pineapple holds up to the grill very well due to its sturdy nature. The natural sugars caramelize nicely and create wonderful depth. Want to use it in a dessert? Top it with vanilla ice cream and some caramel sauce for an indulgent treat. Grilling Tip: As with most items, don’t overcook the pineapple, or it will become mushy.
Ciabatta Bread: Some sliced ciabatta brushed with oil, charred slightly with a smear of fresh ricotta cheese on top? Heaven! Try experimenting with grilling other types of bread for that matter. I also love putting tortillas and pita bread on the grill. Grilling Tip: Ciabatta is a stiff bread to begin with, so be sure not to overdo it. Use low heat and watch carefully. Remove from the grill right after you achieve a few grill marks but before it burns!
Corn: I will never eat corn on the cob another way again! As if there was a way to improve upon the natural deliciousness of sweet corn in season, grilling it can do just that. Grilling corn preserves the integrity of its flavor, but it is enhanced with browned, blackened, charred, and smoky bits that pair so amazingly once a little bit of butter melts on top of it! Good on its own, grilled corn is even better trimmed off the cob and used in salads, succotash, and salsas. You don’t need to consider yourself a chef to throw together a killer healthy salad of spinach or mixed greens, grilled chicken, grilled corn, avocado, and hard boiled eggs. It’s delicious! Grilling Tip: Don’t worry about getting every piece of silk off when shucking. They will singe off.
Avocado: There’s not many ways to make one of my favorite things to eat better, but grilling the heavenly avocado comes close. The creaminess and richness is still there, but is boosted with smoky char marks and depth of flavor. Eat it plain, top a burger with it, or try chopping it up and adding it to fresh tomato slices for a stellar side dish. Grilling Tip: Drizzle some lemon juice in your olive oil/salt/pepper prep to prevent browning.
Citrus: Why try grilling citrus fruits? It adds a subtle, smoky flavor that is versatile for so much. Pair your grilled lemon with seafood, try some homemade cocktails with grilled lime, and try your hand at making marinades and salad dressings with grilled oranges. Grilling Tip: Due to the juiciness of citrus, it isn’t necessary to toss with oil first.
Join me in firing up the grill any time of year. What other “out of the box” items can you think to throw on the barbeque? The possibilities are infinite. Happy grilling!