Cooking The Dog Days of Summer

Dinner from the Grill

After a long and hard winter, nothing makes my mouth water more than the wafting aroma of something cooking on the grill.  Almost anything can be cooked on the grill. Of course, there are the traditional things – burgers, chicken, sausages, hot dogs, steak, kebabs, and seafood. But grilled appetizers, crispy bruschetta, grilled and stuffed vegetables, fruits and grilled pizza really add variety to cooking al fresco.

I’ve had fun lately with themed menus. Of course, that’s nothing new, but I have been aware that we need to be eating lower on the food chain.  That means less meat, more veggies and whole grains. At first one would think that dinner from the grill would dictate a meal centered on meat – but it isn’t necessarily so.

Think Portobello mushrooms instead of burgers – or along with burgers to please everyone. Grilled eggplant, slabs of feta cheese, tofu, and another all-vegetable patty called “Quorn” – which I haven’t seen yet are vegetarian choices.  Tofu and Quorn, because they are rather bland benefit from strong marinades like tandoori or spicy curry mixtures. Make sure you use the extra-firm tofu to avoid it falling apart and make sure you dry it by compressing slices between sheets of paper towels. Cut into cubes you can make tasty kebabs by adding vegetables such as tiny onions, peppers and mushrooms. Serve them in pita breads or over cooked rice or couscous.

Asparagus, sliced zucchini, halved sweet peppers and sweet potatoes cook well on the barbecue,too. Brush with olive oil and grill for about five minutes. If you find they get singed without cooking properly, wrap in foil first, cook and then unwrap them and finish off on the grill for that authentic barbecue flavor.

Eggplant wraps –  grilled slices can be rolled around a number of tasty fillings such as goat’s cheese and herbs. Or wrap a cooked eggplant slice around a chunk of cheese, secure with a toothpicks and pop back onto the grill for a couple of minutes.

Walking around the streets in India, we noticed corn on the cob, being barbecued, then brushed with oil or ghee and sprinkled with ground cumin and coarse salt.

You can use the same marinades on your veggies as on your meat dishes. Sweetcorn, for instance, will be delicious basted with a sweet honey or maple sauce dressing, or a lemon or lime and butter coating that you may be using on some fish. Again, just make sure that you keep the dressing you use for meet or fish separate from that you use to brush on any vegetarian barbecue dishes.

So, here I am offering marinades that you can use on vegetables as well as on chicken breasts, fish, or meat cuts.

Tandoori Marinade

I like this aromatic, spicy, marinade, adapted from Wolfgang Puck. Use it on chicken breasts or lamb chops. It’s especially delicious on salmon or shrimp.  The “tandoori” is a cylindrical cooking vessel used for cooking and baking in the Middle East and India. In India a mixture of spices is often referred to as a “chutney.”

1 teaspoon each paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper, ground coriander, ground cumin,             ground ginger, and ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and black pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup honey

3/4 cup plain yogurt

1. Mix all of the marinade ingredients together.

2. Place the meat or fish into the marinade and refrigerate at least 6 hours. The marinade is sufficient for 1 pound of salmon filets.

3. If using marinade on vegetables, make another batch of the marinade, eliminating the yogurt and brush mixture over the vegetables while grilling.

Yucatan Marinade

This is great for chicken, fish, or vegetables such as zucchini, bell peppers and eggplant. You can make it a day ahead of time. Keep it covered and refrigerated.

1/4 cup orange juce

1/4 cup lime juice

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup ancho chili powder (or use regular chili powder)

2 tablespoons hot chili powder

1/4 cup paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne (more or less, according to your taste)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive or canola oil

1. Combine the orange, lime, and lemon juice in a blender; add the chili powders, paprika, cayenne, pepper and salt and process for 30 seconds.

2. With the motor going, slowly add the oil and process until mixture is emulsified.

Cinnamon Chili Marinade

Use this marinade on duck breasts, chicken breasts or tender beef cuts.  Also, use this marinade for halved tomatoes or thinly sliced (raw) sweet potatoes. Serve  the sliced cooked meat or vegetables Southwestern style wrapped in a wheat tortilla.

2 tablespoons ground white pepper

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons ground ginger

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/2 cup peanut oil

3 tablespoons ground fennel seed

1 tablespoon canned chipotles

2 tablespoons ancho chili power or regular chili powder

1. Measure all of the ingredients into a saucepan; place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat immediately.

2. For duck, chicken or other meats, marinate, refrigerated for 8 hours.  For vegetables, brush before and during grilling.

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Beatrice Ojakangas

Food writer Beatrice Ojakangas grew up as the oldest of ten on a farm in Floodwood, Minnesota and learned to cook and bake on a woodstove. Author of 31 cookbooks, Beatrice has a degree in home economics, has been inducted into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame, was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota, has written for magazines such as Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and Woman's Day, and appeared on the television shows of both Julia Child and Martha Stewart. Her specialties include baking, Finnish and Scandinavian cooking, and writing well-tested, simple recipes that use wholesome ingredients. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota.

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