July 2, 2008

Summertime and the Grillin’ is Easy

By Janice Wade-Miller, Educational Instructor

America loves a great summer tradition. Living in Florida, all of us are blessed with the gift of being able grill year round. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, with July 4th in between, outdoor dining is the perfect way to take advantage of our summery Florida weather. For true aficionados, however, the summer barbeque can take on a very different taste with unusual food to try your hand at. There are a lot of grilling possibilities to explore. Whether it’s hamburgers for two at a campsite or the whole hog at a family barbeque move the kitchen outside and spice up your meals!

When it comes to grilling food, using the right barbeque sauce can make all the difference! While you can buy a number of different types of barbeque sauces at your local grocery store, you can also easily whip up a new sauce that will give your favorite grilled food a fresh kick. By switching up your barbeque sauces, you can instantly change a traditional meal into an exotic treat. Marinating your food before you cook will not only add more flavor, but it will also tenderize, or soften the food, which makes for a more succulent meal!

Using Marinades versus Barbeque Sauces
A marinade is a type of sauce with or without herbs, that you can use to flavor and tenderize food before you cook it. In contrast, barbeque sauces are liquids you use on food as you cook it. In most cases, you can use marinades before and during the cooking process. However, barbeque sauces generally don't make good marinades, as they aren't acidic enough to penetrate, tenderize and flavor uncooked meats and fish. Here are some handy marinating and cooking time guidelines from

Marinating and Cooking Times

As you marinate the food, remember that the precise amount of time you need to leave your food in the marinade will depend on the size and thickness of that food product. The smaller the piece of food, the shorter the marinating time will be. For example, a smaller piece of fish will fully marinate faster than a thicker piece of steak.

How to Marinate Food

Marinating food is one of the easiest steps of the cooking process. Once you have chosen the type of food and the marinade, follow these steps to properly marinate it:
  1. Place the raw food in a bowl or a glass baking dish. Avoid using metal bowls when marinating, as the acidic marinades can react with the metal, making your food unsavory or unhealthy to eat.

  2. Season the food on both sides with salt and pepper.

  3. Pour the marinade over the food. If your food has a layer of fat or thick skin, peel back part of the fat or skin so that the marinade can reach the flesh more easily.

  4. Rotate the food in the marinade so that both sides are covered in the sauce.

  5. Cover and refrigerate the bowl or glass pan for half of the marinating time.
  6. Once half of the marinating time has passed, turn the food over so that the other side is submerged beneath the marinade.
  7. Cover and refrigerate for the remainder of the marinating time.

Once the marinating time is up, you can start cooking your flavored and tenderized food. Remember to toss out any remaining marinade and don't reuse it, as the contact with raw meats and fish has made it unsafe to eat


Grilling Fruit

The great fruit-grilling movement is sweeping the country. Be adventurous and try your hand at grilling fruit as part of your cookout meal. Some grilling experts say that almost any fruit can be grilled, and they taste delicious. All we can suggest is that you try it!

Firm fruits like apples, pears, and pineapple are delicious and easy to grill. Softer fruits like mango, papaya, peaches, and nectarines require special attention since they cook quickly, and if overcooked, will reduce to a mush. These fruits need only to be heated and not "cooked." You might also like to try bananas, tangerines, and pineapples grilled in their skins. In general, leaving the skin or peel on the fruit helps it maintain its structural integrity as it cooks. Some people like to brush on olive oil. Softer fruits like peaches and nectarines might need to be put on foil that has several holes poked in it. Many fruits, including bananas, pineapples, peaches, plums, apples and pears can be cut in half, pitted or cored and then grilled. Oranges and other juicy fruits do best cut into thick slices. Have fun and experiment.

Place large pieces directly on the grill and smaller pieces on skewers or in a grill pan . To prevent their sticking to the grill, baste items very lightly with melted butter, a non-stick vegetable oil spray or an oil-based marinade.

There is any number of sauces that you can marinate the fruit in before grilling, brush on during grilling and/or serve with the fruit after grilling. Among the simplest may be a purée of the same fruits you’ve grilled, augmented with a little lemon juice and drizzled over the fruit after grilling. An even simpler approach is to bypass a sauce and sprinkle the fruit with brown sugar, cinnamon or ginger.

Grilling Vegetables

Go to your local farmer’s market and choose locally grown, sustainably raised fruits and vegetables. When you eat produce that has been picked only a day or two beforehand, you won’t need sauces or many flavorings.

Grilling vegetables couldn't be easier! All you have to do is brush on some extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste (if desired at all) and throw them on the grill. Vegetables don't need the same high heat that meat does, so it's best to cook them toward the sides of the grill where heat tends to be lower. Vegetables are best cooked over medium heat; fruits cook most evenly when cooked over low heat. Grilled asparagus is extremely popular. All you have to do is brush on olive oil, season to taste and put on the grill for 4 - 5 minutes in a grill basket that you’ve sprayed with oil. Portobello mushrooms are equally popular. Coat them also with extra virgin olive oil, season and simply throw on the grill. Cook for 6 to 10 minutes, turning once. But don't be shy - toss any vegetable on the grill to see how it tastes.

Shish Kabobs – The Portable Grilled Meal

The natural taste of shish kabobs is a perfect choice for guests or family meals. The versatile beauty of shish kabobs allows you to use any combination of meats, seafood, fruits and/or vegetables to please any palate. Just think of it; an entire meal on a stick! Kabobs can also be prepared in advance so you can enjoy spending more time with your guests.

Be creative and make fruit or vegetable shish kabobs with a variety of your favorite fresh produce. If you're making kabobs use rosemary branches instead of the common wooden bamboo skewers. Just strip the leaves from a rosemary branch and soak the branch in water for 30 minutes before threading the meat, veggies or fruit onto the branch. The wonderful rosemary flavor will be infused into the food as it is grilling!

Desserts Hot Off the Grill

Why not grill the whole meal? Grilled dessert recipes are fun and easy to make, but they also taste great and they’re healthy too! Here’s a great recipe from The American Institute for Cancer Research.

Grilled Fruit with Strawberry Dip
8 oz. part-skim ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp. plain non-fat yogurt
1/4 tsp. dried, ground ginger
8 strawberries, halved
4 peaches, halved or quartered
8 chunks pineapple
4 plums, nectarines, or papayas, halved
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. granulated sugar

In a blender, purée cheese, strawberries, yogurt and ginger together until smooth. Refrigerate the dip for 2 hours before grilling fruit.

When ready to grill fruit, thread pieces of prepared fruit onto 8 skewers. Mix together vinegar and sugar. Grill fruit until lightly browned, turning frequently and brushing with vinegar mixture during grilling.

Serve grilled fruit with sauce on side.

Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 102 calories, 2 g. total fat (1 g. saturated fat), 18 g. carbohydrate, 4 g. protein, 2 g. dietary fiber, 40 mg. sodium.


Barbeque Information and Facts

The American Institute for Cancer Research

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