Summer is only weeks away! The season of longer days and warm evenings is perfect for cooking and dining outdoors. So fire up the grill and experiment with these unexpected foods that will make for a unique al fresco meal!
1. Grilled Cheeses
Grilling cheeses is a total game changer. Spoon on some olive tapenade and serve as an appetizer with crackers, add to salads, or even skewer with summer fruit and drizzle with reduced balsamic vinegar. Certain cheeses work better than others, though. Serious Eats recommends:
- Provolone. Finish with some olive oil, fresh herbs, and crushed red pepper, then spread on grilled baguette.
- Halloumi. A great place to start! Serve with other Greek or Mediterranean flavors in salads, skewers, or in a pita with vegetables and tzatziki.
- Kefalotyri. Also made from sheep or goat milk, this cheese has a high melting point so it can stay on the grill long enough to achieve a nice char. Serve on its own for an appetizer with a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Queso Panela. A Mexican semi-soft cow’s milk cheese with a light and fresh flavor. Delicious with salsa.
2. Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Put the grill back in grilled cheese! Set out a variety of breads, cheeses, spreads, and add-ins so everyone can construct a custom sandwich. And, grilling them means you can cook the sandwiches all at the same time.
Things to keep in mind:
- Use a thick, hearty bread that won’t easily crumble or fall apart, like a sourdough, rye, or French loaf.
- Choose a quality cheese that melts easily.
- Add a flavor accent, like mustard, jam, sun-dried tomatoes, or fresh herbs. The options are endless!
- Brush the outside of the bread with plenty of olive oil so it doesn’t stick!
- Start the sandwich on an area of the grill with medium heat to get a nice toast on the bread (and those crucial grill marks!). Then move the sandwich to a lower heat area and place the cover of the grill on to melt the cheese.
- Flip carefully! Use a plate and a spatula if you’re worried about the insides falling out.
3. Grilled Pizza
High heat cooking is perfect for pizza – crust that’s crispy on the outside and doughy on the inside, plus perfectly melted cheese. Throw it on the grill, with or without a pizza stone, for outdoor feast perfection. It may take a little trial and error, but here are some tips from Bon Appetit to get you started:
- Prep your toppings first! The dough will only need 1-2 minutes to cook, so prepare your meats and roasted veggies before assembling on the grill.
- Whether you go with homemade or store-bought dough, make sure it isn’t too sticky. Add plentiful flour while kneading and rolling, and brush with a quality extra virgin olive oil before grilling.
- Don’t use too much sauce, or the crust will get too soggy. The traditional Italian sauce is a simple combination of crushed canned tomatoes, thinned with their juice and seasoned with salt.
- Experiment with using two cheeses, one mild and melty, and one harder cheese.
- In general, use restraint! Less is more, for ease in cooking and eating. Plus, you don’t want any one ingredient to take over.
- Add something fresh to serve! A sprinkle of fresh herbs, drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkle of flaky salt are all excellent final touches to make your pizza stand out.
4. Grilled Cocktails
Grilled fruit to add to cocktails that is! Muddle some grilled summer fruits like pineapple, peaches, lemons, and plums into mixed drinks – they’ll caramelize and char to add both smoky and sweet flavors to the drink. Here are some delicious sounding recipes from chefs and bartenders all over the country.
- Grill fresh tomatoes for a mix-less Bloody Mary.
- In early summer, grill citrus and grapes for Chef Michael Chiarello’s take on Sangria.
- Charred peppers are made into a homemade simple syrup in Saveur’s recipe for a charred chile daiquiri.
Enjoy and happy grilling! And remember to practice safe grilling – avoid putting anything dripping with extra virgin olive oil over open flame.