You know you can grill meat, poultry, and fish, and you probably do. However, there are many foods you have probably never in your life thought of grilling, but which work great on any grill, and can provide a delicious and unusual treat for your family. So, as long as you have that grill fired up, it's time to show off your grilling skills and amaze your family, friends, neighbours, and whoever else happens to wander by.
Of course, when you use any grill, you should be aware of grill safety and follow all safety procedures around the grill. In the old days, we used to drench charcoal in lighter fluid; we all now know that that is bad for us, but there are many places where you can buy natural charcoal, and you can start a charcoal grill either by building a fire or by using an electric charcoal starter. If the lighter fluid isn't safe to drink, the gas escaping from the lighter fluid probably isn't good to get onto your food, either! So use natural charcoal and start the fire without chemicals. If you have children who like to watch, make sure that they understand grill safety procedures, too. In addition, you will want to make sure that you are not causing dangerous chemical interactions, so be aware of how to grill without causing carcinogens.
What else can you grill besides meat, fish and poultry? There is such a wide variety of foods that can be grilled, that you can really let your imagination run wild! Try a few of these suggestions, then take a good look at your pantry and your cookbooks, and see what else may occur to you. Not everyone will like everything, but you are sure to find at least a few winners!
Vegetables can really achieve star status, even among people who hate vegetables, by subjecting them to a little judicious grilling. Grilling not only makes the vegetables look great, but also brings out the sugars in the vegetables as they caramelize, thus making the vegetables taste sweet, and therefore more appetizing, especially to children. Corn on the cob can be grilled by pulling down the shucks, twisting off the silk, and replacing the shucks. The shucks will keep the delicate corn kernels from burning, and grilled corn on the cob is a delight, indeed!
Other kinds of vegetables can also be successfully grilled: whole or sliced summer squash, like crookneck (yellow) squash, chayote, or zucchini, whole or sliced winter squashes, such as acorn, pumpkin, and butternut, asparagus, and whole or sliced eggplant. Other good candidates for the grill are onions, leeks, sweet or hot peppers, potatoes, and whole carrots or parsnips. Add a little butter, seasoning, sauce, or salsa and serve hot: you'll be amazed at how fast they get eaten!
If you have less firm kinds of vegetables, or more delicate kinds of vegetables, these can be grilled, too. You can either wrap them in plantain or banana leaves, or corn husks, which are available in many grocery stores, fashion foil packets for them, or put them in grilling baskets. Either way, you can grill broccoli, cauliflower, sliced potatoes, carrots, sugar snap peas or snow peas, or other vegetables. The grill marks will transfer to the vegetables, and you will have a delicious and appetizing side dish for your dinner. In fact, you can even grill mashed potatoes this way!
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However you choose to grill vegetables, you can add butter, seasoning, or sauce either before or after grilling. When grilling in foil packets, it's particularly easy to add a sauce to enhance the flavour, since the foil will keep the sauce from leaking onto the grill.
Another item you may never have thought of grilling is fruit. Fruit takes on a wonderful flavour after being grilled, and is a great way to impress your family and guests. For large, firm fruits such as apples and pineapples, you can slice them and put them directly on the grill. If you brush them with a little basalmic vinegar or lemon juice, and sprinkle a little pepper on them, you will have a wonderful dessert.
But all kinds of fruits can be grilled. More delicate fruits, such as melons, strawberries, kiwis, and other fruits can be successfully grilled in corn husks, banana or plantain leaves, grilling baskets, or in foil packets. Grilling fruits in a sauce will allow the sauce to soak into the fruit and enhance the flavours, and if you choose to use an alcoholic component like brandy, rum or wine in the sauce, the heat will cook off the alcohol.
If you have children, one thing they may really enjoy is grilled sandwiches. Brush the outside of a piece of bread with a little butter or olive oil, assemble the sandwich (minus the lettuce, but with the tomatoes and pickles), and place on the grill. Flip after a few minutes, and then open the sandwich, add the lettuce and mayonnaise or mustard, and serve. Children love these sandwiches and will wolf them down!
And adults love grilled bread, rolls, and all kinds of pastries. You can grill any kind of bread by brushing it with a smal amount of melted butter or olive oil, and for firm breads or pita, place them directly on the grill. For delicate pastries, place in a foil pan or packet and let the grill do its work. You've never tasted anything like it!
If your grill is also a smoker, you can smoke any of these foods previously mentioned. If you use foil packets, simply leave them open at the top, or use an open foil pan. By allowing the smoke to penetrate into the food, it takes on a wonderful depth that enhances the complexity of flavours. You can even use your smoker to enhance the flavours of desserts like pumpkin or apple pie or chocolate desserts.
If you decide to grill or smoke any of these foods, start with a small piece, let everyone try it, and let each person decide if they want their foods grilled or smoked, or fixed in a more traditional way. Your imagination and creativity are the only limits (although I have not had any luck grilling ice cream, yet)! Try any or all of these foods in your grill or smoker, and you will be basking in compliments from everyone you know!