The grilling season is upon us, like a lion upon a gazelle. That means some 80 million of us will be out there, happily grilling hot dogs, steak and hamburgers.
Which is all well and good. Who among us does not enjoy a grilled hot dog, steak or hamburger? Or, for vegetarians, a grilled basket of vegetables?
But what if we want something more? Something different. And I’m not talking about chicken or fish, or even shrimp (though grilled shrimp is amazing, and not enough people make it).
What if we want grilled pizza?
What if we want grilled watermelon?
What if we want grilled Caesar salad, like restaurants used to make it in the 1990s?
What if we want a grilled cheese sandwich? Not one that is cooked on a pan or a griddle, but an actual grilled cheese sandwich?
What if we want to bake bread in a grill?
All you have to do is change your way of thinking. You have to start thinking of your grill as nothing more than a source of heat. You can cook on a pan with it, as you would your stove. If it has a cover, you can use it to roast and bake, as you would your oven.
I began with a loaf of bread. I made the dough for the simplest, easiest and definitely the fastest bread I know how to make, a One-Hour Bread. It doesn’t taste like anything special, though neither is it bad by any means. This particular bread’s greatest strength is that it only takes one hour to make, from start to finish.
I did not make a more complicated loaf because, frankly, I wasn’t 100% certain it was going to work, and I didn’t want to waste all of that time and effort on a loaf of bread that turned out either undercooked or overcooked — or weirdly cooked — on a grill.
I needn’t have worried. I actually ended up with what I think is the finest loaf of One-Hour Bread I have ever made; perhaps the charcoal added some complexity that is not ordinarily there. Even so, the bread ended up taking more than one hour to make. Whether the covered grill lost heat over time or if it never made up to the 425 degrees at which the bread us usually cooked, I don’t know.
Just call it an Hour-and-a-Quarter bread, and enjoy. Or better still, use your favorite bread recipe and be ready to extend the baking time if necessary.
I next made a pizza. With some pizza parlors boasting that they are wood-fired, and others proclaiming the superiority of coal-fired ovens, grilled pizza is a natural.
It’s only a little different from the standard way of making it. You brush both sides of the dough with olive oil (I made my own, but you can buy it at some stores) and cook one side over a medium-hot grill for just a couple of minutes. You turn it over, quickly add your sauce and toppings, and cover the grill. It will only take another minute or two to cook, and you end up with a classic pizza experience.
I kept to the unintentional theme of grilled carbohydrates with grilled polenta. This time I used store-bought, cooked polenta, the kind that comes in a tube, though there is nothing to stop you from making your own thick polenta, refrigerating it and then slicing it to grill it.
On the other hand, that’s a lot of work. The store-bought polenta was fine, especially when fancied up with olive oil, garlic and rosemary. And after it was grilled, it was topped with grated Parmesan and black pepper. It’s just delightful.
A grilled cheese sandwich came next, and that brought with it a conundrum: How do you butter the bread? After all, the butter is the best part of a grilled cheese sandwich?
This is only a problem when you use cheap, squishy bread. But cheap, squishy bread (with American cheese) is what makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches. I first tried buttering it, but that only tore the fragile slices. So I cheated, sort of. I melted butter in a skillet and dipped the sandwich in that before putting it on the grill.
Grilled cheese on a grill is definitely better than grilled cheese on a griddle.
I went back in time a bit for my next dish, grilled Caesar salad. It was a thing 20 years ago or so, and it is still good; grilling the lettuce adds an extra dimension to the salad that somewhat mitigates the richness of the dressing.
All you have to do is brush a little olive oil onto whole heads of romaine lettuce and place them on the grill. Serve the heads whole drizzled with Caesar dressing and Parmesan cheese. If you want, you can even turn grilled bread into croutons, too.
For a little something extra different, I ended by grilling slices of watermelon. Why not? First, I brushed on a mixture of lime juice, honey and olive oil, and then I placed the slices on the grill.
I’m not sure how or why this worked, but the grill seemed to change the nature of the watermelon. When I took it off the grill, the melon was more savory, less sweet. One taste tester said it reminded her of butternut squash, and I could only agree.
It’s a pleasant, if unusual, sensation. It’s certainly worth trying once, to see if you like it. Just don’t forget to add salt before eating it, to make the flavor pop.
Yield: 12 servings
1 1/2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 1/2 tablespoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon granulated sugar or honey
3 1/2 to 41/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Note: This recipe is just an example. Feel free to bake any bread you choose on the grill in the manner described in Steps 1 and 4.
1. Prepare grill for indirect heat. Cover one side of the grate with aluminum foil. Preheat grill to hot.
2. In a large bowl, combine water, sugar and yeast. Whisk or stir with a fork. Allow to sit 5 to 10 minutes, until the top becomes frothy.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the 31/2 cups of flour and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the yeast and water, stirring with a fork until it begins to form a stiff dough. Knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface, adding additional flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky, about 5 to 7 minutes. Form into a loaf shape and place on a greased baking sheet. Dust the top with flour and cover with a towel. Place in a warm place and allow to rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
4. Place grate on grill with foil side away from the coals or flames. Cut slashes in the top of the dough and place on the foil. Cover and cook until done and bottom of loaf sounds hollow when you tap on it. The time varies depending on your grill and how it retains heat, but it will be anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes for this type of bread; other breads may take longer. Cool on a rack before serving.
Per serving: 142 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; 4 g protein; 30 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 296 mg sodium; 8 mg calcium.
Recipe adapted from mymundaneandmiraculouslife.com
Yield: 2 servings
1 pizza crust dough, recipe follows, or use store-bought dough
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup pizza sauce, recipe follows, or use store-bought sauce
2 to 4 ounces mozzarella cheese
Toppings (your choice)
1. Prepare grill for direct heat. Preheat to medium hot. Lightly coat back of a baking sheet with nonstick spray or oil. Have toppings prepared and available.
2. On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Brush both sides with the olive oil and place on prepared back of baking sheet.
3. To transfer the dough to the grill, hold the baking sheet at an angle. Grab top edge of the dough and quickly invert it onto the grill (don’t worry if it is not a circle). Cook until bottom is golden, about 2 to 3 minutes, making sure the bottom does not burn. Flip the crust over with tongs and quickly add the sauce, cheese and toppings. Cover the grill and cook until the dough is cooked, the toppings are hot and the cheese is melted, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Per serving: 310 calories; 10 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 10 mg cholesterol; 22 g protein; 33 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 713 mg sodium; 548 mg calcium
Nutrition analysis does not include toppings. Adapted from Bon Appétit
BASIC PIZZA DOUGH
Yield: 2 pizzas (4 servings)
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, around 110 degrees
Pinch granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for coating bowl
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1. In a large bowl, mix yeast, water and sugar, and stir well to combine. Set aside until foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the salt, olive oil and 11/4 cups of the flour, and mix well to thoroughly combine. Add another 11/4 cups flour and mix well with your hands, working to incorporate the flour little by little. The dough should be slightly sticky to the touch.
2. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 to 7 minutes, adding additional flour as necessary to form a smooth and elastic dough that is not sticky. Transfer to a lightly oiled 2- or 3-quart bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
3. Divide dough into 2 equal portions and form into balls. Use immediately or wrap individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one day.
Per serving: 390 calories; 69 g carbohydrates; 7 g fat; 9 g protein; 872 mg sodium; no sugar
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse, via Food Network
EASY PIZZA SAUCE
Yield: Sauce for 2 pizzas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
Pinch crushed red pepper
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat and add oil. When hot, stir in onions and cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic clove and cook 30 seconds. Stir in tomato sauce, oregano, red pepper and cheese. Simmer until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.
Per serving (based on 4): 125 calories; 10 g carbohydrates; 7 g fat; 5 g protein; 852 mg sodium; 5 g sugar
Recipe by Daniel Neman
Yield: 8 servings
1 package (1 1/2 pounds) cooked polenta
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or other herb
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Unwrap the polenta and cut it crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Combine the olive oil, garlic and rosemary in a small bowl and stir with a fork. Lightly brush polenta slices on both sides with the flavored oil.
2. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.
3. Arrange the polenta slices on the hot grate and grill until lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Sprinkle with Parmesan and pepper before serving.
Per serving: 390 calories; 8 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 19 mg cholesterol; 11 g protein; 67 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 5 g fiber; 170 mg sodium; 146 mg calcium
Recipe from “Steven Raichlen’s BBQ USA,” by Steven Raichlen
TRULY GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH
Yield: 1 serving
2 slices bread
1 ounce easily melted cheese, such as American or cheddar
1/2 tablespoon butter
Prepare a grill for direct heat and heat to medium-high. Melt butter in a small skillet. Place cheese between slices of bread and place both sides of sandwich in pan to soak up the butter. Place sandwich on grill and cook until bottom is golden brown and toasty. Flip and cook until other side is golden brown and toasty.
Per serving: 301 calories; 29 g carbohydrates; 17 g fat; 9 g protein; 929 mg sodium; 5 g sugar
Recipe by Daniel Neman
GRILLED ROMAINE LETTUCE
Yield: 1 serving
1 whole head Romaine lettuce
1 teaspoon olive oil
Prepare grill for direct heat and heat to medium-high. Brush or rub olive oil all over exterior of lettuce. Place whole head of lettuce directly over the coals or gas, and cook until charred grate marks are visible, about 2 to 3 minutes each side. For Caesar salad, serve drizzled with Caesar dressing, a sprinkling of lemon juice and optional croutons.
Per serving: 126 calories; 21 g carbohydrates; 7 g fat; 8 g protein; 50 mg sodium; 7 g sugar
Recipe by Daniel Neman
Yield: 6 servings
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small watermelon, cut into 1-inch thick slices
Mint leaves, for garnish
Flaky sea salt, for garnish
Note: Do not omit the salt at the end.
Heat grill or grill pan to medium heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together lime zest, lime juice, honey and olive oil. Brush mixture over both sides of melon. Place on grill and cook until grill marks form and fruit softens slightly, about 1 minute per side. Sprinkle with mint and flaky sea salt, and serve.
Per serving: 178 calories; 41 g carbohydrates; 3 g fat; 2 g protein; 505 mg sodium; 35 g sugar
Recipe by Lena Abraham via Delish.
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