By now it’s mid-grilling season, and you might be sick of throwing the same burgers, chicken and hot dogs on the grill. Don’t take your cooking back inside quite yet! Your grill can be just as versatile as your oven.
Exposing just about any food to flames produces a nice char, elevates flavor and keeps mess to a minimum. From decadent desserts to charred salsas, here are six unexpected items to make on the grill.
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Lettuce may not be the first thing you think about tossing on the flames, but a warm romaine salad can be delicious. Just ask author Danny Seo, who features a version in his new cookbook, Naturally, Delicious Dinners. He chars everything in the salad — romaine hearts, lemons, onions and corn.
Seo first tosses everything except the corn in a maple-Dijon dressing, then grills the romaine, lemons and onions for 2 minutes per side. He blisters the corn on the cob on the grill, then shaves it over the salad once it’s cooled. For a final touch, he squeezes the grilled lemons over top.
You can do the same thing with a Caesar salad or a hearty cabbage, lightly tossing the leaves in olive oil and charring for two minutes per side, finishing with the dressing afterwards.
Grilled cheese — hold the bread — is a tasty option. Just pick a cheese solid enough to withstand the heat.
Halloumi cheese from Cyprus is a great pick; it develops a crispy exterior and a melty middle. Add a little olive oil to avoid sticking and grill just 3 minutes on each side to create the perfect topping for a salad with watermelon and mint, or greens and cucumbers tossed with a red wine vinaigrette.
Another great choice? Try northern Finland’s Juustoleipa, or bread cheese, as it’s more commonly known in the U.S. This cheese doesn’t contain any actual bread but has a bread-like texture when grilled. It makes a great addition to a grilled vegetable platter. A recipe from Wisconsin Cheese suggests coating the cheese in balsamic vinegar and then toasting for 2 to 3 minutes on each side on a lightly oiled grill. You can also add this cheese to vegetable kabobs — just skewer the cheese, along with tomatoes, chunks of bread and basil and then grill.
Another option: Paneer, a cheese popular in many Indian dishes, holds up well to strong flavors, so try seasonings like cumin, turmeric, chili powder, garlic powder and even cayenne, or prepare with classic tikka or tandoori spice mixes. You’ll want to cook paneer for around 5 to 7 minutes over the flame, depending on the thickness of the pieces.
3. Salsas and dips
You can make a flavor-forward, smoky salsa by prepping your ingredients on the grill. Lightly oil grill grates and put down halved tomatoes or tomatillos, a halved onion, jalapeño peppers, and garlic. Char to taste, then put everything in a food processor or hand chop when the vegetables are cooled. Add lime juice, salt and cilantro. (You can use extra grilled tomatoes for a Bloody Mary, too.)