In backyards and at campsites, grills will be sizzling all summer long as barbecue lovers throw burgers, chicken, steaks and veggies on the grill. But meat and vegetables aren't the only foods that cook up great on a grate.
You might not think about grilling fruit, but there are several good reasons to reach for a peach or any other favorite fruit next time you fire up the grill. When fruit meets flame, all kinds of deliciousness can happen.
Grilling brings out the natural sugars in fruit and caramelizes it for a more concentrated flavor. Besides intensifying fruit's sweetness, grilling gives it a smoky quality and multidimensional flavor, said Michael Combs, executive chef at Metropolitan Community College's Institute for the Culinary Arts.
Grilled fruit needs little preparation, cooks in minutes and makes a delicious addition to many meals, said Combs. Almost any fruit that holds its shape is suitable for grilling — peaches, figs, plums, apricots, pineapple, citrus, bananas, melons, mango.
To prepare fruit for the grill, Combs cuts and pats it dry, then tosses or lightly brushes it with a neutral oil to help keep it from drying out and sticking to the grill. He likes to use canola or grapeseed oil because they have a high smoke point. Cooking spray also works fine.
Cooked outside on a gas or charcoal grill (or indoors on a grill pan), grilled fruits can add texture, depth and flavor to sweet or savory dishes, from snacks and sandwiches to sauces and side dishes.
For a quick and easy dessert, Combs makes grilled peaches topped with a warm, spice-infused honey sauce. The peaches are halved, pitted and grilled on medium-high to high heat for a few minutes per side. For the sauce, he warms honey in a small saucepan along with cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. Served with whipped cream, a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, the grilled peaches are a sweet, juicy treat with a great-tasting contrast of warm and cold.
“Summer is the perfect time to enjoy it,” he said.
Grilled peaches are the star of a housemade barbecue sauce at Kitchen Table, a recently opened restaurant at 14th and Farnam Streets. Chefs-owners Colin and Jessica Duggan use the sauce in a variety of sandwiches, including a new item on their summer menu — the PPQ sandwich featuring porchetta, peaches and quark.
To make the sauce, the chefs start by pitting and quartering firm-ripe yellow peaches, which get tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper. The peaches are grilled on medium-high heat for a couple minutes per side, then added to tomatoes, garlic, fresh ginger, onion, brown sugar and molasses, among other ingredients. Cooked for several hours, the mixture develops a nice balance of sweet and smoky notes.
“Barbecue sauce takes on sweetness really well,” Colin Duggan said. “The nice thing about using fruit is you don't have to add a lot of sugar.”
Compared to other cooking methods, grilling the peaches deepens their flavor, adding a rich, smoky undertone to the barbecue sauce.
“It adds that little bit of char flavor,” he said.
For Phil Simpson, the appeal of grilled fruit is its sweet-smoky flavor and versatility. He grills pineapple and peaches to accompany some of the daily specials he serves from his Bellevue food truck, the 5 Buck Lunch Truck.
Among the recent offerings: hamburgers topped with grilled peach chutney and pecorino cheese. The peaches lend a subtle sweetness to counter the saltiness of the cheese. Simpson also likes to grill fresh pineapple. The fruit retains its shape when grilled and is still juicy. Simpson uses the grilled pineapple on burgers and in chicken wraps.
“It's sweet and sour and smoky,” he said.
Watermelon is another classic summer fruit that works well on the grill.
Slice watermelon into 1-inch thick rounds or wedges, grill on high heat for about a minute, just long enough for grill marks to form, Combs said. When grilling watermelon, he prefers to oil the grill grate instead of the fruit. To serve, dust the melon with a little chili powder, salt and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
To grill bananas (sliced lengthwise), pineapple or stone fruits, you can add brown sugar, honey or agave before or during grilling. Serve juicy grilled strawberries with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar reduction. (Thread several berries on wood or metal skewers so they don't fall through the grate.)
Whatever fruit you choose to grill, Combs said, don't be afraid to add a little salt, which helps bring out its flavor during grilling.
Recipe: Grilled Summer Fruit
• Nonstick spray
• 3 firm but ripe nectarines, halved, pitted
• 3 firm but ripe purple/black plums, halved, pitted
• 3 firm but ripe red plums, halved, pitted
• 6 metal skewers or thick wooden skewers soaked in water 30 minutes
• 3 tablespoons sugar
*Other fruit substitutions: apricots and peaches
Spray the grill rack with nonstick spray and prepare the grill (medium-high heat). Thread 1 piece of each fruit on each of six skewers so that the cut sides line up and lay flat. Sprinkle the sugar over the cut sides of the fruit. Let stand until the sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes.
Place the fruit skewers on the grill cut side down. Grill the fruit until it is heated through and caramelized, about 5 minutes. Transfer 1 fruit skewer to each plate and serve.
— Recipe courtesy of foodnetwork.com
Recipe: Grilled Figs with Blue Cheese and Citrus Honey
• 12 black mission figs
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 1 tablespoon orange juice
• 1 tablespoon lemon zest
• 2 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles
Cut figs in half lengthwise, and then grill over medium flame until heated through and slightly softened, about 1 minute.
Mix together honey, orange juice and half of the lemon zest and microwave for 20 seconds until honey is warmed. Drizzle over figs.
Top with blue cheese crumbles and remaining lemon zest and serve warm.
— Recipe courtesy of food52.com
Recipe: Grilled Strawberries with Limoncello Sorbet
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 2 cups water
• 1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon peel
• 1½ cups lemon juice
• 2 tablespoons limoncello
• 48 strawberries
• 1 cup powdered sugar
In a medium saucepan, combine granulated sugar and the water. Bring to boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir in lemon peel, lemon juice and limoncello. Cover and chill.
Transfer mixture to a 2- to 4-quart ice cream freezer; freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. Transfer sorbet to a nonmetallic freezer container. Cover and freeze for 8 to 24 hours or until firm.
On sixteen 6-inch skewers*, thread strawberries, leaving ¼ inch between pieces. Dip strawberries into powdered sugar, turning to coat.
For a charcoal grill, place strawberry skewers on the greased rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium-low coals. Grill about 6 minutes or until strawberries are heated through, turning frequently to heat evenly. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium-low. Place strawberry skewers on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.) Serve strawberries with sorbet. Makes 8 servings.
*If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling.
— Recipe courtesy of bhg.com