Summer is here, with hot afternoons, bright colors and happy faces. Parties are in full swing with grilled food and chilled drinks. Memorial Day at the end of May is the start of the grilling season.
Grilling is an All-American tradition. It is a method of cooking food at high heat over direct flames. Grilling is different from bar-b-que. Bar-b-que is cooking marinated foods at temperatures between 200 and 300 degrees F. Grilling is about cooking foods at very high heat, well above 400 degrees F. Most barbeque sauces are tomato and sugar based and will burn if they are used for grilling.
The Art of Grilling
The veteran Grill Meister is patient, vigilant, and proactive. He or she knows how to chill with the grill. Grilling involves cooking food over direct and indirect heat. Direct heat comes from the coal when the food is placed right above the flame. Indirect heat is when the hot coal is placed to one side and the food is placed away from the hot coal and cooked. Many people also like to place a bowl of water under the food to prevent it from drying out.
Unlike an oven, where the temperature rises slowly, grills heat up to 500 degrees F in minutes. Therefore grills are not for those who prefer kicking back at a pool or in a chair. Grills demand a fair share of attention.
– You have a choice of charcoal or gas grills. Both work equally well. Charcoal is more work than gas, but die-hard grillers will swear by it any day.
– Grilling should be done outdoors only, in a well ventilated place away from inflammables, dry bushes and homes, to avoid fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. The only form of indoor grilling you should ever do is the broiler in the oven or the electric plug-in grills.
– When you open that gas grill, don’t just wing it. Read the manual!
– Use proper grilling utensils and tools – grill brush and tongs. Make sure they have long handles.
– Grilling takes time, so give yourself an early start before your guests start waiting in line for their grilled treats.
-If there is a lid on your grill, close it to ensure even grilling.
– Keep a big box of baking soda, to put out the small fires and a bucket of sand to put out the big ones. You will be surprised how often this happens, when a brave soul offers to grill while you step away to get a drink.
– Be attentive to what you are grilling to avoid burnt, dry foods.
– Make sure there is enough food for everyone.
– The grill has to be clean all through the grilling. Use a grill brush after each round of grilling to remove crumbs and then brush the grate with oil.
– Forks are for eating, and not grilling. Use tongs for grilling meats. They keep the juices intact.
– Do not walk away from a hot grill when meats are grilling, never leave them un- attended.
Do not move the grill after you have started the fire.
Do not spray cooking oils on a hot grill. It causes flare ups.
Do not use marinades with sugar or tomato sauce to baste foods on the hot grill, this causes burning of foods.
Do not flip meats constantly. Meats placed on a grill need only one flip or turn over. Constant flipping makes the meat dry and tough. Once you place the meat on the grill leave it for a couple of minutes, bend down on your knees to be at eye level with your meat., hold the corner and lift a bit to see if the grate line is charring, and not burnt, then flip.
So All You Grillers!
Let’s fire up those grills in the backyard and grill and chill away…
Here are my favorite marinades for grilling. Enjoy!
½ cup of olive oil
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
½ tsp fresh parsley, chopped fine
½ tsp fresh thyme, chopped fine
½ tsp fresh rosemary, chopped fine
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Vegetables to be grilled:
1 zucchini, cut into long strips
6 cherry tomatoes
1 bell pepper, small, seeded and cut into squares
6 button mushrooms
1 red onion, small cut into squares
1 fennel bulb, small, cored and cut into small pieces
Soak the wooden skewers in water for an hour. Place all the cut vegetables and the marinade in a glass bowl and let it marinate for at least 4 hours. Skewer the marinated vegetables in the order – zucchini round, tomato, bell pepper square, mushroom, red onion square, and fennel. Place it on a hot grill and let it cook for 7-10 minutes until soft, turning the skewers once for all round cooking.
Note: If you don’t have fresh herbs substitute a 1 tsp of Italian dry herbs.
½ cup black soy sauce
¼ cup maggi hot and sweet ketchup
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp tamarind concentrate in ¼ cup water
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp maple Syrup
Salt to taste
Measure all the ingredients into a glass jar and stir it well. This marinade can be used for fish, chicken and tofu (firm or extra firm). Let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator. The fish (preferably salmon) placed on a hot grill takes about 5-7 minutes on each side to cook or until its opaque. The chicken will take 10-12 minutes to grill. The tofu has to be pressed to remove excess water before marinating it.
Paneer Tikka Marinade
1 cup thick yogurt
4 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
3 Thai chilies
2 small shallots
1 cups fresh mint (tightly packed)
1 cup fresh cilantro (tightly packed)
I Tbsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chaat masala
1 lime (juice)
Salt to taste
Vegetables chopped to bite size pieces: Bell peppers, Red onions, mushrooms etc.
Soak skewers in water for an hour. Grind garlic, ginger, chilies, shallots, mint and cilantro to a smooth paste. Add the garam masala powder, cumin powder, chaat masala powder, lime juice and salt. Mix well with yogurt. Marinate the paneer and vegetables in this yogurt mixture for at least 4 hours. Skewer the paneer and vegetables and place it on a hot grill until the paneer is grilled and vegetables are soft. Remove and serve with a slice of lime.
This simple drink is an all time favorite at my summer parties…
1 Half gallon of limeade
1 Tbsp of jal jeera powder
1 Tbsp Fresh mint leaves
Mix the jal jeera powder and mint at least an hour early and keep refrigerated. Pour a glass of Minty Limeade into a margarita glass and place a drink stirrer with a piece of lime in it.
Buy inexpensive plastic pitcher’s to be placed at tables with glasses/cups. Fill each pitcher with cold water and add a few cucumber slices in one, sliced strawberries in one, orange slices and more.