The grilling season is upon us. That means some 80 million of us will be out there, happily grilling hot dogs, steak and hamburgers.
Which is all well and good. But what if we want something more? Something different. And I’m not talking about vegetable kebabs, chicken or fish, or even shrimp (though grilled shrimp is amazing, and not enough people make it).
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.
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 is 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 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 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 without tearing it?
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. 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.
11/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
11/2 tablespoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon granulated sugar or honey
31/2-41/2 cups all-purpose flour
11/2 teaspoons salt
In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Whisk or stir with a fork. Allow to sit 5-10 minutes, until the top becomes frothy.
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 5-7 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.
Prepare the grill for indirect heat. Cover one side of the grate with aluminum foil. Heat grill to hot.
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 20-40 minutes for this type of bread; other breads may take longer.
Cool on a rack before serving.
Nutrition information per serving: 142 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 1 g sugar, 1 g fiber, 296 mg sodium, 8 mg calcium.
— Recipe adapted from www.mymundaneandmiraculouslife.com
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
2-4 ounces mozzarella cheese
Toppings (your choice)
Prepare the grill for direct heat, and heat to medium-hot. Lightly coat back of a baking sheet with nonstick spray or oil. Have toppings prepared and available.
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.
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 2-3 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 3-5 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving (minus toppings): 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.
— 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
11/2 teaspoons salt
11/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for coating bowl
21/2-3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
In a large bowl, mix the yeast, water and sugar, and stir well to combine. Set aside until foamy, about 5-10 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.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead for 5-7 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.
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.
Nutrition information per serving: 390 calories, 69 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 9 g protein, 872 mg sodium, 0 g 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 the oil. When hot, stir in the onions and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook 30 seconds.
Stir in the tomato sauce, oregano, red pepper and cheese. Simmer until thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Taste, and add salt and pepper, if needed.
Nutrition information 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
1 package (11/2 pounds) cooked polenta
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or other herb
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
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.
Set up the grill for direct grilling, and heat to high.
Arrange the polenta slices on the hot grate, and grill until lightly browned, 2-4 minutes per side. Sprinkle with Parmesan and pepper before serving.
Nutrition information 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”
TRULY GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH
1/2 tablespoon butter
2 slices bread
1 ounce easily melted cheese, such as American or cheddar
Prepare a grill for direct heat, and heat to medium-high.
Melt the butter in a small skillet. Place the cheese between the 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.
Nutrition information 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
1 whole head romaine lettuce
1 teaspoon olive oil
Prepare the grill for direct heat, and heat to medium-high. Brush or rub the olive oil all over the exterior of the lettuce.
Place whole head of lettuce directly over the coals or gas, and cook until charred grate marks are visible, about 2-3 minutes each side.
For Caesar salad, serve drizzled with Caesar dressing, a sprinkling of lemon juice and optional croutons.
Nutrition information per serving: 126 calories, 21 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 8 g protein, 50 mg sodium, 7 g sugar.
— Recipe by Daniel Neman
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
Heat the grill or grill pan to medium heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime zest and juice, honey, and olive oil. Brush mixture over both sides of the watermelon.
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.
Nutrition information 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