Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Grill, Grill, Grill

Here's my July column from the Petaluma Post...

Summer time is here and the grill is heating up.  Steaks, chicken, and hot dogs, but there is so much more…

Have you ever thought of a grilled salad?  Both savory and sweet items can be a great addition.  Try adding some grilled fruit to a spinach salad, the sugars in the fruit will caramelize and add a great flavor.  Peaches are a favorite; figs, plums, apples and pears are excellent finished with a drizzle of Honey and Balsamic.  Dress your salad with a light fruity dressing, pair with Chèvre or crumbled blue for an added zing.

Spinach Salad with Grilled Fruit
2 peaches
1 apple
6 figs
Olive Oil, salt and pepper

8 oz baby spinach
2 oz crumbled blue or Chèvre
1/3 cup fruit vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Honey to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

2 tsp Honey
1 tsp balsamic

Cut the peaches in quarters, core and slice the apple into ½ inch rounds, halve the figs, then toss lightly in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Next thread the figs on bamboo skewers to keep intact. Grill everything for 3 to 5 minutes until golden brown and tender.  Allow them to cool, then slice the peaches, apples and figs into bite size pieces. Display on a platter.

Combine balsamic with honey, and drizzle over the  grilled fruit to finish

Combine the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and honey to create a vinaigrette, then toss with the spinach and cheese.

Grilled vegetables are a staple at our house; zucchini, yellow squash, and asparagus are some of our all-time favorites. In the last couple of years I have been adding some other great items.  Have you tried baby carrots?  Slices of butternut squash?  Tomatillos- have a great tang!  When doing vegetables for large events we often bring in a piece of diamond grate (expanded metal mesh) to make sure the vegetables don’t fall through the grill; you can pick this up at any hardware store.  When prepping our vegetables we sort into two categories, hard and soft.  The hard vegetable will take longer to grill, such as carrots, squash, cauliflower, ½ cut onions.  Soft vegetables are zucchini, peppers, asparagus, mushrooms, and tomatillos.

Toss very lightly in olive oil, salt and pepper and your favorite herbs.  Do note, toss very lightly in olive oil, extra oil with cause flare ups which will cause smoke and you will get black soot on your vegetables.  We like to grill our vegetables first, just under done.  Then grill your meats and while they are resting, you can place the covered vegetable back on the grill to reheat and finish cooking.

Have you ever heard of a grilled cocktail?  Adding smoke is a great addition to your summer drinks.  Mescal is a typically smoky variant of tequila (technically tequila is a type of mescal).  Try using it in your next margarita to add a great smoky flavor.  To take that up a notch think about doing grilled limes for an added touch.  They are very easy to do, just split the limes and place on the hottest area of your grill for 5 to 6 minutes.  Juice as normal and add to you cocktail.  FYI: Mario & Johns has a good selection of Mescals (and everything else) and are happy to talk about them.

Mescal Margarita
1½  oz mescal
½  oz triple sec (or Cointreau)
1 oz fresh lime juice (fresh never bottled!)
Lime wedge for garnish
Salt the rim if the glass (optional)

I love the grilled peaches so much that I did it for our open house 5 years ago and I still get requests.

Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone
2 lbs peaches cut in half
8 oz mascarpone
2 Tbl honey
1 Tbl balsamic
2 Tbl olive oil
salt and pepper
Crostini or crackers

Follow the instructions for grilling peaches, expect this time you will cut the peaches in thin slices.  For a display, mound the mascarpone in the center of the platter, surround with the grilled peaches.  Combine the honey and balsamic, and drizzle over the peaches then finish with the olive oil, salt and pepper.

For some more grilling inspirations see my blog (blog.sonomacaterers.com) and search for grilled.  You find grilled artichokes, pork steak (a great cut), and grilled delicata squash salad.  Enjoy!

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