Food for the Grill

Tips for grilling meats, veggies and tofu + 3 marinade recipes

America loves to grill. The outdoor grill is an extension of the kitchen, a place where family and friends come together and celebrate. And a simple grilled meal is a great way to keep the kitchen cool — and keep food prep simple so you can entertain your guests and enjoy their company more.

Make the most of the experience with these tips on grilling veggies, tofu, meat, poultry and seafood — plus three exotic marinade recipes — to help make grilled meals their most flavorful and create a memorable outdoor dining experience.

Tips to get your grill on

Grilling veggies

Marinated grilled veggies served over grains, couscous or pasta is a satisfying and simple dish. Follow these guidelines to create a variety of outdoor feasts with a minimum of work.

  • Pick the right vegetable for grilling. Although almost any vegetable will work, some must be blanched first in boiling water or pre-cooked in the microwave before marinating and grilling. Broccoli, cauliflower, hard squash and leeks need to be pre-cooked.
  • Tender-fleshed vegetables such as mushrooms, portabello mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, eggplant, bell peppers, poblano chilies, thin asparagus and snow peas can be placed in a marinade for about an hour, then placed directly on a grill.
  • Cut vegetables into ½-inch-thick steaks, marinate them for at least an hour and place on a medium-hot grill. Cook about five minutes on each side while brushing with marinade. If you want to take the grilled vegetables to new heights, stack them like a Napoleon or sandwich two grilled portabello mushrooms together with cheese in between, like a garden version of the Big Mac.
  • Serve grilled vegetables over couscous or angel-hair pasta with your favorite sauce and top with either queso blanco, semi-hard white cheese or feta cheese.

Grilling tofu

  • Marinades really spice up the flavor of tofu and veggies. Try the marinade recipes below. The Chinese Vinaigrette is perfect with eggplant, zucchini, squash and peppers. The Mexican Marinade goes great with mushrooms, fresh corn-on-the-cob, chilis, jicama and thinly-sliced sweet potatoes.
  • To grill tofu, use firm or extra-firm textures. Slice into steaks, marinate tofu overnight and place right on the grill.

Grilling poultry

  • Chicken breasts (boneless or bone in), legs and wings should all be marinated overnight for best results.
  • To grill turkey breasts, try preparing them boned and flattened, or use bone-in halves, which take longer to cook, but which have an excellent smoky flavor. If you remove the bone from the turkey breast, pound it out slightly before marinating, and cook it slowly over flames for a crispy outside and moist inside. Whole turkey breasts with the bone left in must be cooked very slowly with a shallow pan of water at the bottom of your barbecue and a cover over the top for best flavor.
  • Experiment with Cornish hens that have been butterflied and marinated before grilling.

Grilling meats

  • Tender cuts of beef such as sirloin, flank steak, top round for London broil, tenderloins or rib steaks are the best for grilling.
  • Lamb rib and sirloin chops are great on the barbecue and lend themselves well to all marinades, although the Herb and Wine recipe below is a great complement for red meat. The wine in the marinade also acts as a tenderizing agent.
  • Skewer lamb-leg steaks and chunks before grilling.
  • Never add salt to a meat or poultry item until after it is grilled — it will dry out the meat and could toughen it.

Grilling seafood

  • Choose firm-fleshed fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut or grouper for best results. There's nothing more impressive than a side of salmon from the grill or a whole marinated snapper that has been scored and stuffed with fresh herbs and garlic cooked on the bone.
  • When cooking seafood, marinate only for an hour, as the flesh will "cook" when exposed to any acid such as wine or citrus juice.
  • Grill shrimp either in the shell or peeled on a skewer.
  • Large scallops threaded on skewers with vegetables are memorable.
  • For a simple and incredible dish, place whole, washed clams and mussels on a grill, cover with the grill lid or a metal bowl and cook for 10 minutes until the shells open. Serve with drawn butter and lemon or one of the dressings.

3 delicious marinade recipes

Red meat, poultry, seafood, tofu, tempeh and vegetable steaks such as portobello mushrooms can be prepared with a marinade up to two days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Vary the flavors by using different marinades with your favorite meats and meat substitutes.

Try these three exotic marinade recipes, which also make great salad dressings. Whip them up, cover and store in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Herb and Wine Marinade

Makes enough for four portions.

Prep time: 10 minutes

3 stalks each of rosemary (heavy stems removed), thyme (heavy stems removed), tarragon, oregano, basil, parsley
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup dry red or white wine such as sauvignon blanc, fume blanc or chardonnay
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon

Blend ingredients together in a food processor or blender until smooth.

Mexican Marinade

Makes 1 1/3 cup marinade, enough for four portions.

Prep time: 10 minutes

3/4 cup tomato juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lime
10 sprigs cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients well in a food processor or blender.

Chinese Vinaigrette

Makes 1-1/3 cups marinade, enough for four portions.

Prep time: 10 minutes

1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce (low-sodium)
1/2 cup water or apple juice
1 tablespoon dark-roasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (cider vinegar may be substituted)
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon minced ginger root
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder

Combine all ingredients well in a food processor or blender.

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