The grills have been aflame for a few months, but maybe you're tired of the same old burger-and-brat show. But "the grill is a wonderful thing," says Eric Roenning, co-owner of Artamos Specialty Meat & Deli. "You've always got a lot of meal choices."
Fish steaks of marlin, tuna, swordfish and moonfish are top summer grill choices at The Seafood Center, says owner Scott Kennedy.
Also, in-season favorites wild Alaskan salmon and wild-caught halibut are other prime choices for the flame.
Though it all sounds a little on the fancy side, grilling seafood, insists Kennedy, is "an easy, one-flip job."
"Most seafood is just one flip. Cook 5 minutes or so on one side, then flip and cook on the other. If it's a thicker cut, it'll take longer, but seafood was meant for the grill."
Overcooking seafood will leave it bland and dry. To best determine how long to cook a specific piece of fish, measure it at its thickest part (any stuffing included), and allow 10 minutes per inch. Fish is done when it begins to turn opaque and flakes when teased with a fork.
A moderately hot fire is best for fish and shellfish.
"The upside of seafood is it's on and off in 10 minutes," adds Kennedy.
For those who insists grills and buns go hand in hand, salmon burgers are the patty of choice at The Seafood Center.
Seafood steaks and skewers of shrimp and scallops do well with a marinade or glaze; something as simple as olive oil, garlic and fresh pepper, if that's all you want, says Kennedy. However, says Tom Wolowik, fishmonger at The Seafood Center, don't use fresh citrus juice for marinades and glazes for fish - it toughens the meat.
For tuna, Kennedy suggests searing the outside a bit; he thinks it "just has a better taste" that way.
While fresh seafood is best, frozen seafood can also be grilled; thaw it completely and let sit in a marinade, as freezing breaks down the fat in fish and tends to make the meat drier.
MORE THAN MEAT
Being that this is the land of red meat and cheese, sometimes it can be difficult to think beyond traditional grill fare, but vegetables, fruits and soy-based products all have a place over the coals, too.
"Vegetables are awesome," says Marcy Braun, a registered dietitian with UW Health. "Grilling really accentuates the flavor."
One suggestion from Braun is skewering asparagus to "make a raft of asparagus." This makes it easy to flip.
When grilling vegetables, a light coating of olive oil or a brief stay in marinade is necessary so the vegetables don't stick to the grill, notes Dan Moore, prepared foods manager at Willy Street Co-op. To grill directly on the grate, keep pieces as large as possible; if slicing something like zucchini, cut them lengthwise and keep the pieces uniform in thickness.
For small vegetables or vegetable pieces, consider a grill basket or skewer them; if using wooden skewers soak them in water for at least 20 minutes before loading them up.
Grill the vegetables over high heat, says Moore. "Searing the outside a bit cooks them up but keeps the flavor in."
For fruits, a glaze or light coating of oil keeps the pieces from sticking to the grill. Moore recently grilled up some plantains with a rum sauce and loves pineapple with a brown sugar glaze. Even a simple pur e e made of the same fruit to be grilled, with a splash of lemon juice. Brush it on before and during cooking, and spread it over the top once it has been grilled for sumptuous eating.
Firm fruits like pears, apples and pineapples are easiest to grill; softer fruits like peaches, mangoes and papaya require close watch as they'll easily turn to mush, so they should be heated instead of cooked. Even citrus fruits can be grilled; try larger pieces with the peel on or grill whole, cooking from the inside out.
While Moore says he hasn't tried grilling broccoli or cauliflower and his fruit-grilling experience is limited, "there are a lot of great fruits and veggies perfect for the grill."
Tofu, tempeh and soy-based products can also - believe it or not - share space on the grill.
Because tofu and tempeh are bland and dense, a long stay in marinade is needed, especially for thick block-type products.
"If you only keep it in for an hour, only the outside will have flavor," says Moore. "Give yourself upward of 24 hours to marinate. The longer you give it, the better. Plus, it won't break down like meat."
A good clean grill is a necessary for grilling tofu, tempeh and soy-based products, like freezer-section veggie burgers. And, because the fat found in traditional grill meats acts as a binder to keep the food together and vegetarian foods lack this fat, a light oiling of the grill grate or a sheet of foil are good choices for anyone less than confident in the tofu-flipping skills.
BEYOND THE BURGER
But sometimes, you just have to have a steak. A key mistake that grillers make time and again is charring their burgers and steaks. While some prefer the smoky, crispy taste it imparts, it's not only an epicurean no-no, but a health faux pas.
"When you have flesh foods on the grill, juices can drip down and flames flare up, which causes charring. That charring is a carcinogen, so you want to avoid that," says Braun.
For red meat, the stakes (pun intended) are even higher. A recent article in Newsweek by a pair of Harvard professors stated: "Red meat cooked at high temperatures generates potent mutagens called heterocyclic amines that could alter genes and possibly help cause cancer."
That might be a lot to chew, but Artamos' Roenning, offers an approach to grilling steaks that keeps charring to a minimum. Highlighted in the May/June issue of Cook's Illustrated, the "Hot-Cold" technique was outlined specifically for high-priced T-bones, of which charring is taboo, but the concept applies to many types of meat. Here it is, generalized and appropriate for most lean meats: 1. Create two heat levels on the grill, one hot, one cold. For gas grills, keep the heat low on one side; for charcoal grills, keep the coals concentrated on one side of the grill instead of spreading them out.
2. Sear (not char!) the outside of the steaks on the hotter side to give the meat a light crisp.
3. With the outside gently seared, finish cooking the meat on the cooler side of the grill, with the lid closed, until the preferred level of doneness is achieved or the internal temperature reaches its meat-specific target.
"I especially love this method for grilling chicken breast," adds Roenning.
While brats and burgers are gentle on the wallet, other cuts and types of red meat are getting their grill game on as well.
Ostrich and bison burgers do well at Artamos, and their nutritional content exceeds typical store-bought beef patties. Speaking of bison, their ribeyes have half the cholesterol of beef, are exceptionally high in iron and their omega-3 content, because they're grassfed, is comparable to salmon.
Potato sausages and chicken sausages are excellent substitutes for brats and hotdogs.
Lamb chops, with some butter, garlic and fresh rosemary and thyme, grilled five minutes on a side will "melt in your mouth," says Roenning.
For an upscale backyard party, ask for hanger steaks, which is the new trend in steaks (yes, there are trends in meat, too!). Roenning says Artamos is the only place in town to get them, but because they're a special cut, you'll need to order in advance.
FRESH CITRUS PEPPER MARINADE
Zest of 1 lemon, 1 lime and 1 orange, or any combination of citrus fruits 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper 1 teaspoon fresh cracked coriander Pinch of dill weed Mix together and brush on fish before grilling. Good for about 1 pound of fresh fish. Best on salmon, but can be used for other fish by omitting dill and adding salt to taste.
2 tablespoons Inglehoffer stoneground mustard 2 tablespoons real Wisconsin maple syrup Pinch of dill, fresh or dried Salt and free cracked black pepper to taste Mix all ingredients and divide glaze. Brush half on before grilling and the other half before serving. Serve with fresh lemon for a sweet and sour taste combination.
Great with wild salmon or trout.
Recipes above courtesy of Tom Wolowik, fishmonger, The Seafood Center, Whitney Way
GRILLED GARLIC BREAD
1 baguette French bread 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed 2 tablespoon roughly chopped rosemary sprigs Sea salt Small bamboo skewers, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes Slice bread into rounds, then in half again. Put oil, garlic and rosemary in a large bowl and add bread pieces. Toss everything together, making sure all the bread gets coated with oil.
Slide bread pieces onto bamboo skewers, four chunks to each skewer. Garlic bread can be prepared several hours ahead to this point; keep covered.
Cook bread over gentle heat on a barbecue hot plate (cast-iron griddle) until golden; if heat is too fierce, the bread will blacken too quickly. Season with a few pinches of salt and serve hot, or add to salads.
Note: This also works over a gas grill at low heat. Just be sure the grate is clean and oiled and watch the bread carefully.
Used with permission from "Sizzle: Sensational Barbecue Food" by Julie Biuso (Julie Biuso Publications, $19.95)
CARAMELIZED FRUIT KEBABS
Firm fruit Bamboo skewers, soaked in cold water for at least 30 minutes Cointreau liqueur or a liqueur or spirit of your choice Confectioners' sugar Prepare fruit by peeling, hulling or seeding as appropriate, then cut into small chunks. Thread fruit onto skewers, placing them on a plate as they are done. Sprinkle a little liqueur over kebabs and let macerate for 10 minutes, turning from time to time. Sift a little confectioners' sugar onto a plate.
Heat the grill to medium-high. When ready to cook the fruit, quickly pass kebabs through the sugar, then put them on the hot grill. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until the sugar is slightly caramelized. Serve immediately.
Serving size: 3 skewers per person Used with permission from "Sizzle: Sensational Barbecue Food" by Julie Biuso (Julie Biuso Publications, $19.95)
GRILLED BANANA SUNDAE
2 tablespoons butter 6 tablespoons brown sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/4 cup water 4 firm bananas, peeled 1 tablespoon melted butter Vanilla ice cream 1/2 cup pecan pieces In a small saucepan, combine 2 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, vanilla and water. Bring to a boil, stir to dissolve sugar and let cook at a full boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool. (If the mixture is too thin when cool, simply return to heat and boil for another 30 to 60 seconds.) Brush bananas with melted butter and place on a very hot grill. While the bananas are grilling, turn them periodically with a pair of tongs and brush with some of the brown sugar mixture. The bananas will take only a few minutes to heat through. If they are very ripe, they will cook very quickly.
Remove the bananas from heat and cut each banana into 3 pieces on the bias. Scoop ice cream into bowls. Top each with 3 pieces of banana. Spoon warmed brown sugar mixture over the top. Finish with a sprinkle of pecans.
From Del Monte, www.fruits.com
GRILLED STUFFED TOMATOES
Serves 4 4 large tomatoes 1 cup bread stuffing mix 1/4 cup Romano cheese, grated 2 Tablespoons green onion, chopped 2 Tablespoons melted butter Dash of pepper Slice a thin portion off the top of each tomato and discard the top. Scoop out the pulp from each tomato and chop and drain the pulp. Place tomato shells on a paper towel to drain. In a bowl, combine the chopped tomato pulp, stuffing mix, cheese, green onion, butter and pepper.
Lightly salt the tomato shells and fill with stuffing mixture. Wrap the bottoms of each tomato in a piece of heavy duty foil. Grill over medium heat for about 30 minutes.
From Del Monte, www.fruits.com