Natural born grillers

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When it’s too hot and humid to even think about heating up the kitchen, those of us lucky enough to have a bit of outdoor space begin to look at our grills as necessities rather than luxuries. But, just as with anything else in life, it’s all too easy to fall into a rut. After all, man cannot live by hamburgers and hot dogs alone. (No, really. You can’t.) To help keep your dinners interesting and diverse during these long, sultry days, I’ve put together some alternatives to the burger/chicken/steak grilling paradigm.

First up: beef satay with spicy peanut dipping sauce. Is there anything more fun than eating meat on a stick? These crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside skewers are, in a word, addictive. The marinade—fragrant with lemongrass, ginger, garlic and cilantro—smells so good you might be tempted to devour the strips of flank steak raw, but do wait until the grill has imparted its charred goodness to the meat.

Grilled salads are one of my favorite summertime sides. Here, the kale and radicchio get charred and crispy; the endive’s bitterness turns buttery; and the whole lot is balanced with mild ricotta and tangy, sweet balsamic vinegar.

I tend to prefer savory foods over sweet ones, and because of that I realize there has been a dearth of desserts in these pages of late. To rectify that state of affairs, I made not one but two sweet grilled treats. Pound cake doesn’t really need any help to be delicious, but grilling it makes it even more luscious; serve it up with a dollop of mascarpone and a mixed berry compote, and you’ve got a colorful dessert home run.

Finally, grilling pineapple caramelizes the sugar and makes a piece of healthy fruit seem decadent. As for the butterscotch sauce…it is decadent, and if you can manage not to lap up all of the leftovers straight off the spoon, then I admire your self-control.

Note: All instructions refer to a charcoal grill. For a gas grill, use the same temperatures and times; these dishes also could be cooked on a griddle pan on the stove.

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Grilled Pineapple with Vanilla Mochi & Boozy Butterscotch Sauce

Serves 2

4 Slices cored pineapple, about ½-inch thick

Melted butter, for brushing

2 Pieces vanilla mochi ice cream
Fresh mint, for garnish

For the Boozy Butterscotch Sauce:
(makes about 1 cup—you will have extra, and you will be very glad!)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup dark brown sugar

½ cup heavy cream

Fresh vanilla (from approx. 1-inch
of a fresh vanilla bean)

½ teaspoon kosher salt, or more
to taste

2 tablespoons bourbon

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar and cook until it liquefies. Whisk in the cream, vanilla and salt. Bring to a gentle boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the bourbon. Allow to cool—if the sauce seems thin when it’s hot, don’t worry, it will thicken as it cools.

Meanwhile, brush the pineapple slices on both sides with melted butter. Grill over medium high heat for about 3 minutes per side, until heated through and grill marks appear. Serve 2 slices of pineapple with a piece of mochi ice cream, and drizzle generously with the butterscotch sauce. Garnish with fresh mint.


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Charred Salad with Kale, Endive, Radicchio & Ricotta

serves 2

4 leaves kale

4 leaves radicchio

2 endive, split lengthwise

3-4 tablespoons ricotta

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Balsamic vinegar

Lightly coat the kale, radicchio and endive with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Grill the kale for about 30 seconds per side, until slightly charred around the edges; do the same for the radicchio. Grill the endive cut-side down for about 1 minute. Serve with dollops of ricotta and a drizzle of
balsamic vinegar.


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Beef Satay with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

makes 24 satay skewers

1½ pounds flank steak

Marinade:
1 stalk lemongrass (white part only), minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

4 tablespoons neutral oil (such as grapeseed)

Juice from 1 lemon or lime

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Small handful fresh cilantro, chopped

Peanut Sauce:
½ cup creamy peanut butter

¼ cup hot water

1 teaspoon sugar

Juice from ½ lemon

2 tablespoons Huy Fong chili garlic sauce (or more, to taste)

Cut flank steak in half lengthwise (with the grain), then cut into 2- to 3-inch strips approximately 1⁄8- to 1⁄4-inch thick. (Note: If you have a hard time slicing the steak thin enough, put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes then slice it.)

Mix the ingredients for the marinade, add steak strips and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for approximately 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the peanut sauce. Add the hot water to the peanut butter and stir in all the other ingredients. If the sauce is too thick, add water. Cover and set aside. While the grill heats to high, thread 2 steak strips onto each skewer. Brush the grill lightly with oil, and cook the skewers over the hottest part of the grill for approximately 3 minutes per side. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with the peanut sauce.


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Grilled Pound Cake with Mixed Berry Compote & Mascarpone

makes enough compote for 4-6 slices pound cake

For the compote:
1½ cups ripe mixed berries (I used blackberries, blueberries and red raspberries)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon honey

Fresh vanilla, from approx. ¼ inch of vanilla bean

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon mascarpone per slice of pound cake

Pound cake, sliced into 1-inch slices

Melted butter, for brushing

In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, combine the compote ingredients and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently until the fruit has softened and released some of its juice. Allow to cool—it will thicken slightly.

Meanwhile, brush the pound cake on each side with melted butter. Grill over medium heat for 1 minute per side, or until it has crisped slightly. Serve with a dollop of mascarpone and a generous helping of the berry compote.

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