Summer doesn't officially begin until your barbecue gets sparked for the first time. Grilling (which is simply cooking on a hot grate) is a wonderful way to initiate the season because it's an excellent, lowfat cooking method for a variety of healthful foods -- from seafood and chicken to vegetables and even fruit. To maximize the health-and-nutrition potential of your barbecue, check out the three simple techniques here -- searing, fruit-and-veggie grilling, and butterflying -- along with three delicious recipes, one for each technique.
If you don't have an outdoor grill (or even a backyard), don't worry. These techniques and recipes are ideal for indoor grills -- such as the George Foreman or any other indoor electric grill -- and stove-top grill pans, such as All-Clad or Circulon, which are basically skillets with grates. (Preheat the grill pan just as you would an outdoor grill; cook food at medium-high heat.) Before you get grilling, though, see our tips (at left) so your food will cook perfectly every time.
Technique 1: Searing
You may think searing, as in "seared tuna," means raw in the middle. Not true: Searing simply means cooking the outside of meat, fish and poultry over very hot heat, and then finishing the cooking by another method. Searing on the grill creates a crisp, flavorful exterior and moist, wonderful interior, locking in flavor without adding fat.
Searing requires both "direct" and "indirect" cooking. First, food is placed on the hottest part of the grill for 2-3 minutes; the hot grate sears the meat, creating a crisp, caramelized texture (and those fabulous chef-quality grill marks). Then the seared food is moved to a cooler part of the grill (over "indirect" heat) with the lid closed to complete cooking. The heat circulates around the food -- similar to roasting -- so there's no need for flipping.
1. Place chicken on the hottest part of the grill and cook for 2 minutes. Turn the chicken 45 degrees, without flipping, and cook for another 2 minutes (this produces crosshatch grill marks).
2. Flip and repeat on the other side.
3. If the food needs further cooking, move it to a cooler spot on the grill and close the lid. (Very thin pieces of meat, fish and poultry will cook through in searing steps 1 and 2 and may not need further cooking.)
Seared Chicken in Orange Glaze With Scallion Brown Rice
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25-30 minutes
Foreman cook time: 12-15 minutes
Nutrient note: This meal is a good source of fiber, folate, cancer-fighting sulfur compounds (from green onions), vitamins B and C, and lean protein (from chicken).
Olive-oil cooking spray
1 1/2 cups instant brown rice
1 cup frozen green peas
2 green onions, chopped
Salt and black pepper, to taste
4 ears of corn on the cob
1/3 cup orange marmalade
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 4-ounce skinless boneless chicken breast halves
Spray outdoor grill or stovetop grill pan with cooking spray and preheat. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add brown rice, reduce heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in peas and green onions, cover and cook 5 more minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, microwave corn, still in husks, on high for 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle husks, remove them, wrap ears in foil and set aside. (You also can cook the corn directly on the grill, without foil. See "Hints for Grilling Veggies" below for details.)
In a small bowl, combine orange marmalade, soy sauce and sesame oil. Set aside. Salt and pepper both sides of chicken. Place chicken on the hottest part of the grill and arrange foiled corn around chicken, where grill is very hot. Grill corn for 5 minutes, until tender.
Cook chicken 2-3 minutes per side to sear it, rotating it once per side to create grill marks, then move it to a cooler part of the grill and allow it 5-10 more minutes to finish cooking. During the last 2 minutes of cooking, brush both sides of chicken with marmalade mixture.
Nutrition Score per serving (1 chicken breast half, 2/3 cup rice mixture, 1 ear corn): 510 calories, 15% fat (9 g; 1 g saturated), 57% carbs (73 g), 28% protein (36 g), 8 g fiber, 36 mg calcium, 3 mg iron, 260 mg sodium.
Technique 2: Grilling fruit
Grilling isn't just for meat and vegetables -- fruit works nicely too. A hot grill caramelizes fruit, bringing out its natural sweetness while softening the flesh. Since the flesh is tender, fruit needs only a few minutes per side. In fact, grilled fruit isn't really cooked, just heated. Firm fruits like apples, pears and pineapple are traditionally grilled, but softer fruits like peaches, plums, nectarines, mangos and papaya also work well. Feel free to substitute any of your favorite fruits in the recipe that follows.
1. Oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and bananas can be grilled with their skins on. Leaving the skin (or peel) intact helps fruit maintain its structural integrity as it cooks.
2. To cook on direct heat: Halve and core apples and pears; halve and pit peaches, nectarines, mangos and plums; halve and seed papayas lengthwise; halve bananas lengthwise; and cut oranges, tangerines and grapefruit into 1-inch-thick slices.
3. Brush the cut side of all fruits with olive or vegetable oil (the fresh flavor of olive oil pairs beautifully with fruit) or spray with nonstick cooking spray and place directly on hot grill.
4. Grill fruit for 2-3 minutes per side, until tender and golden brown.
Grilled Peach, Pineapple and Blueberry Parfait
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 4-5 minutes
Foreman cook time: 2-3 minutes
Nutrient note: Peaches are rich in vitamin A; pineapple is brimming with vitamin C; blueberries contain powerful cancer fighters called anthocyanins; almonds have heart-friendly monounsaturated fat; yogurt is loaded with bone-strengthening calcium.
Nonstick cooking spray
4 peaches, halved and pitted
4 1-inch-thick rounds fresh or canned pineapple (canned in juice)
2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil
4 tablespoons slivered almonds
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 cups lowfat vanilla yogurt
Spray outdoor grill or stove-top grill pan with cooking spray and preheat. Brush both sides of peaches and pineapple slices with oil. Place fruit on hot grill and grill 2 minutes per side. Then toast almonds in a hot, dry skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes, until golden, shaking the pan frequently to promote even browning.
Cut grilled peaches and pineapple into 1-inch cubes. Combine peaches, pineapple and blueberries. Spoon half of the fruit mixture into the bottom of 4 tall parfait glasses. Top each with 1/2 cup of yogurt. Spoon remaining fruit over yogurt and sprinkle toasted almonds over top.
Nutrition Score per serving (1 parfait): 251 calories, 29% fat (8 g; 1.7 g saturated), 58% carbs (37 g), 13% protein (8 g), 4 g fiber, 232 mg calcium, 1 mg iron, 83 mg sodium.
Technique 3: Butterflying and skewering
Butterflying is a technique that opens up thick pieces of meat, shellfish and poultry so the meat cooks more quickly and evenly, and the shrimp is kept from curling up. Butterflying is a healthy method for grilling food and can be used with shrimp, which are low in calories and fat and loaded with protein and zinc. Skewering shrimp (or any meat or vegetable) is a timesaver because you won't have to flip each piece individually.
1. To butterfly, lay a peeled shrimp on its side and, using a sharp knife, make a slice from about 1/4 inch from the tail through the inside curl, almost through to the other side but without cutting the shrimp in half.
2. With your fingers, open the shrimp and flatten it with the palm of your hand so it lies almost flat.
3. Skewer butterflied shrimp sideways, rather than lengthwise, so the skewer runs from one side of the butterfly to the other. When using wooden skewers, soak them in warm water for 30 minutes before using to prevent scorching.
4. Place shrimp on a hot grill for 2-3 minutes and turn the skewer over. Cook 2-3 more minutes until shrimp is bright pink and cooked through.
Butterflied Shrimp With Vegetables and Curried Couscous
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
Foreman cook time: 5-7 minutes
Nutrient note: Shrimp is an excellent source of zinc and lean protein; yogurt is rich in calcium; zucchini, yellow squash and red peppers are loaded with vitamin C.
Nonstick cooking spray
1 pound jumbo shrimp (about 16)
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons tandoori seasoning*
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick strips
1 yellow squash, sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick strips
1 small eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick strips
1 red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 cup whole-wheat couscous
1 teaspoon curry powder
Spray outdoor grill or stove-top grill pan with cooking spray and preheat.
Peel, devein (using a sharp knife, cut out the dark vein along the back) and butterfly the shrimp (see step 1).
In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt and tandoori seasoning. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Skewer shrimp onto metal or wet wooden skewers (see step 3), about 4-5 shrimp per skewer.
Brush vegetables with olive oil, season with salt and black pepper and place on hot grill. Grill 8-10 minutes, until golden brown and fork-tender, turning halfway through cooking. (See "Hints for Grilling Veggies," below.)
Grill shrimp alongside vegetables on hot part of grill 4-5 minutes, until shrimp are bright pink and completely cooked, turning halfway through.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, boil 11/2 cups of water over high heat. Add couscous and curry powder and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and season with salt and black pepper. Serve shrimp and vegetables with curried couscous on the side.
Nutrition Score per serving (3 ounces shrimp, about 4-5; 2 cups vegetables; 1/2 cup curried couscous): 279 calories, 16% fat (5 g; < 1 g saturated), 46% carbs (32 g), 38% protein (27 g), 8 g fiber, 265 mg calcium, 5 mg iron, 334 mg sodium.
*Tandoori seasoning can be found in your market's spice aisle, or make your own: Combine 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1 teaspoon garam masala (Indian spices). Or mix 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper.
6 Tips for Great Grilling
1. Before preheating, brush grates with olive oil or coat with nonstick cooking spray.
Some electric indoor grills, including the George Foreman, make this step unnecessary, thanks to their nonstick surfaces.
2. Watch cooking time when using an indoor grill. The Foreman grill works like a waffle iron (food gets cooked from both sides at once), so for all the recipes here, cut cook times in half (as noted in each recipe).
3. Let food cook for several minutes before flipping. Flip too soon or too often and your food will stick.
4. Spatulas are not for squishing. Pressing food while it cooks forces precious juices out and into the grill.
5. Let meat, fish and poultry rest 5-10 minutes after cooking, before slicing. This allows juices to resettle in the meat.
6. A clean grill = great taste. Residue on the grill grates -- such as burnt pieces of food and blackened sauces -- causes flare-ups, and flare-ups char food. After cooking, brush grates with a metal grill brush to remove debris.
Hints for Grilling Vegetables
Vegetables can be grilled two ways: in foil packets or directly over the flame.
> Use the foil method for small, irregularly shaped veggies.
Cut-up onions, Brussels sprouts, baby carrots, green beans, snap peas and cherry tomatoes are all good candidates. Place vegetables on a large piece of foil and season with salt and black pepper. Lift the edges and add 1 tablespoon of water. Bring up the sides so they meet and fold them over twice, leaving a little room for steam expansion. Then fold in the ends twice to seal the packet like an envelope. Grill the packet on the hottest part of the grill for 10 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking to shake up the veggies for even cooking.
> Cook larger vegetables directly on the grill.
"Larger" veggies include tomato halves, 1/2-inch-thick slices of zucchini, or yellow squash or eggplant slices. Brush vegetables with olive oil (or spray with olive-oil spray), salt and pepper them, then place them on the hottest part of the grill. Grill 4-5 minutes per side, until fork-tender.
You can cook corn directly on the grill without wrapping in foil. To prepare corn, soak ears (with the husks on) in a large bowl or bucket of water for 1 hour. Drain, shake ears to remove excess water and place them directly on the hottest part of the grill. Grill 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Cool slightly before removing husks.
Shellfish Can Be Grilled Too!
Clams and mussels are excellent on the grill. Here are the basics:
1. To clean clams and mussels, first scrub them with a stiff brush under cold running water, discarding any shellfish with broken shells. Using sharp scissors, remove the "beard" from mussels (the hairy stuff protruding from one end).
2. Put clams and mussels in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon each cornmeal and salt and let stand 1 hour (cornmeal pulls excess sand from inside shells). Drain the shellfish, rinse and drain again.
3. Place the shellfish directly on the hottest part of the grill and cook until shells open, approximately 5-7 minutes (time varies depending on shellfish size).