OK, so it was just a summer thing.
Deep in our hearts, we knew it had to end. But we can’t let go without a few final nights of passion.
Wait - before you turn the page, yes, this is still the food section. The summer romance we’re talking about is Americans’ annual love affair with their barbecues, which is again coming to a bittersweet close.
Of course, there’s no actual law against grilling after Labor Day (as long as you’re not wearing white shoes), but it’s just not the same. Daylight disappears ever more quickly, there’s a chill in the evening air, and the propane tank, so full of promise in the spring, is about ready to run dry any minute.
But for one long weekend, we can savor summer’s flavors one last time. Following is an array of easy, relatively low-fat recipes to help you send off the season in style, making ample use of both grill and garden.
A simple yogurt marinade, flavored with fresh mint, adds an exotic taste to Middle Eastern Grilled Chicken Kebabs and keeps them from drying out on the grill. Serve over rice with a salad of chopped tomato, cucumber and onion (sweet or red), dressed with minced garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, parsley and more mint, and accompany with grilled pita bread brushed with olive oil and garlic.
You can use store-bought pitas, but it’s easy to make a chewier, heartier version right on the grill. Thaw a 1-pound loaf of frozen bread dough, divide into six pieces and roll into 6-inch rounds. Put each round on a square of aluminum foil coated with cooking spray and let rise for a few minutes. Place on the grill foil-side up, peel off the foil and cook for a few minutes on each side, until puffed and browned.
Yucatan Grilled Pork, soaked in a soy sauce and grapefruit juice marinade spiked with spicy chilies, practically cries out to be paired with barbecued corn. Remove the very outer husks, leaving enough to still cover the ears; peel back the remaining husks and remove the silk. Soak in water for about 20 minutes, then grill over medium heat for about 20 more minutes, turning a quarter-turn every 5 minutes.
Instead of using butter, brush the cooked corn with olive oil and lime juice (about 1 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon lime juice for every two ears), accented with cumin or any other fresh or dried herbs and spices that sound good.
For all you burger fans, we offer Italian-Style Turkey Burgers, with the unusual addition of club soda to lighten the patties and help them cook up juicy and tender. A mixture of ketchup and balsamic vinegar makes an appropriate topping, along with fresh tomato slices.
Round out your plate with Grilled Potato Salad. Chunks of red potato are parboiled and tossed with Italian dressing before being finished on the grill and mixed with mayonnaise, mustard and green onions.
And for dessert, why not try Grilled Bananas Foster, a lightened-up version of the Caribbean-influenced New Orleans classic. Sure, it would be just as easy to slip the bananas under a broiler for a few minutes. But you’ve got all winter for that.
Middle Eastern Grilled Chicken Kebabs
Adapted from a recipe by the National Broiler Council.
1 cup plain yogurt (preferably nonfat)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, or more to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
16 cherry tomatoes (optional)
Combine first four ingredients in a medium bowl. Add chicken pieces, mix until well-coated, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Thread chicken pieces and cherry tomatoes (if using) onto 8 skewers (2 tomatoes per skewer). Grill over medium to hot coals until charred and firm to the touch, about 8-10 minutes, turning frequently and basting with reserved marinade.
Yield: 4 servings.
Yucatan Grilled Pork
Adapted from a recipe by Kikkoman.
1/4 cup naturally brewed soy sauce
1/4 cup grapefruit juice
1 or 2 serrano (hotter) or jalapeno (milder) chilies, seeded and minced, or to taste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 pork tenderloins, about 3/4 pound each
Combine first 6 ingredients and pour over pork in a large plastic food storage bag. Press air out of bag, close top securely and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning occasionally.
Grill over medium-hot coals for about 20 minutes, or until meat is just slightly pink in center, turning occasionally and basting with reserved marinade. Let stand 5 minutes before carving.
Yield: 6 servings.
Italian-Style Turkey Burgers
Adapted from “Great Taste - Low Fat Grilling” (Time Life Books).
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3/4 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/3 cup club soda or seltzer
4 green onions, chopped fine
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, combine the ketchup and vinegar. Set aside.
Place the ground turkey in a large bowl along with the remaining ingredients and mix gently, using two forks instead of your hands, until well combined. Carefully form into 4 patties.
Grill over medium heat, turning once, for about 10 minutes, until the burgers are cooked through (be careful not to overcook). Serve on lightly toasted buns topped with the ketchup mixture, fresh tomato slices and other condiments as desired.
Yield: 4 servings.
Note: For maximum freshness and minimum fat, cut 3/4 pound of skinless, boneless turkey breast (such as a tenderloin) into large chunks and process in a food processor for about 1 minute, until finely ground.
Grilled Potato Salad
Adapted from a recipe by Wish-Bone Dressing.
1-1/2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup bottled Italian dressing (preferably reduced-fat or nonfat)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (preferably reduced-fat or nonfat)
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Cook potatoes in a large pan of boiling, salted water, 8 to 10 minutes or until just tender. Drain well and toss warm with 1/4 cup of bottled dressing. (Potatoes can be set aside for up to 4 hours at room temperature).
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup dressing, mayonnaise, mustard and thyme. Thread potatoes onto 4 long metal skewers. Grill over medium coals, turning once or twice, until tender and tinged with brown, about 5 minutes.
Place potatoes in bowl with dressing, add green onions and parsley and toss gently to mix well. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 4 servings.
Grilled Bananas Foster With Frozen Yogurt
Adapted from “Skinny Grilling,” by Barbara Grunes (Surrey Books).
1 teaspoon butter or margarine
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup pineapple juice
4 small bananas, peeled and cut lengthwise
1/4 cup fresh orange or pineapple juice
Nonstick cooking spray
Vanilla or chocolate nonfat frozen yogurt
Melt butter in small saucepan. Add remaining sauce ingredients, bring to a boil, turn off heat and let simmer while you prepare the bananas.
Brush bananas with orange or pineapple juice. Spray a grill rack with nonstick spray, place over hot coals and grill bananas 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until hot but not mushy.
Remove bananas and place in 4 individual dessert dishes. Spoon hot Foster sauce over them and top with a generous scoop of frozen yogurt.
Yield: 4 servings.
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