There it is on the calendar: License to grill.
The Memorial Day holiday is the unofficial start of summer and, some say, grilling season. Of course, no one has to have an excuse to start flipping the spatula and tongs around. Plenty of backyard chefs ignore the weather altogether and keep firing up the charcoal (or the gas) year round.
Whether you’re a grilling newbie or a master of the coals, grilling tips and new recipe ideas are always welcome.
Here’s a sampling of grilling wisdom and a recipe from each of three new books for the season:
Weber’s “Time to Grill” by Jamie Purviance (Oxmoor House, $24.95)
This is another beautiful book from the grill masters at Weber.
Chef Jamie Purviance has written seven other cookbooks in collaboration with Weber. In this book, Purviance covers all the basics with some helpful step-by-step photos for preparations.
There is also an especially handy photo guide to doneness. It shows internal shots of scallops, shrimp, ribs, pork chops, chicken and fish, and includes tips on checking to see how the meat is cooked whether using a thermometer or the tried-and-true hand test.
Half of the 200-plus recipes in the book are quick and easy. The other half are designed for more adventurous cooks, willing to put in the time for more serious eats.
For example, in the vegetables chapter, beginners can learn about basic grilled asparagus. More advanced cooks might tackle Asparagus and Potato Napoleons with Tarragon Vinaigrette. There are a ton of details on grilling basics and details on other resources. The book also comes with free mobile tools that enable buyers to get a grocery list for each recipe in the book, customize recipes with their own ingredients and email recipes to friends.
• To use the hand test to check steaks for doneness, use your index finger to touch the base of your thumb on the opposite hand. Most steaks are as soft as the base of your thumb when your hand is relaxed. If you touch your first finger and thumb together and then press the base of your thumb with the index finger of your other hand, that is how most steaks feel when they’re rare. Touch your second finger and thumb together and then press the base of your thumb; that is how most steaks feel at medium rare.
• Grill with the lid closed as much as possible. The heat reflecting off the lid helps cook food from both sides, which shortens the grilling time.
• Always check the bottom tray and grease tray before cooking. They should be clean and free of debris to prevent dangerous grease fires and visits from unwanted critters.
Better Homes and Gardens “Grill It!” (Wiley, $24.95)
If you’ve never really been great at grilling, this is the book for you. Not only does this book have large gorgeous photos for every recipe, each one also includes a series of step-by-step images that will give grillers confidence.
Essential tools, grill comparisons, safe internal temperatures and safety are all covered in a chapter on grilling basics. Recipes for marinades, rubs, sauces, salsas and brines are all there.
There are visual guides to poultry cuts and styles of beef and pork ribs. And there’s a cheat sheet for making the perfect burger patties. The final chapter takes on smoking for those who want to take it to the next level.
Grilling tips include:
• Three cuts of beef will give grillers the most flavorful burger: ground sirloin, ground chuck and ground round. Ground sirloin is the most expensive.
• Don’t choose the leanest ground beef. For juicy burgers, choose ground beef that is 15 to 20 percent fat.
• Marinades may be used as drizzling sauces. To transform a marinade into a sauce, remove meat from marinade, transfer liquid to a saucepan and boil for 30 minutes over medium-high heat.
“Just Grill This!” by Sam Zien (Wiley, $19.95)
Sam the Cooking Guy is grillin’.
The host of a local cooking show in San Diego since 2002, Sam Zien later hosted “Just Cook This With Sam the Cooking Guy” on Discovery Health. The show is now running on Fit TV.
His grilling book has 120 recipes and is sprinkled with tips to make grilling easier. He’s grilling up everything from appetizers to dessert. Along with the traditional chapters on beef, not beef, seafood, dogs and burgers, Zien also tackles “Small Things,” “My Favorite Cooking Guy Sandwiches” and “Things Not Normally Grilled.
Here are a few of his tips:
• Take meat out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking it. You can’t possibly cook meat properly if is fridge-cold in the middle.
• Let a steak (or any meat) rest after it comes off the grill.
• Put fish down and let it grill. Don’t flip it too early or it will stick.
Asparagus and Tomato Salad with Feta
From Weber’s “Time To Grill” by Jamie Purviance.
For the vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds asparagus
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 slices country-style white bread, about 3 ounces total, cut into ½-inch cubes (you should have about 2 cups)
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit) and preheat the grill pan.
In a small bowl whisk the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle and whisk in the oil until it is emulsified.
Remove and discard the tough bottom of each asparagus spear by grasping at each end and bending it gently until it snaps at its natural point of tenderness, usually about two-thirds of the way down the spear.
Spread the asparagus on a large plate. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and turn the spears until they are evenly coated. In a medium bowl toss the tomatoes and bread cubes with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette.
Brush the cooking grates clean. Spread the tomatoes and bread cubes in a single layer on the grill pan and lay the asparagus on the cooking grate. Grill over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the asparagus is tender, the tomatoes begin to soften, and the bread cubes are toasted, turning often. The asparagus will take 6 to 8 minutes and the tomatoes and bread cubes will take 2 to 4 minutes.
Arrange the asparagus on a platter and top with the tomatoes, croutons, feta and chives. Serve with the remaining vinaigrette.
Note: Access the grocery list for this recipe on your mobile device at timetogrill.mobi.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Apricot Pie à la Mode Sundaes
From Weber’s “Time To Grill,” by Jamie Purviance
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons caramel sauce
2 tablespoons Scotch whisky or rum
6 apricots, firm but ripe, each cut in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Vanilla ice cream
¾ cup coarsely crushed shortbread or sugar cookies
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted and chopped
Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit).
In a medium bowl mix the caramel sauce and whiskey. Set aside. In a medium bowl toss the apricots with the melted butter.
Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the apricots, cut side down first, over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until heated through, 6 to 8 minutes, turning once.
In each of six ice cream dishes, arrange two apricot halves over two scoops of ice cream. Drizzle with 2 to 3 tablespoons of caramel-whiskey sauce and top with about 2 tablespoons cookie crumbs. Garnish with a sprinkle of almonds and serve right away.
Note: Access the grocery list for this recipe on your mobile device at timetogrill.mobi.
Yield: 6 servings
Mojo Pork Fajitas with Orange-Avocado Salsa
From Better Homes and Gardens “Grill It!” (Wiley, $24.95).
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup lime juice
1/3 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground oregano, crushed
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin
2 large sweet peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 medium onions, cut into thick slices
8 (8-inch) flour tortillas, warmed
1 recipe Orange-Avocado Salsa
¼ cup dairy sour cream
Fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
Lime wedges (optional)
For the marinade, in a small bowl combine olive oil, the ¼ cup onion, lime juice and orange juice. Add cumin, oregano and garlic; stir well.
Trim fat from meat. Place meat in a large resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Pour marinade over meat; seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours, turning bag occasionally.
Drain meat, reserving marinade. Brush sweet pepper quarters and onion slices with some of the marinade; discard the remaining marinade.
For a charcoal grill, arrange hot coals around a drip pan. Test for medium hot heat above the pan. Place meat on the grill rack over pan. Place pepper quarters and onion slices on the grill directly over coals. Cover and grill for 8 to 10 minutes for peppers and 10 to 12 minutes for onions or until vegetables are crisp-tender, turning occasionally.
Remove vegetables from grill; keep warm. Cover grill and grill meat for 20 to 25 minutes more or until thermometer registers 155 degrees Fahrenheit. (For gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium-high. Adjust for indirect cooking. Grill vegetables and meat as directed.)
Remove meat from grill. Cover with foil and let stand for 10 minutes. (Meat temperature after standing should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit.) Meanwhile, if desired or if skin of peppers is too charred, peel skin from peppers. Cut peppers into thin strips and chop onions. Slice meat. Serve meat and vegetables on warm tortillas with Orange-Avocado Salsa and sour cream. If desired, sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.
To warm tortillas, wrap tightly in foil. Place on edge of grill rack for 10 minutes, turning once.
Orange-Avocado Salsa: in a medium bowl combine 2 medium oranges, peeled, sectioned and chopped; 1 ripe large avocado, halved, seeded and chopped; ¼ cup chopped red onion; ¼ cup snipped fresh cilantro; 2 tablespoons lime juice; ½ to 1 teaspoon bottled hot pepper sauce; and ¼ teaspoon salt. If desired, cover and chill up to 4 hours.
Yield: 4 servings
Approximate nutrition per serving (2 fajitas): 739 calories, 32 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 80 grams carbohydrate, 80 milligrams cholesterol, 8 grams dietary fiber, 723 milligrams sodium.
Your Everyday Really Good Clams and Mussels
From “Just Grill This!” by Sam Zien.
2 ounces cooked bacon, diced
Large foil roasting pan
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 pounds mussels, cleaned
2 pounds small clams, cleaned
1/3 cup fresh parsley
Preheat the grill to medium-high.
Place the foil roasting pan on the grill. Add the bacon and let cook for about 5 minutes. Add the butter, wine (or vermouth), garlic and pepper flakes.
When the butter has melted, stir to mix everything, and when it’s bubbling, add the mussels and clams and let the sauce come to a simmer. Cover the top with foil and close the grill lid. Once the shells have all opened, approximately 8 to 10 minutes, stir everything well to coat with the sauce, add parsley and serve right out of the pan with some good bread for dipping.
Yield: 4 servings