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Grills gone healthy

Arrival of fresh seafood a great chance to start grilling healthier

Slapping burgers, steaks and ribs on the grill is a tried-and-true Memorial Day tradition, but many grillers say concerns about healthy eating are changing their backyard barbecue habits.

In the latest GrillWatch Survey from the fire masters at Weber, 61 percent of those who responded said their grilling style has changed in the last year. What’s the No. 1 change they’re making? They’re putting more vegetables on the grates and picking leaner meats and poultry.

Most of the people surveyed by Weber said they agree that grilling is a great way to eat healthier, but it is easy to get stuck in a rut.

Since some great seafood is coming into season now, that’s an easy place to start – halibut and salmon are great better-for-you choices and the firm flesh stands up to grilling. In Weber’s “New Real Grilling” cookbook, author and James Beard Award nominee Jamie Purviance recommends using fillets that are at least 1-inch thick. Thinner fillets can cook too fast and break apart.

Weber has updated and revised its top-selling book this year. It includes more than 200 recipes with color photos by Tim Turner, a James Beard Award winner. The “grill skills” sections include great tips for those who are new to grilling, including this one for perfect fish: If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer insert a metal skewer into the thickest part of a fish filled for a few seconds. Then touch the skewer on a sensitive part of your hand, such as near the base of your thumb. If the skewer feels warm, the fish is cooked. If it is hot, the fish is overcooked.

Tackle more vegetables with confidence by picking up a grilling pan so that smaller pieces won’t fall through the grates. Or, skewer up a bunch of veggies with lean meats to make a colorful and healthier dinner for your holiday guests. If you use bamboo skewers, here’s a tip from Weber that will save time: Soak a big batch of skewers for an hour or so. Then drain and freeze them in a plastic bag. That way to won’t have to soak skewers every time you need them. Pull out a few of the frozen skewers at a time.

We dug through Weber’s new book and the new “100 Grilling Recipes You Can’t Live Without: A Lifelong Companion,” by authors Bill and Cheryl Jamison (Harvard Common Press, $16.95) for ideas to help cooks branch out. Here are some of the recipes we found:

Crusty Shrimp and Scallop Skewers with Grilled Pepper Medley

From Weber’s “New Real Grilling,” by Jamie Purviance. We had trouble getting the bread crumbs to adhere because we used a grainy, whole wheat bread, but the finished dish was delicious anyway.

For the breading:

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 medium garlic clove, minced or pushed through a press

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Extra virgin olive oil

For the skewers:

12 large shrimp (21-30 count), peeled and deveined, tails removed

12 sea scallops, each 1 to 1 1/2 ounces

1 lemon, cut into wedges

If using bamboo skewers, soak in water for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat (450 to 550 degrees).

In a shallow dish, combine the breading ingredients, including 1 tablespoon oil.

Pat the scallops dry. Remove and discard the small, tough side muscle that might be left on each scallop. Thread the shrimp and scallops on their own skewers. Lightly brush the shellfish on both sides with oil and then press them into the breading mixture to coat, patting the crumbs firmly to help them adhere. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the breading to set.

Grill the skewers over direct heat, with the lid closed, until the shellfish is just opaque in the center and the crumbs are golden brown, turning once or twice (some of the crumbs may become slightly charred). The scallops will take about 6 minutes, and the shrimp will take about 4 minutes.

Remove from the grill and serve immediately with the lemon wedges.

To make the grilled pepper medley: Cut four bell peppers into thin slices. Coat them lightly with oil and season with salt. Spread them in a single layer on a preheated perforated grill pan and grill over direct medium heat until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally. If you don’t have a grill pan, cut each pepper into four large pieces and grill over direct medium heat until crisp-tender. Then cut into thin slices and toss to combine.

Yield: 4 servings

Tangerine-Teriyaki Halibut Fillets

From Cheryl and Bill Jamison’s “100 Grilling Recipes You Can’t Live Without: A Lifelong Companion.” The authors, who also wrote “Smoke and Spice” wrote, “Halibut, being a firm meaty fish, can handle grilling and also stand up to the addition of a robust Japanese-inspired sauce.”

1/4 cup mirin (see note)

2 tablespoons sake or dry sherry

2 tablespoons soy sauce, preferably not low-sodium

2 tablespoons fresh tangerine juice or orange juice

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon sugar

Four 1-inch-thick skinless halibut fillet (about 6 ounces each)

Vegetable oil spray

To prepare the sauce, first warm the mirin and sake in a small saucepan over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce and continue heating until reduced by about half, another 5 to 8 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring until the sugar dissolves. (The sauce can be made up to a week ahead, covered and refrigerated.)

Fire up the grill, bringing the temperature to medium-high. Oil the cooking grate.

Just before grilling, spritz the fillets with oil. Transfer the fillets to the grate and grill, uncovered, turning three times, until opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes. Rotate the fish a half turn once on each side. Don’t touch or move the fillets except when it’s time to rotate or turn, because getting a good sear where the fish touches the grate is essential to help prevent sticking. If there’s any good resistance when you turn or rotate the fish, re-oil the grate. As soon as a cooked side of a fillet is turn up, brush it with the teriyaki sauce so that it glazes and nearly lacquers the surfaces.

Brush the fillets generously with any remaining teriyaki sauce before serving.

Yield: 4 servings

Note: Mirin is a syrupy Japanese rice wine that gives teriyaki its distinctive taste. Most of what is sold in American supermarkets and even some Asian markets is a synthetic version, with corn syrup as a main ingredient. It’s acceptable for an occasional batch of teriyaki, but real distilled mirin adds more flavor. Look for it in natural foods stores and Asian groceries.

Salmon and Vegetable Kabobs with Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette

From Weber’s “New Real Grilling,” by Jamie Purviance

For the vinaigrette:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves

3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley leaves

4 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the kabobs:

1 1/2 pounds center-cut salmon fillet, cut into 1 1/4 -inch cubes, pin bones removed

2 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch-thick half-moons

2 medium yellow squash, cut into 1-inch-thick half-moons

1/2 large red onion, cut lengthwise into quarters, each quarter cut across into two pieces

Extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lemon, quartered

If using bamboo skewers, soak in water for at least 30 minutes

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium high heat (400 to 500 degrees)

Combine the vinaigrette ingredients. Gradually add 1/2 cup oil, whisking constantly until emulsified. Set aside until ready to serve.

Thread the salmon cubes onto four skewers. Thread the zucchini, squash and onion alternately onto four more skewers. Generously brush the salmon and the vegetables with oil and season evenly with salt and pepper.

Grill the kabobs over direct medium-high heat, with the lid closed, until the vegetables are crisp-tender and the salmon is crusty and golden outside and beginning to turn opaque in the center, but still moist, 8 to 10 minutes, turning four times. Remove the kabobs from the grill and serve immediately with the vinaigrette and the lemon quarters.

Yield: 4 servings

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