Spice up your summer barbecues – literally.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO much to make grilled foods taste good. After all, the grilling process itself brings a mouthwatering aroma, texture and flavor to foods. But if you're the grill master this summer, try taking your dishes' flavors to the next level by following some of these tips:
1. Make your own marinade.
Marinades are the vinegars or juices that tenderize the food. Typically, a marinade is equal parts acid (such as vinegar, lemon juice, tomato juice or wine) and oil with seasonings to taste. I prefer a marinade that is a 2-to-1 ratio of acid to oil. With the spices, start with less; you can always add more. Consider minced garlic, minced fresh parsley, oregano, basil, pepper, salt, chili powder, cumin, five spice powder, chipotle seasoning or za-atar.
- Meat and poultry: If you're making a meat that can take on a stronger flavor like beef, pork, veal, lamb or poultry, try a marinade combination like lemon and herbs, soy sauce and pineapple, or barbecue sauce and flavored vinegars like pomegranate, fig, dark cherry or Meyer lemon. You can also choose a ready-made salad dressing like ginger sesame or balsamic vinaigrette. Cover the meat with the marinade and let it sit in the refrigerator for several hours to tenderize and maximize the flavor.
- Fish: If you're grilling something lighter like white fish, try olive oil, lemon and herbs. Fatty fish like salmon pairs wonderfully with a teriyaki glaze. Fish can marinate covered for about 30 minutes.
- Cheese: If you are not a meat eater, the Greek cheese halloumi works beautifully on the grill and can be flavored with oregano, olive oil and lemon – or even pomegranate molasses. Ramp up the flavor of extra-firm tofu or tempeh with a chipotle, teriyaki or sesame ginger marinade.
- Fruit: Pineapple glazed with orange marmalade or watermelon brushed with red pepper jelly add the delightful mix of sweet, tart and spice to your plate.
2. Rub it in.
If you don't want to use a marinade or dressing, consider a rub (a mix of herbs and spices) to add flavor to what you grill. You can buy premixed rubs, or you can make your own.
Blackened or Cajun seasonings work well with flank steak, chicken and pork; fish such as swordfish, halibut and salmon; and shellfish like shrimp. You can also use rubs on vegetables. Try grilling mini potatoes with barbecue or Cajun seasonings, or grilling corn on the cob with a squeeze of fresh lime and rolled in garam masala, an Indian spice mix.
About 30 minutes before grilling, rub the spices on, or put them in a shaker bag and then add the meat (or fish or vegetable) to coat. You can also mix it in to hamburgers, chicken or turkey burgers, salmon or tuna burgers, and even veggie burgers.
3. Use yogurt.
Yogurt is a great tenderizer and also a flavor enhancer. For seafood, all you need is plain or dill yogurt. If you're eating chicken, try it mixed with honey and mustard or chipotle and blackened seasoning. Grilling beef, pork or lamb? Try yogurt with garlic, cumin and paprika. Once you choose your combo, coat the meat, fish or poultry with the mix. Make sure all surfaces are covered, and then refrigerate for about 60 minutes.
4. Raid your condiment cabinet.
Condiments and dips aren't just for chips and veggie sticks. Your favorite salsa, for instance, can be used as a marinade for skirt steak, flank steak, poultry or even in burgers. Pesto is for more than pasta; use it on skewers of chicken and vegetables. For example, make vegetable s'mores by grilling thin rounds of eggplant or slices of zucchini with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Spoon on a little pesto, add a slice of fresh mozzarella and top it with another slice of vegetable.
Hummus can also be mixed into chicken, turkey, tuna or veggie burgers, and can add flavor to grilled vegetables. To make a hummus-vegetable sandwich, for example, spread feta cheese between two slices of eggplant. Grill it on foil for a few minutes, or until the feta melts. For another variation, cut a zucchini in half and then slice each half lengthwise. Brush the slices with a little olive oil and grill them until tender. Brush them with a sun-dried tomato pesto, and put a thin slice of fresh mozzarella between two slices of zucchini. Grill on foil until cheese melts.
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