Making the Most of Summer’s Bounty
by Claire O’Neil
In outdoor spaces from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Arch Cape, Oregon, produce is growing and grill embers are glowing. Growing a garden and grilling its bounty have never been more popular.
For the first time since 1944, when 20 million “Victory” gardeners produced 44 percent of the fresh vegetables in the United States, food gardening is outdistancing flower gardening. In its latest survey of garden retailers, the National Gardening Association found that consumers’ spending for growing their own food hit $2.7 billion versus $2.1 billion for flowers.
Barbecuing grill chefs are expanding their repertoire beyond grass-fed burgers and steaks. More vegetables and fruit are being grilled now than in the past, according to the latest annual survey by leading grill manufacturer Weber.
This all makes sense to Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, authors of The Gardener & the Grill. They’ve observed that when the bounty of the garden meets the sizzle of the grill, delicious things happen. “Natural sugars in vegetables and fruits caramelize,” says Adler. “Essential oils in fresh herbs become more aromatic. The colors of fruits and vegetables stay more vivid when grilled rather than when cooked any other way.”
“Grilling gives even familiar foods an exciting new makeover,” notes Fertig. For example, by cutting a head of cabbage into quarters, brushing each cut side with olive oil and then grilling and chopping, the backyard chef infuses a grill flavor into a favorite coleslaw. Flatbreads, patted out from prepared whole-grain or gluten-free pizza dough, can be brushed with olive oil, grilled on both sides and then topped with flavorful garden goodies. Simple fruits like peaches and plums―simply sliced in half, pitted and grilled—yield fresh taste sensations, especially cradling a scoop of frozen yogurt.
A quick foray to the garden or farmers’ market can provide just the right colorful, flavorful edge to any summer barbecue.
Claire O’Neil is a freelance writer from Kansas City, MO.
- Long-handled grill tongs and a spatula help the cook handle foods on the grill like a pro.
- Barbecue mitts protect hands and arms from the heat.
- A perforated grill rack, akin to a cookie sheet with holes, placed directly on the grill grates, keeps smaller vegetables and tender fish fillets from falling through.
- A grill wok is perfect for stir-grilling foods outdoors, a complement to indoor stir-frying.
- A sturdy, stiff, grill brush makes short work of cleaning the grill grates after each use.
Hearty but not heavy, this pizza takes kale (or, alternatively, Swiss chard or collard greens) and onions from the garden, and then adds vegetarian chorizo to accent.
- 1 pound fresh whole grain or gluten-free pizza dough
- ¼ cup whole grain or gluten-free flour flour for sprinkling
- 4 new potatoes, cooked and thinly sliced
- 8 kale leaves
- Olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
- Grapeseed oil for brushing the grill rack
- 8 oz cooked and crumbled vegetarian chorizo (Portuguese or other spicy sausage optional)
- ½ cup chopped green onion (white and light green parts)
- Coarse freshly ground black pepper
- Prepare a hot fire on one side of the grill for indirect cooking. Oil a perforated grill rack with grapeseed oil and place over direct heat.
- Divide the dough into four equal parts. Sprinkle with whole grain or gluten-free flour and press or roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Sprinkle flour of choice on two large baking sheets and place two rounds of dough on each sheet.
- Brush the potatoes with olive oil, place on the perforated grill rack and grill for 15 minutes, turning often, or until tender before topping the pizza.
- Brush the kale with olive oil. Grill leaves for 1 minute on each side or until slightly charred and softened. Quickly trim off the bottom of the stalk and strip the leaves from the stems. Finely chop the leaves and set aside.
- Brush one side of each pizza with olive oil and place, oiled side down, on the direct heat side of the grill grate. Grill for 1 to 2 minutes or until the dough starts to bubble. Brush the top side with olive oil and flip each pizza round, using tongs, onto a baking sheet.
- Quickly brush pizza rounds with additional olive oil, and then spoon on one-fourth of the sliced potato and grilled kale.
- Sprinkle toppings of sausage and green onion. Drizzle a bit more overall olive oil and season with pepper.
- Using a grill spatula, place each pizza on the indirect side of the fire. Cover and grill for 4 to 5 minutes or until the kale has slightly wilted and the topping is hot. Serve hot.
Yields 4 servings.
Fresh fish tacos with a twist are a healthy treat. Tip: Assemble the raw slaw ingredients before grilling the cabbage, which cooks simultaneously with the fish.
Grilled Napa Cabbage Slaw Taco Topping
- 1 large head Napa cabbage, cut in half lengthwise
- Grapeseed oil, for brushing
- 1 cup assorted baby greens, such as spinach, oak leaf lettuce or Boston lettuce
- 8 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
- ¼ cup tarragon vinegar
- ¼ cup sour cream
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ tsp fine kosher or sea salt
- 1½ lbs mahi mahi, catfish, halibut or other mild, non-farmed, white fish (about ¾-inch thick)
- ¼ cup blackened seasoning or other barbeque spice mixture
- 8 whole-wheat flour tortillas, for serving
- 8 lemon wedges, for serving
- 1½ cups of a favorite salsa, for serving
- Prepare a hot fire in the grill.
- Brush the cut sides of the Napa cabbage halves with oil. Coat the fish fillets with the blackened seasoning or other selected spice mix.
- Grill the cabbage, cut side down, directly over the fire for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cabbage shows good grill marks, then remove from heat.
- Grill the “flesh,” or cut side, of fish fillets first (not the skin side, which is darker because it is more delicate) directly over the fire for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Turn the fish only once, and finish cooking with the skin side against the grate another 3 to 4 minutes, for 10 total minutes per inch of thickness (most fish fillets are only about ¾-inch thick). Note: The skin side is last because it has more connective tissue and holds together better on the grill.
- Finish assembling the slaw. Thinly slice the grilled cabbage and place in a large bowl. Stir in the greens and green onions. Having earlier combined and mixed the vinegar, sour cream, lemon juice and salt for the slaw dressing in a small bowl, now pour it over the greens mixture. Toss to blend.
- Assemble the tacos by placing some of the grilled fish on each tortilla. Top each with about one-third cup of the slaw and roll up, soft taco-style. Serve with a lemon wedge and a small ramekin of salsa.
Yields 4 servings.
This recipe is simple, yet full of flavor. A traditional gremolata condiment includes parsley, lemon zest and garlic, but this sweeter version finds deliciousness in fruit. Using a microplane grater culls the flavorful yellow part of the lemon rind without the bitter white pith. Chopping the herbs with the lemon zest make the flavors blend together better.
- ¼ cup packed lemon balm leaves or 1 Tbsp packed mint leaves
- ½ tsp lemon zest
- Pinch kosher or sea salt
- 4 peaches, halved and pitted
- Prepare a medium-hot fire in your grill.
- Chop the lemon balm or mint and lemon zest together until very fine. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the leaves and chop again. Set aside in a small bowl.
- Place the peach halves cut-side down on the grill. Grill 4 to 6 minutes, turning once, until they are tender and slightly blistered.
- To serve, place 2 peach halves in each guest’s bowl and sprinkle the lemon balm gremolata over them all.
Yields 4 servings.
Source: Recipes adapted from The Gardener & the Grill.