June 4, 2013

Add fruits and veggies to summer grilling routine


---- — Grilling is great any time of year, but in the summer, when the house is hot and you are looking for a quick meal, it especially fits the bill. 

Cooking over an open flame is delicious, but the American Cancer Society warns that meat cooked at high temperatures that becomes very well-done or charred creates chemicals that have been linked to an increased cancer risk. This warning does not include fruits and vegetables, however, and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce the risk of various types of cancers. So why not take fruits and vegetables to the grill?

Most fruits and vegetables will taste best if they are cooked for a short period of time and retain some of their crunch. Since fruits and vegetables do not need to reach the same temperatures as meat, they should not be marinaded together, because the harmful bacteria that can live in raw meat could transfer to your produce. Fruits and vegetables are plants that can absorb the marinade along with the bacteria. Also, since they do not reach the high temperatures required to make meat safe to eat, the bacteria could survive and make you or your family ill. 

You can grill fruits and vegetables in many different ways. One option is to skewer fruits and vegetables for kabobs. Try soaking wooden skewers in water first so they do not burn. You can marinade the vegetables, or brush them with oil and sprinkle with herbs for flavor. A grill basket works well for chunks of fruits and vegetables if you do not feel like skewering them. If you don’t have a grill basket, you can use heavy-duty aluminum foil or a foil baking dish with a few holes poked in them. You can also cook larger pieces of fruits and vegetables right on the grill.

A few more ideas include:

▶ Grilled corn on the cob: Pull back the husk, remove the silk, and pull the husk back up. Soak the ears in water for 10 minutes, and grill for about 10 minutes. I usually remove some of the outer layers of husk, but leave enough the cover the corn.

▶ Italian vegetable kabobs: Chop bell peppers, zucchini, summer squash and onions into large chunks. Mix in baby portobello mushrooms, and marinate in your favorite Italian dressing. Skewer the vegetables on soaked skewers, and grill just until the edges begin to blacken, but the peppers are still crispy and the zucchini is still holding its shape. 

▶ Grilled pizza: A few methods will work for this, and the addition of the smoky flavor makes them all taste great. To make this with dough, stretch whole-grain pizza dough, and brush it with oil on one side. Place the stretched dough, oil side down on the hot grill. Brush oil on the side that is up, and flip when the dough begins to cook through, which is usually just a few minutes. Add your toppings quickly, and the pizza is finished when the cheese is melted. You can also use a prebaked crust, and just brush it with oil on one side and add toppings to the other, and grill until the cheese melts. We usually do not add sauce for a grilled pizza, just a little cheese and other quick-cooking toppings like sliced tomato and basil.

▶ Grilled peaches: Many fruits will caramelize and become even sweeter on the grill. Cut the peaches in half, and remove the pit. You can grill the peach halves or cut them into thick slices. Brush them with oil, and cook just until the grill marks begin to show and the fruit is hot. They can make a great side dish if they are seasoned — maybe sprinkled with chili pepper — or they can be a grilled desert paired with a little frozen yogurt. 

Next time you fire up the grill, don’t forget the fruits and vegetables.

Jordy Kivett is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. For more information, contact her at 561-7450.