Fire Up the Grill!
Summer is here and that means it’s time to get out the grill. The first part of cooking up a great meal is using fresh ingredients so go to your local farmers market and select your favorite produce of the season. Grilling is a fun and healthy way to cook your meals during the summer season. You can make grilled appetizers, salads, side dishes, entrees, and desserts.
Cleaning Your Grill: The first step to having deliciously grilled food is having a clean grill. When using your grill for the first time this summer make sure to remove the rust. One way to do this it to wipe the grill down with white vinegar until the rust starts to dissolve. Then take a steel wool or wire brush and scrub the rust off with force. In order to prevent rust from forming make sure to brush off left over chunks of food and then rub grill with vegetable or olive oil after each use. This will not only prevent the grill from rusting but will also ensure that the flavors from the previous grilling session will not contaminate the next meal. Also, by cleaning the grill after each use you are minimizing the amount of carbon that will adhere to the food.
Health Benefits of grilling: Grilling is a healthy and tasty way to prepare food! First of all, cooking on a cast iron skillet will increase the iron content in the food. Heat from the grill will start to break down the cell wall of the produce and activate the enzymes allowing cell content to move more efficiently to the taste buds in turn making the fruits and veggies more flavorful. As the moisture starts to evaporate the sugars condense for added sweetness and the outer edges will caramelize when they meet the high temperatures of the grill creating dimensions of flavor. Cooking produce briefly will reduce the loss of nutritional content and will also make some nutrients more easily absorbed. Ingredients such as carrots and apricots contain fat soluble vitamins which make it difficult to receive important nutrients when consuming them in raw form. Applying some heat will start to break down the plant tissue and extract important chemicals such as beta-carotene, and finally adding a fat source will improve the absorption of vitamin A.
Grilling Fruits and Vegetables: The method of grilling will depend on the sugar and water content of the produce. When working with fruits and vegetables make sure to coat any surface area that will touch the grill grates with olive oil to prevent it from sticking. It is also important to sprinkle produce with salt and pepper to enhance flavor. Since fruit has a high sugar and water content it is prone to get mushy and burn faster than most vegetables. To prevent this, cut fruit in half and grill flesh side down just long enough for it to develop sear marks. A general rule for cooking vegetables is the softer and thinner the vegetable the less time it needs on the grill. Vegetables should be tender in the middle and seared on both sides to bring out the sweetness. Root vegetables such as potatoes, beets, parsnips, and carrots are much more firm and may benefit from being blanched before being grilled. Choose produce with less water content and that it is big enough where it won’t fall through the grill grates.