After one of the more brutal winters in recent memory, it finally looks like warm weather is here – which means only one thing. Time to break out the grills! Whether you’re having a big Memorial Day gathering or looking for some new twists to liven up your weeknight dining, here are some fun ideas that go beyond basic burgers and dogs – not that there’s anything wrong with those…
Sweet, Spicy, Smoky Grilled Shrimp Cocktail with Chipotle Sauce
Makes 4 appetizer servings
Everybody loves shrimp cocktail. Grilling them imparts a great smoky flavor that is accentuated by the chipotle cocktail sauce.
For the chipotle sauce:
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped chipotles in adobo sauce
For the shrimp:
12 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons barbecue dry rub
1. Make the sauce: In a small bowl, mix ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, and chipotles in adobo sauce. Cover and set aside. If you won’t be using the sauce right away, refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Build a hot direct fire. Spread an even layer of unlit charcoal in the bottom of the grill. Fill a chimney with charcoal. Stuff two sheets of newspaper in the bottom of the chimney and light it. When the coals are fully engaged – you should see flames peeking over the top – pour them over the unlit charcoal. If using a gas grill, light the gas and adjust temperature on both sides to high.
3. Rinse shrimp under cold water and dry very well with paper towels. Lightly sprinkle with dry rub.
4. When you can hold your hands over the fire for no more than 3 to 5 seconds, clean the grill grate. Grill the shrimp for 3 minutes. Flip and grill for an additional 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a sheet pan and place in freezer for 10 minutes, or until cool. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
5. Serve shrimp on a bed of crushed ice with chipotle sauce on the side.
Grilled Zucchini Salad with Sea Salt and Lemon Zest
There’s a real skill to perfectly grilling zucchini, eggplant and summer squash – a second too long and you have a mushy piece of we don’t know what. The key is to remember that, just like a steak or piece of fish, vegetables keep cooking after they are removed from the heat source. So it’s important to get them off the fire early enough.
Make sure not to over-oil vegetables before you grill them. Zucchini absorbs oil, and too much would make the salad greasy or the oil could drip and cause a flare-up. When you have a flare-up, soot, or carbon, envelops the food, leaving a bitter taste in your mouth.
2 medium-sized zucchini, ends removed, sliced lengthwise 1/2-inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
5 basil leaves, roughly chopped
4 mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
Coarse sea salt, for serving
1. Build a medium direct fire. Spread an even layer of unlit charcoal in the bottom of the grill. Fill a chimney halfway with charcoal. Stuff two sheets of newspaper in the bottom of the chimney and light it. When the coals are fully engaged – you should see flames peeking over the top – pour them over the unlit charcoal. If using a gas grill, light the gas and adjust the temperature on both sides to medium.
2. Lightly oil zucchini and season with salt and pepper.
3. When you can hold your hands over the fire for no more than 5-8 seconds, clean the grill grate. Place zucchini on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until it is golden brown and the zucchini is firm but you can bend it with tongs. Remove from heat and place on cutting board.
4. Slice the zucchini crosswise about 1/4-inch thick and place in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients to the zucchini and toss very gently to combine. Sprinkle sea salt over the salad and serve immediately or set aside at room temperature until serving time.
Molly’s Tofu Tacos
Makes 6 tacos
Molly Dwyer, the uber-talented chef de cuisine at Tremont 647, in Boston, created this fabulous vegetarian dish. The goal for Tremont 647 vegetarian options is that they’re so good everyone wants to order them. And these definitely achieve the goal. With the zingy citrus and fresh southeast Asian-inspired flavors, these are so satisfying that even the most devoted carnivores won’t feel they’re missing anything.
It’s best to grill the tofu over a medium or low charcoal fire. The marinade has sesame oil in it and can flare up if the heat is too high, which would make the tofu bitter.
3/4 cup sambal (chili garlic paste)
1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
1 piece firm tofu, about 12 ounces, cut into thirds
6 five-inch corn or flour tortillas
Sriracha Aioli, for serving (recipe below)
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 cup daikon radish, peeled and shredded
10 leaves Thai basil, roughly chopped (or half basil and half cilantro)
10 mint leaves, roughly chopped
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sambal, tamari, lime juice, sesame oil and agave. Place the tofu in a flat-bottomed bowl and pour the marinade over it. Cover and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.
2. Build a medium direct fire. Spread an even layer of unlit charcoal in the bottom of the grill. Fill a chimney halfway with charcoal. Stuff two sheets of newspaper in the bottom of the chimney and light it. When the coals are fully engaged – you should see flames peeking over the top – pour them over the unlit charcoal. If using a gas grill, turn the gas on and adjust temperature on both sides to medium.
3. When you can hold your hands over the fire for no more than 5-8 seconds, clean grill grate. Remove the tofu from the marinade and grill for 3 minutes, until golden. Flip tofu and grill for another 3 minutes, until the other side is golden and tofu is warm throughout.
4. Remove the tofu from the grill and cut each piece into 1/2-inch thick slices. Set tortillas on grill for 30 seconds each, to toast slightly.
5. Arrange tortillas on plates, spread about 1 tablespoon Sriracha Aioli in the center of each, and evenly divide the tofu. Sprinkle carrots and daikon, drizzle with aioli, then garnish with fresh herbs. Serve immediately.
Slow-Grilled Chicken Thighs with Alabama White Sauce
The beauty of this recipe is crispy, golden brown skin, achieved by coating the chicken pieces with dry rub before grilling. By cooking the chicken over low, direct heat you vastly reduce the risk of burning the skin. When using charcoal, it’s important to watch out for hot spots. If they occur, simply move the chicken to a cooler part of the grill.
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon smoked or sweet paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 4 ounces each
Alabama White Sauce (recipe follows)
1. Have on hand an instant-read thermometer.
2. In a small bowl, mix the salt, sugar, paprika, garlic powder, and peppers. Set aside.
3. Build a low direct fire. Spread an even layer of unlit charcoal in the bottom of the grill. Fill a chimney 1/3 full with charcoal. Stuff two sheets of newspaper in the bottom of the chimney and light it. When the coals are fully engaged – you should see flames peeking over the top – pour them over the unlit charcoal. If using a gas grill, light the gas and adjust temperature on both sides to low.
4. While the fire is coming to temperature, place the chicken thighs on a baking sheet, skin side up. Sprinkle the chicken with half of the dry rub.
5.When you can hold your hands over the fire for no more than 8 to 10 seconds, clean the grill grate. Set the chicken thighs, skin side down, on the grates. Sprinkle the remainder of the dry rub on the chicken. Cook, covered, for 30-40 minutes, checking periodically to avoid excessive charring on the skin. Rotate thighs over the fire if there are hot spots. If using a charcoal grill, adjust the vents to maintain a temperature of 300degrees.
6. Flip chicken and continue to cook until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 170degrees, about 15-20 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a platter and let it rest for 10 minutes. Slather with Alabama White Sauce and serve.
Alabama White Sauce
Makes 2 cups
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk all ingredients until fully incorporated. Cover and set aside until ready to use or transfer to an airtight jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
All recipes adapted from “Grill to Perfection: Two Champion Pit Masters Share Recipes and Techniques for Unforgettable Backyard Grilling,” by Andy Husbands, Chris Hart and Andrea Pyenson.
Photos by Ken Goodman