Easy ways to add a healthy—and tasty—flair to your outdoor cooking…
Outdoor grilling is hands-down one of the best things about summer. But with all the warnings about artery-clogging fat in hamburgers and the potential dangers of grilled cooking in general, you may wonder whether you should just let your grill sit idle.
Absolutely not! Here’s how to choose the most healthful, delicious foods possible—and minimize any dangers linked to grilling…
YOU DON’T HAVE TO GIVE UP MEAT
It’s true that diets with too much meat (regardless of how it’s cooked) have been linked to ailments ranging from heart disease to cancer.
But the good news is that you don’t have to give up meat altogether. If you crave a burger, have one (see “Safer Grilling” below). Make it as fatty and juicy as you want and enjoy it—now and then. When you’re ready to try a delicious nonmeat burger and other grilled treats, here are some of my favorites…
Grilled portobello mushroom. A large portobello mushroom has a meaty texture and rich flavor. It is among the most powerful antioxidant food sources and is rich in potassium. And you can put it on a bun and dress it up just like any burger. One portobello has about 30 calories and zero fat, compared with the 235 calories and 16 g of fat in the average beef burger.
To prepare: Twist the stem off a large portobello. Wipe off the surface grit with a damp paper towel. Or lightly rinse it with water and pat dry. Don’t let it get soggy. You can leave the “gills” or scrape them off with a spoon. It is an aesthetic choice that won’t affect the flavor.
Brush the mushroom with olive oil. Rub on salt and pepper to taste, and maybe a little paprika, which adds a mild smoky flavor.
Grill for about five minutes per side or until the surface is lightly charred. Serve it on a bun with the ingredients of your choice—feta cheese, tomato, lettuce, etc. Optional: You can dress up the “burger” with a Mediterranean-style sauce. Blend together tomatoes, roasted peppers, almonds, garlic and a little red-wine vinegar.
Eggplant stack. Sliced eggplant is “meaty” enough to cut with a steak knife. You can grill, bake or sauté it and dress it up with tomato, onion, cheese or anything else that you’d normally put on a burger.Important: Eggplant has a high water content. It will taste richer—and have a firmer texture—if you leach out the water before cooking. To do this, slice the eggplant into half-inch rounds and sprinkle sea salt on one side of each slice. After 10 or 15 minutes, dab slices with a paper towel to remove the moisture/excess salt.To prepare: Brush the grill grate with olive oil, and grill each side for seven to 10 minutes.Transfer the eggplant to a plate. Top each round with slices of smoked mozzarella, Gouda, provolone or cheddar cheese. Put the rounds back on the grill for about two minutes, until the cheese melts.
Remove from the heat, put on a bun and stack up your ingredients—great choices include pesto, sliced tomatoes and onions.
Broccoli pickup sticks. This roasted broccoli recipe is very easy to make—and more interesting than a plain-Jane steamed vegetable.To prepare: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine about one pound of broccoli (separated into florets), a few pieces of peeled, minced gingerroot, one to two cloves of minced garlic, a pinch of salt, a little cayenne or smoked paprika and three tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well with your hands until the broccoli glistens with oil (add more oil if needed). Put in a baking pan, place in the oven and roast until the broccoli is fork-tender—about 15 minutes.
When you grill beef, lamb or the increasingly popular bison, free radicals and potentially harmful chemicals are produced when dripping fat hits the coals and produces a smoky flare-up. (Pork, poultry and fish also produce the chemicals but generally less so than red meat.) To minimize these dangers…
- Add dried oregano and/or dried cherries to ground meat. These potent antioxidants reduce the production of harmful compounds during high-heat cooking of meat.Tasty option: For one pound of ground meat, add about two teaspoons of dried oregano, one-quarter cup of dried cherries, three-quarters teaspoon fine sea salt and three-quarters teaspoon paprika. Mix well, and use one tablespoon of olive oil to brush the patty before grilling.
The National Cancer Institute also advises grilling precautions such as…
- Don’t put the meat directly over an open flame. That way, the meat won’t reach the ultrahigh cooking temperature that causes charring and promotes the formation of harmful compounds.
- Turn the meat often.
- Remove any charred portions of the meat before eating.