Ditch marinating for delicious (and faster) summer grilling The Denver Post

By Ali Slagle, The New York Times

Fire is a mighty ingredient all on its own, adding an alluring smokiness to meat, seafood, cheese and vegetables. So skip the marinade: Grill your ingredients with only oil and salt, and over unrelenting direct heat for a crisp char. Then season them hot off the grill. This style of cooking takes little time and less planning — and can simplify and shake up dinnertime.

For a good time grilling, heed these tips:

Prep your ingredients, and get the grill super hot

Choose something slender and sturdy (like asparagus or scallions) or lean and marbled (like skirt steak or shrimp) that can cook in less than 20 minutes. As the grill heats up, pat your ingredients dry with paper towels, then let them air-dry until you’re ready to cook. You want the grill hot, but only on one side, so that there’s a cool zone where you can move ingredients if you need to pause and regroup. This is called two-zone grilling. Make sure to clean the grates with a grill brush, then lightly grease the ingredients and the hot grates to prevent sticking and encourage browning.

Follow the flames more than the recipes

Fire is a wild thing. Each time at the grill will be a little different, so use your senses for the best results. Grill ingredients over direct heat until the bottoms release naturally from the grate, then flip and cook until the outsides are golden and speckled with char and the insides are cooked through. (Check doneness with a meat thermometer or slice and peek in the thickest part.) If your food could use more color, move it to a hotter area. If it flares up, move it to the safe, cool zone.

Once everything’s hot off the grill, season enthusiastically

Use acidic, salty, fresh or spicy seasonings that stand up to smokiness — and distract if the cooking went awry. Rest ingredients in a bold sauce so that no meat juices are wasted (and so that anything overcooked will still seem moist). Add crunch with a dressed salad, potato chips, nuts, seeds, coconut flakes or breadcrumbs, which will also conceal a less-than-crackly crust. Create a big-flavored glaze by coating your food with butter and a condiment, like giardiniera, horseradish or hot sauce. Butter can fix most problems — in grilling and in life.

And to Drink …

Swordfish can go well with a red wine like pinot noir. But with this dish, and its flavors of corn, cilantro and sesame oil, I would opt for a white. That still leaves many options, as long as they are rich in texture rather than delicate. A restrained, dry sauvignon blanc would be delicious, though I would avoid bottles with extravagant flavors or residual sugar. So would a dry riesling from Alsace or a smaragd from the Wachau region of Austria. A dry chenin blanc, like a Savennières, or a good white Bordeaux would also be excellent. If you have a good, old-school bottle of white Rioja, try it with this dish. For sherry lovers, a fino would be just the thing. — Eric Asimov

Recipe: Grilled Swordfish With Corn Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-ounce) swordfish steaks, 1- to 1 1/2-inches thick
  • 6 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • Neutral oil, such as grapeseed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels cut from cobs (about 2 cups kernels)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 ounce chives, cut into 1-inch lengths (about 1 slightly heaping cup)
  • 1 small bunch cilantro (about 2 1/2 ounces), leaves and stems cut into 1-inch lengths
  • Flaky salt, for serving

Preparation

1. Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking over medium-high heat by pouring the coals onto one half of the grill. For a gas grill, heat all the burners to high, then turn off one of the end burners before cooking. (See Tip.)

2. While the grill’s heating, pat the fish dry and make the salad: In a medium bowl, combine the rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons neutral oil, sesame oil and corn. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chives and cilantro on top (don’t stir them in), and season with salt and pepper.

3. When you’re ready to grill, pat the fish dry again, then drizzle with 1 teaspoon salt and lightly coat with oil. Take the fish, salad, a tightly folded paper towel soaked with oil, tongs, a fish spatula and a serving platter to the grill. Clean the grates with a grill brush, then oil the grates with the paper towel. Grill the fish until well browned on one side and it releases easily from the grates, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip with a fish spatula and cook until it registers 130 degrees, 2 to 4 minutes. (For a gas grill, close the lid between flips, listening and keeping an eye out for flare-ups.)

4. Transfer to the platter. Toss the salad to combine, then top the fish right away with the salad, spooning extra dressing over the fish. Let rest for 5 minutes before eating. Season to taste with flaky salt, pepper and sesame oil.

Tips: Medium-high is 375 to 450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4 to 5 inches above the grates for 4 to 5 seconds. High is above 450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4 to 5 inches above the grates for 2 to 3 seconds.

Grilled Chicken With Parsley-Olive Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts (See Tips)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves and stems (about 1 1/2 ounces or half a bunch)
  • 1 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted and torn into various-size pieces
  • 1/4 cup Castelvetrano olive brine
  • 1 fresh chile, such as Fresno or jalapeño, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Preparation

1. Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking over medium-high heat by pouring the coals onto one half of the grill. For a gas grill, heat all of the burners to high, then turn off one of the end burners before cooking. (See Tips.)

2. While the grill’s heating, pat the chicken dry. If the breasts are uneven in their thickness, pound until even with a heavy skillet or meat mallet. Set aside to air-dry. In a rimmed dish or wide, shallow bowl, stir together 1/2 cup olive oil, parsley, olives, olive brine and chile. Using the small holes on a box grater, grate 2 teaspoons zest from the lemon. Add to the bowl, squeeze in half the lemon (about 1 1/2 tablespoons juice), and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut the remaining lemon half into wedges for serving.

3. When you’re ready to grill, season the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt, then lightly coat with olive oil. Take the chicken, sauce, tongs and a tightly folded paper towel soaked in olive oil to the grill. Clean the grates with a grill brush, then oil the grates with the paper towel. Grill the chicken until well browned on one side and it easily releases from the grates, 4 to 6 minutes. (If flare-ups occur, move the chicken to an area of the grill where there are no flames underneath. For a gas grill, close the lid between flips, listening and keeping an eye out for flare-ups.) Flip and cook until the breasts register 155 degrees in the thickest part and the thighs register 165 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes for breasts and 4 to 5 minutes for thighs.

4. Transfer the chicken to the sauce and turn to coat. Let rest for at least 5 minutes and up to 30. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.

Tips: You can dry-brine the chicken in advance, which seasons the meat and locks in its juices. Pat the chicken dry, season with 1 teaspoon salt, and refrigerate uncovered overnight. (No need to season with salt again before grilling.) Let come to room temperature before cooking.

Medium-high is 375 to 450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4 to 5 inches above the grates for 4 to 5 seconds. High is above 450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4 to 5 inches above the grates for 2 to 3 seconds.

Ginger-Mint Grilled Shrimp

Total time: 15 minutes, plus grill heating

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 (1/2-inch) piece ginger, peeled
  • 1 cup firmly packed mint leaves
  • 1 small lime

Preparation

1. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for two-zone cooking over high heat: For a charcoal grill, pour the coals onto one half of the grill. For a gas grill, heat all the burners, then turn off one of the end burners. (See Tips.)

2. Meanwhile, pat the shrimp dry, then transfer to a medium bowl and season with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and lightly coat with olive oil. Set aside. Coarsely chop the ginger, then add the mint and a pinch of salt. Finely chop the ginger and mint together until homogenous. Transfer to a small bowl, finely grate 1/2 teaspoon lime zest into the bowl, and mix to combine. Cut the lime into wedges for serving.

3. When you’re ready to grill, take the shrimp, mint-ginger mixture, lime wedges, a tightly folded paper towel soaked in olive oil, a serving platter and tongs to the grill. Clean the grates with a grill brush, then oil the grates with the paper towel. Add the shrimp perpendicular to the grates over the flame and cook until well browned, about 2 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook until opaque throughout, 1 to 2 minutes. (See Tips.)

4. Transfer the shrimp to the platter and toss with the mint-ginger mixture and a squeeze of lime.

Tips: High is above 450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4 to 5 inches above the grates for 2 to 3 seconds.

If flare-ups occur, move the chicken to an area of the grill where there are no flames underneath. For a gas grill, close the lid between flips, listening and keeping an eye out for flare-ups.

Spicy Citrus Skirt Steak

Total time: 30 minutes, plus grill heating

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak (see Tips)
  • 8 tangerines, satsumas or mandarin oranges, washed and halved horizontally
  • 6 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek or Sriracha, plus more as needed
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Neutral oil, such as grapeseed

Preparation

1. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for two-zone cooking over high heat: For a charcoal grill, pour the coals onto one half of the grill. For a gas grill, heat all the burners, then turn off one of the end burners. (See Tips.)

2. While the grill is heating, pat the steak dry and cut into 5- to 6-inch pieces with the grain. (This makes it easier to fit on the grill.) Set aside to air-dry while you make the sauce: Squeeze 1 cup of juice from about 6 tangerines into a bowl or rimmed dish large enough to hold the steak after it’s grilled. (Set aside the remaining unjuiced halves on a sheet pan.) Add the spent tangerine halves to the juice. Smash the halves with a spoon to release the rind’s oils (as if you’re muddling a cocktail). To the juice and spent tangerine halves, add the rice vinegar, soy sauce, sambal oelek, ginger and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

3. When you’re ready to grill, add the steak to the sheet pan of unjuiced tangerine halves and lightly coat everything with neutral oil. Season generously with salt. Bring the sheet pan of tangerine halves and steak, sauce, a tightly folded paper towel soaked with oil, and tongs to the grill. Clean the grates with a grill brush, then oil the grates with the paper towel. Grill the steak over direct heat, flipping halfway through, until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

4. As the steak and tangerine halves finish, add them to the sauce and turn to coat. Squeeze the charred citrus with your tongs to release the juice and the peels into the dish. Let rest for at least 5 minutes and up to 30. Slice the steak against the grain and serve with the sauce. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sambal oelek.

Tips: You can dry-brine the steak in advance, which seasons the meat and locks in the juices. Pat the steak dry, season with 1 teaspoon salt, and refrigerate uncovered overnight. Let come to room temperature before cooking. (No need to season with salt again before grilling.)

High is above 450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4 to 5 inches above the grates for 2 to 3 seconds.

Spiced Grilled Halloumi

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes (any variety), sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (8- to 9-ounce) package halloumi, sliced 1/4- to 1/3-inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated or Demerara sugar, plus more as needed

Preparation

1. Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking over medium-high heat by pouring the coals onto one half of the grill. For a gas grill, heat all of the burners to high, then turn off one of the end burners before cooking.

2. While the grill is heating, arrange the tomatoes on a platter with an edge to prevent leaking and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Drizzle with olive oil. Set aside. Pat halloumi dry and drizzle with olive oil to coat on both sides. Set aside.

3. In a small skillet over medium-low heat, toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and red-pepper flakes, shaking often, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and smash with the side of your knife until cracked. (You can also do this with a mortar and pestle.) Transfer to a small bowl, add the sugar, and rub with your fingers to further crush the seeds.

4. When you’re ready to grill, take the halloumi, tomatoes, seeds, tongs and a tightly folded paper towel soaked with olive oil to the grill. Clean the grates with a grill brush, then oil the grates with the paper towel. Grill the cheese over the flame, flipping halfway through, until well browned and it releases easily from the gates, 4 to 6 minutes total. (For a gas grill, close the lid between flips, listening and keeping an eye out for flare-ups.) If the cheese sticks to the grates, give it another minute on the heat. Transfer the cheese to the tomatoes, then sprinkle with the seeds. Season to taste with more red-pepper flakes, sugar and olive oil.

Tips: Medium-high is 375 to 450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4 to 5 inches above the grates for 4 to 5 seconds. High is above 450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4 to 5 inches above the grates for 2 to 3 seconds.

Buffalo Grilled Mushrooms

Total time: 25 minutes, plus grill heating

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds medium to large mixed mushrooms (such as crimini, shiitake or maitake, or a combination; not portobello), stemmed
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Buffalo-style hot sauce, such as Frank’s
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and refrigerated
  • 1 1/2 ounces firm blue cheese, sliced or crumbled
  • A few sprigs of parsley, for garnish (optional)

Preparation

1. Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking over high heat by pouring the coals onto one half of the grill. For a gas grill, heat all the burners, then off turn one of the end burners before cooking. (See Tip.)

2. While the grill is heating, place the mushrooms in a large bowl, and drizzle them generously with olive oil (about 6 tablespoons). Put the hot sauce and garlic in a medium cast-iron skillet.

3. When you’re ready to grill, bring the mushrooms, skillet, salt, cold butter, a tightly folded paper towel soaked with oil, oven mitt and tongs to the grill. (You want the butter to stay cold, so if you’re worried about it melting in the sun, bring it out in a cup over ice.) Clean the grates with a grill brush, then oil the grates with the paper towel.

4. Add the mushrooms gill-side up over the flame. Cook the mushrooms, turning occasionally, until well browned and tender, 6 to 15 minutes, depending on the size and type of the mushroom. For a gas grill, close the lid between flips, listening and keeping an eye out for flare-ups. If liquid collects in the mushrooms while cooking, move them to an area of the grill without fire beneath to avoid flare-ups, then flip and return to direct heat.

5. When the mushrooms are almost done, add the skillet to an area of the grill without flame beneath, so that there’s indirect heat. Add the mushrooms to the skillet as they finish. Season lightly with salt and add the butter, stirring to combine until glossy. Season to taste with salt, pepper and more hot sauce, then top with blue cheese and, if using, parsley.

Tips: High is above 450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4 to 5 inches above the grates for 2 to 3 seconds.

Grilled Salmon Escabeche

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 (6- to 8-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 4 limes)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 medium fennel bulb, bulb and stalks thinly sliced, fronds chopped (about 8 ounces)
  • 4 fresh thyme or oregano sprigs or bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Preparation

1. Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking over medium-high heat by pouring the coals onto one half of the grill. For a gas grill, heat all of the burners to medium-high, then turn off one of the end burners before cooking.

2. While the grill heats, pat the salmon dry, and set aside to air-dry. In a metal 3-quart dish (like a 9-by-13-inch pan), large (12-inch) oven-safe skillet or a disposable aluminum pan, stir together the lime juice, vinegar, oil and sugar. Add the fennel, thyme and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.

3. When your grates are heating (or on a gas grill, when your grill is nearing temperature), put the dish over indirect heat (where there aren’t any coals or where the burner is turned off). Cover the grill and let the fennel mixture warm until the grill reaches temperature, about 5 minutes.

4. When you’re ready to grill, season the salmon all over with salt and lightly coat with olive oil. Take the salmon, a tightly folded paper towel soaked with olive oil, a fish spatula and a rimmed baking sheet to the grill. Using gloved hands, transfer the dish of pickled fennel to the baking sheet (or another heat-safe surface, like concrete).

5. Clean the grates with a grill brush, then oil the grates with the paper towel. Add the salmon skin-side down over direct heat (above the flame). Cover the grill and cook until the skin is browned and releases easily from the grates and the flesh is opaque three-quarters of the way up the sides, 3 to 6 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish. Check the fish often and move it around the fire to avoid flare-ups.

6. As the fish finishes, nestle it skin-side up among the pickled fennel. Let sit for 5 minutes or up to 30, until the fish is cooked through. Eat with the pickled fennel. Leftovers can be refrigerated and eaten cold or at room temperature the next day. (Remove the skin as it will be soggy at this point.)

Tips: Medium-high is 375 to 450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4 to 5 inches above the grates for 4 to 5 seconds.

Marinated Grilled Vegetables

Total time: 25 minutes, plus grill heating

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 pounds grilling vegetables, such as peppers (bell, shishito, mini), broccoli raab, broccolini, asparagus, radicchio, fennel, corn, zucchini, eggplant, green beans or snap peas

Preparation

1. Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking over medium-high heat by pouring the coals onto one half of the grill. For a gas grill, heat all of the burners to high, then turn one of the end burners off before cooking.

2. While the grill is heating, make the marinade: In a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cup oil, vinegar, mustard and shallot. Season with salt and pepper. Cut the vegetables into pieces that are large enough so as to not slip through the grates; for small or slender vegetables, like snap peas or green beans, leave them whole. Pat the vegetables dry, then transfer to a sheet pan, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with enough olive oil to coat.

3. When you’re ready to grill, take the marinade, vegetables, tongs and a tightly folded paper towel soaked with olive oil to the grill. Clean the grates with a grill brush, then oil the grates with the paper towel. Grill the vegetables over the flame, flipping occasionally, until well browned and tender, 2 to 15 minutes, depending on the density and size of the vegetables. (For a gas grill, close the lid between flips, listening and keeping an eye out for flare-ups.) As the vegetables finish, transfer them to the marinade. Let the vegetables sit in the marinade for at least 5 minutes. Leftovers will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge. Let come to room temperature before serving.

Tips: Medium-high is 375 to 450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4 to 5 inches above the grates for 4 to 5 seconds. High is above 450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4 to 5 inches above the grates for 2 to 3 seconds.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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