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Add fruits, veggies to the grill for a complete meal

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Add fruits and veggies to the grill for a complete meal

Who doesn't love a juicy steak or hamburger fresh from the grill? Add some fresh vegetables or fruits to the grill and you'll have a complete meal and keep your kitchen cooler, too.

Grilling fruits and veggies enhances their flavors. Cooking without added sauces also lets you enjoy the flavors without added calories. Here are some tips for grilling fruits and vegetables.

* Start with a clean grill. Wash or scrub the produce.

* Cut or slice vegetables into uniform pieces so they will all cook in about the same amount of time. Pieces should be large enough that they won't slip through a grill grate. Purchasing an inexpensive grill pan can protect foods during outdoor cookery. A homemade pan can be made with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil and fashioned with a turned-up edge to prevent food from rolling into the fire.

* Allow the grill surface to get hot before placing raw foods on it. If using a charcoal grill, allow 30-40 minutes for coals to reach ash stage.

* Pre-soak vegetables in cold water for 10-15 minutes before grilling to help retain moisture.

* Brushing fruits and vegetables lightly with cooking oil before placing them on the grill will enhance color, seal in moisture, and prevent sticking. An oil-based Italian-style dressing, which will add the flavor of Italian seasoning, also can be used.

* Use tongs or spatula for turning, rather than a fork, to prevent juices from escaping.

* Use separate tongs, plates or platters when grilling meats, fruits and vegetables, or toasting breads to avoid cross contamination.

* Place fruits and vegetables to the side of the grill. Grilling time will vary with the size and type of food. Grill just until tender and lightly browned.

When grilled to taste, most fruits and vegetables will be fork tender. Potatoes, squash, onions, asparagus, mushrooms, eggplant and pepper strips are good vegetables to grill. For fruits, try fresh pineapple slices and peach or nectarine halves.

Or, thread a variety of fruits or veggies onto skewers to make kabobs.

Corn on the cob is a classic grill favorite, and is easy to prepare. If leaving corn husks on, remove the silks, and then soak the corn in water at least 20 minutes. Drain excess water before grilling. During grilling, turn the corn frequently to prevent the husks from burning.

Another corn grilling method is to remove the husks and brush the ear of corn lightly with oil or butter before placing it on the grill. Removing the husks, sprinkling the ear of corn with water and wrapping it in aluminum foil before placing it on the grill will steam, rather than grill, the corn.

Whether it's fruits and veggies or meats on the grill, be sure to follow food safety guidelines. Don't invite harmful bacteria to your summer picnic. Wash hands. Keep the grill and utensils clean. Use a food thermometer to be sure meat is cooked to the proper temperature. Thaw meat in the refrigerator. Remember the rule of keeping hot food hot and cold food cold.

Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.

Ann Ludlum
FCS Agent, Southwind District
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Southwind District -- Fort Scott office. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.