Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summer salads, hot with the fire

Fourth of July is on the way and whether it's a small affair with the family or a huge backyard bash, everyone will be barbecuing. While burgers and steaks will be sizzling on the grill, readers may also be tempted by out-of-the-ordinary salads and desserts that cook well with the kiss of flame.

Karen Adler & Judith Fertig, from their recently released summer grilling book BBQ Bash: The Be-All, End-All Party Guide, From Barefoot to Blacktie (April 2008, The Harvard Common Press), have a few suggestions. Colorful, tasty, and easy to prepare with their straightforward instructions, these recipes allow cooks to spend more time at the grill, instead of running back and forth to the kitchen to get other dishes prepared.

Grilled Greek Taverna Salad
As a side dish to serve with grilled chicken, fish, or steak or as a summery meal on its own, we love this version of the traditional Greek salad. The romaine lettuce and red onion sizzle on the grill for extra flavor. Make this when summer tomatoes are at their peak.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Greek Vinaigrette
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano Kosher or sea salt
and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch-thick slices
2 hearts of romaine lettuce

Olive oil, for brushing
3 small cucumbers, diced
3 medium-size tomatoes, diced
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup oil- or brine-cured kalamata olives, pitted

To make the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Prepare a hot fire in your grill.

Thread the skewers with the onion slices so that they look like large lollipops. Cut the hearts of romaine in half lengthwise. Brush the onion slices and the romaine halves with olive oil. Grill the onion slices for about 5 minutes per side, or until blistered. Grill the romaine, cut side down, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the lettuce has browned.

Chop the romaine and onion and arrange on a serving platter. Top with the cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, and olives. Drizzle the dressing over the top and serve.

Grilled Pink Grapefruit and Orange Salad with Fresh Avocado

This easy, refreshing, and colorful salad looks and tastes great. Grilling the citrus fruit adds just a touch of caramelization and makes the fruit even juicier. And the aroma? Fabulous!

Makes 8 servings

Lemon-Pepper Dressing

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon clover honey 1

/2 cup olive oil Kosher or sea salt

and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 pink grapefruit
3 large oranges
Olive oil for brushing
One ripe but firm avocado, pitted, peeled, and thinly sliced

Prepare a hot fire in your grill.

To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl; set aside.

Trim the ends off the fruit (but do not peel), then slice into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Brush the slices with olive oil and grill for 1 minute on each side, or until slightly browned. Arrange the slices on a platter and top with the avocado. Pour the dressing over all and serve immediately.

Grilled Chocolate Crostini
Who says dessert has to be difficult? This one is chic, but oh so easy. Karen remembers a delicious breakfast in Belgium with chocolate sprinkled on homemade buttered bread. Similar to s'mores, but not quite as messy, this is a grownup version for the grill. Serve with a bowl of juicy ripe strawberries.

Makes 16 crostini

One 10-inch baguette
6 to 8 ounces good-quality milk or bittersweet chocolate, in bar or block form
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Coarse kosher or sea salt for sprinkling

Prepare a medium-hot fire in the grill.

Slice off the ends of the bread and then slice the bread on the diagonal 1/2-inch thick, to get 16 slices. Break or cut the chocolate into 16 pieces. Place bread, chocolate, oil, and salt on a baking sheet and carry out to the grill.

Drizzle the bread with a little bit of olive oil and place over the fire to toast (1 to 2 minutes). Turn bread over and place on the indirect-heat side of the grill. Place a piece of chocolate on each slice of bread. Close the grill lid and let heat for a couple of minutes. Remove the crostini from the grill and set on a serving dish. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt and devour while warm.