If you’re planning to grill for any of the several holidays coming up — Independence Day, Labor Day, or a special birthday or anniversary dinner — why not just make an entire day of it?
Not only can you grill all day long in order to fashion an entire meal, should you fancy you might also put together one entire day’s eating from one grill.
Some cultures cook entire meals in or on a single outdoor heat source, usually some sort of pit, such as New Zealand’s Maori hangi, or a goat barbacoa and its accompaniments in Oaxaca, southern Mexico.
If it’s an aboveground grill, though, just pace out the meal in stages. It’s a grand way to set out a buffet of food for a large group.
If you choose to do breakfast on the grill, fire up foods such as grilled pineapple or peaches, or grilled French toast, bacon and ham slices. Easy peasy.
You can also start grilling early for foods that can safely sit around on platters for a good portion of the day before the main event. Many sorts of grilled vegetables fit this bill: sliced soft squashes (zucchini, yellow summer squash, chayote), red or green tomato halves, large mushroom caps, cobs of corn (with or without husking), eggplant slices or small whole eggplants, onion wedges, asparagus, different kinds of sweet or spicy peppers, wedges of romaine lettuce (yes!) or radicchio, halved or sliced fennel bulb, and parboiled or blanched firm vegetables such as potato slices (or small whole spuds), yam or sweet potato, beet, carrot or parsnip.
If you soften up (in the microwave or in boiling water or steam) cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and turnip, they come off the grill nicely, too. In addition to soft squashes, if you pre-cook slightly firm squashes such as acorn or butternut, finishing chunks of them on the grill makes for added flavor.
Grilling the ingredients that go into sauces or condiments adds a depth of flavor and aroma that normal, stovetop cooking doesn’t. And these foods can be made well before mealtime. Grill tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, corn, even garlic and ginger, in order to prepare salsa rojo or chimichurri or other piquant and flavorful sauces for grilled meats and vegetables.
Make a compound butter from grilled scallions or leeks (or ramps, if they’re still around the market), chopping them finely and mixing them into room temperature unsalted butter. That’d be a nice treat with which to top other grilled foods down the line.
More ahead-of-time grilling possibilities: low-water, so-called “grilling cheeses” such as the Greek or Greek-style halloumi or kefalotyri, Mexican queso panela, some drier provolone, and Scandinavian or American cheeses labeled “grilling cheese.”
Closer to main mealtime is the hour to begin grilling flatbreads and slices of firm crusted bread, slathered with olive oil and flavored with pepper, salt and herbs. Possibilities for grilled breads are nearly endless.
And, we’re off: shellfish, seafood, freshwater fishes, all manner of beast or fowl—whole, fileted or as sausages—and the vegetarian or vegan possibilities of grilled firm tofu, tempeh and seitan. Recipes for all these likewise close to endless.
But don’t forget dessert; it, too, can fly off the grill. Grilled fruits, again, are delicious (bananas or watermelon are especially tasty when grilled). So is grilled pound cake or other sweet firm baked goods.
S’mores are a gimme as a grilled dessert, but consider making small packets of them, instead: two squares of graham cracker sandwiching some semi-sweet chocolate chips or a thin bar of chocolate, and a marshmallow or two, all wrapped in a foot-square sheet of aluminum foil and heated five minutes on the waning embers of the grill. Kids go crazy is what I’ve heard.
Lamb Chops Scottadito with Charred Cherry Tomatoes
Serves 4; bonappetit.com
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1⁄2 cup finely chopped rosemary
1⁄4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
12 lamb rib chops (about 2 and 1⁄4 pounds total)
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 pound cherry tomatoes, preferably on the vine
Combine garlic, rosemary, and 1⁄4 cup oil in a large bowl. Working one at a time, pound lamb chops between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to about 1⁄4″ thick; trim any excess fat. Season with salt and pepper and add to marinade; turn to coat. Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. Prepare a grill for medium-high heat. Remove lamb chops from marinade and wipe off marinade.
Grill lamb chops, turning often and moving around on grill as needed, until charred on both sides, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Drizzle tomatoes with oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill in a grill basket or large cast-iron skillet until lightly charred and blistered, about 4 minutes. Serve tomatoes alongside lamb.
Bill St. John has written and taught about restaurants, food, cooking and wine for more than 40 years, locally for Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post and KCNC-TV Channel 4, nationally for Chicago Tribune Newspapers and Wine & Spirits magazine. The Denver native lives in his hometown. Contact Bill at email@example.com