World traveler and professional chef, Shannon Smith, owner of Beads and Basil.
I’m that person that fires up the grill every month of the year. I’ve been known to wear a ski mask to keep warm over the grill during a snowstorm. Summer is my favorite time to grill because there are so many freshly grown vegetables to throw over the coals, bringing out the smoky flavors and delicious char.
Grilling isn’t just for burgers and hotdogs. Gather your favorite veggies and drizzle with some olive oil, salt and pepper and let the sizzle begin. You can get creative by adding flavorful dry rubs, freshly chopped herbs or seasoned salt. You can even grill fresh fruit, like peaches and plums by glazing them with oil and searing until you have nice grill marks. Finish fruit with a drizzle of maple syrup or honey, and serve it as dessert with ice cream. I like to chop grilled fruit and add red onions and jalapeño for a salsa to serve with grilled meat. This summer, I grilled strawberries and served them with whipped cream and balsamic vinegar for a really refreshing dessert that’s not too sweet.
When it comes to grilling, I prefer charcoal or wood because I like the smokiness that adds a dimension of flavor. However, the gas-fired grill can certainly be more convenient. You can still get that smoky flavor with a gas grill if you soak a piece of oak or fruit wood in water for at least 30 minutes, then partially wrap it in foil and place it on the grate.
Whether I’m grilling meat or vegetables, I don’t use a lot of marinades or dry rubs since I prefer to make simple sauces for the finished dish. One of my favorite sauces is pesto, made from fresh herbs from my garden. I also heat maple syrup until it becomes thick and sticky, and add a knob of butter to make a tasty glaze for pork, salmon or chicken. Use your favorite Mexican salsa to top grilled veggies or any smoky meat.
There are so many ways to finish your grilled masterpiece, but don’t feel obligated to get saucy. Fire has its own way of making food taste spectacular without the addition of anything (except salt, of course).
Get creative this summer by firing up the grill, and show your family and friends that you can serve up more than burgers and hotdogs. If you’re looking for some interesting sauces, here are two of my favorite recipes. Find more on beadsandbasil.com, and happy grilling!
Grilled Cod with Salsa Verde
There are a lot of variations for salsa verde, and this is one of my favorites. In the summer when I have an abundance of fresh mint I add it to the mix. If you’re in a hurry you can make the salsa in a food processor, but just pulse it so it doesn’t become smooth. Of course, you can substitute the cod for fish that is in season. Serve this with rice or potatoes, and some roasted cherry tomatoes, and you’ve got a beautiful plate of colorful goodness!
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Juice of one lime
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, minced (including leaves)
- 1 small tomatillo, minced
- 1 Tbsp. capers, minced
- Salt and pepper
- Four cod fillets, about 1” thick
In a bowl, whisk together the shallot, garlic, parsley, cilantro, celery, tomatillo, capers, salt and pepper (to taste).
Brush the cod fillets with olive oil and add salt and pepper to both sides. Sear over a hot grill, about 4 minutes on each side, until fish is firm and flaky in the center. (Alternatively, you can cook the cod in the broiler of your oven by placing cod on a broiler pan set 6” under the heating element, and cooking about 4 minutes on one side. Turn fillets and cook another 4 minutes until done). Cooking time depends on the thickness of your fish. If they are thicker than 1” you might cook longer.
Place fish on platter and top with salsa verde.
Yellow Pepper Pesto
This is absolutely my favorite sauce recipe! The roasted yellow peppers add a sweetness that blends perfectly with the cilantro and Parmesan. You can spoon this sauce on eggs, grilled meats or vegetables, or my favorite…..poured over corn chips and eaten like chips and salsa!
- 2 large yellow bell peppers, grilled, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Place peppers, garlic, pine nuts, cilantro and cheese in a food processor and process until combined. With the motor running, add the oil and process until emulsified and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
See more about Summer Grilling: