This Month on #BittmanTopics: Grilling

Whether you’re cooking it, eating it, growing it, or reading about it, food brings people together. Welcome to #BittmanTopics: a place where we can all share ideas about a different food-related topic each month. In case you missed the first installment, here’s how it works, and here’s what we talked about in April.

Photo by Francesco Tonelli for the New York Times

Photo by Francesco Tonelli for the New York Times

For many of us, May is a transitional month: it starts as spring and ends around Memorial Day, often with heat and humidity. Grills are coming out of hibernation; I’d like to hear what you’re doing about that.

There is nothing more iconic than the burger, and there’s no denying that the grilled burger is pretty tasty. But there are lots of ways to venture beyond the basic, whether you’re doing it for taste or because the true cost of a cheeseburger is so high. You don’t even need meat: I’ve been doing the less-meatarian thing for a while now (and even wrote a book on it), and most of these 101 fast recipes for grilling are vegetarian. Have a look.

Photo by Sam Kaplan for the New York Times

Photo by Sam Kaplan for the New York Times

Meanwhile, what’s your favorite—or most unexpected—thing to throw on the grill? How do you cook vegetables outside? Do you cut back on meat when you’re grilling, or go (forgive me) whole hog? Whether you’re a grillmaster or a first-timer, join us this month on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or in the comments below with #BittmanTopics. And keep an eye out for details about a tweetchat, which I’ll be hosting later this month thanks to Natalie Shrock’s suggestion on Facebook.

Wheat Berries with Zucchini and Mozz

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By Freya Bellin

If you’re in search of a great picnic dish, look no further. This recipe is summery and herby, while still hearty enough to fill you up. Wheat berries are an unusual grain: dense, chewy, and very nutty. That texture is a great vehicle for pillowy broiled zucchini and rich, creamy pine nuts. Mozzarella adds a nice saltiness (I recommend fresh) and pairs surprisingly well with dill. Just keep in mind that wheat berries can take almost 2 hours to cook, so plan ahead or substitute in another grain in a pinch. This salad tastes great at room temperature—partly what makes it an excellent picnic candidate—but the flavors get a little muddled over time. Just add some fresh dill and cheese to brighten up the dish before serving. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes

Grilled Pineapple and Onion Salsa

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Makes: About 2 1/2 cups

Time: 20 minutes

Grilled fruit makes a fabulous base for salsa; its caramelized sweetness is offset perfectly by the tang of lime juice and the heat of chiles. Use this to dress a green salad, as a dip for tacos, or alongside grilled or broiled chicken or huevos rancheros. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into thick rings (canned rings, drained of excess juices, are also okay)

1 large red onion, cut into thick slices

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh hot chile (like jalapeño or Thai), or to taste, or hot red pepper flakes or cayenne, to taste

1 stalk lemongrass, peeled, trimmed, and minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Thai basil or mint leaves

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat a charcoal or gas grill fire to fairly low heat, and put the rack about 4 inches from the heat source. Brush the pineapple and onion slices with the olive oil; if you’re worried about the slices falling through the grate, thread them on soaked wooden skewers. Cook, turning once or twice, until soft and slightly charred, about 8 minutes total. Remove the slices as they finish cooking. When cool enough to handle, discard the skewers and chop into bite-sized chunks, saving as much of the juices as possible.

2. Put the pineapple and onions in a medium bowl with the chile, lemongrass, basil, and lime juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more chile, lime, or salt as needed. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to an hour.

Grilled Apricot and Onion Salsa. If you can get good apricots—and that’s a big if—this is terrific; but it’s not bad with good dried apricots, soaked in water or wine to cover until soft: Substitute about 8 halved fresh or dried apricots for the pineapple, a tablespoon of minced fresh ginger for the lemongrass, and lemon for the lime juice.

Grilled Peach and Corn Salsa. A nice midsummer salsa: Replace the pineapple with 3 or 4 ripe peaches, halved, and use a tablespoon of minced fresh ginger instead of the lemongrass; add 1 or 2 cobs’ worth of corn on the cob, grilled or roasted and 2 chopped scallions. Use lemon or lime juice.

 

Posted in Produce, Vegan

Radishes with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

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By Freya Bellin

There are certain vegetables that, when very fresh, require little actual “cooking” to make a great bite.  Radishes, thanks to a natural spiciness, are one of those vegetables.  Rather than relegating these little root veggies to garnishes or salad mix-ins, try this simple recipe.  Radishes are crisp and refreshing on their own, and even more so when deeply chilled.  Dipping them in good olive oil and coarse salt adds just the right amount of richness and seasoning to make a nice appetizer or snack.  Try experimenting with flavored salts for more variety.  Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes

Avocado Salad with Ginger and Peanuts

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: 2 hours, largely unattended

Avocado is so rich and creamy that all it needs is a little acidity to become a “salad.” This sweet and sour dressing, almost a ginger syrup, really does the trick.  And for a more substantial salad, eliminate the cilantro sprigs and put the avocados on a bed of watercress before dressing. Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

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Posted in Produce

Barley with Cucumber and Yogurt-Dill Dressing

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: 40 minutes

Cool, crunchy, and chewy, this is a perfect summer salad, and quickly made with pearled barley, which cooks relatively fast. Other grains you can use: brown rice, wheat berries, cracked wheat, pearl couscous, or wild rice. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Middle Eastern, Produce

Spinach-Bulgur Patties with Skordalia

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By Freya Bellin

As someone with a lot of experience eating frozen veggie burgers, I can promise that making burgers from scratch is infinitely more delicious. These patties are meant to be appetizer-sized finger foods, but I made a couple monstrous ones to serve on rolls as veggie burgers instead. Or you could still make mini patties and serve them as sliders. Either way, these are great. You must be patient cooking them, and allow each side to really crisp up. This will help them stay together better when flipped, plus the crunchy outside is a nice texture contrast. Amazingly, the starch from the bulgur thickens up the mixture and acts as a paste to hold the ingredients together: no cheese or starch needed.

Skordalia, the dip that accompanies the patties, may be my new favorite condiment. It is a perfect complement to these burgers, but is also quite versatile, almost like hummus. It has a really unique flavor: super garlicky, nutty, and a little spicy. It would work great for crudités, pita, pretzels, or pretty much anything that can be dipped. Try it—you’ll be hooked. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Recipes, Vegan

Spicy No-Mayo Coleslaw

No_mayo_slaw_1No_mayo_slaw_2

Makes: 8 servings

Time: 30 minutes

If you want restaurant-style coleslaw, you take shredded cabbage and combine it with mayo and maybe a little lemon juice. This version is far more flavorful with far less fat. I like cabbage salad (which is what coleslaw amounts to) on the spicy side, so I use plenty of Dijon, along with a little garlic and chile (you could substitute cayenne for the chile or just omit it if you prefer), and scallions.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in American, Vegan

Smashed Potato Salad with Escarole

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By Freya Bellin

In this dish, ultimate comfort food meets veggies, and they get along pretty well. Mashed potatoes are classically very buttery, but this version doesn’t suffer at all in the absence of milk or butter. The olive oil flavors the potatoes nicely, and although you don’t want to over-smash the potatoes in this dish, I was able to achieve a really creamy consistency, dairy-free. The greens add color and make the salad a little lighter, while the lemon offers a bright, springy, and zesty touch. The citrus is lovely but quite pervasive, so I would start with half a lemon’s worth of juice and add more to taste. I tossed in some salt and lots of extra black pepper at the end, which helped cut the lemon if you find it’s too strong. For those who like spice, try sprinkling red pepper flakes or cayenne on top. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes

Raw Beet Salad

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: 20 minutes

Beets, like carrots, can be eaten raw. And they’re delicious that way, crunchy and sweet. So sweet, in fact, that they need a strongly acidic dressing like this one for balance. Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes