Imagination's only limit for grill food


Once you get beyond the standard hamburger and hot dog fare, what you cook on the grill is limited only by your imagination. Here are some recipes that illustrate a number of techniques to get you started.

Chris Schlesinger says he likes to cook small fowl, such as quail and small chickens, on the grill. In this recipe, which is from "The Thrill of the Grill," by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby (William Morrow and Co., 1990, $24.95), the fowl is butterflied before grilling.

Grilled poussin with leeks, garlic and rosemary

Serves four.


2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

4 tablespoons olive oil

salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

4 poussins, butterflied


3 leeks, white part only, thoroughly washed and halved lengthwise

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

In a small bowl, mix the garlic, rosemary, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste until well combined. Rub this mixture on the poussins, inside and out

Place the poussins on the grill, skin-side down over medium-low heat and cook for 15 minutes. The skin should be brown and crispy.

Turn the poussins over and cook an additional 10 minutes. To see if they are properly cooked, cut into a joint and check the color. It should be fully opaque with no redness.

Meanwhile, place the leeks on the grill cut-side down. Grill them 3 to 4 minutes per side, remove them from the fire and place them in a medium bowl. Add the olive oil and vinegar and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve alongside the poussins.

Note: If poussins are unavailable, use Cornish hens.

Appetizers can be prepared while everyone is standing around waiting for the grill to heat up. Or fix a variety and make them the meal. These two recipes are from "Appetizers on the Grill" by Barbara Grunes (Chicago Review Press, 1992, $9.95).

Grilled marinated mushrooms

Serves eight.

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1 cup olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon dried sage

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes

1 medium-sized red onion, sliced

2 pounds large mushrooms, stems trimmed

canola oil for brushing grill rack

In a glass or ceramic bowl, mix together vinegar, oil, garlic, parsley, oregano, sage, salt, pepper flakes and onion slices. Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Toss mushrooms with marinade. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours, tossing mushrooms occasionally.

Prepare the grill and, when the coals are hot, place the grill rack, brushed with oil, about 4 to 6 inches from heat source. Drain

mushrooms and set mushrooms and onions on grill rack. Grill for about 3 minutes, turning once. Mushrooms will begin to brown and will be hot.

Transfer vegetables to a serving dish. Serve with toothpicks, cherry tomatoes and crackers.

White polenta with rosemary

Serves eight to 10.

3 tablespoons margarine or butter

1 small red onion, minced

1 quart water

1 cup white cornmeal

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

canola oil for brushing grill rack

freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Heat 3 tablespoons margarine in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in water and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in cornmeal. Continue whisking to prevent lumps from forming. Stir in rosemary, salt, pepper, oregano. Continue cooking until mixture thickens, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Pour polenta into an oiled 9-inch round cake pan. Cool, then refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes or until polenta is firm. The polenta can be prepared up to this point the day before serving.

Cut polenta into pie-shaped wedges and brush both sides with melted margarine.

Prepare the grill and when both sides are hot, place grill rack about 4 to 6 inches from heat source. Place polenta on grill rack and cook for 4 minutes, turning once. Polenta will brown lightly and be hot.

Transfer polenta to a serving dish. Sprinkle with cheese and serve hot.

Vegetables may be the most neglected food when it comes to grilling, but they're among the simplest items to grill, and they're ideal for absorbing the smoky flavor grilling imparts.

You don't have to use baby vegetables for this next recipe, Ms. McCune says in "Vegetables on the Grill": "If baby vegetables are unavailable, cut up larger vegetables and cook them separately on skewers. Mushrooms, though not a 'baby' vegetable, cook in the same amount of time and are delicious with pasta. Try using pasta shells in this recipe for variety."

Baby vegetables with pasta, fresh herb sauce

Serves four.

1/4 cup olive oil

1 dried red chili

2 garlic cloves, slightly crushed

fresh herb sauce (see below)

2 pounds assorted baby vegetables, such as zucchini, summer squash, pattypan squash, tiny beets, eggplant, pear tomatoes, artichokes

1 pound dried pasta

1 tablespoon salt

Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil over low in a small saucepan with the red chili and crushed garlic cloves for 10 minutes to release the chili and garlic oils. Set aside. Prepare the fresh herb sauce and set aside.

Skewer all the vegetables and brush with the flavored oil. On an open or covered grill, cook the vegetable skewers, turning pTC occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they begin browning and are tender when pierced with a skewer.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in 4 quarts of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and immediately toss with the sauce. Serve with the grilled vegetables. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

Ms. McCune calls this next recipe "a delicious and light sauce for pasta."

Fresh herb sauce

Makes about 1/2 cup.

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

zest of 1/4 lemon

1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

2 heaping tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

salt to taste

plenty of freshly ground black pepper

grated Parmesan to taste

Heat the olive oil gently in a small saucepan. Do not let it smoke. Just when the pasta is ready, remove the oil from the heat. To the oil, add the lemon juice, lemon zest, chives, parsley, basil, thyme, salt and pepper and immediately toss with hot pasta. Serve with grated parmesan.

Ms. McCune notes in the introduction to this next recipe that "any variety of fresh vegetable can be skewered, grilled and eaten with this flavorful sauce.

Cilantro sauce

Makes about 1/2 cup.

1 cup cilantro leaves, tightly packed (about 1/2 bunch)

1/2 cup parsley leaves, tightly packed

2 green onions, white part and half the green leaves, coarsely chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 teaspoon lime juice

dash of nutmeg

1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Combine the cilantro, parsley, green onions, garlic, lime juice and nutmeg in a food processor and puree. Scrape into a small saucepan and add the cream. Heat gently to thicken, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Seafood is also great on the grill.

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