As the Fourth of July approaches and grilling season is officially underway, it’s time to think of some new ideas. Sure, you can serve burgers and hot dogs this holiday weekend (millions will) — but why not think outside the grilling box?
Like this Indian-inspired chicken kebob. Boneless chunks of chicken are marinated in yogurt, coconut milk, and spices like turmeric, ginger, cumin and chile powder. The chicken is placed on metal or wooden skewers (which need to be soaked in cold water so they don’t burn!) along with very thin slices of zucchini or summer squash and cherry tomatoes. It’s a simple dish that can be made ahead of time and served with cool, refreshing yogurt, rice and Indian-style bread or pita.
One of the fastest, easiest grilling dishes imaginable is a packet made with fresh clams, scallions, garlic and tomatoes. Simply wrap littleneck or cherrystone clams in a large piece of foil and top with chopped tomatoes, garlic, scallions and a touch of olive oil. You can also add chunks of spicy chorizo sausage. The packet is tightly sealed and placed on a hot grill. The clams release their briny liquid and mix with the aromatics and olive oil to create an instant sauce. You can serve everyone their own clam packet along with grilled French bread or serve the clams on top of pasta.
Although most of us don’t think about grilling when it comes to dessert, there are many interesting ways to grill summer fruits. Here I take the first summer peaches, cut them in half, remove the pit and sprinkle them with a touch of sugar. They go on the grill cut side down and cook until just soft and the sugar has caramelized — just a few minutes on each side. The grilled peach is then cooled and filled with creme fraiche, yogurt, whipped or ice cream and topped with edible flowers.
Hot tip: Whatever you grill, you want to make sure your grill is thoroughly clean. If you heat the grates properly and clean them off thoroughly, your food will not stick and you won’t need to oil the grill or baskets.
Indian-Spiced Chicken Skewers
Chunks of boneless chicken thigh and breast are marinated in yogurt, coconut milk and a variety of Indian spices. The yogurt tenderizes the meat and the spices and coconut milk create a thick, aromatic paste.
The chicken is skewered with zucchini and/or summer squash slices and cherry tomatoes. You can easily add fresh snap peas, slivers of onion or any other vegetable you like. Serve with a bowl of plain yogurt, rice, warm bread and chutney.
The chicken and marinade:
- 1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- About 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon chile powder
- 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
- 1 cup full fat coconut milk
- ½ cup plain full-fat yogurt
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
- 1 large zucchini, cut into very thin rounds
- 1 yellow summer squash, cut into very thin rounds
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- Mix the spices in a large bowl. If you don’t like a lot of heat, use 1/8 teaspoon chile powder; if you like it spicier, use ¼ teaspoon. Add the oil, coconut milk, yogurt and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces and mix to thoroughly coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- If using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in cold water for at least an hour and up to several hours to prevent them from burning.
- Using 4 long metal skewers or 8 smaller wooden skewers, arrange the chicken, squash slices and tomatoes on the skewers alternating ingredients. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
- Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to 400 degrees. Clean off the grates thoroughly. Use a pastry brush or a kitchen spoon to spread any remaining marinade on top of the chicken and vegetables. Grill the skewers for 8 minutes on one side. Gently flip the skewers over and grill another 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden brown and the chicken is cooked through and the squash is tender.
Clam Packets With Scallions, Tomatoes, Garlic And Chorizo
You can put these clam packets together a few hours ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to grill. Add chunks of spicy chorizo sausage if you like, but this dish is every bit as flavorful without the meat. This clam dish makes a great main course or first course and can be served as is with grilled crusty bread or poured over pasta.
The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for a crowd. You can also substitute fresh mussels for the clams.
Serves 2 to 4.
- 2 large scallions, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 clove garlic, very thinly sliced or chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped cooked chorizo, cut into ½ inch size pieces, optional
- 1/2 cup chopped tomato or cherry tomatoes
- 16 littleneck clams, or 12 cherrystone clams
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cut two or four pieces of foil about 4 inches by 5 inches. If this is a main course you’ll want to add 8 clams to each packet; if it’s a first course you can add 4 clams and make 4 packets. Divide the scallion, garlic, chorizo if using, and tomatoes in the bottom of the foil, and top with the clams. Drizzle the oil on top and season with pepper. You won’t need salt since clams are so briny. Tightly wrap the foil packs so the juices won’t leak out.
- Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to around 400 degrees. Place a grill tray or basket on the grate and clean off the grates and grill tray. Place the clam packets on the grill tray (or directly on the grates if you don’t have a tray or basket) and grill for about 6 to 8 minutes. Carefully, with an oven mitt, open the packet to see if the clams have opened. The clams should just be open and the juices sizzling. If the clams have not opened, carefully reseal the packets and grill for another 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot.
Grilled Peaches With Crème Fraîche
Grilling fruit brings out the natural sugars and lends itself to all kinds of experimentation. Here I keep it simple by pitting the peaches and sprinkling them with a touch of sugar. The peach half is grilled, sugar side down, for a few minutes and then grilled on the other side.
Once the peach has cooled you can fill the cavity with crème fraîche, whipped cream, yogurt or even ice cream. Sprinkle with edible flowers. This recipe works well with all stone fruit — plums, apricots, even cherries.
Serves 2 to 4.
- 2 ripe peaches
- About 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, depending on the sweetness of the fruit
- About ½ cup crème fraîche, Greek yogurt, whipped cream or ice cream
- Edible flowers, optional
- Preheat the grill to hot, around 400 degrees. Place a vegetable rack on the hot grates and clean off the rack thoroughly. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pit. Sprinkle the cut side with sugar, about ½ to 1 tablespoon per half depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Place the fruit sugar side down on a grill tray or basket or place directly on the hot grates if you don’t have a grill tray. Grill for about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the peach over and grill another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the peach is softened and hot. Let cool to room temperature and fill in the cavity where the pit was with crème fraîche or yogurt. Top with edible flowers or a touch of grated lime zest.
Other Grilling Ideas:
Editor’s note: In the segment, we suggested using a steel wire brush to clean the grill. However, doctors have warned that using wire bristle brushes could be hazardous to your health.