Friday, May 4, 2012

Whole Foods Friday: You put WHAT on the grill?

A few years ago, when my stove died and upgrades to accommodate the new stove took a while to get done, I started getting creative with cooking on the grill.

Eventually I figured out that just about anything you can cook on a stovetop or in an oven, you can make on the grill.

On the other hand, there are things that are so much better on the grill. And some of them might surprise you.

If you don't have a grill - or when weather doesn't cooperate - you can certainly make these recipes on a grill pan.

Grilled Cheese - No, Not THAT Kind!

Did you know there's a type of cheese that can be grilled? I'm not talking about slapping it between two sliced of bread - I mean you can put the cheese on a grill or grill pan and it won't turn into melty goo.

Instead, you'll get nice grill marks and the cheese will hold its shape. It will get softer, but it doesn't melt in quite the same way as other cheese.

The typical grilling cheese is called Haloumi, but I found another one - called Talari - that was labeled as a Haloumi-type cheese, so I figured I'd give it a try.

This appetizer seems very simple, but the flavors work together in ways that will surprise your guests - the creamy cheese, crisp lettuce, sweet-tart tomatoes, and garlicky ramp pesto.

Grilled Talari Appetizer

1 bunch ramps - leaves only
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Pinch of salt
8 leaves butter lettuce
4 small tomatoes
8 1/4-inch slices Talari or Haloumi cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

To make the pesto, wash the ramp leaves, cut off any bad parts, cut them into chunks, and put them in hour blender. (Reserve the white parts of the ramps for other uses.)

Add the pinch of salt and one tablespoon of oil and blend until you have a smooth product. Add more oil, as needed, to achieve a consistency similar tomato sauce.

You can make the pesto well ahead of time and refrigerate until needed.

Heat a grill or grill pan until it's hot. Place the cheese on the grill, and cook until there are grill marks. Flip the cheese over and cook on the second side.

Cut the tomatoes into small wedges, and clean and dry the lettuce leaves.

Arrange a slice of cheese on top of each leaf, then top with tomato wedges. Drizzle a small amount of the pesto on top. If desired, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Serve while the cheese is still warm.

If you're feeling dainty, you can eat this with a knife and fork, Or, roll up the lettuce leaf and eat it as finger food.

Pineapple on the Grill

When you grill pineapple it gets sweeter, but this recipe isn't massively sweet. You could serve it as dessert, or serve it as a side dish with a spicy barbecue meal to help cut the heat. Or, serve it for breakfast.

I liked this best with a thick, tart Greek-style yogurt. but you could sweeten it up for dessert by serving it with a scoop of ice cream instead of the yogurt.

To make pineapple rings, you need to cut the core out of the pineapple. If you have a pineapple corer, you can use that, but not many people have those.

You could use a knife to cut the core out, but that's not very efficient, and it's not very pretty. However, if you have a small biscuit cutter, it works perfectly, You won't be able to core the whole pineapple at once, but you can easily core one or two slices at a time.

You can serve the pineapple while it's warm from the grill, or let it cool off.

Grilled Pineapple with Macerated Fruit

1 pineapple, peeled, sliced, and cored
1 cup strawberries, quartered, halved, or sliced, depending on size
1 mango, peeled, seed removed, and cut in a large dice
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
Juice of 1/2 lime
Greek-style yogurt

Combine the strawberries, mango, sugar, salt, and lime in a bowl. Stir to combine and set aside until needed. If you make it a day ahead of time, the mango will pick up some of the color from the strawberries, which can be attractive.

Grill the pineapple (on your barbecue grill on on a grill pan) on both sides, just long enough to get grill marks on the pineapple. You're not looking to cook it. However - if your pineapple is a little under-ripe, you can grill it just a little longer to soften it a bit and make it just alittle sweeter.

To serve, place the pineapple on a plate and top with a dollop of the yogurt and some of the fruit. Serve.

Grilled Cake

If you're making everything else on the grill, it's fun to grill some cake as well. Your best bet for grilling is something a little dense, like a pound cake. Obviously, you don't want to grill a frosted cake, but almost any unfrosted loaf-style cake would work just fine.

Flavors are up to you. I chose a vanilla cake so I'd have a neutral base, but I also saw an orange-flavored loaf cake in the freezer section that looked pretty good. Angelfood cake would also work.

Of course, you can always make your own cake, if you prefer. As along as the cake isn't too delicate, you can grill it. You just don't want something that will crumble or fall apart on the grill.

When it comes to ice cream and toppings, that's your choice - or serve a variety and let your guests choose for themselves. Don't forget a garnish - I used chocolate pearls for a little crunch.

Grilled Cake with Ice Cream

1 small pound cake
1 pint ice cream
Caramel topping
Chocolate pearls

Slice the cake into pieces about 1/2 thick. Heat the grill or grill pan. Grill the cake slices until you have grill marks on one side, then flip and grill on the other side.

Quickly top the cake slices with the ice cream and drizzle with the caramel sauce. Garnish with the chocolate pearls. Serve.

For more information on Whole Foods Friday, see the tab at the top.