Fire up the grill
By JOHN CARAFOLI 
CONTRIBUTING WRITER

My introduction to grilling started when I was a very young child. My grandfather would place a large steak in a grill basket, take my hand and lead me down the narrow cellar stairs to the coal furnace that heated our home.

 


 Vegetables are grilled over direct and indirect heat in this photograph from "Food Photography and Styling" by John Carafoli. 
(Photo by Brian Hagiwara) 

He'd open the door, look in and know instinctively when the coals had burned down to the right heat for cooking that night's dinner. I would sit quietly while he held the handle of the grill basket over the coals, first one side then the other, until the steak was perfectly cooked to his taste.

 

Grilling food has become very fashionable and quite different from the days when my grandfather cooked on the hearth of our furnace. Shops are glutted with fancy gas, electric, and charcoal grills. There are portable ones for the beach and elaborate ones for decks in every imaginable price range to suit a

variety of needs.

 

All about coals

Most Americans think of outdoor grilling as charcoal briquettes doused with lighter fluid. Many times the food is put on the grill before the fluid has burned off and the coals are still black. This can be a health hazard, and should be avoided.

I prefer natural hardwood charcoal, available at whole food grocery stores and many hardware stores. I use a chimney starter about 25 to 45 minutes before I actually want to put food on the grill. When the coals have burned down to a bright orange glow, I know, like my grandfather did, the coals are ready and I start to cook my food.

I am not going into the particulars of how to grill from start to finish; my interest here is to suggest some of my favorite recipes for summer grilling. Two good books on grilling I can recommend are ''How to Grill'' by Steven Raichlen, published in 2001 by Workman, and ''The Thrill of the Grill'' by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, published in 1990 by Morrow.

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This is a simple marinade but it can also be used on other meats, like lamb and pork chops. Most stores have Herbes de Provence, but you may substitute Italian seasonings.

Grilled Marinated Filets Mignon

4 (8 ounce) filets of beef

For the marinade:

1 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

1 shallot finely minced

1/4 teaspoon Herbes de Provence (see note)

2 tablespoons coarse pepper, freshly ground

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix marinade ingredients together. Place the filets in a glass dish and pour the marinade over them, making sure all surfaces are covered. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours, turning two or three times. Remove from marinade, let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Place on a pre-heated grill and cook to desired doneness, brushing often with the marinade. Serves 4.

Note: Herbes de Provence are a variety of packaged dried herbs such a basil, bay leaf, marjoram, oregano, parsley, savory and thyme.

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Preparing this marinade 1 hour before using allows the ingredients to blend together for a more flavorful marinade.

Marinated Grilled Shrimp

For the marinade:

1 bottle (12 ounces) beer of your choice

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

1/2 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

8 large jumbo shrimp

4 (8- inch) wooden skewers

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients for the marinade (everything but the shrimp,) mix well, and set aside.

Soak the wooden skewers in water.

Remove shells, devein the shrimp, put them in the prepared marinade, and marinate 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature.

Remove shrimp from marinade and thread the shrimp on the wooden skewers, two per skewer. To cook, place the skewered shrimp on the grill, about 4 inches from heat source. Cook about 5 minutes per side until pink and delicately browned. Serves 4.

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This savory infused red wine butter (or compound butter) adds the perfect touch to grilled meats. Once the mixture is chilled (or frozen) a small slice placed on a broiled or grilled lamb steak or chop adds a delicious and surprising note.

Red Wine Herb Butter

1 cup red wine

2 tablespoons shallots, finely minced

1 teaspoon rosemary leaves, finely minced

1 medium garlic clove, finely minced

1/3-cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon paprika

1/2 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened to room temperature

Put the wine, shallots, rosemary, and garlic in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce to one-third of a cup. Add the chicken stock and reduce again to one-third of a cup. Let cool. Then add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating slowly with an electric hand mixer to incorporate the wine mixture with the butter. Add the paprika and pepper; beat until well combined.

Spoon the butter mixture onto a sheet of wax paper and shape into a log about 6 inches long. Roll up to enclose, twisting the ends to hold in place. Chill or freeze until needed.

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This is the time of year when the striped bass are running on Cape Cod. If the bass is not available, you may substitute wild Alaskan Salmon, which would be perfect for a Fourth of July celebration.

Charcoal-Grilled Whole Striped Bass

1 whole striped bass, gutted (see note)

1/2 cup olive oil

Juice from 1 lemon

Juice from one grapefruit

2 tablespoons EACH chopped parsley, dill, and marjoram

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh sprigs of dill, tarragon, marjoram, parsley, and sage, or any fresh herbs from your garden

1 red onion, thinly sliced

Lemon slices and parsley for garnish

Start the charcoal fire well in advance, so the coals will be bright orange by the time you are ready to cook the fish.

In a small bowl, mix together the chopped parsley, dill, marjoram, and black pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, and grapefruit juice. Wash the fish inside and out and dry. Then generously coat the inside and outside of the fish with the oil-herb mixture. Let it marinate for 15 to 20 minutes. Then place the fresh herbs and sliced onions inside the cavity of the fish. Brush the grill with olive oil. Baste the fish with the oil-herb mixture and place on the grill 4 to 5 inches above the coals Cook 10 to 12 minutes per inch of thickness. Turn once and baste again.

Serve on a platter and garnish with lemon slices and parsley.

NOTE: When you are purchasing the fish, you may want to use the head for stock. If so have the fishmonger remove the gills or the stock will be bitter and unusable.

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Grill more vegetables than you need for this meal: they won't go to waste. Use them the next couple of days in salads and for side dishes for other meals.

Marinated Grilled Vegetables

Oil and lemon dressing (recipe below)

3 small eggplants, cut in half and scored with a knife

3 small summer squashes or zucchini, cut in half and scored with a knife

1 EACH large red, yellow, and green peppers, quartered and seeded

2 large portabella mushrooms, sliced

1 large red onion, cut into 1/4 inch-slices

6 plum tomatoes

Place all the vegetables in a large baking pan, toss with dressing and marinate 10 minutes.

Place the vegetables on a prepared, oiled grill and cook 12 to 15 minutes, until ''al dente.'' Makes four to six servings

Fresh Herb Oil and White Wine Vinegar Dressing

This dressing not only can be used for grilled vegetables but for garden salads as well. Double the recipe and it will keep in the refrigerator.

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1 cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs: basil, thyme, oregano and tarragon

1 teaspoon minced green onion

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients in a small jar with a cover, Shake well, and then adjust for taste.

Chill for 1 hour or more then remove the garlic clove. Shake well before using.

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This basic sauce is from ''How to Grill'' by Steven Raichlen

Basic Barbecue Sauce

2 cups ketchup

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons prepared mustard

1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

1 tablespoon of Basic Barbecue Rub (see recipe below)

2 teaspoons liquid smoke

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and gently simmer the sauce 10 to 15 minutes until dark and thick. Transfer the sauce to clean (or even sterile) jars and store in refrigerator. It will keep for several months. Makes about 2 1/2 cups

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This is one of my favorite versatile rubs. I use it on meats and poultry when I am grilling. It can also be used on roasts.

Basic Barbecue Rub

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon crushed black pepper

1 tablespoon Five Spice Blend

Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.

To use, brush a little olive oil over the meat to be cooked. Generously coat all sides of the meat with the rub and proceed to grill or roast. Makes about 1/3 cup.

(Published: June 1, 2005)