In the summer months, we often find ourselves entertaining a whole pile of friends. I love the company and the laughs, but I do not love slaving over a hot stove to keep everyone fed.
With that in mind, I keep things easy by using my grill for all the cooking. And I really mean all: vegetable sides, proteins, fruits, even salads, benefit from a turn on the grill.
Being out on the deck, drink in hand, chatting with friends, cooking on the grill feels relaxed, summery and fun. With good-quality ingredients (think seasonal vegetables, wild fish and nice cuts of meat) and a few simple seasonings, you can turn out a very tasty meal for anyone who happens to be home. I invite my guests to help me by plating, finishing with herbs, slicing crusty bread and serving.
I often start with an easy grilled salad. It’s quick to make and holds your guests’ appetites while you finish the rest of the meal. While everyone is enjoying the salad, I’ll grill the protein, often seasoned simply with generous amounts of salt and pepper, or a favourite store-bought grilling spice mix from my pantry. Since most proteins benefit from resting for 10 minutes before service, I use this time to grill the vegetables, which usually cook very quickly over medium-high heat.
My favourite flavours to pair with an easy summer grilling menu are ones that pack a lot of punch in a simple package. Citrus, fresh herbs, chili or spice rubs, garlic, butter or olive oil, balsamic vinegar: nothing complicated, and nothing requiring a trip to a specialty shop. I also like to keep a few homemade or store-bought sauces on hand to add flair. Great examples: basil pesto, olive tapenade, herbed chimichurri, spicy harissa or The Root Cellar’s Secret Green Sauce.
With a few simple pantry ingredients, some fresh seasonal food and a grill, you can turn out a delicious meal in a relaxed summery fashion for any number of friends. Grab a drink, get grilling and have fun!
|Grilling vegetables with Chef Heidi Fink. Lia Crowe photography.
BASIC GUIDE TO GRILLING VEGETABLES
All vegetables should tossed with a light coating of oil and seasoning (I prefer olive oil and salt) after cutting, but before being placed on the grill.
Bell peppers: Cut out stems, seeds and membranes and cut peppers into four, lengthwise pieces. Place on a hot grill skin side down for several minutes. Flip pieces and press them flat with a metal spatula. Grill for several minutes more. Flip again and flatten again (if necessary). Grill until skins are blackened and peppers are tender, about 10 minutes..
Zucchini: Slice into half-inch-thick slices on the diagonal. Grill over medium high heat, 1 to 2 minutes per side, until grill marked but not mushy.
Eggplant: Slice into 1-inch thick slices or wedges, grill over medium high heat,1 or 2 minutes per side, until grill marked and tender, but not disintegrating.
Corn: Shuck corn and place directly over medium high heat, with the lid down. Turn the corn several times during cooking. They take about 8 minutes to cook through.
Cauliflower: Cut into large florets, grill over medium high heat until char marks appear, transfer to cooler side of grill and cook with the lid down for 5 minutes, turning once.
Broccoli/broccolini: Cut into large florets. Grill over medium high heat until char marks appear, flipping as necessary. Transfer to cooler side of grill and cook with the lid down for 1 or 2 minutes.
Onion: Slice thick, grill over high heat until grill marks appear, flip and repeat.
Cherry tomatoes: Place on a hot grill and cook, stirring/flipping once, until the tomatoes have char marks and are just starting to burst.
Okra: Grill over medium high heat, turning as necessary, until okra is bright green and crisp-tender, with nice grill marks.
|Getting salmon ready for the grill with Chef Heidi Fink. Lia Crowe photography.
Grilled Wild Salmon Steaks with Lemon and Herbs
This is a simple preparation that relies on the freshness of ingredients. You can also serve this salmon with chimichurri sauce.
Wild salmon steaks, cut 1- to 1½-inch thick
(sockeye or coho)
Salt and pepper
Lemons, cut in half
Fresh herbs, chopped (parsley and dill are my favourites)
Preheat a grill on high. Brush the cut sides of the salmon steaks with oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Reduce heat on one half of the grill to medium high and the other half to low. Brush grill with oil (or rub with a paper towel dipped in oil). Place salmon steaks over direct heat on the hotter side and sear 1 or 2 minutes, until grill marks form and salmon can be moved without sticking. Flip salmon steaks and repeat on the second side.
Move salmon to the low heat side of the grill, cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes more, until salmon is just cooked, starting to flake, but still translucent and clinging to the bone in the very centre.
Transfer salmon to a serving platter, dot salmon with butter, sprinkle with fresh herbs and squeeze fresh lemon juice all over the salmon. Sprinkle on more salt, if desired, and serve.
For a beautiful garnish, you can grill some thick slices of lemon on the hot side of the grill at any point during the cooking, or even after the salmon has been removed. Arrange these grilled lemon slices on your platter of salmon, along with sprigs of fresh herbs.
|Fresh off the barbecue, Grilled Tri-Tip Steak with Chef Heidi Fink. Lia Crowe photography.
Grilled Tri-Tip Steak with Arugula and Chimichurri
This inexpensive but flavourful cut of meat works well to feed a crowd. Marinate beforehand to help with tenderness. Serve cut thinly against the grain on a bed of peppery greens and a side of herbed chimichurri sauce.
Approx 3 pounds tri tip steaks
5 Tbsp good quality soy sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp water
Salt and pepper
4 cups washed and dried arugula leaves
1 cup chimichurri sauce
Optional — grilled cherry tomatoes for garnish
In a wide, shallow container, mix together soy sauce, sugar, cider vinegar and water, until sugar is dissolved.
Lay steaks in container, in a single layer if possible, turned to ensure both tops and bottoms are coated in marinade. Marinate 3 to 10 hours, flipping steaks several times. Remove steaks from marinade to a paper-towel lined tray and pat completely dry.
Heat grill on high with the lid down.
Sprinkle both sides of the steaks evenly with salt and pepper. Place on one side of the grill to sear; turn the other side of the grill down to low. Sear the steaks on both sides and transfer to cool side of the grill. Cook until steaks register 120 F to 124 F (for rare) or 125 F to 130 F (for medium rare). Put the lid down or the heat up, as necessary depending on the grill you are using. Once steaks are cooked to your liking, transfer to a platter or baking sheet and let rest at least five minutes.
Meanwhile, cover a serving platter with arugula. When the steaks have rested, transfer them to a cutting board and use a sharp knife to slice them thinly against the grain. Place sliced steak on the bed of arugula, drizzle with Chimichurri Sauce and scatter with the optional cherry tomatoes. Serve immediately.
This bright, herbaceous and flavourful sauce is a wonderful accompaniment to all kinds of food from the grill. It’s traditionally used with steak, but also matches well with our local salmon or an assortment of grilled vegetables.
1 cup well-packed parsley leaves
½ cup well-packed cilantro leaves
2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
5 large cloves garlic, peeled
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
tsp chili flakes (more to taste)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine all the ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor and process until puréed into a fine paste. Stop and scrape down the sides as necessary. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Sauce lasts for five days in the fridge.
Grilled Broccolini and Cherry Tomatoes
with Basil and Balsamic
One of my favourite summer flavours! The combination of grilled green vegetables and burst cherry tomatoes with garlic, basil and balsamic vinegar is to die for!
3 bunches broccolini (or 500 grams green beans,
topped and tailed)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, stems removed
5 tsp extra virgin olive oil
¾ tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3 Tbsp minced fresh basil
1-½ Tbsp quality balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp each salt and freshly ground pepper
Toss the broccolini with 4 tsp of the olive oil and ½ tsp salt in a large bowl, and mix well until evenly coated. In a separate small bowl, toss the cherry tomatoes with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and ¼ tsp salt.
In another small bowl, mix together the garlic, olive oil, basil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Set aside.
Preheat grill on high heat with lid closed until very hot. Turn burners down to three-quarters of max. Place broccolini directly on the grill, leaving room for the cherry tomatoes on one side. (If your grill is too small to do both vegetables at once, grill the cherry tomatoes first).
Grill vegetables with lid down, flipping once or twice, until charred on both sides. Cherry tomatoes will be done first. You want them to have picked up some grill marks and they should be just starting to burst, but not collapsing in on themselves. Remove to bowl while the broccolini is finishing— it should be bright green and crisp-tender with beautiful charring.
Place the broccolini in a wide, shallow serving dish, scatter cherry tomatoes over the top along with any accumulated tomato juices, and drizzle vegetables evenly with the basil mixture. Serve immediately, or allow to cool to room temperature.
Grilled Romaine and Radicchio Salad
Grilling salad greens is a revelation for most people. The romaine retains juiciness and crispness, but picks up a beautiful flavour from its time on the grill; radicchio (or other bitter greens) lose some of their bitterness but retain a delicious complexity of flavour. Dressed simply with lemon, pepper and sharp cheese, this salad needs no other garnish.
2 small heads romaine lettuce, or 4 hearts of romaine
1 head radicchio
2 or 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp salt
2 or 3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
½ cup grated sharp cheese (Pecorino Romano,
Preheat grill on high with lid closed. Cut romaine in half lengthwise, so the halves have some core attached and stay intact. Cut the radicchio into wedges with a part of the core attached on each one (quarters or sixths, depending on the size of the head).
Pour the olive oil onto a baking sheet. Place the romaine cut side down on the oil and rub around to make sure the cut side is coated. Remove the romaine to another tray or a plate. Now place the cut radicchio on the oil-coated tray and rub around to coat with oil (drizzle on more oil if necessary). Sprinkle both the romaine and radicchio liberally with salt.
Place the romaine, cut side down on the grill. Keep the heat on high. If your grill is big enough, cook the radicchio at the same time. Leave the lid open and really press on the lettuce to help it sear. After a minute or so, turn the lettuce and radicchio and grill the second side.
This should take less than three minutes. You want the lettuce to have grill marks and some charring, but not be burnt. The radicchio will fade in colour and get slightly more charred.
Remove romaine and radicchio from the grill and transfer to a cutting board. Cut the cores out and discard them. Chop the leaves into bite sized pieces. Scatter the grilled leaves on a serving platter, squeeze fresh lemon all over, grind fresh pepper all over and sprinkle with grated cheese. Serve immediately.
|Fresh off the barbecue, Grilled corn from Chef Heidi Fink. Lia Crowe photography.
Grilled corn with smoked chili butter
Sweet grilled corn is the essence of summer eating. This smoky, flavourful, buttery sauce takes it to a new level.
8 cobs of corn, husks removed
4 tsp oil
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp soft butter
2 Tbsp Hellmann’s mayonnaise
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp minced or puréed canned chipotle in adobo
1 clove garlic crushed to a paste
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 tsp fresh lime juice
½ tsp salt, or more, to taste
½ tsp brown sugar, or more, to taste
Preheat grill with all burners on high and lid closed. Toss shucked corn with oil and salt, making sure each cob is coated evenly.
Turn burners down to medium. Place corn directly over grill and cook, lid closed, turning occasionally, until charred on all sides and fully tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine all remaining ingredients in a small bowl and mix well until evenly blended. Remove corn from grill to a nice platter. Slather each piece on all sides in the butter mixture. Serve immediately.
-Story by Chef Heidi Fink
Special thanks to Hardy Fink and Cynthia Bonesky for hosting our photo shoot at their beautiful home.