It’s time to roll out the grill and start cooking outside. It is almost summer, and we sometimes get more than two days in a row of sunshine and blue skies. The kids are done with school, and camp or vacations are just around the corner. It’s the perfect weather for making delicious hamburgers and more.
There is a lot to consider when grilling. Safety first is always most important. According to Mass.gov, grills must be at least 10 feet from the side of any building. They should never be placed under hanging branches, and the operator should always have a water bottle or a fire extinguisher nearby in case of flare-ups.
Always check the grill for blockages in the tubes leading to the burners. We once had some spider nests in a tube and were lucky to have had an inspection at the local hardware store before we started the gas. We now do that every year, just to be safe and to insure the integrity of things like hoses, tanks, tubes and ignitions.
Food safety is another issues. No food of any kind should be left out in the heat for too long — that includes condiments. Chips and breads will fare better, but even they need to be put away eventually to keep bugs and birds away. But there are also other food safety considerations.
I love to grill salmon on cedar planks. The salmon tastes delicious and remains moist and flavorful. However, one time I did not soak the planks long enough and the resulting flare had me scrambling to save 6 salmon steaks! I did it, but they did not look as beautiful as they would have if I had properly soaked the wood. Now I soak starting in the morning, just to make sure. The same goes for wooden skewers, if you use them. I use metal, but be careful — they get really hot!
Mayonnaise is usually not the culprit in food-borne illnesses, but undercooked meats and other foods are. Keep everything refrigerated until as close to eating as possible, and then take the food back to the refrigerator as soon as possible.
Most importantly, hot dogs are one of the leading causes of toddler choking deaths. Cut those hot dogs into tiny pieces that are safe for all your guests.
It may seem silly to remind you of all these safety measures, but summer grill accidents and foodborne illnesses are common, and usually preventable. So a few pre-grilling checks can keep you all safe to enjoy many summers of grilling outdoor eating.
Chicken Burgers (Meat)
Chicken burgers taste delicious and are healthier than meat burgers. They need a bit more flavoring and are more delicate on the grill.
1 lb. ground chicken
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 small onion, grated or very finely minced
1 to 2 cloves garlic, grated or very finely minced
1/2 tsp. bouillon mixed with 1 Tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp. dried parsley flakes or fresh minced parsley
Canola oil for brushing the parties
Mix all the ingredients together, except the oil. and make four patties. Place on a plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Brush generously with oil and place on the grill. Do not move until they release by themselves — 4 to 7 minutes per side. Cook until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Serve with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and other veggies, and any sauces you like. Makes 4 patties.
Spicy Pepper Chicken Burger (Meat)
1 lb. ground chicken
1 medium onion, finely minced
1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 to 3 (depending on your heat preference) canned or fresh chipotle peppers, finely chopped
Canola oil for brushing on burgers
Mix all the ingredients together, except the oil, and make four patties. Place on a plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Brush generously with oil and place on the grill. Do not move until they release by themselves — 4 to 7 minutes per side. Cook until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Serve with coleslaw and a chipotle mayo made from the adobe sauce in the can and/or some minced peppers. Serves 4.
Zucchini Chicken Burger (Meat)
1 lb. ground chicken
1 small zucchini, finely shredded
1 onion, finely minced
1 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 Tbsp. finely minced fresh chives
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp, black pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp salt.
Canola oil for brushing burgers
Mix all the ingredients together, except the oil, and make four patties. Place on a plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Brush generously with oil and place on the grill. Do not move until they release by themselves — 4 to 7 minutes per side. Cook until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Makes 4 patties.
Garlic Aioli (Pareve)
You can add several roasted garlic cloves and a bit of roasted garlic oil to this.
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (scant)
1/2 tsp. Dijon style mustard
OPTIONAL: 1 tsp. fresh lemon zest
4 Tbsp. finely minced garlic, generous
1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp. parsley flakes
Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Makes one cup.
Hot Sweet Apricot Sauce (Pareve)
This is great on all kinds of burgers and on grilled salmon. This is a “to taste” recipe — use as much or little garlic and ginger as you like.
2 to 4 large cloves garlic
1 2-inch thumb of fresh ginger, peeled
2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 half jar apricot preserves (18-ounce jar)
1/4 cup apricot nectar or orange juice
OPTIONAL: 1/4 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper or to taste
Grate the garlic and ginger into a small bowl. Add the brown sugar and mix into a paste. Transfer into a small saucepan and add the apricot jam, juice and salt and mix well. Bring to a simmer. Add the cayenne if you like. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes and turn off heat. Let cool. Makes about 1 to 1/4 cups.
Fresh Spring Salsa (Pareve)
You can keep this chunky or you can pulse in a food processor to make a thicker sauce. I drain a bit of liquid after pulsing once or twice.
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 roasted red pepper
4 to 5 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 fresh green pepper
1/2 to 1 small red onion
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly squeezed lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
OPTIONAL: 1 small roasted Poblano chili pepper, seeded and chopped
Evenly chop the zucchini and the yellow squash and place in a bowl. Cut the roasted red pepper into strips, then cut the strips into small pieces and add to the bowl. Add the chopped tomatoes and toss. Cut the red onion into thin slices and then cut the slices into small pieces. Add and toss. Add the chopped green pepper and the hot chili pepper if you like. Toss with fresh parsley and lemon and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Grill or broil the fish just until opaque. Place on a plate and serve with salsa. Serves 4.