American College of Nutrition Certified Nutrition Specialist | Author | Professor of Nutrition


Fire Up Your Grill, Get Dinner Ready Fast

platter of grilled vegetables

When the weather starts to heat up I turn to the grill to make a super-fast, healthy dinner that doesn’t heat up my whole kitchen. No dirty pots, pans or stove to clean either. You can make a whole meal on the grill in under 30 minutes., leaving you plenty of time to enjoy a summer evening.

These tricks will make you a grilling pro in no time. 

The Grill Itself

Start by heating up the grill super hot so any leftover gunk turns to ash, then brush it all off. Turn your grill to your desired cooking temperature, take a wad of paper towels, long tongs and a small bowl of plain vegetable oil and oil the grill grates. This creates a non-stick surface so your food comes off the grill looking great. (Pun intended.) Run the oiled paper towels over the grates several times to build up a good coat. 

Keep one side of the grill hot and the other side cooler, so if your food starts to cook too quickly you can move it to a cooler spot quickly. If you’ve got foods that need more time, you can sear them over heat and finish cooking over the cooler side, with the cover closed. The more you cook on your grill, the better sense you will have of the best heat level for your favorite foods. 

Grilled Vegetables

Grilled vegetables are delicious and so easy. Slice vegetables thick so they get good grill marks without overcooking. Salt and pepper them before brushing with oil, so the seasoning really gets into the vegetables instead of sliding off. Grill them cut-side down first, so you get good grill marks, then turn over and grill on the other side until tender but not mushy. Top with a splash of good balsamic vinegar or top with a vinaigrette like this one below for fabulous flavor.

Easy All Purpose Vinaigrette

  • 1 small shallot, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • salt and pepper to taste

Blend or shake or whisk together. If you’ve got some fresh thyme, parsley or basil chop some and add it too – its fantastic. If you like the briny bite of capers, chop up 1-2 tsp and add them in too.  

 This collection from Bon Apetit has some fabulous dressing recipes when you are ready for some variety. 

Peppers, summer squash, eggplant, onions and even whole broccoli spears are great cooked on the grill like this. Slide mushrooms onto a skewer so they don’t fall through the grates. Thread thick onion slices onto a skewer too, it makes turning them much easier.

Potatoes can be tossed in salt, pepper and oil, put into a foil pouch (just use a large sheet of foil) and cooked on the grill. Smaller potatoes are easiest, although you can chop any potato into 1-inch chunks and cook them this way.

Grilling corn is easy too, just leave on the innermost layer of the husk, trim off the silk on the top (it will burn) and grill until its as charred as you like it. Softened butter mixed with some chopped fresh basil is my favorite topping.  Others like to mix mayonnaise, lime juice and chili powder and rub that over their grilled corn. Both ways are delicious. 

Grilled Fish

Cooking fish on the barbecue grill keeps the fishy smell outside the house. Clean and oil your grill grates really well so the delicate fish releases easily. You may want to keep the skin on fish like salmon so that it won’t stick. For thinner fish fillets, try using a foil boat. I find they work better than the fish baskets. 

Take a piece of foil and turn up the edges to make a “boat” for each fish fillet. Spray the inside of the boat with non-stick spray, and grill the fish in the boat. The heat from the grill grate will still make grill marks through the foil, and your fish will not stick. This is a great trick when you use a glaze on fish or chicken too – the glaze won’t burn on the grates. 

Grilled Bread

I often slice a good loaf of hearty, crusty bread thick, brush the slices with olive oil and grill on the top rack while the rest of the meal grills below. When its golden and toasty, rub it with a clove of garlic, sprinkle with a little coarse salt and its absolutely delicious. 

You can cut the grilled bread into chunks once its grilled and make a panzanella salad with  grilled or fresh vegetables and some fresh tomatoes. Use the dressing above or any of your favorite dressings for a perfect side to some grilled fish or chicken. 

This gives us a hearty grain side without me having to boil anything. I also use my rice cooker to make farro, brown rice and even polenta without heating up the stove.  

Ladies, don’t be afraid of using the barbecue grill. If you can cook on a stove, you can cook on a grill. Grilling keeps the kitchen cool, chopping is easy because everything stays in big pieces, fishy smells stay outside, cleaning up is easy, food cooks quickly, and its fun! 

Grill up some extra and you’ve got the base of a salad, frittata, sandwich, taco filling, or bowl meal for later in the week. Cook once and eat twice – summer living made easy. 

What’s your favorite food on the grill?

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