Fourth of July is right around the corner, which means getting your friends together in your backyard for a little bit of grillin' and chillin'. Hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, and barbecued pork are all the norm for this meatcentric holiday. And that stuff is all fine and good -- everyone loves hot dogs and hamburgers, and they're easy to make. But what about the sides? Everyone wants simplicity there too. Well, before resorting to prepackaged coleslaw and a can of baked beans, Charlie recommends you supplement your all-American cookout with these easy grilled side dishes:
10. Zucchini - Grilled zucchini has the most amazing meaty flavor once it comes off the grill. The flesh loses its starchy, squash-like taste and grows sweet. Making it is easy: Slice zucchini the long way and rub with olive oil. Then sprinkle with chili powder, salt, and pepper and grill until you have nice grill marks on each side.
9. Potato wedges - Grilled potato wedges are a burger's best friend. They're also a low-fat alternative to French fries. For best results, par-cook potatoes first in a pot of boiling water, but don't go until they're fork tender. Brush with olive oil, salt, and pepper and grill on both sides until crisp and charred. Serve with my favorite dip: Sriracha ketchup.
8. Flatbreads - Mini pizzas are easy and fun to grill. Simply grab some prepackaged flatbreads, or if you're making dough from scratch, par-cook on one side. Then top with whatever you want: figs and Gorgonzola cheese, tomato-basil and mozzarella, or even some of that pulled pork and barbecue sauce you were making anyway. Grill over low heat with the top closed and you'll get a crisp, melty mini-pie that you can slice and share.
7. Honey-mustard-glazed kielbasa - Try this with kielbasa sausage: Slice down the middle to make the sausage into two halves. Then grill on each side. As you turn them over, baste in a sauce made with honey, whole-grain mustard, olive oil, and garlic. As the sauce caramelizes on the grill, it turns sweet and the garlic cooks in. To serve, slice each half into small bite-sized pieces and let your guests go to town.
6. Pineapple and watermelon - For dessert, these fruits hold up
great on the grill. For the pineapple, you can grill it whole or slice
and grill individually. If you grill it whole, use low heat and cook
for 30 minutes or more. The inside will practically melt apart -- even the tough core. The
watermelon works best in inch-thick slices, cooked quickly over high heat. Both gain a smoky,
grilled flavor that really impresses. For bonus points, sprinkle your
pineapple with cinnamon, and salt your watermelon. Your guests will love
you for it.
5. Corn on the cob -- Grilled corn with bits of char all over is really incredible. Making it is super easy too. There are two ways: First, leave it in the husk but remove all the stringy grass from the inside. Wet the husk and it will sort of steam the corn inside. The other way is remove the husk and all and grill the corn bareback. The kernels are a little bit drier that way, but the smoky flavor is better. Top with butter and sprinkle on salt and ancho chili powder to finish.
4. Cherry tomatoes - Skewered tomatoes don't steam and lose too much juice thanks to the piercing. So try this instead: Toss a package of cherry tomatoes in olive oil
and sea salt and set them on your grill's top grate. Close the lid and
cook slowly for about ten minutes and you'll have the absolute best
tomatoes you've ever tasted. The heat and flame turns them into little
sweet-savory orbs that pop open when you bite into them. Be careful not
to pop them on the grill!
3. Grilled eggplant dip - Here's something to toss in the smoker or grill with that slow-cooking barbecue: eggplant. Simply cook over very low heat until the eggplant is completely soft and roasted. Then scoop out the insides and treat like you would an oven-roasted one. Turn it into savory dip like baba gannouj.
2. Bacon-wrapped jalapeños - Slice the core off of fresh jalapeños
and remove the seeds with a knife. Then stuff with cream cheese and
wrap in salty bacon. A toothpick will keep them together as you grill
them till the bacon is crisp and the jalapeños get soft. These are so
good, you'll want to make them all the time.
1. Bananas with rum and brown sugar - This is great: Take slightly
underripe bananas and slice on a bias like you were making bananas foster.
Then soak the pieces in a bit of dark rum for 30 minutes. Roll them
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around in brown sugar until they're coated, and grill over high heat
for just a minute or two per side. The sugar should caramelize, and the
banana will get all soft and sweet. Serve it over ice cream for a cool
dessert to end the Fourth.