Written By Michael Vyskocil, Photos by: Tara Hope Cofiell
Come on over! It’s grilling time! Roll up your sleeves and grab some finger foods from the grill.
Backyard entertaining is casual by nature, and grilled foods like kabobs and skewers are hot items – literally – for informal summer parties.
But don’t limit yourself to kabobs and skewered savories. There are other fun finger foods that lend themselves naturally to grilling.
For instance, there are endless variations of the quesadilla, and all are fun to prepare on the outdoor grill.
When we think of packet cooking, we often associate the technique with foil-wrapped foods tossed on the grill. But the technique can also employ edible wraps.
Leafy greens like spinach, Swiss chard, cabbage and lettuce can encase vegetables, cheese and other fillings in a package that can go from grill to plate in a matter of seconds.
Grilled Tomatoes and Mozzarella in Cabbage Wraps
Serves 20. Cabbage leaves provide a neat package for the tomato and mozzarella inside. But you could use any other large, leafy green, such as kale, spinach or Swiss chard.
1 large head savoy cabbage
Sea salt or kosher salt, plus more for cooking water
?/? cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons basil-flavored oil
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
- Remove 20 of the largest cabbage leaves from the head without tearing and set aside. Reserve remaining cabbage for another use.
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice-water bath. Plunge one or two leaves into boiling water for about 15 seconds, just until the leaves are wilted. Cool in ice water, then transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining leaves.
- In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and boil gently, uncovered, until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 8 minutes. Stir in basil oil and set aside.
- Cut tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices. Slice cheese into 1/4-inch pieces and trim to approximately the same size as the tomatoes.
- Prepare a charcoal or gas grill, arranging coals for indirect cooking. The coals should be moderately hot to hot.
- Place a cabbage leaf facedown on a work surface. Cut out thickest part of stalk. Place tomato and mozzarella slices on the cabbage leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining leaves, tomatoes and cheese.
- Wrap leaf up and around the filling, brush both sides with olive oil and grill. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until the leaves are lightly browned and the filling is heated through. Transfer the cabbage wraps to a serving plate. Spoon the reserved vinegar mixture around the cabbage wraps and serve.
Grilled Shrimp in the Shells
Serves 12 Purchase the largest shrimp you can find for grilling. Extra-jumbo shrimp, sold as 16/20 count in some supermarkets, work well. Their size ensures they will stay moist and juicy.
3 pounds extra-jumbo shrimp
1 small bunch fresh thyme, leaves stripped from stems
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice from 2 lemons, plus 1 lemon, sliced
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Remove legs from shrimp but do not remove the shells. Using a sharp paring knife, cut several lengthwise slits along the inner curve of each shrimp. Insert several thyme leaves into each slit.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp to the marinade and lightly toss. Add more thyme leaves and the lemon slices. Marinate shrimp for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.
- Prepare a charcoal or gas grill, arranging the coals for direct cooking. The coals should be hot. Drain shrimp from marinade. Arrange shrimp on grill, working in batches if necessary. Grill for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until shrimp are opaque and golden-brown marks appear on the shells. Remove from grill and serve immediately.
Chicken and Scallion Quesadillas
Makes two 10-inch quesadillas To prevent flour tortillas from drying out, keep them well wrapped in plastic wrap until ready to cook.
? cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
? cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
4 boneless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and skin
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ten-inch flour tortillas
? cup scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
1 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
- In a shallow dish, combine lemon juice and olive oil. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and add to marinade. Marinate chicken for at least 1 hour.
- Prepare a charcoal or gas grill, arranging the coals for direct cooking. The coals should be moderately hot. Remove chicken from marinade. Grill chicken for about 5 to 7 minutes on each side, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from grill and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing into 1-inch pieces.
- Brush one side of a tortilla with olive oil. Place the tortilla, oil side down, on a plate. Sprinkle the tortilla with 1/2 cup cheese. Top with half the scallions and cherry tomatoes, chicken and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with another tortilla, and carefully slide the quesadilla onto the grill. Brush the top of the tortilla with olive oil. When the underside of the tortilla is brown, flip over and grill opposite side. Remove from the grill, cut the quesadilla into wedges and serve. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling ingredients.
Grilled Pork Ribs with Maple Rub
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 ? cups ketchup
2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
?/? cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons paprika
4 pounds country-style pork ribs, separated into individual ribs
- Prepare the sauce. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the ketchup, pineapple juice, brown sugar, garlic, maple syrup and paprika. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Divide sauce among two bowls. Cover with pieces of plastic wrap and set aside.
- Place ribs in a large stockpot. Cover ribs with water and bring water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until the ribs are no longer pink.
- While the ribs are simmering, prepare a charcoal or gas grill. Arrange the coals for indirect cooking, pushing the coals to one side of the grill. The coals should be moderately hot.
- Remove ribs from cooking water and drain on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Using tongs, place ribs in one bowl of sauce; turn until the ribs are evenly coated with the sauce. Place the ribs on the grill. Cover grill and cook for 10 to 12 minutes on one side. Using tongs, place ribs in second bowl of sauce, turning to coat, and place on grill. Cook, uncovered, for an additional 10 to 12 minutes on opposite side. Serves 8
Grilled beef and Vegetable Skewers
Serves 10 A honey-mustard marinade tenderizes and flavors the beef.
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons honey
Juice of 3 lemons
4 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (about 6 sprigs), plus more sprigs for garnish
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to brush on grill
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 pounds beef tenderloin, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium onions, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 small zucchini or yellow summer squash, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 each red and yellow bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the Dijon mustard, honey, lemon juice, chopped rosemary, 4 tablespoons olive oil and garlic. Add beef cubes and gently coat beef with honey-mustard mixture. Cover bowl with a piece of plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Prepare a charcoal or gas grill, arranging the coals for direct cooking. The coals should be moderately hot to hot. Brush grill rack with olive oil. Divide marinated beef among 10 skewers. Thread beef on skewers, alternating beef with onion, zucchini or squash and bell pepper chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Grill beef and vegetable skewers on each side until the beef is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 3 or 4 minutes per side. Remove skewers from the grill and allow to cool slightly before serving.
Individual Grilled Pineapple Cakes
Serves 12 The upside-down cake classic meets the outdoor grill in this simple dessert.
1 dozen plain cake doughnuts
? cup plus 4 tablespoons light-brown sugar
1 ? teaspoons ground cinnamon
? cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
12 circular pineapple slices, drained of juice
12 maraschino cherries, drained of juice
- Cut doughnuts in half crosswise. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. Spread the inside of each doughnut half with 1 ? tablespoons butter and sprinkle each half with about 1 ? teaspoons brown sugar-and-cinnamon mixture.
- Place one pineapple slice on each of the 12 doughnut halves. Place a maraschino cherry in the middle of the pineapple ring. Top each filled doughnut half with an unfilled doughnut half and wrap each doughnut in a square of aluminum foil.
- Prepare a charcoal or gas grill, arranging the coals for indirect cooking. The coals should be moderately hot. Heat wrapped doughnuts on the grill for about 3 minutes, or until warmed through and slightly soft.