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While I am not fond of summers in Phoenix, one thing I do like about summer is the fruits and berries available at lower prices during this season. Fruits offer fantastic options for the grill. Whether an appetizer, dessert or side dish, grilled fruits make a wonderful addition to any plate.
As I mentioned in earlier articles, reducing moisture in certain foods intensifies or concentrates the flavors. In addition, taking sugars above 260 degrees caramelizes them. These two facts make fruits perfect foods for the grill since fruits are primarily water and sugar. Add to that, they are extremely easy to prepare. All you need are the fruit and cooking oil, and you have a great tasting culinary adventure in fruit.
Rule 1- Pick a fresh firm fruit short of being perfectly ripe. The fruit should be solid enough to stay together and maintain its shape and texture on the grill. Apples, pears and pineapples are the easiest to prepare since they hold their shape and texture while cooking because they are considered hard-fruits. Nectarines, peaches, mangos and plums become soft and mushy if overcooked.
Rule 2 – Surface area is your friend. You want as much of the fruit as possible to contact the surface of the grill. With many fruits, you can simply cut them in half. When grilling bananas, cut them lengthwise and leave the peels on to hold them together, grilling the flat surface of the cut.
Rule 3 – Leave peels on if possible. This helps hold the fruit together whether you eat the skin or not. Cut large fruits and citrus into slices to expose more of the flesh to the grill.
Rule 4 – Soak your fruit in a solution of ice water and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to preserve color. Soak them for about ½ hour. This helps hydrate the fruit and helps the fruit maintain it shape.
Rule 5 – Make sure the grill is cleaned of previously grilled proteins and fats (steaks and burgers). Beef- flavored peaches in not good-eats. It is best to grill fruit over medium heat on a very clean cooking grate. Lightly spray the grill with canola oil to keep the fruit from sticking to the grill.
Rule 6 – Season your fruit. Add any complimentary seasoning that will accentuate the natural flavors of the fruit. Simply tossing some cloves and cinnamon back into your bowl of soaking apples will augment its flavor. The classic nutmeg, allspice, or ginger added to melted butter is good to brush on the fruit. Rum also presents interesting opportunities for flavor. Yes, you may take a shot of rum to verify its taste and quality. This tasting may be done before, during and after grilling. However, the final product quality might vary as a function of rum consumption.
Rule- 7 Don’t add sugar. There is enough sugar in fruit. Sugar burns at very low grilling temperatures, and you won’t be able to recover your dish because of the resulting bitterness.
Enough of the rules already! Let’s get grilling. One of my favorites is grilled apples on top of ice cream. This can be done in one of two ways, grilling or baking. Yep, I said baking.
Method 1 – Grilling – Core and slice the apples. Soak them in a lemon water bath with cinnamon and nutmeg for about ½ hour. Shake off the excess water and grill for about 2 minutes on medium-high heat flip and grill for another 2 minutes. Remove from the grill and allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then serve on ice cream.
Method 2 – Baking on the Grill – Core several apples, leaving the entire apple intact in one piece with a hole going through the middle of the apple. Plug the bottom of the hole with a pad of butter. Fill the center hole with sugar and cinnamon, then wrap in aluminum foil. Yes, I know I said don’t add sugar, but in this application we are baking the apple, not grilling it. Place the aluminum-wrapped apples on the upper shelf of your grill and close the cover. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. If you do not have an upper shelf, use indirect heat. If you overcook the apples they will become mushy, but not to worry. You simply rename the dish to “Applesauce in the Skin,” and this makes a great ice cream topping!
Next week I will write on the art of baking on your grill.
Until then, Happy Grilling,
Chef David Hall