With the outdoor cooking season in full swing and Labor Day weekend just around the corner, you’re experiencing the thrill of the grill. But if you define “grilling” as just melting aged provolone on a burger, you’re selling yourself short. Instead, you should start eyeing everything in the supermarket and your kitchen and ask yourself one simple question: “Will it grill?” You’ll quickly realize that practically anything edible can benefit from some time under the dome.
“Grilling can be an easy, delicious, and nutritious way to fit in more health-protective plant foods into your diet,” says Sharon Palmer, RDN.
Time to think outside the bun and send these unlikely yet very grill-worthy foods onto the flames. Your grill game will never be the same.
Made from whole soy beans which are soaked, cooked, fermented and then formed into a firm patty, tempeh is downright meaty and performs beautifully when placed over the fiery coals. Every 4-ounce serving of tempeh delivers 20 grams of satiating plant protein (more than twice the amount in tofu), making it a viable alternative to steak and hot dogs.
Plus, an investigation in the British Journal of Nutrition found that guys who replace just one percent of their calories from animal protein with calories from plant protein can slash their risk for type 2 diabetes by up to 18%. “Plant proteins like tempeh, beans and lentils are also filled with fiber, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and phytochemicals that work to reduce your disease risk,” Palmer says.
Fire it up: Treat a block of tempeh like you would a hunk of steak. Season liberally with salt and pepper or bathe it for a few hours in your favorite meat marinade. Or skip the marinade and instead use a thick, sloppy sauce while grilling, just as you would with ribs. Place tempeh on greased grill grates and cook, turning over once, until darkened with some grill marks, about 8 minutes total.
Traditionally made with a combo of sheep and goat milk, the dairy import offers up bone-friendly calcium and muscle-building protein – about 6 grams in each ounce serving, or nearly the same amount you get from chicken breast. One cautionary point: halloumi tends to be salty, so ease up nibbling on those pretzels while you man the grill.
Fire it up: Upend a block of halloumi and slice lengthwise into 2 big slabs. Brush with oil and heat until browned with grill marks appearing on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Or cut halloumi into 1-inch chunks and skewer kebab-style.
How to take a salad from an afterthought into something delicious? Toss romaine hearts on your red hot grill grates. The lettuce stays crisp with slightly charred edges, and every bite is imbued with a smoky flavor from the grill. You can also do the same with sturdy Tuscan (dinosaur) kale leaves.
A study in the journal Neurology found that people who ate the most leafy greens per day (an average of 1.3 servings daily) had brains that showed reduced signs of aging. “Greens are extremely rich in a variety of essential nutrients, such as B vitamins, and carotenoid antioxidants that can help sharpen your mind,” says Palmer.
Fire it up: Halve heads of romaine lengthwise, lightly brush with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place lettuce halves cut-side down on grill and cook over medium heat, turning once, until leaves are charred in a few places and slightly wilted, about 4 minutes. Use to upgrade Caesar salad or place grilled wedges on a plate and top with other chopped vegetables, toasted nuts and dressing.
Tune into a Bobby Flay episode where he’s cooking in the great outdoors, and it seems like that guy is always grilling fruit. That’s because he is wise to something that more novice grillers overlook – sending fruit to the flames encourages their natural sugars to caramelize, making them an even sweeter summer treat.
A great place to start: juicy peaches, which are chock full of vitamin C, a nutrient shown to help lessen the risk of stroke. Plums, pineapple, mango, and even skewered strawberries can also benefit from being flame-licked.
Fire it up: Slice peach in half, remove pit and lightly coat both sides with oil. Grill over medium heat, turning once, until tender and a few dark marks appear, about 5 minutes total. For a healthier dessert, top with dollops of Greek yogurt and chopped pistachios. Or chop grilled peaches and add to salsas.