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Grim's Grub: It's time to fire up the grill

I don't know about anyone else, but for me there are few appetite triggers as powerful as burning charcoal. You could pull a mean prank on me by just burning them without food. The smell turns me into Pavlov's dog. PineandLakes.com Illustration

It's spring, so naturally the grills are coming out of sheds and a little bit of smoke will start rising over the horizon.

I don't know about anyone else, but for me there are few appetite triggers as powerful as burning charcoal. You could pull a mean prank on me by just burning them without food. The smell turns me into Pavlov's dog.

Of course, most people know about the traditional grill foods like chicken, burgers, brats or steak. Special care must be taken for more oily meats, though, since fats are flammable. I once attempted to make bacon cheeseburgers on a grill with tinfoil separating the bacon from the embers. Somehow one piece of bacon was hanging over too far and lit on fire like a wick. The little fire spread through the rest of the bacon. Since then I've seen grilled recipes that use bacon, but I have no clue what the trick is.

Veggies go well on the grill too. I'm not a huge squash fan, but I once had some sort of long yellow squash or zucchini that had been lightly grilled and served with chicken and paella. The combination was one worth repeating for an often demeaned veggie.

It seems that with tinfoil the average cook can add to his grilling repertoire to include items that just don't work over open fire, including chopped potatoes or desserts. An internet connection is all you need to find a plethora of such delights. There are some foods that virtually everyone loves, but few have tried over coals, and that's where I am going to focus today.

My work with the Birchwood in Hackensack has exposed me to experienced cooks with a few more grilling ideas. It turns out the smokiness of the grill pairs well with the classic quesadilla.

If you're going to do a quesadilla, then why not take the bread and cheese dishes a step further and make actual grilled grilled cheese or grilled pizza (probably the most familiar recipe here).

Of course, bread will burn if left too long over the intense heat of a charcoal grill, so keep all your tools ready, do not leave anything unattended and keep the bread moving to avoid charring.

You can also follow instructions found on the weber.com page to create a "safe zone" where you can quickly move your food to prevent burning. Do this by making a single layer of coals across two-thirds of the grate. Leave the final third empty. If things get too hot too fast, slide your food into this safe zone.

Grilled Quesadilla

(Multiply ingredients by number of diners)

  • 2 tortillas
  • 1 chicken breast (or steak or pork)
  • ½ small onion
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 tomato (if you're into that kind of thing)
  • Seasoning salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I would like smoked cheddar, Muenster or some other good melter)
  • Oil or soft butter to coat tortillas

Pile your coals toward the center. Begin by grilling your meat over medium heat. Cut into strips if you wish to speed cooking and increase smoky flavor. Season with salt and pepper. Cook thoroughly (3-4 minutes each side).

Over indirect heat, grill onion, peppers and tomato until they soften.

Chop vegetables and meat. Clean the grate before continuing.

Butter or oil one side of each tortilla and lay on top of the grate toward the outside edge of the grill. Pile cheese on the outside half of each tortilla followed by fillings and another layer of cheese before folding the tortillas over. Once cheese is melted enough to hold the tortilla slightly closed, flip over to finish melting.

Cheese Sandwich on the Grill

  • Two slices bread (this is supposed to be special, so try to find fancy bread like onion bread)
  • Smoked cheddar slice
  • Muenster slice
  • Dill Havarti slice
  • Salted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish (optional)

Butter both sides of your bread. Yes, I said both.

Spread coals across your grate so the coals are in a single layer without touching. Once hot, thoroughly clean the grill and consider wiping down with a moist towel to remove burnt food bits (use tongs).

Place bread slices on the grill just long enough to make dark lines, and then quickly flip them. On the grilled side add one slice of each cheese and horseradish if using. Put tops on sandwiches and flip when cheese starts to hold the bread pieces together. Sandwiches are done once they have dark, smoke-infused grill lines.

Grilled Pizza

  • ½ pound store-bought pizza dough (rolled thin)
  • ½ cup pizza sauce
  • Mozzarella
  • Parmesan
  • Fresh, finely chopped basil
  • Pepperoni (and/or your favorite pizza toppings)

Have a table or space where you can keep all of your pizza toppings, as they must be added quickly.

Mix your cheeses and basil to taste. Keep ready in a bowl.

Separate your toppings so they are easy to deal with.

Keep a spoon in your sauce.

Brush olive oil on both sides of your dough and keep it cold until you are ready to cook.

Heat your grill 15 minutes until very hot. Over direct heat, cook your dough on one side for two minutes with the lid off. Flip it and then add your ingredients.

Use a thin layer of toppings to keep cooking time fast. Cover the grill 3-5 minutes and use your nose to smell for any scorching odors. If you smell burning odors, quickly open the lid and move the pizza to your safe zone.

Allow the pizza to cool three minutes before cutting and serving.

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