What is in this article?:
- Think outside the box for better-for-you barbecue
- See more tips
With summer grilling season around the corner, and more of your customers thinking about health when they dine out, we're sharing some tips from chef Renee Zonka.
Grain side dishes round out a healthy barbecue menu.
See more tips
5. Don’t forget fruit. Stone fruits like apricots, peaches, plums and nectarines, halved and pitted, and seeded tree fruits like apples and pears are a hot commodity when grilled over medium heat. Fruit’s natural sugar caramelizes nicely for a tantalizing smoky/sweet flavor. Pineapple rings, strawberries and even sliced mango and watermelon wedges can go on the grill. When grilling any fruit, make sure to lightly spray a clean grill with vegetable-oil spray to prevent sticking. For softer fruits like stone fruits and mango, leave the peel on to help the fruit stay together on the grill.
6. Marinate! Marinating meats and vegetables in wine, citrus juice, vinaigrette or a simple brine of salted water for a few minutes to a few hours in the refrigerator before throwing on the grill can both tenderize and add bolder flavor. This means you can use less salt while grilling. Adding a little sweetness to the marinade—like fruit juice, brown sugar, molasses or honey—helps balance the flavor. Or consider a homemade spice rub from dry herbs and seasonings for a delicious and salt-free flavor boost. For cut fruits, soak in water with a splash of lemon juice (and, if desired, a little cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove or ginger) for up to a half-hour before grilling to maintain their natural juiciness and color.
7. Whole grains are hot (served cold). Instead of high-fat potato and macaroni salads, a lightly dressed quinoa side dish—like Chef Zonka’s Quinoa & Lentil Salad with Sherry-Dijon Vinaigrette—not only delivers fresh, “bright” flavor, but quinoa is also an excellent source of plant protein. In fact, this whole grain contains all eight essential amino acids for optimal human health. Quinoa—available in white, black and red varieties—is naturally gluten free. Try cold salads featuring other lesser-known whole grains that are increasing in popularity, like farro, barley, wheat berries and freekeh. And, wild rice need not be relegated to autumn and winter; serve it cold studded with fresh veggies and spiked with zesty citrus dressing.
8. Watch your buns. Replace hamburger and hot-dog buns made with refined white flour with whole-grain varieties for enhanced flavor and fiber.
9. Bake beans without the bacon. A hearty and satisfying side dish of baked beans need not rely on animal fat to taste delicious. Plus, beans are a naturally good source of meatless protein and dietary fiber.