With the amazing bounty of fruit in season at your local markets, the price is right (often under $2 a pound) and the time has come to get into grilling your favorite fruit on a hot grill grate – I call it “kissing” the fruit on the grill for an unusual take on appetizers, salads and salsas.
Keep in mind that this is cooking with very little or no fat, and there is the danger of the fruit sticking to the grill. To avoid this disaster, the grill grate must be very hot, brushed very clean and be well lubricated with a paper towel soaked in canola oil. (You can drizzle the fruit with a little canola oil too.)
Here are my fruit grilling suggestions and tips:
Lemons and Limes
If you are grilling fish or shellfish (or chicken, or beef too), grill lemon and/or lime halves 1-2 minutes over direct high heat till charred with grill marks, and serve them as a garnish to other grilled foods. The fruit will burst with flavor and the warm juice is like delicious, citrusy nectar. They’re also much cooler looking than raw lemon and lime wedges on the plate.
Watermelon: Cut watermelon into 2-inch chunks or thick slices, (without the rind) and mark on one side on a very hot grill grate, about 30 seconds. Toss in bowl or arrange on a serving platter with grilled lime juice and a chiffonade of fresh mint leaves from the garden.
Watermelon and Tomato Salad
Grill thick watermelon slices (without the rind) and place on serving plates. Top with a variety of roughly chopped cherry and heirloom tomatoes dressed with lots of S & P and a good strong vinaigrette, garnished with herbs from the garden – basil, parsley, chives and tarragon are all fine. Top with cheese: boccacini of fresh mozz (like a caprese), a little fresh crumbled goat cheese or shaved parm. Drizzle with a fruity, super-special olive oil – the good stuff.
Grill ½ -inch rounds over direct medium-high heat 1-2 minutes, flip and grill second side 1 minute more. Cut into chunks, drizzle with grilled lime or lemon juice (or barbeque sauce) and serve as a side dish for grilled pork, baby back ribs, fish or chicken.
Pineapple and Pork Kebabs
Slice pork tenderloins into 1-inch chunks, coat with a good chili spice rub or a fennel rub (brown sugar, toasted and ground fennel, cumin, coriander seeds and S &P – about a tablespoon of each). Thread onto flat metal skewers with pineapple chunks and red onion sections. Grill on both sides over direct medium-high heat, 3-4 minutes per side, till well charred with grill marks. Finish cooking over indirect heat with the grill cover closed, till cooked through. (I use an aluminum foil “landing zone” in my Weber or a disposable aluminum pan on my gas grill to park my kebabs to finish cooking, away from the coals or the gas heating elements.)
Grill a few ½ -inch rounds 1-2 minutes per side over direct medium-high heat. Let cool, dice and add to diced, grilled white onion, minced grilled and seeded jalapeño, seeded and perfectly diced ripe tomato, chopped cilantro and /or parsley and chives, S&P and the juice of a grilled lime. Serve with tortilla chips or as a sauce for grilled everything.
Stone Fruit: Peaches, White Peaches, Nectarines and Apricots
Start with a very simple balsamic vinegar glaze: whisk together ¼ cup real, good-quality Modena balsamic vinegar with 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar (or substitute with honey or agave syrup).
The fruit should be firm, and ripe – not mushy or mealy, which will fall apart and make a big mess of the grill.
I actually prefer the skin off, even for perfectly ripe fruit. Peel them with a very sharp paring knife or score the skin all away around, blanch in boiling water 20-30 seconds, shock in ice water and get ride of the skin. This is a little messy, I know, but worth the extra step.
Depending on size, cut the fruit in half (apricots and smaller peaches) or 6-8 thick wedges (for bigger peaches and nectarines), soak in the glaze 10-15 minutes – about the time it takes to preheat a gas grill or fire up a charcoal chimney starter. Kiss the fruit on the hot grill grate over medium-high direct heat, 1-2 minutes per side till the fruit is nicely charred with grill marks and caramelized. Serve warm with any remaining glaze as a sauce. Absolutely killer.
Why not? They’re easy, and delicious. Double-skewer the glazed fruit in alternating sections on soaked bamboo skewers or flat metal kebab skewers. (This will help to prevent them from spinning around.) A platter of grilled fruit kebabs is a very impressive and unusual vegetarian party appetizer.
Grilled peaches are terrific as a grilled component to an arugula salad topped with crumbled fresh goat cheese, blue cheese, or ricotta salata (a fresh, dense, dried version of ricotta) drizzled overtop with that balsamic glaze. Thicken the glaze by making a quick balsamic reduction in a pan, either on the stove or over a burner on the grill, and spoon over the salad. With a few drops of really good olive oil and a pinch of fresh cracked black pepper, you can’t go wrong.
Trim off the tops and bottoms of black mission figs and glaze them with my balsamic glaze –either whole or cut in halves – skewer them on rosemary stems and grill them over direct medium-high heat till lightly charred. Really good served warm with olive oil on good grilled bread (like a crostini), even better with a balsamic reduction or lavender honey drizzled on top.
Figs with goat cheese wrapped in prosciutto: Cut off the tops and bottoms of black mission figs, cut them in half or in quarters, depending on their size. Add a small nub of fresh or herbed goat cheese and wrap in thin-sliced prosciutto. Grill over medium-high heat till nicely charred, plumped and the cheese begins to ooze, 3-4 minutes. Serve hot off the grill as a passed appetizer with toothpicks, drizzled with a balsamic reduction or lavender honey. Super sexy, oozing with tartness and sweetness, and mind blowingly good.