​7 grilling recipes that are perfect for labor day weekend

But if you define "grilling" as just melting aged provolone on a burger, you’re selling yourself short.

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.

1) Tempeh.

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.

2) Halloumi.

It's grilled cheese: literally. Originating from Cyprus, the magic power of semi-hard halloumi cheese is that it doesn't melt through the grill grates. Instead, the outside becomes flecked with crispy pieces while the inside turns velvety, all the while holding its shape. Try that with a slab of cheddar.

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.

3) Romaine lettuce.

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.

4) Grilled peaches.

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.

5) Avocado.

For the best backyard guac ever, go one step further and grill your avocado first. Hot, extra creamy goodness is a guaranteed result. The whole process couldn’t be easier, and given how packed avocado is with fiber, monounsaturated fat, vitamin K and folate, it's a recipe for nutritional success.

Fire it up: Just slice your ripe avocado in half, remove the seed, and then brush with some oil, lime juice and sea salt. Place it flesh-side down on a hot grill for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until you get some nice grill marks. Scoop out flesh and mash into guacamole, cube and add to salads, slice and place on burgers and tacos or fill the grilled avocado cavity with salsa and crumbled feta.

6) Sweet potato.

For a healthier version of fries, ditch the frozen spuds in favor of grilled sweet potato wedges with just the right amount of crispy char. As a bonus, you’ll load up on beta-carotene. “Beta-carotene is a precursor for forming vitamin A, which is important for healthy skin, eyes, and other body functions,” notes Palmer. “On its own, it’s also a potent antioxidant, and may reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s.”

But don’t just drop raw sweet potatoes on the grill grate, or you’ll risk the outsides burning to a crisp before the interiors are cooked through. Instead, parboil the potato in a pot of water first until slightly tender.

Fire it up: Slice sweet potato into ¾-inch wedges. Place wedges in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to boil. Cook for 3 minutes, or until slightly tender but not cooked all the way through. Drain well and then toss wedges with oil, salt and pepper. Or jazz things up with Cajun or another seasoning mix. Place wedges on grill grate and grill, flipping once, until dark marks appear and potatoes are cooked through, about 10 minutes, flipping once halfway through. Or forget wedges and chop potato into cubes, parboil, grill and then add to salads.

7) Nuts.

Sounds nuts, right? Well, grab a cold one and get ready to upgrade your summer snacking. Why fire up the oven when temps are soaring, when you can use your trusty grill to whip up a batch of toasty brown nuts?

Plus, a batch of smoky, toasted nuts is also a recipe for longevity. A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that the rates of cardiovascular disease among more than 80,000 people was up to 40% lower in people who consumed the most protein from nutrient-dense nuts and seeds.

Fire it up: Prepare your grill for indirect heating by turning on a burner to medium heat on one side and leaving the other side unheated. Or shovel hot charcoal to one side of the grill. Toss 2 cups mixed nuts like almonds, cashews and pecans with 2 tablespoons canola oil and any desired seasonings – try smoked paprika, curry powder or za’atar. Spread out in a single layer in a foil pan. Place pan on grill over area without direct heat underneath. Grill using indirect heat, with the lid closed, until the nuts are fragrant and a few shades darker, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.


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