Mom’s Day Off

If you have ever sacrificed a steak to the incendiary powers of a backyard grill, or tried to convince yourself that "black and crusty" is exactly how you like your chicken, then you know – firsthand – the ambiguous art of cooking over an open flame. The problem is not just a lack of skill; it's a lack of understanding.

Most men operate under the delusion that grilling is little more than throwing the desired number of edible items over a blaze and sitting back until they heat through. To the contrary, cooking without the high-tech benefits of thermostats and heavy gauge saucepans requires greater vigilance and knowledge than anything demanded from indoor cooking.

It is not by accident that grilling is considered man's work, for it is a form of cooking that often has more to do with showmanship than the production of great food. But for this Mother's Day, I am petitioning all you fathers, sons and grandfathers to repress your competitive genes, reduce the flames, put down your jalapeño dispenser, and go for some refined grilled food in honor of Mom. It won't make you less of a man, and it just might make you a better cook.

Ground turkey is sweeter, milder and drier than beef, characteristics that have given it an also-ran reputation. This recipe intends to change that image by boosting the flavor and moisture of the turkey. Mustard, ketchup and Worcestershire deepen the color, and give the ground turkey something akin to the richer flavor of beef, while breadcrumbs keep the meat moist.

All-American Turkey Burger


11/2 lbs. ground turkey
2 tsps. ketchup
2 tsps. spicy brown mustard
2 tsps. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
salt and black pepper to taste
oil for coating grill
Kaiser rolls or hamburger buns, split
lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes, condiments, as desired

Combine the turkey, ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Form into 4 patties, each about three-quarters-of-an-inch thick

Preheat the grill to medium.

Brush the grill grate and coat with oil, and grill the burgers until browned on both sides, and a thermometer inserted into the side of a burger registers an internal temperature of 165?.

Serve on buns with lettuce, tomato and condiments.

Makes 4 servings.

• • •

Flayed, filleted, stripped of skin and bone, and defenseless against flames and caustic marinades, chicken breasts are routinely sacrificed on the grill. But there are two safeguards you can take. First, coat the meat with oil to lubricate the surface, where most drying occurs. And as soon as the thickest part is almost firm, remove the chicken from the grill. It will cook the rest of the way as it rests on the plate.

Chicken Grilled With Roasted-Pepper Rouille


4 slices crusty bread
oil for coating grill
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, about 6 oz. each
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
1/4 cup pareve roasted pepper spread or purée
4 tsps. extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat grill to medium.

Spray the slices of bread with olive oil, and toast in a 400? oven or toaster oven for about 10 minutes.

Spray the chicken breasts with olive oil, and sprinkle with the Italian seasoning.

Brush the grill grate and coat with oil; grill the chicken until browned on both sides and firm to the touch, and thermometer inserted into the side registers 160 degrees.

While the chicken is grilling, combine the basil and roasted-pepper spread, and coat the toasts with olive oil.

To serve, place a grilled chicken breast on each toast and top each with a tablespoon of the roasted-pepper sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

• • •

There are many permutations of artichoke purée, from pesto to dip to relish. Any would be suitable for the quick sauce in this next recipe. While you're at it, make a double batch; the extra can be served with poached fish, grilled or baked chicken, or as a sauce for tuna or chicken salad.

Grilled Salmon With Artichoke Aïoli


4 pieces salmon fillet, 6 oz. to 7 oz. each
2 tsps. lemon-pepper seasoning
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup artichoke dip or spread
2 Tbsps. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. minced garlic
oil for coating grill

Season salmon with the lemon-pepper and rub each piece with oil.

Combine the artichoke dip, mayonnaise, lemon juice and garlic.

Preheat grill to medium-high; brush the grill grate and coat with oil, and grill the fish for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until it flakes to gentle pressure.

Serve each fish piece topped with a portion of the sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

• • •

When buying tuna steaks, look for a smooth surface and a minimum of visible membrane and brown spots. The meat can be a pale rose or mahogany red; personal taste will determine your preference. If you want your tuna moist, get steaks at least an inch thick. If it's thinner, the fish will cook through and become dry before a charred crust can form. In this recipe, the grilled tuna is served with an Italian-style relish.

Grilled Tuna With Tapenade, Pesto and Bruschetta Relish


1 jar (12 oz.) bruschetta topping
1/4 cup black or green tapenade (olive spread)
2 Tbsps. basil pesto, jarred or fresh
4 boneless tuna steaks, about 6 oz. each and 1-inch thick
salt and black pepper to taste
nonstick olive-oil spray
oil for coating grill

Combine the bruschetta, tapenade, and pesto.

Preheat grill on high.

Season the tuna steaks with salt and pepper, and spray both sides of the fish with olive oil.

Brush the grill grate and coat with oil. Grill the tuna to desired doneness; about 3 minutes per side for rare.

Serve each tuna steak topped with a portion of the bruschetta relish.

Makes 4 servings.

• • •

Ratatouille is a marinated vegetable salad from Provençe in which vegetables are painstakingly sautéed individually, and sauced with garlic vinaigrette. But this recipe is pain-free, augmenting tradition with the flavors of the grill and streamlining the process by cooking all the vegetables at once.

Grilled Ratatouille


olive oil for coating grill and vegetables
1 medium eggplant, cut in 3/4-inch-thick rounds
medium zucchini, cut lengthwise in 3/4-inch slices
1 red bell pepper, cut in strips
1 large onion, peeled and cut in wedges
1 package (6 oz.) sliced portobello mushrooms
2 tsps. chopped garlic, jarred or fresh
salt and pepper to taste
1 can (about 15 oz.) Italian-style diced tomatoes
2 Tbsps. chopped basil

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Brush the grill rack and coat with oil.

Coat the vegetables with oil, and toss them with half the garlic, and the salt and pepper.

Grill until browned and tender, about 5 minutes per side.

(Watch carefully. Different vegetables grill at different rates, depending on the heat of the fire. Turn as needed.)

Toss grilled vegetables with the tomatoes and basil, and adjust the salt and pepper.

Makes 6 servings.

Andrew Schloss is a food-industry consultant and a cookbook author. His current book is Almost From Scratch: 600 Recipes for the New Convenience Cuisine.

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