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CHARRED, I'M SURE

Remember when grilling was reserved for hamburgers only -- or for hotdogs, ribs and steaks? It certainly feels like a long time ago.

Because now we grill everything but ice cream cones, it seems -- fish, seafood, chicken breast, even vegetables. The flavor is wonderful and the food is good for you, too.

Grilling cuts down on the use of fat -- the calorie count of grilled food is much lower than fried food. Grilled food also sports tempting texture and color.

So to the back yard, readers! After all, this is the first weekend of summer.And here are some interesting culinary suggestions to start the season off well.

GRILLED BLACKENED CHICKEN 6 chicken breast halves, boned and skinned
2 tablespoons oil
Blackened Seasoning Mix, following
1 small onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 can (15-ounce) tomato sauce
1 can (14 1/4 -ounce) diced tomatoes
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 can (2-ounce) sliced olives
1 pound spaghetti, cooked
1/4 cup sliced green onions
Minced parsley
Additional grated cheese
Preheat grill. Brush both sides of chicken lightly with oil; sprinkle with Blackened Seasoning Mix. Grill chicken until it is tender and juices run clear when pierced, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool. Cut chicken into half-inch strips. Keep warm.

Add a little more oil to a skillet. Add onion, green pepper, celery, garlic and herbs. Saute until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomato sauce and diced tomatoes; heat to boiling.

Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until sauce is thickened, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; discard bay leaf.

Add 1 cup cheese and olives, stirring until cheese is melted. Stir in chicken pieces.

Arrange spaghetti on serving platter; spoon sauce and chicken over all. Sprinkle with green onions and parsley. Serve with additional grated cheese. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

BLACKENED SEASONING
MIX
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Mix all ingredients.

GRILLED LEMON
CHICKEN
1 frying chicken, quartered
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash cayenne pepper
Combine oil, lemon juice, water, soy sauce, paprika, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and cayenne pepper in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring well. Place chicken quarters on grill over medium heat and grill about 15 minutes per side or until chicken is done. Brush frequently with sauce. Makes 4 servings.

GRILLED TUNA WITH
GINGER VINAIGRETTE
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of white pepper
1 pound fresh tuna steak, 1 inch thick
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely julienned
Mix oil, fresh ginger, soy sauce, orange juice, chopped chives, pepper; set aside.

Cook tuna on a hot grill about 2 minutes, turning once. Let rest 1 minute, then carve into very thin slices.

Arrange slices of tuna on a plate and drizzle with vinaigrette. Garnish with cucumber.

Note: This length of cooking time produces very rare tuna. Tuna really does taste best when rare. But, if you wish, you may lengthen the cooking time. Use a medium fire and cook fish just until it begins to flake.
GRILLED POTATO AND
GRILLED ONION SALAD
6 large boiling potatoes, cooked
Vegetable oil
4 medium onions, peeled and cut into half-inch thick slices
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peel the potatoes if you wish. Cut into slices about half-inch thick, brush lightly with vegetable oil and grill on both sides until slices have grill marks. Transfer to a large bowl.

Brush onion slices with vegetable oil and grill until tender. Combine with potatoes.

Combine olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, green onions, thyme, salt and pepper; mix well. Pour over potatoes and onions and toss lightly to coat. Refrigerate if necessary but bring to room temperature before serving. Makes 4 servings. (The last two recipes are adapted from "The Joy of Grilling" by Joe Famularo, Barron's, 1988.)

JANICE OKUN is food writer and restaurant critic for The News.