Firing up the grill is a delicious summer ritual. This year, before you start shaping your burgers and salting your steaks, check out these four full-flavored recipes courtesy of Dave Grotto, RD, author of 101 Optimal Life Foods and self-described "dad who grills."
Grotto has a long list of things he likes about grilling. The smoky accent it imparts is No. 1. On the grill, even the veggies his family normally dubs boring are transformed into treats. But Grotto also grills because it's easy on the arteries. A quick spray of cooking oil is all you need to keep things from sticking, lean meats and fish are standouts, and for dads dead-set on steaks, much of the saturated fats found in well-marbled meats drip down into the pit rather than ending up on the plate. That's an ideal recipe for healthy summer eating.
Flank Steak Tacos
You'd be hard pressed to find a more delicious or grill-friendly cut than flank steak. It's tender, lean, and quick-cooking. And with a tangy papaya marinade, not only does it taste great, but the marinade can help prevent the buildup of potential carcinogens called heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, that form on grilled meats.
1½ pounds flank steak
1/3 cup papaya juice concentrate
1/3 cup white vinegar
½ cup light soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 limes, juiced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chipotle or chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp paprika
8 corn or wheat tortillas
Assorted toppings: onions, tomatoes, green peppers, cilantro, grated Monterey Jack cheese
1. Place the flank steak in a large glass baking dish.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the papaya juice, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic cloves, juice of two limes, and olive oil. Add in all of the dry seasonings. Whisk until well blended, and then pour it over the flank steak, turning the steak over once to coat both sides.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate at least four hours, but preferably overnight.
1. Heat the grill to medium high. Lightly oil the rack.
2. Grill the flank steak for about 5–7 minutes on each side.
3. Remove the steak from the grill and let it rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes to allow the juices to absorb back into the meat before slicing.
4. While the steak is resting, warm the tortillas in a slightly oiled skillet over low heat for about a minute on each side.
5. Thinly slice the steak on the diagonal.
6. Arrange two or three tortillas on each plate. Lay several pieces of steak on each tortilla and top with your choice of chopped onion, cilantro, tomatoes, green peppers, and cheese. Garnish with lime wedges.
Grilled Pineapple and Chili Pork Tenderloin
Savory and sweet with ginger and garlic providing a hint of heat, this Asian-accented dish -- loaded with protein and light on fat -- will satisfy dad's deepest meat craving.
¼ cup red pepper, diced small
¼ cup green pepper, diced small
¼ cup red onion, diced small
½ tsp fresh ginger, minced
½ tsp fresh garlic, minced
2 scallions, diced
1 tsp cilantro, minced
½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp cumin
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 lb pork tenderloin
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp chili powder
3 cups mesclun greens
1. Peel the pineapple and cut it in half. Set aside one half and dice the other for chutney.
2. Mix all ingredients for chutney, reserve.
3. Lightly coat the tenderloin with olive oil, then season it with salt and pepper. Sprinkle all over with chili powder
4. Slice reserved pineapple into 4 slices.
1. Heat the grill to medium high.
2. Turning the tenderloin every few minutes, grill the pork to an internal temperature of 150°F (approximately 12–15 minutes).
3. Halfway through the cooking, lay the pineapple slices on the grill. Turn them once.
4. Remove pineapple and pork and let them rest for 5 minutes.
To plate: top mesclun greens with one pineapple slice. Slice pork and shingle against the pineapple. Spoon chutney over sliced pork.
350 calories, 11 g fat (3.5 saturated fat), 105 mg cholesterol, 240 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 36 g protein. Calories from fat: 28%.
Grilled Sausage, Onion, and Basil Pizza
Hold the pepperoni! This pizza, topped with sweet Vidalia onions, savory lean turkey sausage, earthy mushrooms, and sharp Asiago cheese, has everything you could ask for. Rolling out the dough is fun, so give it a try. Your first efforts may not turn out as perfectly round as New York's finest, but whatever the shape, your pies will boast all the flavor and fewer calories.
Note: Unless you have an extra large grill, you will have to cook the pizzas one at a time.
Servings: 16 (two 12-inch pizzas)
2 ready-made pizza doughs or ready-made crusts such as whole wheat Boboli
6 oz low-fat, precooked smoked turkey sausage, casing removed, cut in bite-size pieces
½ cup pizza sauce
4 oz oyster mushrooms, sliced thin. White mushrooms make a fine substitute.
1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 oz shredded Asiago cheese
6 oz shredded low-sodium, mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil
8 leaves fresh basil
1. Roll out pizza crust according to directions or use a ready-made pizza crust.
2. Spread half of the pizza sauce on each crust. Divide and place half of the onion, mushrooms, garlic, and sausage bits evenly onto pizza. Mix the two cheeses together and top the first pizza with half of it. Repeat steps for next pizza.
1. Set the grill on medium high. When hot, brush the grill with grapeseed or canola oil. Place one pizza on the grill, covered, until cheese is bubbling, about 7–10 minutes. Remove with pizza peel or with two metal spatulas. Tear the basil leaves into strips and sprinkle on the pizza, slice, and serve.
2. Don't forget to put the other pizza on the grill before you sit down to eat!
230 calories, 8 g fat (3.5 saturated fat), 15 mg cholesterol, 480 mg sodium, 28 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 11 g protein. Calories from fat: 31%.
Mediterranean Grilled Arctic Char
A little lemon, a scattering of olives, and a few sprigs of oregano -- nothing more is needed to dress up the whole fish in this simple and heart-healthy Mediterranean recipe. Arctic char is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which excel at cardiovascular cleanup, lowering blood pressure, and slowing the growth of dangerous plaque in your arteries.
½ tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
1½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano plus
6 large sprigs
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 (3¼- to 3½-lb) cleaned whole -Arctic
char, bluefish, or salmon
2 tbsp olive oil
6 (¼-inch-thick) lemon slices
¼ cup pitted Calamata olives (1¼ oz) cut into slivers
1. Heat the grill to medium.
2. For the marinade: Whisk together zest, lemon juice, chopped oregano, and salt and pepper. Then add olive oil in a stream, whisking until all the ingredients are combined well.
3. Make 1-inch-long slits at 2-inch intervals down middle of fish on both sides with a sharp paring knife. Set fish in a glass serving dish and pour the marinade over it. Let the fish sit for 15 minutes, then turn it over and let it sit for 15 minutes more.
4. Just before cooking, lightly season the fish cavity with salt and pepper, then evenly distribute 3 lemon rounds and 3 oregano sprigs in the cavity. Close the cavity and then evenly arrange remaining 3 lemon rounds and 3 oregano sprigs on top of the fish and tie the fish closed with string at 2-inch intervals, securing lemon slices and oregano sprigs to fish.
1. Grill fish on lightly oiled grill rack, covered only if using gas grill, 15 minutes.
2. Turn fish over using a metal spatula and tongs and grill until just cooked through, about 15 minutes more.
3. Transfer fish to a large platter using two metal spatulas, then cut and discard string. Scatter the chopped olives over the fish and serve.
250 calories, 15 g fat (2.5 saturated fat), 80 mg cholesterol, 130 mg sodium, 0 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 27 g protein. Calories from fat: 54%
The Thrill of the Healthy Grill
Looking for ways to make your grilling healthier? Follow these tips:
- Take cover. Marinades are for more than just flavor. Studies show that marinades may help protect against the buildup of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), potential carcinogens formed when grilling meat, fish, and poultry.
- Lean on me. The less fat you start with, the fewer HCA-inducing flare-ups you'll have when you grill. Pick lean cuts and trim away excess fat before you start cooking.
- Divide and conquer. To further reduce the amount of HCAs that make it to your plate, avoid cooking directly over the coals when possible, Grotto says. To do this, wait until the coals are fully heated, then carefully divide them into two piles, and cook food in between them.
- Eat your veggies. Not only are they good for you and taste great fresh off the grill, but vegetables -- and fruits -- don't produce harmful HCAs.