Grilling Fruit

The hot summer months are a time for eating light, taking advantage of nature’s bounty, and cooking outdoors. When people think of grilling, most people think about meats. But vegetables and fruits can be amazing on the grill as well! We’ve already discussed grilling vegetables, so for this article, we’ll focus on how we can work with fruit on the grill.

When we grill fruits, the water in the fruits is reduced and the sugars in the fruit begin to caramelize, which intensifies the flavors and brings out a smoky quality that plays beautifully off the sweetness and other flavors in the fruits.

Harder fruits like pineapples, melons, apples, pears and strawberries are some of the easiest to grill. Pick fruits that are barely ripe for grilling, especially when it comes to some of the softer fruits like peaches, nectarines, etc. It’s best to grill fruits over indirect heat (further away from the flame) or over coals instead of open flame. The softer fruits such as plums, mangoes, figs, peaches and nectarines will get too soft and mushy if you overcook them, so you will need to watch these very carefully.

Grilling fruit is quick and easy. Since fruits grill very quickly, it’s best not to put the fruits on the grill and walk away to do something else. Keep a close eye on the fruits as they are grilling so they don’t end up getting overcooked and too soft. Always brush the fruits with some olive oil or canola oil before grilling. The oil will add to the flavor profile of the grilled fruit, and helps to keep them from sticking to the grill. Use caution when grilling high water content fruits like watermelon, as the heat can potentially cause some water to shoot out of the fruit and burn you.

To kick it up a notch, try soaking the fruits in your favorite liquor, or drizzle them with honey or some balsamic vinegar, before grilling. A mixture of rum, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg makes a fabulous pre-grilling marinade for some fruits like pineapple, apples, pears, etc. Or next time you make a fresh vodka tonic/soda or a Bloody Mary, try grilling some lemon slices to put in the drink.

For parties and family gatherings, prepare a variety of fruits and arrange them on platters, and let your guests make their own fruit shish kebob combinations to grill.

Grilled peaches. Try serving grilled peaches over vanilla ice cream. Grilled peaches will also pair nicely with a grilled pork tenderloin or chicken. You’ll want to leave the skin on the peaches to grill them. Cut them in half, remove the pits, brush on some olive oil, and place on the grill for just long enough to heat through and leave browned grill marks. Since peaches tend to be a softer fruit, you will want to keep a close eye on them when grilling, so they don’t get overdone and end up mushy.

Grilled tomatoes (remember, tomatoes are a fruit!). There’s nothing like some fire roasted/grilled tomato slices on a sandwich, or in a salsa with some red onions, peppers (try grilling some poblano peppers, which will have a very smoky flavor, or jalapeno peppers for salsa) and some olive oil. You could also add grilled peaches, or grilled corn to your salsa. Grilled tomatoes add a very nice flavor to a fresh homemade marinara sauce as well.

Grilled watermelon. Toss cubed, grilled watermelon with some arugula, feta cheese and some balsamic vinegar for a nice salad. Or for a nice hors d’oeuvre, skewer a grilled watermelon cube, a rolled or folded fresh basil leaf and slice or small cube of feta cheese on toothpicks. With melons, you can grill them with the rinds or without.

Grilled apples. Of course we all know how great cooked apples taste in apple pie and home made applesauce! Slice the apples into wedges or round medallions and grill them straight up with some olive oil brushed on, or try it with the above-mentioned marinade of rum, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, which will work beautifully with grilled apples!

Grilled strawberries. Yum! Slice these up and toss with some greens and balsamic dressing for a delicious salad, or serve them over ice cream. Try grilling strawberries in a shish kebob with some onions, or some cubed cantaloupe.

Grilled coconut. Try this delicious Fijian treat.

Grilled bananas. How about a grilled banana split? Slice the bananas in half lengthwise with the peel still on, brush with olive oil (and, if you want to kick it up a notch, some brown sugar) and grill. Pop the bananas out of the peel and onto a bowl or plate, and serve with a couple of scoops of ice cream, some grilled peaches, strawberries or whatever other fruits that may suit your fancy, drizzle on some chocolate sauce and dig into a dessert straight from heaven. OK, maybe that’s not light, or health conscious, but since you are eating lighter in so many other ways these days (right?), you can afford to splurge once in a while.

We would love to hear what you do with grilled fruits this summer! What marinades will you come up with?