Unexpected Grillables

A three-course grilling journey that includes oysters and angel food cake

This summer, think outside the grill marks. Oysters, angel food cake, even salads can become “grillables” (my unofficial term for that which can be grilled).

Here’s a menu that takes less time to prepare and grill than it takes to let your coals turn white.

Starters

Begin with a grilled Caesar salad. Grilling romaine makes the leaves more tender, less bitter, and a touch smoky. To prepare, halve lettuce heads, brush with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place them cut side down over a direct medium-heat fire. For extra points, grill some hunks of leftover baguette or French bread to make croutons and toss together with the lettuce and dressing. Visit your local farmers market for fresh lettuce; most New Castle County farmers markets open the first week of May and are open through October/November. For more details, visit dda.delaware.gov.

Wow your dining companions with a dozen grilled oysters. Throw them directly on the grill—whole or shucked. In both preparations, the heat will poach the delicate oysters in their own juice. They’re ready to eat when the shells pop open (if whole) or after a couple of minutes (if shucked). The key is to make sure not to overcook them. A tender, slightly undercooked oyster is better than an overcooked one. And if you or your guests are oyster purists, save a half-dozen to eat raw.

For this starter, I sought advice from restaurant manager and oyster buyer George L. Esterling IV of George & Sons Seafood Market in Hockessin.

• How do you buy a grilling oyster? “Look for a deep cup,” says Esterling. The deeper the cup, the more poaching liquid remains when cooking.
• When are oysters ready to eat? “Wait for the shell to go dry. The rim will still look wet, but the oyster is just about ready to serve.”

• What would you serve with the oyster? “I wouldn’t top it with anything. However, I love beurre blanc (a French butter sauce).” Traditional oyster accoutrements include lemon, hot sauce, horseradish and mignonette (a vinegar condiment laced with minced shallots and fresh cracked black pepper).

George or Dave (the night oyster shucker) will be able to recommend oysters based on your preferences in salinity, flavor, and price range. For more information visit George & Sons Seafood Market, 1216 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, or georgeandsonsseafood.com.

Mains

Put the “grilled” back into grilled cheese. Think about it: Why do we call it “grilled” cheese, when technically it’s pan-fried? Either way, Janssen’s Market is the go-to place for bread and cheese. Stick to a loaf that slices thick and will hold up to high heat. Then, head over to the cheese counter and ask for a cheese recommendation. On the day I went, Cheesemonger Liz DiTeodoro recommended fontina, an Italian semi-firm, cow’s milk cheese. “Fontina has an earthy flavor,” she says. “It’s an excellent melting cheese and is perfect for grilled cheese.” Fontina can be paired with a strong jam or a freshly cut green apple for texture. Grill with a weight on top—a brick, a cast iron pan, or whatever you have on hand.

If you want to go all out, Kitchen and Company carries an item specifically made for grilling grilled cheese (and other fun recipes). It’s called the “Toas-Tite,” a retro gadget designed for campfire cooking.

This 1940s kitchen tool looks like a flying saucer on a stick; its purpose is to create sealed sandwiches (or pies), much like the popular Hot Pockets. To use, butter two slices of white bread and place one slice on the Toas-Tite. Layer with two slices of American cheese and top with the remaining slice of bread. Close the grill and pull away the excess bread. Toast for a minute on each side or until golden brown. Pick up a Toas-Tite at Kitchen and Company, Center Pointe Plaza, 1307 New Churchman’s Rd., Christiana. For more information, visit kitchenandcompany.com.

Dessert

Make dessert fast, simple, and easy to clean up. As long as the grill is still hot, try these easy-to-prep desserts, the perfect complement to a long grill session.

Grilled bananas are easily prepared before dinner. Slice a banana in half and place into a foil packet. Add your favorite campfire toppings—marshmallows, chocolate chips, walnuts, etc.—and seal the packet well. Leave to roast for 5 to 6 minutes (or until melty). Top with ice cream for a grilled banana split.

Not a fan of bananas? Try your hand at grilled angel food or pound cake (save time, buy store-bought). Place individual slices of angel food cake on the grill until toasty, but not burnt. Enjoy with fresh strawberries, grilled pineapple, and/or ice cream for a satisfying end to a grilled meal.

Drinks

Add some flair to your summertime drinks by grilling the garnishes. Citrus fruit—limes, lemons, oranges, and grapefruits—are best grilled with a touch of sugar or simple syrup glaze for a perfectly caramelized exterior. Think grilled pineapple mojito, grilled citrus sangria, grilled margaritas, and so much more. And for non-alcoholic drinkers, opt for grilled lemonade.

Grilling season is upon us, so why not try something different? Round up your friends and family and try some fresh new recipes. Need a place to grill? Check out your nearest Delaware State Park picnic location at destateparks.com for more details.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.