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2000s Archive

A Pretty Grill is Like a Melody

Originally Published June 2009
Put steak, clams, eggplant, or avocado over live fire and bring smoky flavor to salad or pasta.

Personally, we like the chores involved in grilling. The processes of building and lighting the fire, judging its heat, properly placing the food and then moving it around to ensure the precise results you want—Sear or no sear? Fully cooked through or still rare in the center? Lushly tender or still a little firm? —are our idea of fun. There’s no other cooking method as interactive and therefore as fully absorbing. But this doesnt mean that we don’t appreciate efficiency. And that’s where we turn to what might be called “component grilling.” Instead of using the grill only to cook the centerpiece of dinner, you can also use it to add that ineffable smoky flavor to salads and pastas for easy summer meals. As long as you’ve got the grill out for supper anyway, put a one-pound skirt steak over the coals, for example, and you’ll get a jump on a flavorful main-course salad for the next day’s lunch. If you’re feeling a bit more daring and set a couple of avocados on the grill grid for three or four minutes, you’ve laid the groundwork for a slightly unusual but very delicious salad. The range is wide—eggplants, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, clams, and tuna are just a few of the ingredients that, once they’ve spent some time over flames, make excellent salad and pasta components. And don’t worry about using them a few hours or even a day after they come off the grill; since the grill flavor actually intensifies over time, they’ll end up bringing even more smoky flavor to the plate.