Tips for low-fat flavors on the grill
Clint Engel -- Casual Living, August 20, 2010
If you're on a fat-restricted diet, or just into health-conscious eating, you probably know barbecuing is a terrific low-fat way to prepare food.
Cooking over the coals adds delicious flavor to lean fish, poultry and vegetables and, when cooking not-so-lean cuts of meat, the grill allows fat to fall through the grid and dissipate.
But a diet of grilled fish, chicken breasts and vegetables, albeit tasty, can get boring after awhile. Here are some simple ways to put more zip in your barbecue without resorting to calorie-laden sauces or fatty marinade and bastes. Great news - some of these tips add flavor without a single calorie!
Grill-roasted garlic makes a flavorful alternative to herb butter sauce for grilled steak or other meats. Trim about ½ inch off the top of a whole head of garlic and loosen the outside skin. Drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with chopped fresh or dried herbs such as tarragon, rosemary, oregano or parsley. Cook in a garlic roaster, or wrapped in foil, on a medium-hot grill for approximately 50 minutes. (Or cook instead in the microwave for one to two minutes to save time). When soft, spread the herb-infused garlic on hot-off-the-grill meat or warm grilltoasted bread. Roasted garlic has a delicious mellow flavor.
Basting liquids that spike taste buds and keep foods moist can be based on fresh, light flavors rather than butter or oil-laden concoctions. Try basting with any if the wonderful assortment of fat-free or low-fat salad dressings available today. A bottle of vinaigrette or Italian will add a savory burst of flavor to almost any grilled vegetable. Red wine vinegar dressing will boost the flavor of beef or pork kabobs or a sizzling flank steak. A sweet, spicy French is perfect for glazing grilled shrimp.
Orange marmalade (or apricot jam) blended with a little hot Chinese mustard, garlic powder and just enough soy sauce to thin it to a brushable stage will pack a powerful punch when whisked into grilled pork chops for the final 10 or 12 minutes of cooking - or used as a glaze to coat whole pork tenderloins as they finish cooking.
Capture the rich natural flavors of acorn and butternut squash by halving them and popping them onto the grill cut-side down. Halfway through cooking (about 12 to 15 minutes) turn cut-side up, brush with maple syrup and dust lightly with fresh-grated or ground nutmeg. Keep turkey breast or turkey burgers moist by brushing with apple cider laced with a bit of brown sugar, a touch of cinnamon and a tablespoon or two of dark rum.
Citrus rind added directly to the coals will impart a marvelous, refreshing taste. Save orange, lemon and lime rinds from your daily cooking and freeze until needed. They can be used alone or to complement herbs - such as lemon rind in the coals with dill weed sprinkled lightly on salmon steaks. The citrus flavor is especially compatible with fish, seafood, chicken and pork. If you're cooking with a gas or electric grill, place the rind in a smoker box or foil, rather than directly on the coals.
Kabobs made with cubes of lean meat or fish and lots of vegetables are an excellent choice for minimizing fat in your meal, since a little meat goes a long way. Marinate chunks of swordfish, monkfish or halibut in the refrigerator for several hours in a little orange juice, mustard and thyme, turning once or twice. Then thread on skewers with unpeeled wedges of orange next to the fish and chunks of red onion and red and green bell peppers in between. Baste with marinade halfway through cooking. (Discard leftover marinade). Serve with rice cooked with a tablespoon of soy sauce and a chicken bouillon cube added to the water.
Load up on veggies. When smoke-roasting vegetables, load up the grill with at least double the amount you need for today's meal. Refrigerate the extra peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, etc. to layer into sandwiches, with or without meat and cheese. Or coat with vinaigrette and serve the next day as a taste-tingling salad. Tossed into a hot or cold pasta, grilled vegetables can add wonderfully robust, distinctive flavor.
Donna Myers, president/CEO of DHM Group in Holmdel, N.J., is a well-known promoter of the grill industry.