9 Fresh Foods That Taste Better GrilledArticle posted in: Diet & Nutrition
Why does everything grilled taste so good? Well, that’s a twofold question. One reason is that grilling fresh foods (because of the high temperature) jumpstarts the maillard reaction, a complex chemical reaction involving amino acids and sugar. When meats, vegetables, potatoes and virtually any food is cooked, water evaporates and the sugars and acids inside change, forming aromas, flavors and textures that make food so delectable, according to The American Chemical Society.
The second reason grilled fresh foods are so flavorful is that they’re being infused with smoky flavor that comes from natural juices hitting the gas or charcoal. If you grill with wood chips, you’re adding even more complexity and flavor.
You might be used to grilled steak or burgers, but there are so many other fresh foods that taste terrific on the grill—including fruits!
Check out nine of our favorite fresh foods that taste even better grilled:
When you grill fruit, the natural sugar is extracted and caramelized on the surface. What isn’t caramelized becomes a sweet syrup with concentrated flavor. Peaches are prime grilling fruits because they’re already on the softer side and they just seem to melt on your spoon after you hit them with a little heat. Be careful not to grill peaches too long, however, or they’ll become mush.
South Beach Reminder: One medium-size peach equals one Fruit serving.
Like peaches, grilled pineapple becomes terrifically sweet when grilled but unlike peaches, they don’t overcook as easily because the texture is firmer. Add grilled pineapple to savory dishes…think brown rice, chicken, sesame seeds and bok choy. Or, how about a grilled fruit salad with pineapple, peaches, strawberries and apples? Sprinkle with cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg to intensify the flavor and make sure to coat pineapple with a bit of oil so it doesn’t stick to the grill.
South Beach Reminder: One cup of pineapple equals one Fruit serving.
3. Artichoke Hearts
Artichokes may look a little intimidating but a smoky, grilled artichoke heart is worth eating. To prepare a fresh artichoke, bend back and snap off the dark outer leaves. Use a vegetable peeler to peel dark green areas from the stem and base. Use a knife to cut out the choke and remove the purple leaves from the center. Boil the artichoke in lemon-infused water for about 15 minutes until the stem is tender. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill over medium heat for about 15 minutes. You won’t regret trying these grilled veggies.
South Beach Reminder: Artichokes are a non-starchy vegetable and one-half cup of cooked artichoke hearts equals one vegetable serving.
The key to many of our favorite fresh foods is to cook it at high temperatures for a short time. Don’t flip your grilled fish often and don’t overcook it. Try grilling fish on a cedar plank for that incredible smoked, woody flavor we mentioned earlier. Or, if you opt for direct heat on the grill grates, be sure to oil the grates beforehand otherwise your fish will stick, fall apart, and disappear down the grates. Looking for a tasty yet healthy fish for the cookout? Try grilled tilapia or enjoy grilling salmon with skin. There’s nothing like grilled blackened salmon on a BBQ.
South Beach Reminder: 1 serving of fish equals 3 ounces.
Mushrooms are 92 percent water. The dry heat that a grill imparts evaporates the liquid leaving a concentrated vegetable loaded with flavor and cholesterol-lowering, heart-healthy dietary fiber. A popular vegetarian alternative to steak, mushrooms are one of the tastiest grilled vegetables, offering a similar texture and meaty flavor. Cook them on bamboo skewers or try a grill basket to avoid losing any down the grill grates.
South Beach Reminder: Mushrooms are a non-starchy vegetable and one-half cup cooked mushrooms equals one vegetable serving.
Grilling intensifies the flavors of food. (Remember?) And while you’d never bake lettuce or fresh greens, you can grill greens for a few seconds to impart smokiness and a light char. With greens like kale and collards, grilling can remove some natural bitterness, too. When we say grill for seconds, we mean seconds: 30 seconds to a minute is all it takes. The core should be cool and the outer leaves will still have texture. You’ll also need to brush the veggies with a bit of oil to prevent sticking.
South Beach Reminder: Greens are non-starchy vegetables and one cup of greens equals one vegetable serving.
There are two ways you can grill avocado (one of our favorite fresh foods!). Halve, seed, peel, slice and grill for two minutes per side. Or, grill avocado halves (cut-side-down) for two to three minutes. A light brushing of olive oil prevents sticking, which is very important for these soft fruits. (Yes, fruits.) Try them atop a fresh salad or fill the “boat” with fresh salsa.
South Beach Reminder: One-half an avocado equals one Healthy Fat serving.
Ever had lemonade with grilled lemons? Try it once and we bet you’ll be hooked for life. Or how about grilled lemons with your healthy fresh fish or shellfish? When you grill a lemon, the fruit softens and the juice drips out with the lightest squeeze. Simply halve a lemon, brush with a bit of oil and put it flesh-side-down on the grill for three to four minutes. Make a meal out of these unlikely accompaniments by serving a grilled pita bread.
South Beach Reminder: Lemon juice is a Free Food on South Beach, but a whole lemon equals one fruit serving.
9. Bananas—With Chocolate!
Ready for dessert? First, grab some foil. Second, slice a banana lengthwise or in small slices. Fill the cavity with sugar-free chocolate chips, or place the sliced bananas on a kebab stick. Place bananas on foil and throw on the grill for five to six minutes. You’ll have a gooey, warm dessert that tastes sinful but isn’t the least bit guilty. There’s nothing like grilled bananas for dessert.
South Beach Reminder: One banana equals one Fruit serving.
Need more healthy grill recipes and tips? Look no further: