your guide to grilling; plus top picks for summer drinking)

As previously disclosed, I do not like to grill. I’m in charge of indoor cooking; Jamie gets to play outdoor chef. We even made her a diy pellet smoker outside. But I love anything cooked on the grill. Two dishes I religiously make in the summer (well, since I first read about them last year at least!) are grilled smoky glazed asparaguse  (watch the salt) and Middle Eastern lamb skewers. To get you set for a season of grilling, here’s some helpful tips from Heinen’s. I also asked for their wine and beer consultants to share their favorite summertime beverages. Keep reading to see what made the list (I’m sold on the DeRose zin!).

From Heinen’s: The key to getting perfectly cooked foods with those great grill marks is a clean, hot, well-seasoned grill.  Four simple steps will get you there: heat—brush—season—grill. 

  • Allow the grill to heat up completely.
  • When it’s good and hot, rub it down with a wire brush.
  • Seasoning a grill simply means applying a lubricant to the grill to prevent the food from sticking while cooking. Take a stainless steel bowl with a clean, “sacrificial” towel that’s been moistened – but not to the point of dripping – with vegetable oil.  (Note: Don’t use olive oil here; it has too low of a smoke point and it’s pricey for this purpose.)  Then, grasp the oil-moistened towel with metal tongs and rub the grill’s entire surface.  Put the towel back in the stainless steel bowl.
  • Position food on the hot, seasoned grill and begin cooking.

Grilling Meat, Chicken or Seafood: There’s a primary rule here:  The side that is to be presented up on the plate should always go down on the pan or grill first.  You get the best grill marks the first time around.

  • For chicken breasts: Position skin side down with the breast on a 45 degree angle to the grill bars.  If skinless, brush each side with a just small amount of vegetable oil.  Too much oil will cause flare-ups, which will cause a soot build-up.
  • For salmon: start skin side up.  (Note: The skin is very helpful in helping fish keep its shape during cooking)  If it is a skinless fillet or salmon steaks, brush the each side with a small amount of vegetable oil. 
  • For shrimp:  These cook fast.  Just get them pink—and if using a marinade be sure to drain it off before grilling.  Otherwise, flare-ups will leave a sooty coating on the delicate shrimp. 
  • For marinated meats: Same here.  Drain well before grilling
  • For beef steaks: Remember the first rule.  Serve the first side down on the grill as the presentation side up on the plate.
  • Finally, we believe in meat thermometers – always use one to determine the degree of desired doneness. 

Veggie Grilling: Start with relatively uniform-sized vegetables.  If they are small enough to slip through the cooking grate, place the veggies on a perforated and seasoned grill rack which rests directly on the grate. (Season the grill rack in the same manner as the grill grate.)  If the veggies have been marinated, drain off any liquid cooking. Combine any of these local veggies or serve them up solo:

  • Thick tomato slices, slowly grilled to create a smoky-flavored sundried tomato-like flavor
  • Eggplant slices
  • Summer squashes
  • Peppers, any type
  • Sweet corn– peel down the corn, de-silk it and then rewrap in the husks
  • Thick onion slices

Another hint?  Once you’ve fired up the grill, cook extra veggies and hold them for a grilled salad the next day.  Make a nice corn relish or salsa from grilled sweet corn cut from the cob.

Make Mine Fruit: Fruits are perfect for grilling.  Their natural sugar content allows them to caramelize beautifully on the hot grill, imparting a concentrated caramel flavor combined with the smokiness of the grill.  Fruits that grill well:

  • Stone fruits—peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines mango
  • All citrus fruits
  • Bananas
  • Pineapples
  • Pears and peeled apples
  • Avocados—cut in half and just remove the stone or pit

Spray the fruit with cooking spray (away from the heat) and place them on the hot, clean grill.  Allow the surface to caramelize and release.  This only takes a few minutes.

Cut or slice the cooked fruits to make fabulous grilled fruit salad as an accompaniment to a meal.  They make great desserts as well, served straight up or with ice cream, sorbet or whipped cream.  For a real classic, simply drizzle with a bit of balsamic syrup or balsamic vinegar.

Summer beverage picks:

Paul from Hudson: My summer pick would be Altos Malbec from Argentina ($11.99). Malbec has started to become a varietal that more consumers are looking for. Altos has traditional been at the forefront of making a great example of this wine and has numerous times been highly rated. This big, black inky fruit driven wine with hints of white pepper would be a perfect match for anything grilled from steak to spicy ribs. This is one wine you can enjoy all summer long.

Dominique from University Heights: I picked the Kitchen Sink White ($8.99) because it has a handcrafting approach and flavorful wine. Very enjoyable a sure crowd pleaser. Also the Falling Star sauvignon blanc from Argentina with its fresh taste and flavor this is the perfect party/wedding summer wine ($6.99).

Mike from Willoughby: Blue Moon’s Honey Moon, Leinenkugel Summer Shandy and Sam Adam’s Summer Ale.

Laurie from Avon: My favorite summer wine is Simi Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s clean, crisp and refreshing.  Delicious with summer fare such as salad, fish, chicken or as an aperitif.  For the months of June and July it is on sale for $9.99 (regularly $14.99).  If you see me on my deck, it’s a good bet that I’ll have a glass of this wine in my hand!

Bill Sulhan: Sierra Nevada Summerfest: Crispy summer lager that is delicately spicy with a refreshing finish which pairs well with pizza. Bell’s Oberon:  Very smooth wheat ale that has a hoppy character and is great with mild cheeses. Great Lakes Holy Moses:  Very satisfying white ale that is pleasingly spiced with orange peel, chamomile and coriander.

Other selections that were shared:

  • Sierra Nevada Summerfest; a Crisp summer lager with a touch of malt and crisp and refreshing finish. A perfect sipper for a warm summer day.
  • One of my favorite summer time drinks would be Gasparini Prosecco ($14.99), a nice dry style Italian Sparkling wine. I enjoy serving it as a Bellini, this is a cocktail originated in Venice. Basically, I blend Prosecco with a touch of Looza peach nectar and serve it with a side of sliced white peaches. Try this as part of a lazy breakfast in bed or enjoy it during a perfect Sunday afternoon happy hour.
  • Simi 07’ Zin (that’s red Zinfandel); a great value now at $9.99, not over the top style which pairs beautifully with pizza, barbeques, pork, cheeses, etc. Nice cherry-berry fruit, pepper, clove and other soft spices round out this Zin.
  • DeRose 06’ Zin – My top zin since 1994 vintage. Huge red in everything including alcohol (not for the timid!) This zin delivers so much more zip than any other. Very old 120 yr-plus vines have a lot of explosive fruit (raspberry plum and raisin) with major spice. This will pair extremely well with steaks, red sauce pasta, pork, very spicy-foods such as jambalaya and dense cheeses.
  • Genesis Viognier out of Washington. A great white wine, very tasty peach and apricot with orange blossom and melon mingle with the floralness of honeysuckle. Great by itself as well. My all-time favorite white wine to have all summer!
  • Simi Chardonnay. Chardonnay is still king of white wines and Simi has always been my favorite since the early 90s because of its luscious mouth feel. Just enough toastyness of oak to bring complexity of lemon, apple and soft tropical fruit notes with creamy notes make it great to have with chicken, salmon, pork, spicy foods and mild cheeses.