Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Barbecue season never has to end with countertop grills

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Grilled cheese and asparagus rolls.

HANDOUT / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Grilled cheese and asparagus rolls.

TORONTO -- If you crave the flavour of grilled food year-round but don't want to venture outside to use the barbecue in colder weather, an indoor grill may be the answer.

The electric appliance, widely available in many sizes and price ranges, is ideal for those who don't want to brave the elements or who live in apartments or condos, says Ilana Simon, author of 125 Best Indoor Grill Recipes (Robert Rose Inc.).

"The indoor grill is perfect for people like me that really love to cook and love to have that barbecue flavour but maybe aren't necessarily that comfortable being out there, especially in the winter, grilling outdoors," Simon says from her Winnipeg home.

The appliance, which can be set on a counter or table, requires little fat for cooking and a meal can be rustled up quickly, often in about 15 minutes of cooking after preparation and marinating because the grills tend to work quickly.

There are two styles available -- the contact grill has a hinged lid with the two sides providing heat, which cuts down on cooking time and eliminates the need to flip food, while the hibachi version has a single grilling surface.

The indoor grill also provides an extra surface to cook on if you're feeding a crowd and your oven is in use, says Simon, who was a food columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press for 12 years and has written cookbooks on fondue and ground meat.

"I've discovered through my younger son it's great for college kids," she says, explaining that he co-opted the big family grill to use with his roommates.

"I'm told they did lots of burgers and hot dogs... and they did chicken breasts and other things that are quick and easy to put together."

Simon had been using an indoor grill for a number of years before beginning work on the cookbook, so she had a repertoire of recipes, but she was still surprised at how versatile the appliance could be.

"I tried everything from burgers to fish to appetizers and even some desserts. Most people wouldn't think you could do anything dessert-like on an indoor grill, but with a little creativity you can," she says.

She's included recipes for such sweets as grilled caramel pound cake, fruit kebabs and grilled bananas reminiscent of end-of-meal treats served in some Mexican restaurants and came up with a way to capture the gooey essence of s'mores without a campfire.

She's adapted recipes for foods that would normally be deep-fried, such as chicken nuggets -- "you get the nice crispy flavour on the grill but using way less oil... way less mess, way healthier."

Simon says she loves grilling vegetables, such as zucchini, potatoes, onions and portobello mushrooms for meatless burgers, along with grilled cheese sandwiches, tuna melts and paninis on fancy buns and using salami or turkey, asiago or smoked cheeses.

"Salmon is one of my favourites as well, because it just turns out so moist and takes such a short amount of time."

One common error newbie grillers make is leaving food on the grill too long, leading to dryness. Simon provides a range of times in her recipes and suggests starting with the shorter time given, adding extra if necessary to ensure items are fully cooked.

Another mistake is adding too much oil to the grill. A light spray of vegetable or olive oil from an aerosol or spray pump bottle is generally enough for most non-stick grills.

When buying an indoor grill, think about what size will work for the number of people for whom you're cooking. If it's more than two, you'll want a larger cooking surface. Some grills will accommodate six to eight burgers or four steaks, for example.

Some grills are ridged on one side and flat on the other and can be flipped, depending on whether you want grill marks on food.

Some grills have variable temperature settings.

A removable grill makes cleanup a breeze and many of the new grills are dishwasher safe, Simon adds.

 

-- The Canadian Press

 

With holiday parties around the corner, many hosts are looking for easy-to-make recipes to add to their festive repertoire.

Here are three recipes that can be prepared on an indoor grill and would make wonderful additions to an appetizer tray or sandwich board. They were created by Ilana Simon, author of 125 Best Indoor Grill Recipes.

Shrimp Satay

12 bamboo skewers (each 23 cm/9 inches long)

4 cloves garlic

60 ml (1/4 cup) peanut butter

30 ml (2 tbsp) soy sauce

30 ml (2 tbsp) sesame oil

30 ml (2 tbsp) seasoned rice vinegar

30 ml (2 tbsp) minced ginger root

30 ml (2 tbsp) liquid honey

1 kg (2 lb) jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

 

Soak bamboo skewers in hot water for 30 minutes.

In a food processor, mince garlic. Add peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger root and honey, and process until smooth. (Make ahead: Prepare peanut sauce up to 2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate.)

Thread shrimp loosely onto bamboo skewers, 3 to 4 shrimp per skewer, leaving space at each end. Brush sauce over shrimp, covering both sides. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 20 minutes or for up to 1 hour.

Preheat contact grill. (If your contact grill has more than one temperature setting, set it to medium-high.) Spray both sides of grill with vegetable cooking spray or oil. Place shrimp skewers on grill, close lid and grill for 2 minutes or until shrimp are pink and opaque.

 

Makes 12 skewers (about 40 shrimp).

NOTE: Use natural smooth peanut butter for best results. If using processed peanut butter, reduce the amount of honey by half.

 

Grilled Mango and Brie Quesadillas

1 mango, peeled and chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

60 ml (1/4 cup) minced red onion

60 ml (1/4 cup) chopped fresh cilantro

Juice of 1 lime

250 g (8 oz) brie, thinly sliced

8 tortillas (25 cm/10 inches in diameter)

 

In a small bowl, combine mango, jalapeno, onion and cilantro. Add lime juice, mixing well to combine. (Make ahead: Prepare mango salsa up to 2 hours in advance. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

Divide brie evenly among tortillas, laying it on the lower half. Divide mango salsa evenly on top of brie. Fold each tortilla in half.

Preheat contact grill. (If your contact grill has more than one temperature setting, set it to high.)

Spray both sides of contact grill with vegetable cooking spray or oil. Place quesadillas on grill with folded side closest to front edge. (This prevents cheese from running down into the drip tray.)

Close lid. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

Slice each quesadilla into 2 triangles.

Makes 8 quesadillas.

 

Grilled Cheese and Asparagus Rolls

4 kaiser rolls

250 ml (1 cup) grated sharp cold-pack cheddar cheese

8 spears asparagus, trimmed and steamed

1/4 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

10 ml (2 tsp) butter, room temperature, divided

 

Preheat contact grill. (If your contact grill has more than one temperature setting, set it to high.)

Slice rolls in half and place, cut side down, on grill. With lid open, grill for 1 minute.

Evenly divide cheese, asparagus and red pepper among rolls to make 4 sandwiches. Sprinkle with pepper, if using.

Spread 2 ml (1/2 tsp) of the butter on the outside of each roll, making sure to butter both sides.

Place sandwiches on grill and close tightly. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

Makes 4 servings.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2013 C1

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Updated on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 6:52 AM CST: Adds photo, changes headline

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