For any other year, Memorial Day serves as the unofficial opener of the grilling season.

Much of what we favor on the brink of summer are those familiar favorites from the first welcome wave of outdoor cooking — burgers! hot dogs! brats! — long missing from our personal menus.

Only as the summer weeks progress do many of us dip our toes into adventure, straying into the challenging or unfamiliar grilling lanes that go beyond the usual slabs of protein and include — dare we suggest it? — fruits and vegetables.

But this is not any year.

Judging from the fragrance wafting past my open windows for weeks, cooks turned to the grill early this year. Blame it on the #stay-at-home and modified #stay-safe-Minnesota guidelines. Was the grill a form of liberation from kitchen doldrums, or a new experiment for those in need of a stretch beyond bread baking?

No matter the reason, we’re ready for adventure. Make those hashtags #grilling and #grillingseason.

Think bacon-wrapped asparagus. Yep. This is a tasty adventure we’re talking about.

Consider grilled bananas to be filled with the toppings of an ice cream sundae.

Or chicken topped with bruschetta-style fixings. You can always drop meat onto gyro-style flatbread with enough accompaniments to assure your dietitian that you’ve met your vegetable requirements.

And there’s more. There always is with the grill. Look online for lamb burgers covered with a zucchini salad, as well as a grilled eggplant medley that will broaden your palate.

Social distancing never tasted better.


Grilled Bruschetta-Style Chicken

Serves 4.

Note: From “The Magnolia Table, Vol. 2,” by Joanna Gaines.

• 6 Roma (plum) tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lb. total), diced

• 1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese

• 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil

• 1 tsp. Greek seasoning

• 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided

• 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 oz. each)

• 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

• 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat (about 350 degrees).

In medium bowl, combine tomatoes, feta, basil, Greek seasoning, and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, and stir gently to mix. Set bruschetta mixture aside to let the flavors meld together.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and place on sheet pan.

In small bowl, mix together the garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper. Sprinkle evenly over the chicken. Drizzle remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil over the top. Use hands to rub mixture into the chicken breasts, coating meat well.

Grill chicken until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 165 degrees, 8 to 12 minutes, turning halfway through cooking time. Set aside to rest for 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve grilled chicken hot, with bruschetta mixture spooned on top right before serving. Store the tomato mixture in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 390

Fat 20 g

Sodium 610 mg

Carbohydrates 8 g

Saturated fat 6 g

Added sugars 0 g

Protein 43 g

Cholesterol 120 mg

Dietary fiber 2 g

Exchanges per serving: ½ carb, 6 lean protein, 1 ½ fat.


Spicy Chicken Shawarma

Serves 6.

Note: From “Share: Delicious Sharing Boards for Social Dining,” by Theo A. Michaels.

• 6 chicken thighs, boned, skin on

• 1/2 c. thick Greek yogurt

• Grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon

• 3 tbsp. olive oil

• 1 tbsp. smoked paprika

• 1 tbsp. ground allspice

• 1 fresh red chile, finely diced

• 2 garlic cloves, crushed

• 1 tbsp. dried oregano

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• A few sprigs fresh cilantro, to garnish

• Pita or gyro flatbread


• 1 red onion, finely sliced

• Fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

• 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded

• 1/2 cucumber, finely diced

• 6 ripe tomatoes, diced

• 3 lemons, cut into wedges

• 1/2 c. thick Greek yogurt


Preheat grill/broiler to hot.

Cut 2 deep scores across the top of each chicken thigh.

Mix together 1/2 cup yogurt, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, paprika, allspice, chile, garlic, oregano and black pepper in a nonreactive bowl to make the marinade. Add the chicken, toss to coat, then cover and marinate for 1 hour or overnight in the refrigerator. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you plan to cook it.

Remove chicken from the marinade and arrange skin side up and a few inches apart on a lightly oiled roasting pan. Cook on the grill or broiler for about 15 minutes, until the flesh is cooked through and the skin has charred and started to crisp, turning occasionally.

Once cooked, slice across each thigh into strips 1 inch wide, season with salt and pepper. Pile up on the flatbread, garnish with cilantro and serve with any accompaniments.

Grilled Bananas à la Mode With Chocolate Drizzle and Peanuts

Serves 8.

Note: Grilling the bananas in the peel creates a natural bowl, like the skin of a baked potato, perfect for scooping up bites of the sweet warm banana. From “Serial Griller,” by Matt Moore.

• 8 ripe bananas

• Vanilla ice cream

• 2 c. chocolate syrup

• Whipped cream, optional

• 2 c. coarsely chopped peanuts


If using a gas grill, preheat to medium (350 to 400 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, open the bottom and top vents completely. Light the charcoal and when the coals are covered with gray ash, pour them onto the bottom grate of the grill. Adjust vents as needed to maintain an internal temperature of 350 to 400 degrees. Coat the top grate with oil; place on the grill.

Slice the bananas lengthwise and place on the oiled grates, cut side down, and grill, uncovered, until softened and blackened on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and place 2 halves in each of 8 shallow bowls.

Top the bananas with a scoop of ice cream, 1/4 cup chocolate syrup, dollop of whipped cream and 1/4 cup chopped peanuts.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 675

Fat 27 g

Sodium 260 mg

Carbohydrates 101 g

Saturated fat 8 g

Added sugars 42 g

Protein 14 g

Cholesterol 30 mg

Dietary fiber 9 g

Exchanges per serving: No exchanges.


Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus Bundles

Serves 4.

Note: Because the asparagus and bacon each have varied cooking times, you will need to slightly cook the bacon before wrapping up and grilling the asparagus bundles. Use the best thick-cut bacon you can find. This is particularly good served with grilled chops or steaks. From “Serial Griller,” by Matt Moore.

• 2 thick-cut bacon slices (3 oz.)

• 1 bunch (about 14 oz.) fresh asparagus, trimmed

• 1 tbsp. olive oil

• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 2 tsp. balsamic glaze

• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh chives


If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (400 to 450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, open the bottom vents completely. Light the charcoal and when the coals are covered with gray ash, pour them onto the bottom grate of the grill. Adjust vents as needed to maintain an internal temperature of 350 to 400 degrees. Coat the top grate with oil; place on the grill.

Place the bacon on a microwaveable plate between 2 paper towels. Microwave on high until cooked through but still pliable, about 1 1/2 minutes. Set aside at room temperature until cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes.

Toss together the asparagus, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl; divide evenly into 4 portions with the asparagus tips pointing in the same direction. Cut the bacon slices in half crosswise. Wrap one bacon piece around each asparagus bundle, leaving tips exposed, and secure bundle with kitchen twine.

Place the bundles on the oiled grates. Grill, covered and turning often, until the bacon is crispy and the asparagus is lightly charred, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze and sprinkle with the chives.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 95

Fat 7 g

Sodium 340 mg

Carbohydrates 5 g

Saturated fat 1 g

Added sugars 0 g

Protein 4 g

Cholesterol 6 mg

Dietary fiber 2 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 1 ½ fat.


Grilled Eggplant Salad

Serves 8.

Note: In Southeast Asia, long, slender light green eggplants are the most common variety, but purple Japanese eggplants are the perfect substitute. From “Flavors of the Southeast Asian Grill,” by Leela Punyaratabandhu.

• 3/4 c. vegetable oil

• 2 oz. shallots, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced lengthwise

• 1 1/2 c. unsweetened full-fat coconut milk

• 2 tbsp. cornstarch

• 1/4 c. fresh lime juice

• 1 1/2 tsp. sugar

• Salt

• 6 Thai long, green or Japanese purple eggplants (no substitutes), halved lengthwise

• 1 tbsp. red pepper flakes

• 1/2 c. unsalted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped

• 1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems

•1/4 c. fresh mint leaves

• Cooked jasmine rice, for serving


Line a small plate with a paper towel. In a small frying pan, combine the oil and shallots, place over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until the shallots are crisp and golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to the towel-lined plate and let cool. Reserve the shallot oil for another use.

Light the grill (if using charcoal, spread them out on the bottom of the grill for medium fire, 350 degrees).

Meanwhile, make the dressing: In a 1-quart saucepan, whisk together the coconut milk and cornstarch, then place over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Lower heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm. Stir in lime juice and sugar, then taste and add salt. Aim for a dressing that’s equally sour, sweet and salty. Set aside.

When coals are covered with white ash and grate is hot, grill the eggplant whole all over, flipping them as needed, until charred and a fork slid into the flesh meets no resistance. Transfer to a cutting board.

When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, cut them crosswise into 1-inch-thick pieces and arrange the pieces on a platter. Drizzle the pieces with the dressing and sprinkle with the crisp shallots, followed by the pepper flakes, cashews and cilantro. Sprinkle the mint leaves over the top. Serve immediately with the rice.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 180 Fat 12 g Sodium 12 mg

Carbohydrates 17 g Saturated fat 8 g Added sugars 1 g

Protein 4 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 5 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 carb, ½ high-fat protein, 1 ½ fat.



Lamb Burgers With Zucchini Salad and Feta-Yogurt Sauce

Serves 4.

Note: From “The Outdoor Kitchen,” by Eric Werner.

Zucchini salad:

• Oil, for frying

• 2 lb. zucchini, thinly sliced, divided

• 8 radishes, sliced paper-thin

• 4 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced

• Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tbsp.)

• 6 tbsp. oil

• 1 tsp. pepper

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 2 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro leaves

Feta-Yogurt Sauce:

• 1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese

• 1/2 c. plain whole-milk yogurt

• 1 garlic clove, minced

• Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

• 1 tbsp. minced fennel fronds or minced fresh tarragon leaves

• 1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley leaves

• 1 tsp. pepper

Lamb burgers:

• Oil for coating

• 1/2 red onion, minced

• 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 1 lb. ground lamb

• 2 tbsp. chopped fennel fronds (may substitute chopped tarragon leaves)

• 2 tbsp. chopped parsley leaves

• 1 tsp. ground cumin

• 1 tsp. celery seed

• 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

• Salt, for seasoning

• 4 hamburger buns, toasted


Wipe the grill grates with oil to prevent sticking. Build a two-zone fire. Your high-heat zone should have embers 1 to 2 inches from the cooking surface, with occasional flames licking it. To create the medium-heat zone, nudge the embers 2 to 3 inches lower than that. (For a gas grill, create the two-zone fire of one at high-heat, the other at medium.)

To make the salad: Pour oil into a small sauté pan to a depth of 1/4 inch. Place over high heat on the stovetop or grill until the oil ripples. Add half of the zucchini and fry until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels. When cool, add the fried zucchini to a bowl with the remaining raw zucchini, radishes and jalapeños. In small bowl, whisk about 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 6 tablespoons oil with 1 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt and add to the salad, tossing to coat. Sprinkle the cilantro on top.

To make the sauce: In a small bowl, mix the feta and yogurt with a fork until smooth. Add the garlic, about 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice and zest, fennel, parsley and 1 teaspoon pepper. The sauce can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

To make the burgers: Coat the small sauté pan with oil. Place over high heat on the stovetop or grill, and add the onion and 2 minced garlic cloves. Cook until they soften and start to brown, then transfer to a bowl. When the onion and garlic are no longer hot to the touch, add the lamb, fennel, parsley, cumin, celery seed and cinnamon and mix well with your hands. Divide the mixture into 4 patties.

Salt the burgers just before grilling. Grill over high heat for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side to get good grill marks. Move to medium heat and cook to the desired doneness, 2 to 4 minutes more per side (cooking time will vary with burger thickness).

To serve, place the burgers on the buns and top with the sauce and the salad, passing extra sauce and salad at the table.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 725 Fat 53 g Sodium 800 mg

Carbohydrates 35 g Saturated fat 15 g Added sugars 3 g

Protein 29 g Cholesterol 95 mg Dietary fiber 4 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 2 starch, 3 high-fat protein, 5 ½ fat.