We grill often at my house – burgers, steak, chicken and fish, as well as corn and zucchini, eggplant and potatoes. Shish kebab and large salmon filets, slices of potato and corncobs – it all goes on our trusty old Weber kettle.
I love all those foods grilled, but sometimes hanker to grill “outside the lines” of traditional backyard fare. That’s when I take out Belgian endive, peaches, and pineapple. My grilling “recipes” for these treats are simple – easy even for weekday evenings and guaranteed to up the ante on any dinner you put together.
If you have never tasted it, you really ought to try Belgian endive. It has been enjoyed raw and cooked in Europe for a long time, but is only recently come to mainstream U.S. grocery stores. Endive is the leaf of the chicory root. It grows in small heads; in her reference tome Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini, noted produce expert and food writer Elizabeth Schneider aptly calls them “torpedo-shaped.” I’ve enjoyed endive in salads for years, torn or cut into pieces.
But I wasn’t prepared for how lovely and different the endive becomes after grilling. The heads hold their shape, but the leaves soften and lose their bitter taste edge. Preparation is simple – just cut each endive head in half lengthwise, then drizzle each half with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice and sprinkle with salt (preferably Kosher or coarse sea salt) and freshly ground pepper. Use enough olive oil and lemon juice to allow a bit to drip into the plate and gently move the endive around, so that the bottoms get a bit of the marinade too. Grill on both sides, turning the heads gently with tongs for the second side.
Use peaches that are not too yet soft. (The fruit should not be semi-hard, not truly ripe and ready to eat. Don’t be concerned that they will taste unripe – the grilling process will soften the peach.) Cut each one in half, gently twist the halves apart, and pull out the pit.
Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter and add about the same amount of light or dark brown sugar or honey. Brush the peach halves on both sides – the rounded outside and the center indented side – with the butter/sugar or honey mixture. Grill, again on both sides.
First – choose a good pineapple. Do you know how to tell if a pineapple is ripe? Look for one that is slightly yellow at the bottom of the fruit and is not dark green in its middle or upper part. (If the skin is dark green, the pineapple is not ripe.) The top leaves should be green – not brown – and a center leaf should come out easily if pulled. Check the bottom to make sure the pineapple is in good condition and smell it. The bottom should have a faintly sweet smell if it is ripe. If you’re choosing a pineapple a few days before you’ll use it, buy one that is not fully ripe and set it on your counter away from direct sunlight until you’ll grill it.
Use a large, sharp knife to cut the top and bottom off the pineapple. Then, either cut circles or long pieces. For circles, hold the pineapple with the ends out and cut carefully, then trim off the outside (leaving the core inside each circle) off of each fruit circle. For long pieces, cut the pineapple in half lengthwise. Set a half on its round side and cut out the core out carefully (keeping your fingers at a safe distance from the knife blade) by making two lengthwise cuts, one going from right-to-left and then the opposite way and pulling out the tough center. If you don’t get the entire core out the first time, just cut again in the same shape, as I had to do. Finally, cut away the outside skin – again taking care to keep fingers away from where the knife blade starts and where it will end up.
Brush the pineapple pieces with the same butter/brown sugar or honey mixture and grill.
We eat the grilled fruit, slightly sweetened and gloriously browned, for dessert – either alone or with ice cream. It doesn’t have to be hot when eaten, so you can grill it while you’re grilling the endive and the main course, setting the fruit aside for later if you have the willpower to wait.