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Give 'Em a Grilling

June 10, 1998|CHARLES PERRY

We know what you're going to do this summer. You're going to fire up the grill and throw on the same burgers and steaks, chicken and fish that you always do. Maybe some corn cobs and a potato in foil.

But there's more to life than this. You can cook quite a few vegetables on the grill--even fruits.

Vegetables are particularly adapted to grilling, because it concentrates their flavors and particularly their sweetness, as well as adding the well-known pleasures of smoke. Fleshy vegetables such as squashes do well; the eggplant and its cousins the tomato and (especially) the sweet pepper grill nicely too. Members of the onion family become remarkably sweet.

There's a reason these are vegetables that show up over and over as grilled vegetables at hip restaurants: They grill up so tasty they scarcely need butter or oil.

Fruits are more of a challenge. Common fruits like apples and pears--and even berries, which you might never think of grilling--cook up fine (with flavorings such as sugar, butter and cinnamon) thanks to the magic of aluminum foil.

Altogether, the easiest fruits to grill tend to be tropical ones, such as mangoes and bananas. And if you're grilling pork chops, you might toss on a couple of pineapple slices toward the end.

If you need more inspiration, check out the following recipes developed by Times Test Kitchen Director Donna Deane, Test Kitchen cook Mayi Brady and Food section intern Danae Campbell.

GRILLED BANANAS WITH CREMA AND CARAMEL SAUCE

Use only very firm bananas. You will have more Caramel Sauce than you need, but it keeps well in the refrigerator and is delicious over ice cream.

CARAMEL SAUCE

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

BANANAS

2 large bananas, very firm

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup Mexican crema or creme frai^che

CARAMEL SAUCE

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add brown sugar and whipping cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and sauce is medium brown, about 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature; sauce will thicken as it cools. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

BANANAS

Peel bananas and slice lengthwise, then in half across. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over all sides of bananas.

Grill bananas over medium heat until grill marks appear and sugar begins to caramelize, about 3 minutes per side. Top with Caramel Sauce and Mexican crema.

4 servings. Each serving with 2 tablespoons sauce and 2 tablespoons crema:

313 calories; 64 mg sodium; 47 mg cholesterol; 16 grams fat; 43 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.28 gram fiber.

GRILLED RATATOUILLE (LOW-FAT COOKING

Light charring of all the vegetables adds smokiness.

1 large eggplant

1 large red onion

4 tomatoes

4 small zucchini

6 large cloves garlic, peeled

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt, pepper

1/2 cup sliced basil

Slice eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Grill over hot coals until soft and slightly charred, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Cut onion into 6 wedges, leaving onion connected at root end. Grill, turning often, until soft and slightly charred, about 15 minutes.

Halve tomatoes crosswise. Grill until soft and slightly charred, 3 to 5 minutes.

Cut zucchini lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices. Grill until soft and slightly charred, 10 to 12 minutes.

Grill garlic, turning often, 5 minutes.

Chop eggplant, onion, tomatoes and zucchini into 1/2-inch dice. Mince garlic. Combine in large bowl.

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste in small bowl. Stir in basil. Add to vegetables and toss.

4 to 6 servings. Each of 6 servings:

63 calories; 60 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 1.06 grams fiber.

GRILLED MIXED SPRING ONIONS

For this dish, you'll need a perforated vegetable grill basket, available from cookware shops and some hardware stores, to keep these tiny onions from falling through the grill into the fire.

1/2 pound cipolline onions

1/4 pound baby brown onions

1/4 pound baby red onions

1/4 pound pearl onions

1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled

8 to 10 small shallots, peeled

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon minced thyme

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt, pepper

Blanch cipolline onions in boiling water in medium saucepan, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and plunge into bowl of ice water to refresh. Add brown, red and pearl onions to boiling water in pan and blanch 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and add to ice water.

Remove onions from ice water and peel (skins should pull off easily). Set onions aside to dry.

Grill cipolline, brown, red and pearl onions, garlic and shallots in grill basket over medium heat, shaking often, until tender and slightly charred, about 20 minutes.

Combine butter, thyme, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste in large bowl. Add grilled onions and garlic to bowl and toss to coat.

6 servings. Each serving:

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