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Beyond burgers and dogs

July 01, 1997

Beyond burgers and dogs

Some fresh ideas for your Fourth of July barbecue

By TERI JOHNSON

Staff Writer

Steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs are the most frequently barbecued foods in America, according to the 1997 Weber GrillWatch Survey.

This Fourth of July, why not let grilled pizzas or vegetables add some sizzle to your menu?

Grilled vegetables are gaining in popularity, and the number of cooks preparing them has increased by 28.3 percent in the last five years, according to the annual survey, which studies the grilling habits of Americans.

Grilled Vegetable Pita Pizzas are easy and versatile, says Stacey Tiger, spokeswoman for The North American Olive Oil Association.

Any vegetable can be used to make the pizzas, and they are fun for kids, Tiger says.

Grill Roasted Potato Salad and Grilled Italian Vegetables also can provide a change of pace.

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Grilling vegetables allows you to be creative, says Betty Morton, manager of The Reynolds Kitchens in Richmond, Va.

"There are so many different kinds of new vegetables to try," Morton says.

Grill Roasted Potato Salad is a dish similar to one you might order in a restaurant, she says.

Morton and Pat Schweitzer, senior home economist at The Reynolds Kitchens, help develop new recipes and ideas for consumers. For the past two years they have starred in television and print ads that show consumers how to use aluminum foil to make cooking easier.

They recommend using heavy-duty foil for grilling. Foil helps food cook more evenly because heat and moisture are trapped. Food stays juicy, and it doesn't fall through the grill racks.

Grilling also gets you outside, Schweitzer says.

"People don't like heating up the kitchen, and it's a nice way to expand your choices," Schweitzer says.

Foil can be used with both gas and charcoal grills.

When cooking with charcoal, judge temperature by cautiously holding your hand palm side down over the coals at grid level. Count the seconds you can hold the position. The fire temperature is low if you can hold your hand over the fire for five seconds; medium, four seconds; medium-high, three seconds; and hot, two seconds.

To make a foil pan for cooking, turn an 8-by-8-inch or 9-by-13-inch baking pan upside down and mold two layers of foil over it, then slip it off and crimp around the edges. Sauces and vegetables can be grilled in the foil pan.

Two other ideas from Morton and Schweitzer are to shape a sheet of foil around a fish fillet to form a boat, which keeps the fish from flaking and falling through the spaces between the rack; and to form a foil packet to grill a combination of chicken and vegetables.

For each serving, place ingredients on a sheet of foil and seal it to form a packet, leaving room for heat to circulate inside. After cooking, open the ends of the foil packet first to allow steam to escape, then open the top.

Packet cooking is a good choice for families, as you can tailor each one to the likes of each person, Schweitzer says.

Another benefit to cooking with foil is that there are fewer dishes to wash. Crumpled pieces of foil can be used as scouring pads to clean grill racks.

The less time you spend cleaning up, the more time you can spend enjoying the holiday, Morton says.

Grilled Vegetable Pita Pizzas

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or 2 tablespoons dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 small eggplant, about one pound, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1 pound asparagus, stems trimmed

1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1 medium red pepper, cut into 1 1/2-inch-wide strips

1 medium yellow or green pepper, cut into 1 1/2-inch-wide strips

4 7-inch pocketless pita breads

6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese

Stir 1/2 cup olive oil, vinegar, basil, oregano, mustard, salt, sugar and pepper in bowl until blended. Place eggplant slices and asparagus in 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish; pour marinade over and marinate 30 to 60 minutes, turning vegetables occasionally.

Grill eggplant over moderately high heat 2 to 3 minutes per side until tender and golden. When eggplant slices are cooked through, remove to a plate and cover with foil. Grill asparagus about 5 minutes, until tender-crisp, turning occasionally and brushing with marinade, and remove to plate.

Brush pepper and onion slices with marinade, being careful to keep onion slices intact. Grill peppers and onion 8 to 10 minutes until tender, turning occasionally and brushing with marinade. Remove to plate. Drizzle remaining marinade over vegetables.

Brush both sides of pitas with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Grill pitas 1 to 2 minutes until heated through and golden.

Place pitas on plates; sprinkle with 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese. Arrange vegetables over cheese; sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as an appetizer

- recipe courtesy of North American Olive Oil Association

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