April 29, 2013

One of the first signs of warmer weather is the smell of grilled meat wafting through your neighborhood. Fire up your grill, throw on something tasty and soon, everyone will be your friend.

This past weekend, I headed to the grocery store to stock up on food for the week. It was obvious the warm-weather bug had hit when I saw two young men frantically searching for hot dog buns. Unfortunately they weren't able to find any for their cookout as many others were also enjoying the warmer-than-usual weekend.

This grilling season, be a little different and throw something else on the grill alongside your hot dogs and hamburgers.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

The Cheesecake Factory has an unusual pizza that I absolutely love. The Gouda is really what makes this pizza pop. It can be made in the oven, but try it on the grill for a change.

1/2 to 1 lb chicken breast

1 ball pizza dough


1 cup shredded mozzarella

smoked Gouda, cut into thin slices

1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced or diced

1/2 cup bbq sauce plus 2 tablespoons

fresh cilantro

Cook the chicken breast and set aside. Cool then cut into cubes. Add 2 tablespoons of bbq sauce and mix. Spread remaining bbq sauce evenly on dough. Sprinkle on mozzarella. Scatter slices of Gouda across pizza. Evenly distribute chicken and onion over cheese. Grill. Top with fresh cilantro.

Pizza Grilling Tips from simplygrilling.com:

Shape the pizza dough by flattening it with your hands on a slightly floured surface. Either use your fingers to stretch the dough out, or hold up the edges of the dough with your fingers, letting the dough hang and stretch, while working around the edges of the dough. Once you've stretched the dough, let it sit for 5 minutes and then push out the edges with your fingers again, until you have a nice round shape, about 12 inches in diameter. Do not make a raised rim as it will interfere with the grilling process.

Once the grill is hot (you can hold your hands an inch over the grates for no more than 2 seconds), dip a tightly folded up paper towel in olive oil and use tongs to wipe the grill grates. Then place a pizza dough round on a lightly floured (or you can use cornmeal) rimless cookie sheet. Let the dough slide off the cookie sheet onto the hot grill grates. Close the lid of the grill and let cook for 2 minutes.

After 2 minutes, open the grill and check underneath the dough to see if it is getting browned. If it is on one side, but not another, use a spatula or tongs to rotate the dough 90 degrees and cook for another minute. If it is not beginning to brown, cover the grill and continue to cook a minute at a time until the bottom has begun to brown. It should only take a couple minutes if you have a hot grill. The top of the pizza dough will start bubbling up with air pockets.

Once the pizza dough has browned lightly on one side, use your cookie sheet to remove it from the grill. Use a spatula to flip the dough over so that the grilled side is now up. Keep the grill covered so it retains its heat for the next step.

Paint the grilled surface of the pizza with a little olive oil, then cover with ½ to 1 ladle of sauce, no more, or you'll end up with a soggy pizza. Sprinkle on your toppings, ending with cheese (if using), and if using meat, put that over the cheese. Remember to go light on the toppings, or your pizza will be heavy and soggy.

Slide the topped pizza back onto the grill. If you are using a gas grill, reduce the heat. If working with a charcoal grill, close the vents on the cover almost all the way. Close the lid and cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until the bottom begins to char and the cheese is bubbly. Pull off the grate with a spatula onto a cutting board or other flat surface and let rest for a couple minutes before cutting into slices.

Crab Stuffed Mushroom Caps

My husband, Danny, doesn't care for mushrooms, but I have learned to really like them. Mushrooms stuffed with crab, cream cheese and parmesan are a creamy, savory addition to steak and the best part is I don't have to share.

24 large mushrooms

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

minced garlic

any flavor whipped cream cheese

1 can crab meat

Parmesan cheese

6 tablespoons butter

Remove stems from the mushrooms. Carefully trim the mushroom cap back to expose the spore area. Do this at an angle so that the cap can hold more mixture.

In a bowl, combine the container of whipped cream cheese, three tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and the crab meat. Fold the mixture over until thoroughly combined.

Pour 1/2 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil into each mushroom cap. Add a sprinkle of minced garlic into the oil. Add one tablespoon of crab mixture into each mushroom cap. Put the mushroom caps into a foil container.

Slice the butter into cubes and add them to the bottom of the container. Sprinkle minced garlic over butter.

Grill over medium heat for 8-10 minutes.

Note: It is best if mushrooms are grilled in a wire basket to prevent them from falling through the grates.

Sweet and Sour Barbecued Chicken

My friend and former colleague, Becki Schumaker, brought grilled chicken skewers for a party when our former principal retired. The chicken was a big hit. It had the perfect amount of tang. We couldn't believe she did all of that work the night before, but she said it was easy to do.

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

juice of ½ lime

juice of ½ lemon

1/3 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 chicken breasts

Whisk together all ingredients (except chicken). Reserve two portions of the mixture, one for basting and one for dipping. Use the remaining mixture to coat chicken in a resealable bag or dish. Grill chicken until juices run clear. While grilling, baste with more sauce.

If you like, skewer chicken onto bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water. This makes a nice presentation for a party. Serve chicken alongside reserved sauce for dipping.

Note: Do not use leftover marinade or basting mixture as dip.

Country-Style Spare Ribs

Who doesn't love finger lickin' good ribs? Instead of brushing ribs with plain old barbecue sauce, try a slightly smoky and sweet dry rub instead.

4 lbs country-style ribs

½ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons seasoned salt

¼ teaspoon curry powder

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix together all spices. Using your hands, rub spice mixture into all sides of the ribs. Barbeque ribs for 45 minutes, turning occasionally.

Makes 4 servings

Grilled Vegetable Salad

Country artist and actress Naomi Judd modeled this recipe after a salad she had at her favorite restaurant, The Ivy, in Los Angeles. It is a perfect accompaniment to grilled meat or add grilled chicken or shrimp and make it a meal in itself.


1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper


1 zucchini, trimmed and diced into 3/4-inch pieces

1 red bell pepper, cut into squares

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into squares

fresh corn kernels scraped from 2 ears

1 cup diced eggplant

6 stalks of asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces

3 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups mixed torn lettuce leaves (use several varieties)

1 medium tomato diced

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced

1 pound grilled shrimp or chicken (optional)

Prepare a grill with medium-hot coals or preheat the broiler. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, sugar, basil, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Create a basket by folding up the edges of a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. In a medium bowl, combine zucchini, red and yellow bell peppers, corn, eggplant, and asparagus. Add olive oil and toss to coat. Spoon vegetables into the foil basket. Place the basket on the grill and cover the grill, or place 5 inches from broiler. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are slightly tender, about 15 minutes.

Season with 1/4-teaspoon salt. Arrange lettuce leaves in individual serving bowls. Place tomatoes and avocado slices on top. Add vegetables and the shrimp or chicken, if using, either still hot or at room temperature. Whisk dressing again and pass at the table.

Reader's Tip:

A Carroll reader wrote to me and wanted to share a charcoal grilling tip. Recently she was having trouble lighting the coals until she remembered an episode of "Survivorman" she saw on TV. He used a single Frito and one match to start the fire. He said the oil in the chip helps keep the fire burning. The Carroll reader told me this really works. She used three Frito Scoops to help light her charcoal grill.

If you having any cooking, baking or grilling tips, please send them my way to janeyburns@yahoo.com.