Broccoli keeps ribs company on the grill

May 23, 1999|By Rob Kasper

THERE ARE FEW things in life I haven't tried to grill. Broccoli was one of them. Until the other night.

I was cooking supper, and since it was above 50 degrees outside, the meal was being prepared on the backyard kettle grill. The fire was ready. The coals had attained the state of ashy perfection that grill guys dream of. Once your fire is ready, you start hunting for things that can bask in its glow.

Already a rack of ribs was on the grill, benefiting from the fire's warmth. While I believe that the barbecued rib is nature's perfect food, I recognize that you probably should toss in a few sides dishes of the vegetable variety, to keep all members of the chow-down crowd happily high in vitamins and minerals.

As those who are in charge of putting a meal on the table are prone to do, I went in the kitchen, prowled around, stared at foodstuffs and wondered, "Will this sell tonight?"

I looked at the potatoes. I knew I could wrap the potatoes in foil and toss them in the ashy coals of the grill. I had done it before, but I didn't care for the results. Potatoes cooked in the coals don't taste any better than potatoes baked in an oven. Also, the ashes tend to cling to the foil, adding an occasional, unwelcome texture of true grit to a forkful of baked potato. I nixed the potatoes.

Then, I looked at carrots and recalled the unpleasant evening a few years back when I had attempted to cook some on the grill. The flavor was bad, the texture was worse, and the carrots kept falling through the grill into the fire. I nixed the carrots.

My eyes soon rested on a bunch of broccoli. It was not the first food I thought of when I fired up the grill. I had never said to anyone, "Come on over. We'll toss some burgers and broccoli on the fire, and have ourselves a fine old time."

But I was ready to give it a try. The broccoli, which had been in the fridge for a few days, was looking ready to give up the ghost.

So I found a cookbook, "All on the Grill" by Michael McLaughlin (Harper Collins, 1997) with a recipe for grilled broccoli, and went to work. McLaughlin collaborated with Sheila Lukins and Julie Rosso a few years back on a little number called "The Silver Palate Cookbook," one of the best-selling cookbooks in the history of edibles.

Truth is, you have to cheat if you want to grill broccoli. You have to cook it twice. First, you blanch it in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes. Then, you finish it off on the grill, cooking it over a medium fire for 6 to 8 minutes as you slather it -- are you ready for this? -- with bottled Caesar salad dressing.

Grilled broccoli is not bad, and since it offers another use for a good fire, it makes the grill guys happy.

Caesar Grilled Broccoli

Serves 4

1 bunch broccoli

1/3 cup Caesar salad dressing freshly ground black pepper

Remove the heavy broccoli stems. Cut the crowns, vertically into quarters. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook, stirring once or twice until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool, then pat dry. Wrap well and hold at room temperature.

When grill fire is medium-hot, brush the broccoli with salad dressing. Lay the broccoli on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until it is lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from grill, season with pepper to taste. Serve hot or warm.

-- From "All on the Grill"

Pub Date: 5/23/99

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