Summer is ﬁnally here and it’s time to ﬁre up the grill, Mediterranean-style. What could be more Mediterranean than cooking al fresco? Fresh air, a slower pace, and the company of friends make grilling outside perfect for summertime. Although it’s an old method and seems straightforward, cooking with ﬁre is an art, and it requires knowing your equipment, understanding the food you’re cooking, and using your instincts to harness the heat of dynamic ﬁre.
Grilling is usually associated with festivities in the Mediterranean—Easter lamb in Greece, mangal grilling in Israel — but it’s also an everyday practice. Classic Mediterranean comfort foods like pita bread, pizza, seafood, and fresh vegetables can all be deliciously prepared on the grill with simple ingredients. Aromatic ingredients like garlic, onions, and herbs are especially ﬁt for the grill and are perfect in marinades before grilling or as garnishes after.
Try these ﬁve ways to master grilling with Mediterranean ﬂair:
1. Hearty grilled salad. Grilling brings out the true ﬂavors of vegetables. Artichokes and eggplants, charred to perfection, are very popular in the Mediterranean, but most vegetables in general and also fruits are great on the grill. Even lettuces can be halved or quartered, brushed with olive oil, and placed directly on the grill. Add some mozzarella or feta cheese, along with a quick homemade dressing, for a delicious salad.
Try our recipe for ﬂash-cooked dandelion greens on the grill. Find the recipe here.
2. Quick pasta. While the pasta is boiling inside on the stove, your favorite pasta additions can be cooking on the grill outside. Seafood, like octopus or squid, is great sprinkled with fennel and tossed on the grill. Once perfectly tender, chop it up and toss with the pasta and plenty of freshly squeezed lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and capers.
Cook tomatoes in a cast iron skillet on the grill before adding to the pasta. Find the recipe here.
3. Skewers and sauce. Skewering food and roasting it over an open ﬁre goes back thousands of years, and there are diﬀerent names for this delicious technique around the Mediterranean (souvlaki in Greece, kebab in Turkey and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean, and spedini in Italy). Small foods, like shrimp, scallops, mushrooms or cherry tomatoes are great for skewers, which work best when ingredients are all around the same size. Enjoy with a easy homemade grilling condiment.
4. Cook ingredients together in a packet. Sealing food in heat proof wrapping — traditionally banana leaves, palm fronds, or grape leaves, but these days more often in tin foil — and placing directly on heated coals has been done for centuries. The sealed packet essentially steams the food and creates a powerful combination of ﬂavor. Try ﬁsh on a bed of thinly sliced vegetables with fresh herbs, lemon juice and garlic.
5. Grill by any means necessary. A charcoal grill with man-made ﬁre is the traditional instrument used for grilling, and it is considered the best because of the ﬂavor it imparts on the food. Gas grills are good for more spontaneous cooking (no careful preparation of coals required), and grill pans work if cooking outside is not an option. All three methods can accommodate most grilling recipes so you can make the most with what you have. And don’t forget to oil the grill.
Instead of baking this spicy salmon after marinating, try placing each piece of ﬁsh on the grill and ﬂipping after the ﬁrst side is done. Salmon tastes great on the grill! Find the recipe here.
Bonus: Grill a pizza. That’s right, you can toss a pizza pie right on the grill for a deliciously charred, smoky ﬂavor. Bring the Mediterranean ﬂair to your next cookout and try your hand at making this Spinach Lamejun on the grill. You will not be disappointed, and neither will your cookout guests.
Madeleine Cohen, Oldways Intern
This blog post was inspired by our Mediterranean Foods Alliance’s Fresh Fridays newsletter. Click here to sign up to receive our next Fresh Friday and never miss delicious Mediterranean recipes and cooking tips again.