3 offbeat summer grilling favorites

Delightfully unusual dishes for when it's too hot to turn on the oven

My family just put in a patio so we could enjoy spending more time outside and we’re hoping to grill even more in the summer. It gets HOT here in Kentucky, and so we love finding great dinners that don’t need the oven. That means we grill a lot in the summertime.

We have some summer grilling basics we love—grilled chicken, brats, veggie kabobs—but today I wanted to share three grilling recipes my family adores that are a little more unusual.

Grilled pineapple

This recipe begins with a story of woe. Over twenty years ago a kind soul gave me a gift certificate to a cooking class at a now-defunct local shop upon my college graduation. The class I picked was up to me. When I saw the listings I knew immediately which class I wanted to attend: Pam Anderson was coming to town to teach from her new cookbook How to Cook Without a Book and it was just what I needed, I was sure of it!

But there was just one problem. When I called to reserve my spot, I was told the class was sold out: the last seat had been booked just five minutes ago, but would I like to attend the grilling class instead?

The grilling class was a distant second choice, but then … I learned how to make grilled pineapple at the class. Perhaps “learned” is the wrong word, because it’s not tricky. I’d just never thought to do it before. And if you haven’t either, and you are remotely interested in pineapple, you are in for a TREAT.

In Chapter 8 of Don’t Overthink It I talk about how to limit yourself to free yourself, and one of the suggestions is to adopt a signature dish. This grilled pineapple is our family’s go-to summer dessert for special dinners and when we have people over.

How to make grilled pineapple:

Decide how you want to prep your pineapple. You can either core it and cut it into one-inch rings (beautiful but tricky), or—and I think this is easier—peel it, cut it lengthwise into quarters, and core it. (Leave the quarters intact for grilling.)

Next you want to get a little bit of sugar on the pineapple (for browning) and a little bit of butter or oil (for flavor and to prevent sticking). You can either brush your butter onto the surface of the pineapple and sprinkle lightly with brown sugar (my preference, but only because I’m lazy), or put the pineapple in a Ziploc with about 3 tablespoons of melted butter and a tablespoon or two of brown sugar (or honey). If you go the Ziploc route, it’s easy to add a half-teaspoon or so of vanilla in as well. (I recommend this.) I also like to sprinkle a dash of cayenne pepper on my pineapple before it hits the grill. If that sounds good to you, give it a try!

Now grill your slices or quarters over a medium-hot or hot grill (discarding any extra marinade first). You don’t need to cook it, you just want to get it hot. Grill a couple of minutes per side until you get pretty grill marks and it looks delicious.

I like to serve rings intact. If you opt to grill the quarters, slice those up however you like for serving. Grilled pineapple makes a lovely accompaniment to steak, chicken, veggie kabobs, or veggie burgers, but my very favorite way to serve it is with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (Coconut ice cream or coconut non-dairy ice cream is also incredible.) Hit it with a a dash of cinnamon if you’d like, and voilà! You have a simple, stunning, delicious, and unusual summer dessert.

This method also works beautifully with stone fruit—halve and pit your peaches, plums, or nectarines (don’t peel!) and follow the same steps.

I never use an actual recipe for grilled pineapple, but if you want one, this one and this one look good to me. Another possibility: go easy on the sugar, finely chop the pineapple, and use it for salsa. YUM.

Grilled broccoli

We eat broccoli all the time at my house, yet I never would have thought to grill it—but then I stumbled upon this method in Sam Sifton’s excellent cookbook No-Recipe Recipes from The New York Times Cooking. (I love this cookbook. I initially checked it out from the library but have been thinking about buying my own copy because I find myself wanting to refer to it all the time!)

The method—for it is a method, not a recipe—is simple; make it once and you’ll never need a cookbook again to prep this easy side dish.

How to make grilled broccoli:

Chop your broccoli into bite-sized pieces, small enough to be manageable but big enough to not fall through the grate. (I like to cut straight through the florets to create surface area for browning.) Combine equal parts soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, then add a splash of both maple syrup and a neutral cooking oil. Toss the broccoli in your marinade (I use a salad bowl). Drain, shake on red pepper flakes to taste, and grill over a medium-hot or hot grill until it looks delicious. (Some will prefer it on the softer side; some will want it crunchier. Make it the way you like it!)

This method is forgiving: I’ve subbed thinned honey or a sprinkling of sugar for the maple syrup, I’ve made it with glaze instead of balsamic vinegar, I omitted the soy sauce last week because we forgot to buy some at the store. It always tastes great (except for that time we accidentally grilled the broccoli too long and charred it. Don’t do that.)

We make this recipe year-round; in the winter we broil it for a few minutes, toss the broccoli around a bit, and broil for a few more.

Grilled halloumi

Halloumi didn’t come into my life until recently and it made its appearance in the most unexpected way: my husband Will read about it on … a camping blog. Yes, that’s right: halloumi is a favorite of the camping crowd because this cheese can be grilled, broiled, or skewered with delicious results. Now it’s one of my favorite things to buy at Trader Joe’s. (They only stock it seasonally so when we see it on the shelves, we stock up!) We love it as a vegetarian main course or as an interesting addition to salad, grain, and vegetable dishes.

There are many ways to prepare halloumi; if you’re intrigued by the possibilities, hit up the internet for myriad options! (We’re New York Times Cooking subscribers and that site now holds an impressive number of halloumi recipes.) The following is my family’s go-to method.

How to grill halloumi:

Take your block of halloumi and cut it into 1/2″ slabs. Brush each side lightly with olive oil, and grill over a medium-hot or hot grill until grill marks appear and the cheese is warmed through but not runny, about two minutes per side.

Sprinkle your halloumi slabs with fresh herbs, lemon juice, and flaky salt to serve as-is. Cut as desired to toss with grilled summer vegetables, or cut into small cubes to mix into a classic fresh corn, tomato, and basil summer salad.

If you’d like to refer to an actual recipe, I like the looks of this one and this one.

What do you like to grill in the summertime? Whether you rely on very basic recipes or delight in your own offbeat favorites, we’d love to hear all about them in comments!

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17 comments

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  1. Angela says:

    We often marinate a bunch of vegetables and toss them in a grill basket while also grilling meat. I saw halloumi in Aldi last week and am going to have to pick up some the next time I am there.

  2. Diane Armijo says:

    My family also loves grilled pineapple and broccoli, although I have to protect the pineapple or it gets eaten while still raw! A couple of ideas to add onto your methods:
    1) Once the pineapple is quartered and cored, go ahead and cut each into halves or thirds to make them more individually sized. After each ‘spear’ is grilled, simply give 1 or 2 to each diner. Also, honey can be substituted for the sugar. Especially easy is to brush a bit of oil on the pineapple before grilling and drizzle with honey before serving. I love your idea of serving as a dessert with coconut ice cream! Sounds like a perfect way to end a summer meal.
    2) Even easier than cutting up broccoli before grilling is to buy broccolini – sometimes called broccoli rabe. No need to cut, except to clean up the ends. The longer, thinner pieces are super easy to grill.
    Thanks, Anne, for reminding me of some great grilling ideas. I’m inspired to get grilling!

  3. Heidi says:

    Just popping in to say How To Cook Without A Book saved my cooking life when I was 24. My mom is a recipe-only cook, so I didn’t know how to riff on dishes until Pam Anderson taught me. Her stir fry guide is the best!

  4. Rita says:

    I also love Sam Sifton’s No recipe recipes. It’s generally how I cook. We love ve grilled asparagus, peppers and onions. I’m definitely trying the cheese. Enjoy that new patio. We put a big deck in at the beginning of the pandemic and love it.

  5. I love making grilled corn on the cob with cilantro lime (vegan) butter. Mix some softened butter (vegan or non-) with chopped cilantro, lime zest, and a little juice. Pull down the leaves to remove the silk, but leave them attached. Spread the corn with some of the butter, pull the leaves back up, wet them a little to prevent burning, and grill. Grilling gives a nice flavor to the cilantro and lime, and you can add more (plus some salt) when serving. Enjoy your weekend on the patio!

  6. Diane says:

    After grilling peach halves, I crush amaretti cookies and fill the hollow. A dash of balsamic glaze or maple syrup or just plain. It makes a great dessert that isn’t calorie overloaded

  7. I stumbled across grilling pineapple a few years ago and we do it every summer. We’ve tried it sweet and savory – it’s delish both ways. The other 2 ideas are excellent and I’ll be trying them this summer. Thanks Anne.

  8. Sarah says:

    Two (maybe) offbeat grilling options I only came across in the last few years:
    Grilled Okra. Growing up we only ever had it fried or in gumbo-like preparations, but it’s really good tossed in a light oil and basic seasonings and grilled. When it’s cooked on the grill it doesn’t have the same sometimes slimy texture of other cooking methods. Okra is super easy to grow where I live, so this is a way (besides pickling) to eat all that crop.
    Fruit pie (we’ve tried apple and peach). Several years a go freinds had us over for a cookout, and while we were eating dinner, they finished baking an apple pie in the covered grill. The grill imparts a nice light smokiness, and really prevents the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’. It was a revelation for me.

  9. Marie says:

    Inspired! Not only are we going to try the grilling ideas, but I checked out both no-recipe books… so cool, as this is how my husband and I cook!

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