Fire is a mighty ingredient all on its own, adding an alluring smokiness to meat, seafood, cheese and vegetables. So skip the marinade: Grill your ingredients with only oil and salt, and over unrelenting direct heat for a crisp char. Then season them hot off the grill. This style of cooking takes little time and less planning — and can simplify and shake up dinnertime.
For a good time grilling, heed these tips:
Prep your ingredients, and get the grill super hot. Choose something slender and sturdy (like asparagus or scallions) or lean and marbled (like skirt steak or shrimp) that can cook in less than 20 minutes. As the grill heats up, pat your ingredients dry with paper towels, then let them air-dry until you’re ready to cook. You want the grill hot, but only on one side, so that there’s a cool zone where you can move ingredients if you need to pause and regroup. This is called two-zone grilling. Make sure to clean the grates with a grill brush, then lightly grease the ingredients and the hot grates to prevent sticking and encourage browning.
Follow the flames more than the recipes. Fire is a wild thing. Each time at the grill will be a little different, so use your senses for the best results. Grill ingredients over direct heat until the bottoms release naturally from the grate, then flip and cook until the outsides are golden and speckled with char and the insides are cooked through. (Check doneness with a meat thermometer or slice and peek in the thickest part.) If your food could use more color, move it to a hotter area. If it flares up, move it to the safe, cool zone.
Once everything’s hot off the grill, season enthusiastically. Use acidic, salty, fresh or spicy seasonings that stand up to smokiness — and distract if the cooking went awry. Rest ingredients in a bold sauce so that no meat juices are wasted (and so that anything overcooked will still seem moist). Add crunch with a dressed salad, potato chips, nuts, seeds, coconut flakes or bread crumbs, which will also conceal a less-than-crackly crust. Create a big-flavored glaze by coating your food with butter and a condiment, like giardiniera, horseradish or hot sauce. Butter can fix most problems — in grilling and in life.
Recipes: Grilled Swordfish With Corn Salad | Grilled Chicken With Parsley-Olive Sauce | Ginger-Mint Grilled Shrimp | Spicy Citrus Skirt Steak | Spiced Grilled Halloumi | Buffalo Grilled Mushrooms | Grilled Salmon Escabeche | Marinated Grilled Vegetables
And to Drink …
Swordfish can go well with a red wine like pinot noir. But with this dish, and its flavors of corn, cilantro and sesame oil, I would opt for a white. That still leaves many options, as long as they are rich in texture rather than delicate. A restrained, dry sauvignon blanc would be delicious, though I would avoid bottles with extravagant flavors or residual sugar. So would a dry riesling from Alsace or a smaragd from the Wachau region of Austria. A dry chenin blanc, like a Savennières, or a good white Bordeaux would also be excellent. If you have a good, old-school bottle of white Rioja, try it with this dish. For sherry lovers, a fino would be just the thing. ERIC ASIMOV