Michele Atkins

Summer, summer, summertime — picnics, get-togethers and tailgating are a great time to hang out, enjoy the weather and grill some delicious food.

Grilling intensifies the flavor of fruits and vegetables, just as it does for meat.

Kebabs that alternate meat with pieces of onion, pepper or other produce, are a great way to increase vegetable and fruit intake.

Or skip meat altogether, with something like grilled eggplant cutlets or portabella mushroom “steak” sandwiches.

A few benefits of grilling include:

• In summer, it keeps your kitchen cool.

• It doesn’t require electricity.

• Grilling can be a healthy way to cook because fats fall away from the cooked foods.

• You can reduce energy costs by cooking outside on the grill.

• Some foods can be cooked faster than with conventional methods indoors.

• Grilling vegetables makes them sweet and delicious. If your family thinks they don’t like vegetables, chances are great they will like them grilled.

As far as safety goes, you should never determine meat doneness based on color. Use a food thermometer and make sure meat is cooked to the recommended minimum internal temperature.

For the most common types of grilled meats, those recommendations include: steaks, chops and roasts, 145°F; ground meat, 160°F; all poultry, 165°F; and fish,145°F.

Don’t have a food thermometer? Stop by the Henry County UT Extension office to pick up a free one.

A food thermometer should be inserted into the center of the thickest part of the meat, away from bone, fat and gristle.

or ground meat — such as hamburger patties — insert into the side so that the thermometer is positioned through the center of the food.

Remember to follow the one-hour rule on hot days. When the temperature outside rises above 90°F, perishable food like meat and poultry, dips and cold salads, or cut fruits and vegetables are only safe to sit out on the table for one hour.

After one hour, harmful bacteria, which can cause foodborne illness, may start to grow.

To prevent this, keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. If the temperature is below 90°F, any food left out for more than two hours should be thrown away.

Great summertime grilled foods:

MICHELE ATKINS is the director for the Henry County Extension Service. Her email address is matkins1@utk.edu.

Grilled Fish Tacos

1 pound lean white fish fillets (tilapia, halibut, mahi mahi, snapper, cod)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons oil (vegetable or canola oil)

1 small lime, juiced

1 clove garlic, minced

1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne, optional

8 white corn tortillas

Fish taco sauce:

1/2 cup sour cream

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 small lime, juiced

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sriracha hot sauce, or to taste

Toppings:

Pico de gallo

Cheese

Shredded cabbage

Fresh cilantro

Avocado

Lime wedges

Red onion

Sriracha sauce

Season fish with a little salt and pepper on both sides.

In a mixing bowl whisk together oil, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika and cayenne.

Add fish to a large ziplock bag and pour marinade over fish. Seal bag, allow fish to marinade 20-30 minutes.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Brush grill grates with oil, grill fish fillets for 3-4 minutes on each side (cook time will vary depending on thickness of fish), flipping only once.

Add corn tortillas to the grill and warm for 15 seconds on each side.

Transfer fish to a plate, allow to rest a few minutes before gently breaking into pieces. Serve on warm tortillas, topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, sauce and other desired toppings.

Grilled Fresh Veggie Wrap

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Medium zucchini (sliced lengthwise into 8 slices)

1 medium yellow squash (sliced lengthwise into 8 slices)

1 red bell pepper (sliced into 4 slices)

4 large whole wheat tortillas

1/2 cup hummus

8 fresh basil leaves

Preheat grill.

In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar and ground black pepper. Add sliced zucchini, squash and bell pepper to marinade and let sit for 5 minutes. Grill vegetables 2-3 minutes on both sides.

Lay out the tortilla and spread with 2 tablespoons hummus, then add 2 fresh basil leaves and top with 2 slices of zucchini, 2 slices of yellow squash and 1 slice bell pepper. Fold in the two sides of the tortilla and roll like a burrito.

You can serve these immediately or wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate.

Grilled Corn in Husks

4 large ears sweet corn in husks

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Carefully peel back husks from corn to within 1 inch of bottom; remove silk.

Soak in cold water for 20 minutes; drain. Pat corn dry.

Combine butter and parsley; spread over corn. Rewrap corn in husks and secure with string.

Grill corn, covered, over medium heat until tender, turning often, 20-25 minutes.

Serve with cheese.

Grilled Peaches

4 medium peaches, ripe yet firm

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cut peaches in half and remove the pit: With a sharp paring knife, slice each peach in half. Then twist each half in opposite directions to pull the halves apart.

Use your fingers to remove the pit. If it’s stuck, carefully slide the knife under the pit and then pull it away.

Brush the peaches all over with the melted butter.

Place peaches, cut side down, on the grill.

Grill on medium heat until tender and slightly charred, about 4 minutes per side.

Serve immediately.

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