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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

Grilling is an all-American tradition. And contrary to popular belief, grilling is markedly different from barbequing. Barbequing is cooking marinated foods at temperatures between 200º and 300º F. Grilling involves cooking foods at very high heat, well above 400º F. Most barbeque sauces are tomato and sugar based and will burn if they are used for grilling.

DCF 1.0
DCF 1.0

The veteran griller is patient, vigilant, and proactive. He or she knows how to chill with the grill. Grilling involves cooking food over direct and indirect heat. Direct heat comes from the coals when food is placed right above the flame. Indirect heat is when the hot coal is placed to one side, and the food is placed away from the coal and cooked. Many people also like to place a bowl of water under the food to prevent it from drying out.
Unlike an oven, in which the temperature rises slowly, grills heat up to 500º F in minutes. Therefore grills are not for those who prefer kicking back at a pool or in a chair. They demand a great deal of attention.

Grilling Don’t’s:

 • Do not walk away from a hot grill when food is grilling.
• Do not move the grill after you have started the fire.
• Do not spray cooking oils on a hot grill. That causes flare-ups.
• Do not use marinades with sugar or tomato sauce to baste foods on the hot grill; this causes the food to burn.

Grilling Do’s:

 • Do research your choice of charcoal or gas grills. Both work equally well. Charcoal is more work than gas, but die-hard grillers will swear by it any day.
• Do grill outdoors in a well-ventilated place away from inflammable and dry bushes. The only form of indoor grilling you should ever do is with the broiler in the oven or an electric plug-in grill.
• Do read the manual. When you open that gas grill, don’t just wing it.
• Do use proper grilling tools—grill brush and tongs with long handles.
• Do give yourself an early start before your guests start waiting in line for their grilled treats.
• Do close the lid on your grill to ensure even grilling.
• Do have available a box of baking soda, to put out small fires, and a bucket of sand to put out big fires. You will be surprised how often fires happen, like when a brave soul offers to grill while you step away to get a drink.
• Do be attentive to what you are grilling to avoid burnt, dry foods.
• Do clean. The grill has to be clean all through the grilling process. Use a grill brush after each round of grilling to remove crumbs; then brush the grate with oil.

Asian Marinade

 ½ cup black soy sauce
¼ cup Maggi hot and sweet ketchup
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate in ¼ cup water
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon maple syrup
salt, to taste

Measure all the ingredients into a glass jar and stir well. This marinade can be used for firm or extra firm tofu. Let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Tofu will have to be pressed to remove excess water before it is marinated.

Italian Marinade

 ½ cup of olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
½ teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped fine
½ teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped fine
½ teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped fine
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Vegetables to be grilled:
1 zucchini, cut into long strips
6 cherry tomatoes
1 bell pepper, small, seeded and cut into squares
6 button mushrooms
1 red onion, small, cut into squares
1 fennel bulb, small, cored and cut into small pieces
Note: If you don’t have fresh herbs, substitute one teaspoon of Italian dry herbs.

Soak your wooden skewers in water for an hour. Place all the cut vegetables and the marinade in a glass bowl and let the food marinate for at least 4 hours. Skewer the marinated vegetables in this order: zucchini round, tomato, bell pepper square, mushroom, red onion square, and fennel. Place the skewers on a hot grill and let cook for 7-10 minutes until soft, turning the skewers once for all round cooking.

Paneer Tikka Marinade

1 cup thick yogurt
4 garlic cloves
1 inch of ginger
3 Thai chilies
2 small shallots
1 cup fresh mint (tightly packed)
1 cup fresh cilantro (tightly packed)
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chaat masala
1 lime (juice)
salt, to taste

Chop vegetables of choice (bell peppers, red onions, mushrooms) and paneer to bite-size pieces. Soak skewers in water for an hour. Grind garlic, ginger, chilies, shallots, mint, and cilantro to a smooth paste. Add the garam masala powder, cumin powder, chaat masala powder, lime juice, and salt. Mix well with yogurt. Marinate the paneer and vegetables in this yogurt mixture for at least 4 hours. Skewer the paneer and vegetables and place on a hot grill until the paneer is grilled and the vegetables are soft. Remove and serve with a slice of lime.

Minty Limeade

This simple drink is an all-time favorite at my summer parties.

½ gallon limeade
1 tablespoon of jal jeera powder
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves

Mix the jal jeera powder and mint into the limeade at least an hour before serving keep refrigerated. Pour a glass of minty limeade into a margarita glass; dress up with a drink stirrer and a piece of lime.

Praba Iyer teaches custom cooking classes around the Bay Area. She was Associate Chef at Green’s Restaurant, San Francisco. She also blogs about cooking at www.rocketbites.com