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Native Cooking: Tips, Tricks, and Twice-Baked Potatoes on the Grill

It's about summer time, that means it's time to get out the grill! Here are some tips and tricks for what to do once you start grilling.

Did you know you can grill just about anything, except maybe smoothies and cheese. Oh, no, that is wrong—you can actually grill some cheeses! Who knew? Once in a while I have grilled mozzarella, and even when it bubbles up to char a bit, it tastes fine. There are a couple of cheeses made from cow, sheep and goat’s milk combined that can be grilled satisfactorily. Halloumi is one, it is imported from Cyprus, and is quite tasty (little salty), dense and freezes well.

Veggies like eggplant slices, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, corn, polenta, tomatoes, and carrots grill well too. Brush them with olive or truffle oil before they hit the heat. One thing that chars up really nice is onion, too. If you use some garlic or onion near or mixed in with other vegetables they will get some of those flavors to enhance their own. No one thought much about grilling Brussels sprouts until recently. It does make them more palatable for those who were not crazy about them, like me. I used to make a cream sauce with butter and it was way too rich, and not healthy.

Whether you use gas, charcoal or wood, it’s important to preheat the grill for 15 to 20 minutes to kill any bacteria. Soak a paper towel with oil, hold it with tongs and clean the grill rungs to remove the ghosts of meals past. Use of cooking spray is never recommended, it’s just too dangerous.

Any meat you plan on grilling should have a decent layer of fat, which keeps the juices from escaping, and flavors the meat as it melts into it. The meat should also have an even thickness. It is also good to salt the meat before grilling as salt draws the meat juices to the top where they can caramelize. A good way to add flavor and tenderize meat is to marinate it. This reduces carcinogens as much as 92 to 99 percent.

After grilling, you may have some leftover steak or baked potatoes. Cube and skewer the meat and scoop out the potato to make your own twice baked version. For reheating food, or for food too small and in danger of falling through the rungs of the grill grate use a grill basket. Partially pre-roast thick roasts or chicken breast in your oven before grilling. When meat is cooked the way you want, it should rest for about 10 minutes to let the juices even out. If you don’t have a covered grill, keep some large pieces of foil or a large pot lid handy. For an open fire pit it’s good to have a bucket of water nearby. A spritzer bottle of water is handy to tame, not put out flare ups.

Meat, poultry and wild things are just the tip of the iceberg once you really get into grilling and barbequing. I had some grilled oysters this year that were unexpectedly fabulous. A little piece of bacon on top, then a sprinkle of parmesan, absolute heaven. Try some squash slices with fresh basil, brushed with olive oil and a sprinkle of Halloumi.

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Cheeses like Halloumi can be grilled.

As with most meals, thinking it through ahead of time is important. Having the table preset or a tray with the items you’ll need on it is good to have ready. Condiments, sauces, rolls, anything your diners might need. Remember, the more you have ready ahead of time, the more time you will have to enjoy guests, family and cooking. For the grill area, I like to have a small, tall table with a couple of large cookie sheets for maneuvering cooked foods before they are served.

Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: “New Native American Cooking,” “Native New England Cooking” and “A Dreamcatcher Book.” She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with her husband in Madison, Connecticut.