- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Since grilling is a generally healthy way of cooking, why limit yourself to the entree? Grilling is healthy because often little additional fat is used during cooking, as is typical in other preparations such as sauteing. So you might as well take advantage of this healthy technique and toss dessert on the grill, too.

Grilled fruit is a light alternative to the rich cakes, pies and ice cream that often accompany summer barbecues.

“It makes fruit seem like a more decadent dessert than this healthful finish really is,” according to Cheryl and Bill Jamison, authors of several books on grilling, including “The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking and Entertaining.”

Grilling fruit caramelizes the natural sugars, softens the texture of the flesh and releases the delicious juices. The flavors of the fruit become concentrated, and the smokiness of outdoor cooking adds an element right at home with the taste fresh fruit.

Many fruits can be grilled, but as a rule of thumb, the more watery the fruit is, the harder it is to grill. Wet fruits such as watermelon and some types of berries get mushy and lose their shape over a fire.

Hard fruits such as pears, apples and pineapples are the easiest. These fruits work well because they keep their shape and texture while cooking. Plus they’re harder to burn accidentally.

Very little fat is needed for this cooking technique. The Jamisons recommend preparing the grates with oil and brushing the fruit with canola oil, or even a little melted butter or almond oil. This will ensure that the fruit won’t stick to the grates or become too dry.

Grill fruit over medium heat (or even over a dying charcoal fire) for several minutes on each side until softened and caramelized (lightly browned) to your liking. Make sure your fire is under control, as flare-ups will quickly blacken the fruit.

Try sprinkling apple or pear wedges with cinnamon or a little brown sugar and then grilling them for about 5 minutes per side. Brush the pieces first with lemon juice, so they don’t brown, before you get them on the grill.

Grilled slices of pineapple become a luscious tropical dessert when served with a drizzle of coconut milk and a sprinkling of chopped macadamia nuts.

Bananas also are surprisingly tasty on the grill. Brush peeled whole bananas with canola oil or even a bit of butter and cook, turning once, just until the fruit turns golden and there are dark grill marks, about 5 minutes per side.

For a fun alternative to the summer classic s’mores, cut a 3/4-inch-deep slit down the length of an unpeeled banana. Pry the slit open and stuff with about 2 tablespoons of chopped dark chocolate or your favorite candy bar (Mounds bars work great). Wrap the banana in foil and grill for about 5 minutes on each side. The banana is done when it feels very soft when squeezed with an oven mitt. Unwrap and serve while the chocolate is warm.

The Jamisons particularly like grilling soft-textured summer stone fruits, such as peaches, apricots and nectarines. Remove the pit and grill them as halves or wedges.

Grilled peaches and nectarines make a nice side dish to go with a steak or pork tenderloin. They even can be diced after cooking and made into a salsa or relish by adding fresh herbs, chili peppers and a squeeze of lime juice or a bit of vinegar.

This recipe for grilled nectarines with blueberry preserves is a luscious and delightfully simple summer dessert. This combination of fruits is beautifully balanced, but you can use peaches and any flavor preserves you fancy.

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