Memorial Day is almost here, and with it the unofficial kick-off to summer and, more importantly, grilling season. While burgers and hotdogs always hit the spot, why not surprise your friends and family with some more unexpected grilled specialties? These recipes will help you expand your barbecue horizons — from appetizers to desserts (yes, you heard right, dessert). So load up on charcoal, grab a cold beer, and get ready to explore all that your grill has to offer.
Nothing brings the wow factor quite like a whole grilled fish, and this recipe from Brooklyn Supper is no exception. Blogger Elizabeth Stark opts for trout here, an affordable and flavorful option that is also easy to find in the Midwest. The whole fish get simply seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper before hitting the grill. Given their smaller size, these beauties cook up in a matter of minutes. Freshly squeezed lemon juice and a pinch of fresh chives and oregano round out the dish as do sides of grilled pineapple and a roasted turnip and ramp salad. Get the recipe on Brooklyn Supper.
It’s hard to beat grilled corn on the cob, but elote, a traditional Mexican street food, takes this humble dish to the next level. The setup starts with the best corn you can find, grilled until nicely charred all over. Then, the cobs get slathered in a garlicky mayonnaise that’s made even richer by the addition of sour cream. A final sprinkling of queso fresco, chili powder, and cilantro bring spice and brightness to the dish, creating an irresistible combination. I’d recommend making at least double what you think you’ll need, as people will definitely be asking for seconds and thirds. Get the recipe on The Noshery.
If you didn’t think dessert could have its own moment on the grill, boy would you be mistaken. Master baker Joy Wilson takes a classic strawberry shortcake recipe and turns it on its head. Rather than a spongy or biscuity shortcake, Joy opts for a sturdy homemade vanilla poundcake base. After baking to golden perfection, she cuts the loaf into thick slices and grills them just long enough to get those signature char marks. Besides adding a slightly smoky flavor to the cake, the charring helps give this soft cake a nice crunchy exterior. Top with fresh strawberries and whipped cream and you’ve got summer on a plate. Get the recipe on Joy the Baker.
I’ve never met someone who wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of preparing and grilling their own pizzas. Not only is it super easy to prepare, but it also helps engage your guests and makes them part of the cooking process. Smitten Kitchen’s recipe starts with a basic from-scratch pizza dough (store-bought would work just as well) and a simple topping spread of tomato sauce, aged mozzarella, grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh basil. The process begins by stretching out the dough and grilling it briefly to help provide a steady base for toppings. After just 1-2 minutes, the dough gets pulled off and topped with sauce, cheese, and add-ons of your choice before revisiting the grill for a final 2-3 minutes. Feel free to take this recipe in whatever direction you’d like and make the whole experience your own. Get the recipe on Smitten Kitchen.
When it comes to grilling, it doesn’t get much easier or healthier than vegetable skewers. Pick your favorite combination, cut into bite size pieces, spear onto skewers, and you’re good to go. Minimalist Baker’s recipe incorporates myriad colorful options including sweet potatoes, bell peppers, red onion, portobello mushrooms, and corn. Following a brief 10 minutes on the grill, they get topped with a vibrant chimichurri sauce, which combines fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro with a bit of avocado, garlic, lime juice, and Serrano pepper for a fresh, creamy kick. Bonus: Kids will love getting involved in the dinner prep by building their own skewers (just be sure to help so not one gets poked!). Get the recipe on Minimalist Baker.
I know what you’re thinking. Prosciutto in salsa?! Hear me out, though. Molly Yeh’s recipe takes a basic pico de gallo and gives it some much needed flair (or flame, rather). In addition to the classic roster of tomatoes, onion, and lime, she takes wedges of pineapple and throws them on the grill until nicely caramelized. The kicker to this recipe is the prosciutto, a cured Italian ham that is super salty and packed with umami. When chopped finely and mixed into the salsa, it serves as a perfect complement to the sweet pineapple and juicy tomatoes. Also, if you happen to be going the grilled pizza route for your Memorial Day entrée, this salsa is fantastic as a topping and mimics the classic pineapple and ham combination. Get the recipe on My Name is Yeh.
When it comes to salads for a party, panzanella is a great way to go. This Italian “leftover” salad combines chunks of toasted day-old bread with lots of vegetables and greens. The bread ends up acting like a sponge for all those delicious flavors and gives the dish some extra heft. Dolly and Oatmeal’s recipe takes this classic and transforms it into a grilled dish fit for a barbecue. She starts by taking thick cut slices of hearty bread, like focaccia or sourdough, as well as sweet peaches, and grilling them all until they’re nicely charred. The bread and peaches then get cut into bite-size pieces and tossed together with baby arugula, fresh basil, and thin strips of fennel before getting coated in a shallot vinaigrette. A showstopper salad that may get more attention than the entrée! Get the recipe on Dolly and Oatmeal.
Maddie LaKind is a Chicago-born personal chef, caterer and writer. Her love of gastronomy began with an introduction to the Food Network as a teenager and has since blossomed into a deep-rooted passion. She spent her early career in the food world working at the famed Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, before moving on to other notable spots including Detroit’s Sister Pie bakery, and Floriole Bakery, Read It and Eat bookstore and The Social Table in Chicago. In her spare time, she can be found practicing yoga, hosting dinner parties for friends and sifting through her ever-growing cookbook collection. Maddie is also a supporter of PAWS Chicago. Since adopting her two cats from the shelter, she has served as a volunteer and donated her cooking services as an auction item at fundraisers. Get in touch with Maddie at madonfood.com