Now we all know the grill was made for cooking steak, hamburger and other barbecue favorites, but have you ever thought about grilling fruits and vegetables? The grill is a great method to cook fruits and vegetables because of how quickly they cook and the unique flavor it incorporates. You can grill almost any fruit or vegetable, so let your creativity flow! Here are some tips to help be a success.

• Ripe but not too ripe. You want to grill fruit right before you’d normally eat it as is. It should be slightly firm so that it holds up on the grill. The heat caramelizes the sugars in fruit and weakens the structure, so something overripe or mushy will be more likely to fall apart.

• Bigger is better. Cut fruit into large chunks to keep it from falling between the bars of the grill grate. Even if you’re working with a grill pan indoors, you want to go for bigger pieces to maintain the structure of the fruit. Bonus tip: if you’re grilling bananas, keep them in the peel to protect the soft texture — the high heat will ensure that they cook through.

• Pick your fat. Brush fruit with a high-heat, neutral oil. Small amounts of melted unsalted butter or clarified butter also work well.

• Do not disturb. Grill fruit over high heat for 3 minutes without moving or turning it to get the perfect sear and coveted grill marks! Flip and cook for 1 to 3 minutes more.

• Use the top rack. If you’re working with more delicate slices, cherries, or berries, move the whole operation to the top rack if you have one, or in a perforated grill basket or sheet — even a foil pouch or boat if that’s how you’re rolling. The lid still goes down, but you’ll need to check more frequently.

Grilled Pineapple with Whipped Fruit Dip

1 pineapple

Whipped Fruit Dip

½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt plain

1/8 cup heavy whipping cream

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ tablespoons Honey

Make sure to begin with a clean surface and clean hands.

Begin by heating up your grill to 450 degrees.

Slice pineapple into 12 wedges. Place pineapple on grill and grill on each side for 4 minutes (8 minutes total)

While pineapple is grilling, start by whipping the nonfat Greek Yogurt for 30 seconds on low and then for 2 minutes high speed. Add heavy whipping cream. Again, mix on low for 30 seconds and increase the speed to high setting for 2 minutes. Add vanilla and honey and whip on high for another 2 minutes or until peaks are fluffy. Use as dip for grilled pineapple or top pineapple with whipped mixture and enjoy.

Whipped fruit dip can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Grilled Eggplant

2 medium Eggplant

6 tablespoons Olive Oil

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

¾ teaspoon Garlic powder

¾ teaspoon Sea Salt

¼ teaspoon Black Pepper

Preheat the grill or a cast iron grill pan to medium high heat.

Slice the eggplant crosswise to make circles, about ½ inch thick. Cut off the leafy end only after you are done slicing, so that you have more to grab onto as you slice.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. Brush about half of the mixture over the eggplant slices. Season with half of the sea salt and black pepper.

Flip the eggplant slices and repeat with the remaining oil mixture, salt, and pepper on the other side.

Place the eggplant slices on the grill or grill pan in a single layer. If using a grill pan, spray with cooking spray first and cook uncovered. If using a grill, close the lid. Grill eggplant for 3-5 minutes per side, until charred, tender, and no longer white.

Kathy Smith is a Texas A&M AgriLife extension agent in Parker County.

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