It's the peak of summer in Sonoma County — why not try grilling some fruit?
It’s the peak of summer here in Sonoma County, and grilling season has been underway for quite some time. And while you may not yet have had your fill of burgers, sausages, and grilled corn on the cob, you also might be looking for some inspiration.
Grilling is to summer as succulent fruit is to summer, so why not put the two together? Grilling fruit couldn’t be easier — if you can grill a burger, you’ve certainly got the skills to grill fruit — but the results are transformational. The heat of a grill caramelizes the natural sugars in fruit and intensifies its flavor.
The best types of fruit for the grill are slightly firm and can withstand the heat. In-season fruit will always have the most flavor. It also tends to be less expensive at the market since it’s more plentiful, and easier to find locally.
In summer, choose seasonal stone fruit such as peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots, or slices of juicy watermelon. Tropical fruits such as pineapple, mango and bananas are also natural partners for the grill.
Late-summer figs are sublime. In autumn, apples and pears are a great option. You can even grill avocados (which are, technically, a fruit).
Try to pick fruits that are fragrant but only semi-ripe. Reserve those perfectly ripened juicy peaches for eating out of hand. Fruits, such as stone fruit, should have a little give, but be slightly firm. Also, you’ll have more success with freestone fruits rather than what are known as “cling” (meaning the pit pops right out rather than “clinging” to the fruit flesh).
The process is simple. If you are using stone fruit, cut it in half and remove the pit. Use thick slices of fresh (peeled) pineapple, watermelon, or mango. Apples and pears can be grilled in thick slices or halved. Bananas should be split lengthwise and the peel left intact.
Next, fire up the grill and make sure to clean the grate well, especially if you’ve cooked dinner previously (no one wants a salmon-flavored nectarine). I only use gas grills when cooking fruit, because I find charcoal imparts an off taste to the fruit.
Just before grilling, lightly brush the fruit with a little neutral-flavored oil, such as canola or coconut, or melted butter. Then just put it right on the grate, flesh side down, over medium to medium-high direct heat, and watch the juices sizzle.
You’ll want to turn the fruit — tongs work great for this — as soon as it gets some nice grill marks, and then cook it on the second side until slightly tender. You want to grill it long enough to soften the fruit, create those telltale grill marks, and bring out the juicy flavor, but not so long that the fruit starts to collapse. Most fruit really only takes a few minutes.
If you want to add instant flavor and a little flare, you can marinate your fruit in citrus juice, sprinkle it with spices like cinnamon or cardamom, or splash it with a little bourbon before grilling. For extra sweetness, glaze it with a little honey or maple syrup toward the end of cooking using a pastry brush.
Then comes the fun part: how to use your gorgeous grilled fruits. Keep it simple with dollops of lightly whipped cream, a melty scoop of vanilla ice cream, or even sweetened mascarpone or yogurt.