Plums falling to the bottom of my Weber is not the worst thing that’s ever happened. During a year whose motto seems to be “at least the murder hornets aren’t here,” ash-covered plums barely merit a shrug from my crew. But gorgeously grilled fruit is festive, fun, and one of the few desserts that doesn’t add inches to my quarantine physique. If ever there was a weekend to master the fine art of fruit ‘Q, this is it.
First, prepare your grill. Start by scrubbing the grate — you need it squeaky clean for this endeavor. Then light the charcoal or ignite the gas. We want a hot side and a cool side, known as “indirect grilling” in the barbecue universe. Medium heat is preferable, so use fewer briquettes, or throw your fruit on after you’ve grilled the entree and the coals have mellowed.
When selecting fruit, I look for stone fruit (like peaches, apricots and nectarines) that gives slightly when pressed. You want them a shade underripe, so the cut halves hold their shape on the hot grill. My aforementioned plums fell through because they were too soft, but if your plums are just right, you have my blessing and my jealousy. Slices of larger fruit, like watermelon and pineapple, stand up to the heat, particularly if you leave the rind on. Charred bananas and plantains are so delicious, you’ll want to throw one on the grill every time you fire it up. Simply slice them in half vertically, and leave the peel on for support.
Next comes the tricky part. You need an oil barrier between the fruit and the grill grate, lest the fruit’s natural sugars bond like Super Glue to the grate. When I oiled a cold grate, the oil smoked and burned off as soon as I lit the charcoal. When I wiped a hot grill with a wad of oily paper towels, the towels burst into flames. Oiling the fruit directly is a better choice. Dab the thinnest veneer onto the cut sides, so that the fruit glistens, but oil does not drip from it.
Place the fruit cut-side down on the hot side of the grill for a minute or two, until grill marks appear. Repeat on the second side if you wish, then transfer your fruit to the cool side, and cover with the grill lid. This allows you to cook the fruit until it softens without burning. You’ll be rewarded with fruit that is simultaneously smoky and deeply sweet.
You can serve grilled fruit as it is, under frozen yogurt or over fat-free angel food cake. If kebabs are your thing, cut the fruit into cubes and skewer them after grilling. Or dress the cubed fruit with the easiest, tastiest honey-lime glaze ever. Then celebrate summer and your sweet success.
Charred Summer Fruit Salad
Fruit that is ideal for grilling includes apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums and watermelon. Smaller fruit, like strawberries and blueberries, are best grilled whole in a small grill basket.
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