Surprising Foods You Can Grill for Dinner

Surprising Foods You Can Grill for Dinner

Grilling is one of summer’s greatest pastimes and for good reason — the outdoor kitchen, short cooking time, fresh taste, and mealtime versatility it offers makes it a fun, easy way to dine. And while your first thought might be to fire up some meat, Kitchensurfing Chef Jessica Hilton shows us why we should consider grilling surprising ingredients for a healthy dinner in part three of our Savoring Summer Series. Her words to grill by will leave you inspired to host your next cookout…

What technique do you use to grill surprising things like fruits or pizzas? 

In general, an important practice when grilling anything is to properly set up your grill. Whether you are using charcoal or gas, it’s wise to have different temperature zones. This will avoid the unrecognizable hockey puck type foods often served at barbecues.

With a gas grill, some of the burners should be on high heat, while at least one should be set to a low heat. If using charcoal, rather than simply dumping all the charcoal in one layer at the bottom, angle it, so one side is stacked high with the charcoal (high heat) and the other is quite low (low heat).

With the proper set up, the technique for pizza, peaches, and everything in between is pretty similar. Start over direct heat to get those aesthetically-pleasing grill marks, then move the food to indirect heat to continue cooking without burning.

Can anything be grilled or are certain foods better than others? 

Really delicate foods should not be grilled. For example a thin, flaky piece of sole would be a disaster on the grill. It would stick to the grate and fall through the cracks. The intensity of the heat overpowers the delicate nature of the fish. Conversely, really starchy items need some prep work before being grilled. Potatoes and winter squashes are often best steamed or otherwise partially cooked before grilling, or the outside will be nicely charred and the core of the vegetable will be hard as a rock.  

Surprising Things to Grill for Dinner

What do you love about using the grill to prepare different foods?

What I love about grilling is not having to clean a bunch of pots and pans afterwards. If I am going to set up the grill, light the (eco) charcoal, wait for it to heat up, you can bet I won’t cook a couple of burgers and call it a night. I like to maximize my use of the grill. So if the grill is lit, I am going to put as much food on it as possible.  For instance, I will cook plates of vegetables that I can sneak into meals throughout the week. I always tell my clients to make extra vegetables to ensure you eat the proper amount.

The flavor of grilled food is unparalleled. I love that little bit of char, it totally transforms the way the food tastes. A perfect example is pizza. We all know what pizza tastes like, but when you grill it, the whole experience changes. There is so much more complexity to that familiar pizza.

WebMD recommends grilling tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, endive, pineapple, mango, apple, and pear. And we’d add lean cuts of free-range meat, wild caught fish, asparagus, salad, and peaches — many of which can be found in Chef Jessica’s recipes for healthy, happy grilling below.

Tri Tip Steak

Mediterranean Grilled Tri Tip

Ingredients (Use Organic When Possible)

  • 1 Tbsp fennel seed
  • 1 Tbsp fresh sage
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Sea salt (approximately 1 Tbsp)
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 (1 1/2 – 2 lbs) tri tip or flank steak


1. Mince the herbs, garlic, and fennel seeds. Combine in a small bowl with salt and lemon zest.

2. Divide rub in half and rub each side of the meat with one half of the rub.

3. Place meat over direct heat of grill for 3-5 minutes, cover until nicely browned. Flip meat and cook over direct heat 3-5 minutes on second side. Move tri tip over indirect heat and cook until desired doneness, about 5-10 minutes more per side.

Grilled Asparagus

Ingredients (Use Organic When Possible)

  • 1 pound of asparagus
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • unrefined sea salt and pepper to taste


1. Trim asparagus. This is easily accomplished by snapping the ends off where it snaps naturally. Toss asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

2. Put in a grill basket or thread several asparagus with a long metal skewer (this will prevent them from falling through and make it easier to turn).

3. Grill over medium hot until asparagus is tender, about 5-10 minutes.

Grilled Bitter Green Salad

Ingredients (Use Organic When Possible)

  • 2 endives, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 head radicchio, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 heart of romaine, cut in half lengthwise, root end intact
  • 2 large handfuls baby lettuces or wild arugula
  • 3-4 green onions, thinly sliced on the bias
  • 1 small bunch basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh marjoram or oregano, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided


1. Cut endive, radicchio, and romaine in half, lengthwise, through the root end, keeping the root intact. Place endive, radicchio and romaine cut side down over medium heat until lightly charred.  Set aside to cool, then coarsely chop.

2. Combine baby lettuces in a large bowl with herbs and 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese. Add cooled grilled lettuces.

3. Gently heat 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil over low heat, add sliced garlic and cook until garlic is just pale golden. Remove from heat and combine with balsamic vinegar, adding remaining olive oil to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over salad and toss to combine. Garnish with parmesan.

Our friends at Kitchensurfing make summer entertaining easy. Their private chef offerings are a surprisingly affordable and fun way to host a party of any size at your home — all which can be customized according to dietary needs, theme, and occasion. Kitchensurfing is thrilled to offer 10% off by using the code kshonest for you first booking, available in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Berlin, the Hamptons, and Chicago.

What surprising foods do you love to grill? Share your tips or recipes in the comments below! And don't forget to check out more great recipes in our summer series here!

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