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Lettuce Grill! Sizzlin' Grilled Veggie Sides From Celebrity Chef Melissa Cookston

Looking for something a little healthier to grill this summer than that same-old burger and fry combination? Tired of having to watch over the vegetables inside at the same time you grill your meat outdoors? Celebrity chef Melissa Cookston’s grilled vegetable sides are a great way to make this summer’s cookouts delicious without all the hassle!

Find these recipes and more on Melissa's website!

Grilled Pickled Red Onions

These beautiful Grilled Pickled Red Onions are the perfect accompaniment to any burger or sandwich. I just love the color and texture they bring to the party!

Grilled Pickled Red Onions are easy to make, but I love to take the flavor up a notch (as well as keeping the vinegar smell out of the house) by cooking these on a grill. You won’t grill them long enough to overcook them, but it will add just a little bit of char flavor that goes so well with these.

In addition to being great on burgers, I love to sprinkle them on many other dishes. Queso dip, enchiladas, tacos or even over chicken breasts. They’re very addictive! If you like them spicy, just add a serrano or jalapeño into the mix, or increase the cayenne. Enjoy!

1 medium red onions

1 teaspoon olive oil

1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly crushed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

Cut onions in half lengthwise, leaving root intact. Remove peel. Lightly coat with olive oil and place on hot grill. Also, to cook for 2-3 minutes until grill marked. Remove from grill and allow to cool.

In a medium saucepan over a hot zone on the grill (or use the stove top) add vinegar, garlic, black pepper, cayenne, sugar, salt and cumin. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer while whisking to ensure sugar is dissolved.

Slice red onion into very thin slices (julienne.) Add onion slices to vinegar mix and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until onions are tender. Remove from heat.

Using tongs, place onions in jars, then pour liquid over them. Store in fridge for up to two weeks.

Smashed New Potatoes

Smashed potatoes have become one of my favorite ways to cook potatoes lately! They still retain some of the “creaminess” from a properly cooked potato, but you can also get some wonderfully crispy texture as well.

What kind of potatoes? For making smashed new potatoes, I usually use “new” potatoes. They don’t have to be tiny, but you certainly don’t want a baking size potato either. I love buying and cooking purple potatoes, as I love the color and hue they bring to a plate. However, I’ve cooked this recipe many times with small Yukon Gold, red or even small russet potatoes as well, and they all turn out fantastic.

Why smash them? Well, smashing is probably a bit of overkill, but it sounds a lot more fun than ‘slightly squish the potatoes.’ This recipe is basically a two-step process. Boiled potatoes are kind of bland and boring. The smash gives you an opportunity to add some flavor as well as add some unique texture by roasting in the oven for a few minutes or cooking on a skillet or flat top grill. The skin will crisp, and you’ll get some added flavor from the caramelization as well.

So, how do I cook these wonderful potatoes? No matter how you want to finish the potatoes, the first step is the same. Wash the potatoes, then boil until they are cooked all the way through- tender, but not falling apart. One important thing I started doing that improves the flavor is to salt the water, just as you would for cooking pasta. You don’t need to peel or slice or anything to them, so that makes prep a breeze. At this point, you have a couple of options. You can either roast in the oven or cook on a flat top grill. I prefer cooking on the grill, as I think they pick up a hint of grill flavor that way. However, you can’t go wrong either way.

Another great thing about this method is you can prep this part slightly ahead. If I’m using a grill, I will boil them and drain the water, then set aside in the kitchen until I’m within 10 minutes or so of being done with the main meal. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of getting your dinner ready at the same time.

For the oven, preheat it to 450 degrees Fahrenheit on “roast.” After draining the potatoes, place on a sheet pan (I usually line with parchment paper) and “slightly squish.” Drizzle with olive oil, and season. My go to seasoning for this dish is my Grillin’ Shake. I always keep a batch on hand as it’s such a good season all. If you don’t have that, simply season with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and garlic. Roast for 15-20 minutes and then serve. So easy!

Put them on the grill! I’m lucky to have an Arteflame grill, which is basically a huge flat top grill surrounding a fire pit. Very cool. It is also my favorite way to finish these potatoes off, but it is certainly not necessary. Any griddle pan that you can set on a grill will work. When using this method, I toss the potatoes in olive oil, season, and then place on a medium high temperature area of the grill and press them down.

1 pound new potatoes

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon Grillin' Shake or salt, pepper, and garlic to taste

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon olive oil or enough to lightly coat

1 tablespoon shredded parmesan

Add enough water to a large pot to cover potatoes. Saltwater using 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then carefully add potatoes. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through.

Drain potatoes. For the oven, preheat to 450 degrees F. Place on a lined baking sheet. Using a fork (or your gloved hand) press down on potatoes to "smash." Drizzle with olive oil, seasoning and herbs, then roast for 15 minutes or until smashed areas of potatoes are beginning to crisp up. In last 5 minutes of cooking, sprinkle with parmesan. Remove and serve.

For the grill: Place drained potatoes in a bowl. Toss with olive oil, seasoning, and herbs (if desired.) Place on a griddle and lightly smash. Cook for 5-7 minutes per side until browning and crisping. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, sprinkle parmesan over potatoes. Remove and serve.

Grilled Caprese Salad

Summertime food should be fresh, enjoyable and flavorful. That is why I love this grilled peach caprese salad. The flavors in it just scream summer flavor to me. I found some wonderful peaches and blackberries recently and made this for a nice Sunday afternoon snack. I made a beautifully colored and flavored blackberry and white balsamic glaze to go over this, but you certainly don’t have to in order to enjoy this salad.

The best peaches I find start appearing in mid-June and run through August. “Clingstone” peaches, where the pit is not easily removed, ripen first. “Freestone” peaches are more readily available in mid to late July. For grilling, freestone peaches are much more desirable. Clingstones taste every bit as sweet as freestones, but you lose yield as you can’t get the pits out. However, I had clingstones, and, dang it, I was going to use them!

Instead of being able to easily remove the pit, I simply sliced of pieces from around the pit.

Oil the grates of your grill and make sure they are clean. On a medium hot grill, place the peach pieces flesh side down and grill for 3-4 minutes, or until you get grill marks. Turn them over and let the skin side get marks, then remove.

Allow to cool somewhat, then assemble a caprese with fresh basil, sliced mozzarella, and your peaches. Drizzle over some of the blackberry white balsamic glaze, sprinkle with some fresh ground black pepper and sprinkle with a little flake salt. Peach Perfection! Enjoy!

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