Summertime Grilled Appetizers

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It’s summertime and outside grilling and chilling is the way to go! This season has been a scorcher, so you may want to cook and eat light! Enjoy an appetizer and some fresh cooked vegetables or a side salad to keep you cool! Generally choosing an appetizer can be a great diet trick, the portions and plates are smaller and you will eat less. If you are still hungry, order a side salad to help fill your tummy.

Grilled Feta Cheese Toasts

Olive oil

24 sliced onion rounds halved, about ¼ inch thick

1 8 ounce package Feta cheese, sliced in half horizontally

1 garlic clove

½ green bell pepper, thinly sliced

½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped

¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

24 slices crusty French bread, ½ inch think

Oil a 14 inch long piece of heavy duty aluminum foil.

Place onion slices in center of French Bread slices on the foil.

Slice Feta into 24 pieces, place on top of onions and sprinkle with garlic. Add bell peppers and sprinkle with basil and black pepper.

Fold up foil and seal edges. Grill covered 30 minutes turning once or bake at 350°F.

Grilled Watermelon Gazpacho

(Grilling watermelon will pleasantly surprise you!)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

¼ seedless watermelon, cut into three 1 ½ inch slices

1 large fresh tomato, halved

½ large fresh cucumber, peeled, seeded and halved

½ cup diced red onions

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon lime juice

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 small ripe avocado, pitted and diced

Brush 1 tablespoon olive oil over watermelon slices, tomato, cucumber and jalapeno; grill, covered, on a greased grill rack over medium-high direct heat until seared, 5-6 minutes on each side. Remove from heat, reserving one watermelon slice.

When cool enough to handle, remove rind from remaining watermelon slices; cut flesh into chunks. Remove skin and seeds from tomato and jalapeno; chop. Coarsely chop cucumber. Combine grilled vegetables; add 1/4 cup onion, vinegar, lime juice and seasonings. Process in batches in a blender until smooth, adding remaining olive oil during final minute. If desired, strain through a fine-mesh strainer; adjust seasonings as needed. Refrigerate, covered, until chilled.

To serve, pour gazpacho into bowls or glasses. Top with diced avocado and remaining onion. Cut reserved watermelon slice into wedges. Garnish bowls or glasses with wedges.

Easy Jalapeno Poppers

12 large jalapeno peppers (lots of these at the Farmer’s Market)

4 String Cheese Sticks

24 pieces center-cut bacon

1 tablespoon chili powder

12 toothpicks, soaked in water for 30 minutes

Preheat a grill to medium heat.

Cut about 1/2-inch off the top each jalapeno pepper. Take the top pieces that you just cut off, cut the sides off and reserve, discarding the middle stem pieces. These will be used to plug the open end of each pepper to help keep the cheese from melting out. Using a straight peeler, scrape out the seeds and ribs from the inside of each of the peppers.

Slice each cheese stick into pieces that are just slightly shorter than the jalapenos. Stuff a pepper with a piece of cheese. Take the reserved side pieces and place them into the open end of the pepper, covering the cheese and plugging the hole. Take a piece of bacon and wrap the pepper from the bottom end to the top end, making sure to secure the “plug” at the top end. Take a second piece of bacon and lay it down on a clean work surface. Roll up the pepper so that it is almost completely covered in bacon and secure with a toothpick. Repeat with the remaining peppers, cheese, bacon and toothpicks. Sprinkle each with chili powder.

Place on the grill, cover and cook over indirect heat until the bacon is crispy, 15 to 20 minutes, making sure to turn every 3 to 4 minutes.

The poppers can also be made in the oven. Place the poppers onto a baking sheet fitted with a rack that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake in a 400 F degree oven until the bacon is brown and crispy, 15 minutes.

Grilled Eggplant, Tomato and Feta Stacks

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium eggplant (1 pound)

2 medium tomatoes (3/4 pound)

1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled

Prepare the grill so that the temperature on 1 side is hot and the other is just medium-low (you should be able to hold your hand 5 inches about the grill for about 5 seconds). Whisk together the vinegar, rosemary, and salt and pepper, to taste. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.

Peel the eggplant and cut crosswise into 1/3-inch slices (12 slices total). Cut the tomatoes crosswise into 1/3-inch slices (8 slices total). Put the vegetables on a tray and brush generously with the dressing.

On the grill’s hot side, grill the eggplant until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side, brushing with more of the dressing. Grill the tomato slices for 1 minute per side. (The vegetables should retain their shape.) Transfer the vegetables to a tray as they finish grilling.

Arrange 4 stacks of vegetables on the cooler side of the grill: start with the eggplant, add a slice of tomato, then add some crumbled cheese. Repeat. Cover the grill and cook the stacks or 3 to 5 more minutes or until the feta melts. Serve immediately.

 

Jumbo Shrimp Stuffed with Cilantro and Chiles

8 jumbo shrimp, in the shell (about 1 1/4 pounds)

3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped

Juice of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning

Freshly ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2 large jalapeno, with seeds

2 scallions (white and green parts)

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Prepare an outdoor grill with a medium-high fire. Without removing the shells, slit about 3/4 of the way through the shrimp down the ridged back and remove the vein that runs down the center. Rinse and pat the shrimp dry. Whisk thyme leaves, lime juice, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and black pepper, to taste, in a shallow nonreactive bowl or dish. Lay the shrimp cut side down in the lime mixture and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a food processor, pulse the garlic, jalapeno, scallions, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to make a coarse paste. Add the cilantro and pulse just enough to incorporate into the mixture. Spoon the mixture into the opening in the shrimp and close the shrimp. Grill the shrimp shell side down (to keep filling from falling out) for 3 minutes. Turn to the other shell side, cover, and grill another 2 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink and are slightly firm to the touch. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

In case you are wondering why the shrimp were cooked in the shells, shrimp cooked in the shells are more intensely flavorful. Leaving the shells on provides a buffer against overcooking, which happens often when cooking.