Fire up the grill, but don’t let the flames get too high

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My flip-flops are out of storage, the winter coats are put away and the cover is off the grill. And speaking of the grill, I recently thought about studies linking the consumption of grilled meat, particularly well-done meat, to an increased risk of cancer.

An e-mail conversation with Sue Clifford, Maine’s director of communications for the American Cancer Society, confirmed my suspicions. Previous research has shown that cooking meats at very high temperatures creates chemicals (heterocyclic amines or HAs) that might increase cancer risk. There is also concern that fats dripping from the meat onto coals can create additional chemicals in smoke that may land back on the meat.

Fortunately, you can take steps to reduce these risks. American Cancer Society nutrition expert Colleen Doyle offers this advice for healthy grilling:

• Choose lean cuts of meat and trim excess fat. Fat dripping onto hot coals causes smoke that contains potential carcinogens. Less fat means less smoke.

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• Line the grill with foil and poke small holes in it so fat can still drip off, but the amount of smoke coming back onto the meat is less.

• Grill foods at lower temperatures, even if it means cooking longer. The goal is to prevent charring. You can do this on a charcoal grill by allowing the flames to go down after lighting. On a gas grill, try raising the grill rack, away from the heat.

• Instead of treating meat as the main attraction, view it as a side dish. Or, grill small pieces of meat on a skewer and also grill vegetables and fruits. Color peppers, yellow squash, mushrooms, red onions and pineapple all grill well and make healthy additions to a plate.

As with everything in life, moderation is key.

Colleen Lunn Scholer is a freelance writer living in Auburn who likes to cook with her husband and three young children.

Grilled vegetables

Ingredients:

1 cup fat-free Italian dressing

1 small eggplant, sliced lengthwise into ½-inch slices

2 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into ½-inch slices

2 medium summer squash, sliced lengthwise into ½-inch slices

6 red, green and yellow peppers (two of each), cored, seeded and sliced into ½-inch rings

½ head fennel, leaves removed, cut into 4-inch pieces

1 tablespoon garlic salt

Method:

Toss vegetables with Italian dressing to coat, keeping each type of vegetable separate. Heat grill to medium-high heat. Skewer vegetables (or cook in grilling basket to prevent small items from falling onto coals or heating element). Grill until tender and lightly browned: 1 to 2 minutes per side for peppers, 2 to 3 minutes per side for eggplant and squashes, and 3 to 4 minutes per side for fennel. Sprinkle with garlic salt while cooking. Remove from grill and place on a large platter, separating each type of vegetable. Serves 8. Approximate nutrition per serving: 80 calories, 0 grams of fat

Reprinted by permission from the American Cancer Society’s cookbook, “Celebrate: Healthy Eating for Any Occasion”

Grilled rosemary garlic shrimp

Marinating these shrimp for several hours in this rosemary garlic sauce allows them to really absorb the flavors. The shrimp is good by itself or as an addition to any recipe that calls for shrimp, like shrimp tacos.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

1/4 cup finely chopped garlic

1 teaspoon coarse salt

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves, plus sprigs for garnish

3 tablespoons olive oil plus oil for brushing shrimp

16 jumbo shrimp (about 10 per pound)

4 12-inch bamboo skewers

Lemon wedges as an accompaniment

Method:

Mash garlic and salt together in large bowl. Mix together with minced rosemary and oil; add shrimp. Let stand, covered in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Preheat grill. Place 4 shrimp on each skewer. Brush with oil. Cook shrimp on an oiled rack for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until just cooked through.

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