I thought I had my grilling act together at last. Our family had shared many a perfect steak. I could do a great burger (beef or turkey), and killer ribs, with sauces ranging from the bizarre to the basic. We were a family of happy carnivores, gnawing on bones and tossing them to Bob the dog, who may have enjoyed our grilling escapades more than any member of the family.

But time passes, and family rituals change, and if parents don’t adapt, rituals don’t endure. My daughter, Casey, a 25-year-old graduate student in North Carolina, has her own black Weber kettle grill now, and she and her boyfriend, Justin, are competitive in their cooking ventures. She likes to marinate her steak in Red Stripe Jamaican beer and garlic and onion powder and Worcestershire and lemon juice, while Justin remains true to Guinness. They grill green onions together. (I’m going to like him, I can tell.)

My son, Dash, 18, who just graduated from high school, has become a vegetarian. So, when I got ready for summer and started looking for new recipes to try outdoors, I was aiming to please one set of changing taste buds.

Because books have always been my guide to finding my way in the world, the first thing I did was check out the new ones with Dash. Our summer staple is going to be grilled pizza. It’s just too easy, just too good. Two new books were useful guides: “Pizza on the Grill: 100 Feisty Fire-Roasted Recipes for Pizza and More,” by Elizabeth Karmel and Bob Blumer (Taunton, $16), and “Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas,” by Craig W. Priebe with Dianne Jacob (DK Publishing, $20).

We whipped up a yummy one with a prepared pizza crust from Whole Foods. We lightly toasted one side on the grill, then topped it and put it back on to finish. Dash covered his side with marinara, tomatoes and basil; my half was decorated with pesto, tomatoes and Parmesan.

We’re both carb lovers, so dessert pizzas are next on our list. For now, we satisfy those cravings with bruschetta. Grilled bread topped with pesto and cheese is the winner in the appetizer department so far, but we also like grilled bread with melted dark chocolate for dessert. Who wouldn’t?

I’m determined that Dash make fresh vegetables the centerpiece of his new diet (he discovered vegetarian sushi for himself), so we experimented with a few new things as well as some old favorites.

The biggest hit? Zucchini, summer squash, and red and orange peppers, all cooked in no-stick marinade for vegetables from “New South Grilling,” by Robert St. John (Hyperion, $29.95). This recipe really lives up to its title and gives the veggies a fine flavor. And if you make a batch Friday, you’ll have enough for the whole weekend.

St. John’s grilled sweet potatoes were another success. We still like vegetables stir-grilled in the grill wok, our favorite technique from last summer.

Dash and I are both “Iron Chef” fans, so Mario Batali’s “Italian Grill” (Ecco, $29.95) was another inspiration. Next up for us: Corn the way Italians eat it, grilled, rolled in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then rolled in Parmesan and topped off with mint leaves and red pepper flakes. Batali also has a great recipe for grilled artichokes with red peppers and mint, one of Dash’s new food discoveries. Bravissimo, Mario!

The biggest surprise for both of us was the delight of grilled fruit. Brush a pineapple with butter, brown sugar and rum and toss on the grill. What’s not to love about that, with or without ice cream?

We also tried Robert St. John’s Bananas Foster sundae from “New South Grilling.” Firm bananas are key to its success. So are hot coals. I waited too long to make dessert after dinner, and ended up sautéing the fruit inside after a frustrating attempt outdoors. It was as much hot buttered rum over ice cream as anything, but that was my fault.

I had good vegetarian intentions, but I couldn’t resist grilled shrimp in cilantro-mint pesto from “Al Roker’s Big Bad Book of Barbecue” (Scribner, $15.95). Dash was tempted a bit, but as it turned out, that pesto was delicious on vegetables too.

No-stick grilling marinade for veggies

From Robert St. John’s “New South Grilling,” this marinade should be brushed on vegetables 30 to 45 minutes before grilling. Use a lemon-and-dill-flavored or an herb-flavored oil.


4 egg yolks

l tablespoon yellow mustard

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 cup canola oil

1 cup light olive oil

2 tablespoons Lawry’s seasoned salt

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning

1 tablespoon celery salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Place the egg yolks, mustard and vinegar in a food processor. Blend on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly drizzle oils into the mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. (If the marinade becomes too thick, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of warm water.) Once all of the oil has been incorporated, add seasoned salt, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon pepper, celery salt and black pepper until incorporated. Store covered in the refrigerator until needed. Makes 2½ cups.

Grilled sweet potatoes

This recipe from Robert St. John’s “New South Grilling” includes a caution: Be careful, because due to naturally occurring sugars, sweet potatoes burn easily.


4 sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons brown sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon hot sauce

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Peel sweet potatoes and cut into ½-inch-thick slices. In a small mixing bowl, blend together butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and hot sauce. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and lightly brush the surfaces with the butter mixture. Prepare the grill. Place sweet potatoes over direct medium heat, buttered side down. Brush the tops with the butter mixture and cook the potatoes for 12 to 15 minutes, turning once. When the potatoes are fork tender, remove them from the grill. Brush with any remaining butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grilled bananas foster

When preparing this recipe from Robert St. John’s “New South Grilling,” err on the side of unripened bananas, so they are firm and easier to grill.


6 firm but ripe bananas

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

1 cup dark rum

Vanilla ice cream


Peel the bananas and cut in half lengthwise. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Brush the bananas with the melted butter and sprinkle them with 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar. Prepare the grill. Cook bananas over direct high heat for 4 to 6 minutes, turning once. Remove the bananas from the grill and hold. Melt the remaining butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add remaining brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and cook until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Add rum and gently move the pan around to warm the rum, causing it to flame. Continue cooking until the flame dies out. Add grilled bananas to the hot rum mixture and cook 3 to 4 minutes more. Serve over vanilla ice cream and drizzle with sauce. Makes 6 servings.

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