Time to fire up the grill

Surf and turf pointers just in time for a Memorial Day barbecue.

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Platter of surf 'n turf: sirloin steak, yellow fin tuna, shrimp, grilled veggies, baby fennel, summer squash, zucchini, red onions with fresh pea shoots. — Tina Miller

Some folks grill year-round, others roll their grill out Memorial Day weekend to kick off grilling season. Though I do grill all year, I really shift gears when the weather breaks, and I find myself firing the grill up most nights.

The food focus can be just a few ingredients, instead of long recipes with separate pans, stovetop, and oven methods. The other obvious bonus to grilling season in the Northeast is longer days and warmer waters, and the bounty from land and sea. Farm stands are spilling over with produce, and Island meats are available for grilling. Fish markets shine with some of the best seafood anywhere.

Grilling possibilities are endless, from shellfish to meats and BBQ to vegetables, poultry, and fish, they can be cooked directly on the grill, or more delicately in a foil pouch. You could grill all week and not get bored. My go-to grilled dinner party menu is pretty much always surf and turf, with a few salads and grilled veggies. It’s incredibly simple, and everyone is satisfied. Also, I like the idea of treating people to food they don’t cook every day, so that it feels like they’re going to a restaurant. I don’t want my friends to have a busman’s holiday.

Whether I am grilling meats, fish, or vegetables, I am keeping simplicity in mind, and I generally do not do long, overnight marinades. I like to create easy, flavorful marinades, using fresh herbs and extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), and some type of acid in the form of citrus or vinegar. I like to use the marinade as a base to brighten flavors, and not to mask anything. I marinate in ceramic, glass, or stainless — not aluminum, which is known to react with certain acids.

My tips

Grilling is very personal, and everyone has their methods. Over the years, I’ve figured out the tips that work best for me.

For grilling, regardless of your equipment, the grill needs to be hot when you lay your food on it. You may want to spray or brush the rack with oil before adding the food, especially for fish. You need to grill meats and fish for at least three minutes before touching it. The issue I see so often is that everyone wants to fiddle with the food and turn it too early. Protein needs to create a good sear or crust so that it will not tear and stick to the grill when turned over. I tend to grill longer on the first side, then turn the food over and slow it down a bit to finish. (I do not think there is an even grilling time for each side.)

To cover or not to cover? When I first lay something on the hot grill, I cover it with the lid, leaving about an inch open. If the lid is open all the way, the grill will not get hot enough. If it is completely closed, the oil from the marinade can flame up.

For steak-like fish or shrimp, let fish marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes, turning over at 15 minutes, before grilling. Do not overmarinate seafood with an acid such as lemon; it will break down the protein and change the texture.

For red meat, you can marinate for about an hour at room temperature, turning over at your halfway point.

For vegetables, I brush on marinade right before grilling, and continue with any excess as they are grilling.

Marinades for grilling

Fish or chicken

For vegetables, replace citrus juice with balsamic vinegar.

¼ cup EVOO
1 or 2 garlic cloves, grated
¼ cup juice plus zest of lemon or lime
2 tsp. Tamari
2 Tbsp. fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, chives, tarragon, parsley
black pepper

Beef

¼ cup EVOO
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped thyme
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped marjoram
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. tamari
black pepper

Lamb

¼ cup EVOO
4 cloves minced or grated garlic
1 juicy lemon
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped oregano
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
1 Tbsp. tamari
black pepper