Your summer grill guidelines
I'm a little late with your grill guidelines this summer! Judging by the delicious aromas wafting around our neighbourhood, the barbecues have already been out in full force.
It's all I can do not to invite myself over for dinner, especially on those nights when I just don't want to cook. (I'm a very good guest and I'll bring a bottle! Just saying!) Don't get me wrong, I love cooking, but just occasionally I reach my max.
This year has been a little non-stop on the home-cooking front. It's amazing how much two preteens can eat.
Good job they're in training. I thought that one of the best gifts I could give them was to send them out into the world able to cook some basics. It's such a good way to get friends together and, while most teens and students go off the rails a little, all the research shows us that kids who know how to cook eventually come back to it. Habits learnt young are hard to break and, in this case, it's a good thing.
After thinking about it, I came up with a list of extreme basics (baked potatoes, soup, omelettes, salad, pasta) and then a list of slightly more complicated things (roast chicken, curry, bolognaise, risotto) — that seems like a good place to start anyway.
Let's not forget the barbecue though. I've grown up with men being masters of the grill, but I think being able to grill some chicken — or maybe even watermelon — is a good life skill for everyone.
Last week, I had you grilling pineapple, so this week, let's try watermelon. It's another huge hit in our house and the recipe below is the staple I'm teaching my kids to make. It really livens up chicken, fish or whatever else you have grilled.
Getting carbs from fruit is much more nutrient dense than getting carbs from something like rice or potatoes!
Domestic ability aside, understanding how to grill in a way that limits carcinogen formation is also an important lesson. In Bermuda, most of us barbecue frequently, so that makes it even more vital. Exactly how you prepare and cook your barbecue mains makes an awful lot of difference when it comes to cancer prevention.
As tasty as it may be, there is no escaping the fact that charred food is linked to the formation of carcinogens. In all seriousness, two compounds, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) arise when meat is cooked at a very high temperature or comes into contact with flames.
The Environmental Protection Agency in the US has found sufficient data linking these compounds to tumours, birth defects and damage to the immune system.
This doesn't mean you can never chargrill again, but it's a really important factor to consider. Fortunately there's a silver lining here too — marinating meat is a really effective way of mitigating HCA and PAH formation.
Here's the information with a few other tips as well. If you bear these in mind, you can make sure your barbecue season is a healthy one!
Your summer grill guidelines
1, Cook over a lower heat for longer. Obviously it's important to make sure that poultry and meat are cooked to the proper internal temperature, but there is no harm in taking a little more time if you can spare it.
2, Given that flames flare up when fat drips down on to the coals, try and choose leaner cuts of meat, trim visible excess or cook marbled cuts of meat on a shelf away from direct heat.
3, The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends marinating meat for at least 30 minutes — the impact of which is impressive. In a recent study, the American Chemical Society noted that marinating meats in beer slowed down carcinogen formation by up to 53 per cent (the darker the ale, the better).However, one study showed that a combination of olive oil and lemon juice was most effective, reducing cancer causing compounds by 99 per cent.
4, Add fresh herbs to your marinade as these may reduce carcinogen formation too, according to Food Safety Consortium scientists at Kansas State University. Tear the herbs to allow their oils to infuse the marinade and consider adding extra fresh herbs to an accompanying salad too.
5, Make half your plate vegetables. I know it sounds like a lot, but the “five-a-day” recommendation is quite frankly a starting point. Vegetables are full of the phytonutrients and fibre that help to reduce cancer risk. It's also about what those vegetables replace too. If by eating more veg you eat less carbs, you're on to a winner. I am very pro carbs, but they should only form about one quarter of your plate — especially in the evening.
6, Choose cruciferous vegetables (eg broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts). A study from the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention illustrated that the glucosinolates found so prolifically in cruciferous veg are protective against both HCAs and PAHs. The Honk Kong Confetti or Kickin' Kale salads at Miles would be perfect (and they're delicious).
7, And finally, clean that grill. A mega pain I know, especially if you only get round to it the morning after. However, cleaning the grill reduces the amount of burnt char you eat. Char intake is linked to premature ageing as well as carcinogen formation so it's a double whammy.
Grilled watermelon and avocado salad
• 1 small red watermelon (3-4lbs)
• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the melon
• 3 tbs lime juice (approximately 2 limes)
• 1 large orange (navel), juiced
• Pinch of sea salt
• Pinch of cayenne pepper
• ¼ fresh mint, chopped
• 1 large avocado, sliced
• Local leafy greens (one large handful per person)
• Pumpkin seeds or crumbled goats cheese as desired
1, Pre-heat the grill
2, Cut the watermelon in half lengthways, then cut each half in half crosswise. Cut these quarters into two-inch thick slices.
3, Brush the slices with olive oil and set aside until ready to grill.
4, Combine the juices, salt, cayenne and oil and whisk thoroughly into a dressing. Add the mint and set aside.
5, When ready to grill, place the watermelon slices over a clean grill, directly over the heat source. Grill until marked and just warm but still crunchy. Approximately two minutes each side. Let cool.
6, Cut off the rinds and dice the watermelon into bite-sized chunks. Put the watermelon into a salad bowl and toss in the dressing. At the last minute, stir in the avocado and toss gently.
7, Serve on a bed of leafy greens (I recommend Miles to Grow for an amazing local option!) and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds for an extra dose of omega 3. Crumbled goats cheese provides a great salty contrast, too!
• Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details: natural.bm, 505-4725, Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook and @naturalbda on Instagram