Heat, smoke, and a hint of salt make this sweet fruit unexpectedly savory, even meaty. Grilling “sobers it up and makes it lose its sloppy sweetness,” writes Mark Bittman
in the New York Times; he brushes 1-inch-thick slices with olive oil, minced onion, salt, and pepper, then grills them for about 5 minutes per side until caramelized and beginning to dry out. Serve as a side, or top
Bittman-style: with melted cheese and a bun for a “watermelon burger.”
2. Romaine lettuce
The greens take the heat surprisingly well—and grilling them creates a smoky flavor that’s perfect for a substantial salad, like this one from Food Network’s Alton Brown: Slice two heads of romaine lengthwise, then brush cut sides with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the lettuce halves cut-side down on a grill;
cook over medium-high heat for
1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and red wine vinegar. Place each half on a plate.
No bread required! Placing cheese directly on the grill boosts richness and creates chewy texture. For perfect char marks, without melting and creating a mess, use thick slices like halloumi or aged provolone, says finecooking.com. Drizzle the cheese with olive oil, then grill over medium-high heat,
until grill marks form (4 minutes per
side for halloumi,
1 minute per side
for provolone). Serve with bread, grapes, and preserves.
Grilling gives cake a warm interior and caramelized crust—and the
inherent sweetness balances out the smoky flavors. Cut an angel food or a pound cake into 1-inch-thick slices. Butter both sides, then grill over moderate heat until golden, turning once, about 2 minutes per side, says Food and Wine. Top with fruit, ice cream, or chocolate sauce.
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5. Sweet Potatoes
Barbecue evangelist Steven Raichlen, author of Best Ribs Ever (Workman, $13.95), gives the orange tubers a treatment he calls smoke-roast—combining the two cooking techniques for a creamy, honeyed potato that’s not overly sugary.
He recommends coating whole sweet potatoes with butter and
placing over medium-high heat until the skins are browned and the flesh tender, about 40 minutes to 1 hour. Remove, slice lengthwise, and top with butter and brown sugar.
Skewer chunks of thick-cut bacon on wooden or metal sticks, and grill over indirect heat, says Fine Cooking. Toss into salads, serve atop burgers, or add grilled pineapple and eat straight-up as an appetizer.
Iron Chef Cat Cora gently grills avocado halves, then scoops the flesh into guacamole that's extra smoky and savory.