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posted: 6/4/2014 5:30 AM

Remember to think sides of the plate when firing up the grill

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  • Grilled tomatoes add depth to a vinaigrette that dressed a zucchini and onion salad.

      Grilled tomatoes add depth to a vinaigrette that dressed a zucchini and onion salad.
    Courtesy Pintail/Mike McColl

  • Chef Ted Reader's new book is "Gastro Grilling: Fired-up Recipes to Grill Great Everyday Meals."

      Chef Ted Reader's new book is "Gastro Grilling: Fired-up Recipes to Grill Great Everyday Meals."

 
 

When it comes to grilling, many people focus on the center of the plate, carefully planning and prepping their chicken thighs and shrimp skewers. Yet Weber's annual GrillWatch Survey shows that people are slowly embracing the grill for the rest of the meal, too.

"Especially guys tend to think burgers, dogs, sausages and steaks, but there's so much more that you can do," grill master Ted Reader says. "For me, every time I go out to my grill I do something different."

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Indeed chef Reader walks the walk. In his 12th book, "Gastro Grilling: Fired-up Recipes to Grill Great Everyday Meals," he gives outdoor cooks more than 135 recipes from party starters to mains to desserts.

"You don't want to have someone in the house making the sides and potato salad," he says. "You can do it all on the grill."

He says he can't think of a vegetable that can't be cooked over flames. "Rapini, asparagus, cauliflower, roasted whole," Reader says. "I'm not a big fan of broccoli, but I like it when its grilled."

"Grilling vegetables is magical," agrees Elizabeth Karmel, author of "Pizza on the Grill Expanded" and food columnist for The Associated Press. "Mostly because the intense heat caramelizes the natural sugars in them. It transforms vegetables from something you feel you have to eat into something you can't stop eating!"

Potatoes tie for second in Weber's survey for the most popular grilled vegetable (with onions, behind corn), and Reader has an inventive way to elevate foil-wrapped campfire spuds.

"Melt butter with maple syrup and inject it into a regular potato or a sweet potato," he suggests.

He's a big fan of using culinary syringes to add flavor and moisture to grilled foods and employs that technique throughout the book, including with pineapple and bananas.

Bananas on Toast is a straight forward enough name for a stunning dessert that involves injecting bananas with vanilla-infused bourbon and grilling the unpeeled fruit. Once cooked, the soft fruit gets spread on toasted raisin bread and garnished with bacon and sage.

"My philosophy is that I want people to have as much fun around their grill as I do," Reader says, "whether they're cooking a hot dog or a fancy meal."

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