On Your Table: For Memorial Day, get grilling!

Unofficial start of summer means it’s time to fire up the grill

By Cathy BranciaroliFood Correspondent, The Times

GrillFlamesHC1507_M_150_C_RAlthough summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21st, Memorial weekend unofficially kicks off the summer season, marked by picnics, barbecues and much outdoor dining.  A forecast of balmy weather and sunny skies can only add to the fun.

Traditional Memorial Day pleasures include potato or macaroni salad, cole slaw and deviled eggs.  But the real excitement lies in grilling.   Hot dogs and hamburgers, ribs or chicken, even fish  – no matter.  Just about every dish brought from the kitchen to the great outdoors is enhanced by a grill’s smokiness.  The dry, radiant heat of grilling is more intense than other forms of cooking, yields a charred, caramelized surface and brings out the best flavors in the food

Here, thanks to Chef Dan DeNicola of Wegman’s in Downington, are some ways to make the most of Memorial Day cookouts.

Start with the grill….  To get the best results, it must be very clean. Use a stiff wire brush for that and then lubricate the grill grate with vegetable oil.  After that, every griller has his or her favorite technique for preparing the charcoal or heating up the gas grill, so go with those.  In any case, Chef Dan recommends to bring the grill up to full temperature, say 500 degrees F, before grilling.  Otherwise, he advises that the protein or vegetable will stick even on an oiled grill grate.

Prepare well — Most grilled dishes come together very quickly so it’s important to prepare ingredients and assemble tools ahead of time to avoid that sinking feeling that comes with realizing that the tongs are inside the house or a key ingredient has gone missing.

Choose from many preparation options… While hamburgers and hot dogs are pretty straightforward, seasoning for chicken and many cuts of meat could be a simple drizzle of olive oil teamed with a dash of kosher salt and some crushed pepper.  Spice rubs including paprika, garlic and onion powder, hot pepper flakes and cumin add complex flavors and a nice outer crust.

Or, going in another direction, indirect cooking methods such as sealing sliced potatoes or vegetables in aluminum foil packets with a mustard and oil marinade and placing them on the low heat side of the grill offer a perfect way to cook under gentle heat while other foods are grilling.   Leaving fresh corn on the cob husks intact (minus the silks of course) and laying the ears directly on the grill enables moisture in the corn kernels to steam the ears while they grill.  The cooked ears can be topped with butter, queso fresco, salt and pepper.

Try new things….Charred lettuce or balsamic glazed grilled fruit might not be the first grilled dishes that come to mind, but they are delicious.  A grilled romaine salad topped with a yogurt dressing, mild cheese and some caramelized onions can really dress up a cookout.

Keep safety first… Chef Dan recommends following a few basic rules to keep family and guests safe.  First and foremost, separate raw ingredients from cooked, so that there is no cross-contamination.  Keep cold foods cold, less than 40 degrees F, and hot foods hot, above 140 degrees F.  Any dish made with mayonnaise should be kept in a cooler or on top of a bowl of ice.

And to prove how mouth-watering grilled lettuce can be, give this Wegmans recipe a try:

grilled romaine

Grilled Onion & Romaine Salad

(Photo and recipe courtesy of Wegmans)



1 sweet onion, peeled, cut into 4 thick slices
1 1/2 Tbsp Food You Feel Good About Basting Oil, divided
1 1/2 tsp Food You Feel Good About Tuscan Seasoning Shak’r, divided
3 Food You Feel Good About Romaine Hearts, cut lengthwise
1/2 cup Roasted Tomato Aioli (Wegmans Caesar Yogurt Dressing can substitute)
2 Tbsp Italian Classics Shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
Columbus Finocchiona Salami Fiore, for garnish


Preheat grill to MED-HIGH.  Place onion slices on clean work surface. Coat onion slices with 1 Tbsp basting oil; sprinkle with 1 tsp of seasoning. Grill onion 4-5 min per side until softened and slightly charred; set aside.  Place romaine halves cut-side down on work surface, rubbing to coat lettuce with remaining oil and seasoning. Grill romaine, seasoned side down, 2-3 min. Transfer to serving plates. Top each romaine half with onion and 1 1/2 Tbsp of aioli or dressing. Garnish with Parmigiano Reggiano and salami.

Wegmans Downington is located at 1056 East Lancaster Ave.. Downingtown, PA 19335.  Phone (610) 518-7800.  Recipes can be found in Menu Magazine Summer 2015
Cathy Branciaroli also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her blog Delaware Girl Eats

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