The last place you want to be on a perfect summer day is in a hot kitchen, especially if you're entertaining. Which is why the grill gets so much love this time of year.
We grill burgers. We grill steaks. We grill chicken, fish, ribs and even vegetables. (We have to please the vegetarian friends and note: a little color actually accentuates your meat on the plate.) Maybe we've even gone so far as to grill some salad — because grilled romaine is a thing, and it's very, very good. Somehow, primal fire can improve everything, even our cooking skills. But what about dessert?
Honey, do us all a favor and throw those poundcake slices on the grill already.
Grilled desserts go way beyond the s'mores of your childhood, though those still rock and can serve as inspiration. You can grill almost anything, and cake is a great place to start. Take a firm cake — poundcake, angel food — give the slices a quick baptism in spray oil and throw them on the rack. They'll pick up nice grill marks in a minute or two, and you'll certainly entertain the guests. The real treat is when you bite into the dessert. The flames toast the sugars at the edges of the cake, caramelizing them in the most seductive of ways.
Serve the cake topped with a scoop of ice cream and grilled peaches — yes, you can grill fruit too. (Notice a pattern here?) A few minutes over the fire gives a caramelized nuttiness to the fruit, and there's almost no work involved. Drizzle some whiskey caramel sauce — go ahead, gild the lily.
Then plan a dinner with grilled polenta as dessert. Sure, you may be more familiar with warm polenta, served light and fluffy. But let it set up like spackle in a baking dish, then cut it into wedges. You can do this a day or two in advance so you have no prep to worry about when it's time to impress. Grill the wedges — again, a minute or two — then serve them topped with a spoonful of mascarpone cheese, a handful of fresh blueberries and a drizzle of dark maple syrup. Your guests will find it revelatory. You don't need to tell them it came together in minutes.
Have that one picky eater in the group? The one who measures self-worth by the calorie? You've got this. Grill some watermelon. Seriously.
In the Kitchen: Sign up for our weekly cooking newsletter
If you've never tried grilled watermelon, it's pretty amazing. Cut thick wedges from a watermelon (seedless — this isn't meant to be sadistic), brush them with a little olive oil and grill the wedges until lightly toasted with defined grill marks on each side. Somehow the grilling enhances the flavors, concentrating them while muting the sweetness and adding a little smokiness. Top the whole thing with a dollop of Greek yogurt, fresh lime juice, mint and a drizzle of honey. You're welcome.