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Creative summer meals for outdoor dining

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pizza on a grill
Savor summer with a grilled pizza
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Step outside of your comfort zone for creative outdoor summer meal

One of the most universal joys of summer is grilling a meal outdoors. Though many people grow up eating hot dogs and hamburgers hot off the grill, the creative summer meals below will add variety and delicious flavor to your outdoor dining menu.

Grilled Vegetable Kabobs and Peaches with Pork Chops

This meal requires minimal seasoning and preparation, always a plus when cooking outdoors. If the combination of peaches and pork chops sounds strange, keep in mind that Thai and Indian cuisines incorporate chutneys and roasted fruit in many meat dishes to add moisture and enhance natural flavors. Unusual combinations of ingredients are the key to planning creative summer meals.

A dry rub of salt and pepper to taste are the only seasonings youíll need for this meal. The cook time for pork chops will vary depending on the type of cooking surface you use, but generally pork chops need to cook on both sides for about 5-7 minutes for a 1-inch thick chop.

Cut peaches in half, brush olive oil over the inside, and remove the pit. Place the halves on the grill cut side down, they taste best when the sugars have a chance to caramelize. Using a grill basket will make it easier to turn and remove fruits and vegetables from the grill. Remove from heat after about 3 minutes and cut into smaller pieces. Toss with balsamic vinegar and crumbles of feta cheese.

Kabobs make a great summer side dish because they suit the tastes of many eaters. Peppers, onions, squash, broccoli, okra, and cauliflower have a touch of sweetness when cooked until tender. Try a combination of two or three veggies and cut them the same size, about 1 or 2 inches thick. Toss with fresh garlic and lemon juice if desired, but itís not necessary. Soak skewers in warm water for 10 minutes and space the vegetable pieces about a fingerís width apart. Avoid charring the vegetables by placing them on the grilled surface with the lowest heat. For best results, turn the kabobs and remove from heat once a fork can easily slide through.

The distinctive grill marks on the pork chops and colorful vegetables and peaches appeal to the eyes first, and it will be tempting to arrange a plate thatís bigger than your appetite. Enjoy your outdoor meal, but donít allow 'hunger of the eyes' determine your portion!

Summer Pizza on Grilled Flatbread

Grilled onions, tomatoes, vegetables or choice of meat with melted cheese spread over a thin, slightly crispy crust. Grilled pizza is mouth watering, and itís completely versatile to individual tastes and the size of your grilling surface. Selecting and preparing the ingredients for grilled pizza is great entertainment, and a wonderful way to enjoy many different creative summer meals. The ingredients can vary each time you grill pizza: select what is fresh at the farmer's market or from your own garden. Children will be especially excited with this change from the usual barbeque menu. The trickiest part is grilling the flat bread, but it only requires a few minutes of attention.

Cut tomatoes in half, brush with olive oil and grill over low heat. Once evenly cooked, remove from heat, dice, and toss in a bowl with rosemary and olive oil. Use skewers to grill the other vegetable toppings. Vidalia or red onions add a rich sweetness to pizza and you only need a few. Other great summer pizza vegetables include squash, peppers, garlic, cauliflower, and broccoli. Chop the vegetables into 2-inch pieces and grill until tender. If meat, such as sausage or barbecue chicken, is a topping of choice then grill it separate from the vegetables because it will take longer to cook. Once cooked, cut into bite-size pieces for the pizza.

The perfect pizza crust is an art. Fortunately, you can cheat a little and buy prepared pizza dough. The size of each pizza will be determined by your cooking surface so determine how many pizzas you are making and cut the pizza dough accordingly. Roll the dough out on a floured surface and transfer onto a baking sheet thatís smaller than your grill. Spray the top of the flat bread with a non-stick spray and flip the baking sheet to lay the dough onto the grill with the sprayed side facing the fire. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the bread starts to feel dry. Return to baking sheet grill side up.

Spread the roasted tomatoes and rosemary generously over the crust. Add grilled vegetables and meat. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top and return the pizza to the grill. Cook for 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted and the crust browns.

Creative summer meals outdoors are delicious and memorable. Thereís no better way to break bread with friends and families than under the stars with the seasonís harvest.

Outdoor Grilling Utensils
Grilled Pizza Recipe on Epicurious

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