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Grilling Your Dessert

In my household, everything goes on the grill in summer. Between May and August, we rarely use the kitchen. It's not just cuts of meat, stalks of vegetables and slabs of ribs we cook outside. We grill dessert.

Fresh fruit is a healthy and simple dessert any time of year, and the fresh flavors are enhanced further by placing the fruit over a fire. Grilling extracts fruits' natural sugar by caramelizing the surface. The heated sugar liquefies and becomes a brown, sweet syrup.

I put a little butter on whole, peeled bananas and quartered peaches. The slight grill marks and blackened crispiness provide the sweetness.

Strawberries and other small pieces of fruit can be folded in aluminum foil so they don't fall through the grill grates. Add a bit of sprinkled sugar and they turn soft and smoky.

Grilled fruits are a perfect topping for vanilla ice cream. Natural peach and strawberry juice seep into the ice cream. The banana's slightly mushy consistency mixes in well. The combination of hot fruit and cold ice cream creates a lovely balance that tastes like summertime.

And it takes less than 15 minutes.

It's not only fast, but simple. After the main courses are cooked, I place the fruit on the grill. The bananas, peaches and strawberries cook while I put the finishing touches on dinner. They are ready by the time guests are seated. And grilling fruit outside beats baking on a sweltering July day.

My late grandfather, who made ripe peaches into wine, loved his favorite fruit grilled. My father doesn't even wait for dessert; he eats the grilled bananas and strawberries as a side dish, a condiment to his charcoaled steak. I started with peaches and began serving them to guests, many of whom had never tasted grilled fruit.

While I stick to my favorite trio of bananas, peaches and strawberries, many fruits can be grilled. Firm fruits such as apples, pineapple and pears are particularly easy since they are harder to overcook. Softer fruits such as peaches and mangos need closer watching or they can turn to mush.

Another alternative is fruit kebabs. Soak bamboo skewers in water for 15-30 minutes to keep them from burning when grilled. Then thread fruit onto the skewers (alternating different fruits looks nice), baste them with a little melted butter before cooking.

A blazing fire can quickly blacken any fruit placed directly on the grill. Put the top on to help tame the fire.

Fruit can be grilled with prepared sauces, a variety of spices such as cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg, or simply with some sugar or butter. Some grillers use a mild oil.

After fruits are cut and exposed to the air, they can turn brown and lose nutrients. So it's best to prepare them right before grilling.

Once cooked, the fruit is a perfect, light ending to a hearty barbecue, more substantial than an after-dinner mint but less filling than a cake or pie. Perhaps this summer I will expand my repertoire. I always did have a fondness for plums.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Natalie Y. Moore