Playing with Fire

Hi there, all! I’m ML Spell, and I have been an off and on member of the Daring Kitchen since 2013. I’ve been out of my kitchen and off of my blog Dry Spell more that I’d like over the last year, so to give myself a little push I thought I’d give hosting a try!

For June’s challenge, I’d like all of us to make some mouthwatering eats using the grill. Sounds easy, right? It absolutely is. And as anyone who has eaten a leaden hamburger or dried out steak that tastes faintly of lighter fluid knows, it’s also easy to do it in a way that’s, well, not so tasty.

Let’s do this together!

Many years ago, my brother moved more than three thousand miles away from one coast to the other. While he didn’t miss a lot about his home stomping ground, he most decidedly longed for the food with which he’d grown up. One day a friend invited him over for barbecue, and he eagerly accepted the invitation with dreams of slow-cooked, smoky pulled pork smothered in sauce. When he arrived, he found himself keenly aware of the differences in cultural language definition: instead of meltingly delicious meat, there were hamburgers and hotdogs on a backyard grill. This was not barbecue; at least it was not to him.

Couple his experience with a conversation I once had with several acquaintances from the United Kingdom where there was a misunderstanding involving the words grilling and broiling—grilling for this American girl meant cooking over direct heat, while for them it meant cooking under direct heat—and I realize that there could be some real confusion about where I am going with this challenge. Therefore, these are the definitions with which I am working:

Grilling– cooking over direct heat quickly at high temperatures

Barbecuing– cooking over indirect heat slowly at low temperatures

Broiling– cooking under direct heat quickly at high temperature

Recipe Sources:

The recipes below have been adapted to various degrees from the following sources: “Grilled Chicken Souvlaki,” Cook’s Illustrated magazine July/August 2014 (18-19); “Grilled Bread Salad with Sweet Peppers and Onions, “Bon Appetit, July 2014 (81, 83); “Rum-Spiked Grilled Pineapple,” Elizabeth Karmel, Cooking Light, January 2006 <>; “Pineapple Caramel Sauce” heavily adapted from “Brandy Caramel Sauce,” Southern Living, September 2008 <>


Blog-checking lines: With summer just around the corner, ML Spell from Dry Spell invited us to play with fire! She challenged us to make some mouthwatering eats on the grill for the June daring cooks challenge

Posting Date:

June 14, 2015



You can find the challenge PDF here



I have a personal distaste for food grilled with charcoal using lighter fluid, so I do not recommend using light fluid or “match-light” style briquettes. I used basic charcoal briquettes and a charcoal chimney. If you don’t own one and want to try it out, they can be made fairly easily—many camping websites provide instructions for making simple ones out of large tin cans. If you want to buy one, they range in price from fairly inexpensive ($5 USD) to moderately priced ($30 USD). Our first was cheap, and the one we currently own was about $20 USD. The only difference between them was volume.

Should you not own a grill, try making one of the recipes below in a grill pan or under a broiler or on a grilling machine or an electric grill. I don’t want anyone to feel left out because they don’t own or have access to a grill or fire pit. A web-search of “how to grill without a grill” yields a few good sites to give some ideas.

Narrowing recipes down to just three was really difficult; there are so many interesting ideas out there.

Mandatory Items:

You may choose one of the recipes below to prepare –or—prepare a recipe of your choice, provided that you marinate, grill, and make/use a sauce of some sort for the protein, vegetable, or fruit you have chosen.

Variations allowed:

The type of protein, vegetable, or fruit is up to you, as is the type of marinade and sauce. You can grill fish, pork, beef, mushrooms, watermelon, even halloumi cheese. Go crazy. No access to a grill? A grill pan, grilling machine, or even using the broiler in your oven are allowable options.

Preparation time:

Grill Prep: approximately 30 minutes

Chicken Souvlaki: approximately 30-45 minutes prep, 25-30 minutes cooking

Grilled Bread Salad with Sweet Peppers and Onions: approximately 20 minutes prep, 10-20 minutes cooking

Rum-Spiked Grilled Pineapple: approximately 60 minutes prep, 15-20 minutes cooking

Equipment required:

Challenge dependent:

A barbecue grill of some sort, either charcoal or gas- instructions provided are assuming charcoal

Fuel for the grill

Charcoal chimney and oil-spritzed paper, if using charcoal

Grill brush

Metal tongs

Paper towels or food safe dish towel

Vegetable Oil

Heatproof glove(s)

Recipe choice dependent:

Aluminum foil

General cooking equipment (knives, bowls, casserole dishes—depends on your prep preferences)

Measuring cups & spoons

Microplane, zester, or grater

Skewers (metal or wooden, soaked in water)

Candy Thermometer

Preparing the Grill

Charcoal grill:

Open the bottom vent completely. Fill the bottom of a charcoal chimney with oil-spritzed paper, and then fill the chimney top with 6-7 quarts (6-7 litres) of charcoal. Set the chimney on top of the lower grill grate. I forgot to set in on the lower grate this time which made for some fun maneuvering when the coals were ready. Don’t be like me.

Charcoal grill

Light the oil-spritzed paper on fire.

Light the oil-spritzed paper on fire

When the top coals are partially covered with ash (a little more ash-covered than in the picture), pour the coals evenly over the middle of the grill grate (a lot more evenly pictured as well). Top with the upper grate.

pour the coals

Cover grill with the vented lid and allow it to heat for a few minutes. Remove the lid. Scrape the upper grate with a grill brush. It’s good to brush the cooking grates before each use and after you finish grilling. It makes it much easier to keep the grill clean.

Cover grill with the vented lid

Then rub oil-soaked rag over the grates. Try to avoid dripping oil on the coals as it can cause flare-ups, which you can see in the first photo. The oiling step helps to keep the food from sticking horribly.

rub oil-soaked rag over the grates

Gas grill:

Turn all burners on to high, cover, and heat the grill for approximately 15 minutes. Leave the primary burner on high and turn off all other burners. Open the lid. Scrape the cooking grate with a grill brush, and then rub oil-soaked rag over the grates. Try to avoid dripping oil as it can cause flare-ups. I do not own a gas grill, so these instructions have been adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, July/August 2014 (18-19).

Recipe 1: Chicken Souvlaki

Slightly adapted from “Grilled Chicken Souvlaki” Cook’s Illustrated, July/August 2014 (18-19)

Servings: 4



For the Tzatziki Sauce:

1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice

1 small garlic clove, minced or finely grated to a paste

¾ cup (180 ml) plain Greek yogurt

½ cucumber

3 tablespoons minced fresh mint

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

¼ to ½ teaspoon salt (to taste)

For the Chicken:

2 lbs (1 kg) skinless and boneless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2½ cm) pieces

1/3 cup (80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon (5 ml) freshly grated lemon zest

¼ cup (60 ml) fresh squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)

1 teaspoon honey

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 orange- or red-bell pepper (capsicum), stemmed, quartered, seeded, each quarter cut into 4 chunks (I used ½ orange and ½ red)

1 small onion, ends trimmed, peeled, halved lengthwise, each half cut into 4 chunks

4-6 skewers (metal or water-soaked wooden)

4 8-inch (20 cm) pita rounds


For the Tzatziki Sauce:

Peel the cucumber. Halve it lengthwise, then seed it (scrape the seed out with a small metal spoon) and dice it finely. It should make approximately ½ cup.

Peel the cucumber

Whisk the lemon juice and garlic paste together in a small, nonreactive bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Whisk the lemon juice and garlic paste

Combine the yogurt, cucumber, mint, parsley, and salt.

Combine the yogurt, cucumber, mint, parsley, and salt

Add the lemon juice and garlic mixture. Mix well, cover, and set aside for serving.

Add the lemon juice and garlic mixture

I refrigerated mine.

For the Chicken:

Prepare the chicken, and put it in a large casserole dish (I used a 15 x 10 inch, 4.8 quart Pyrex; 38 x 25 cm, 4½ litre).

In a small nonreactive bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon zest and juice, honey, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper.

whisk together the oil, lemon zest and juice, honey, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper

Reserve ¼ cup of the mixture for later use. Pour two-thirds of the remaining mixture over chicken to marinate.

chicken to marinate.

Pour the remaining mixture over the peppers and onions. Cover chicken with plastic wrap and marinate for no more than 20 minutes. The lemon juice can make the chicken mushy if you marinate it too long because the acid breaks down the protein. For the sake of ease, I let my vegetables marinate for the same amount of time as the chicken.

Pour the remaining mixture over the peppers and onions

Thread 4 pieces of bell pepper, concave side up, onto either a skewer. Follow the pepper with ¼ of the marinated chicken, packing the chicken together with no space between the pieces. Top the chicken with the onion. Place skewers on a plate. I got 4 full skewers and 1 partially filled skewer.

Thread 4 pieces of bell pepper

Prepare the grill as directed in the “Preparing the Grill” section above.

Place the skewers on the cooking grate and cook,

Place the skewers on the cooking grate

turning as needed until the chicken and vegetables are well browned. It should take between 15-20 minutes total.

chicken and vegetables are well browned

Cook until the chicken registers internally approximately 160°F/71°C. Remove the chicken from the grill. Let rest under foil for 5-10 minutes. Slide chicken and vegetables from a skewer to a medium-sized bowl. Toss the chicken and vegetables with the reserved marinade.

Slide chicken and vegetables

If desired, cut pita rounds in half. Wrap the rounds in heavy duty aluminum foil, and heat the pita packet on the grill for a few minutes, flipping once.

To serve:

Fill pitas with chicken, vegetables, and Tzatziki sauce.

Fill pitas with chicken, vegetables, and Tzatziki sauce

Fill pitas with chicken, vegetables, and Tzatziki sauce 1

Recipe 2: Grilled Bread Salad with Sweet Peppers and Onions

Adapted from “Grilled Bread Salad with Sweet Peppers and Onions, “Bon Appetit, July 2014 (81, 83)

Servings: 4-8



½ medium-sized baguette, thickly sliced

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

6 tablespoons (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1-2 red- or orange- bell peppers (capsicum), seeded, cored, quartered (I used ½ red and ½ orange)

½ medium-sized red onion, quartered with root attached on one end

½ teaspoon dried oregano

3 tablespoons (45 ml) balsamic vinaigrette (purchased or homemade)


Slice the half baguette into ¼ to ½ inch (5 to 10 mm) thick slices. Put bread in a medium bowl. Season the bread with salt and pepper and drizzle 2 tablespoons (30 ml) oil over the top.


Toss the bread, oil, and seasonings together.

Toss the bread, oil, and seasonings together

Mix remaining 4 tablespoons (60 ml) oil with salt, pepper, and oregano. Toss the vegetables with the oil mixture. Please excuse the eggplant. I tried grilling it; didn’t work out Set aside the vegetables.

salt, pepper, and oregano

Prepare the grill as directed in the “Preparing the Grill” section above.

Grill bread for 8-10 minutes until golden brown and toasted, turning as necessary. Grill the vegetables, turning often for 10-15 minutes until softened and somewhat charred. You can grill the bread and vegetables at the same time or one after the other. I grilled everything at the same time.

Grill bread

Transfer the grilled bread to a plate or bowl, and remove vegetables from the grill to a separate bowl.

Transfer the grilled bread

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the vegetables sit and steam for 5 minutes.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap

Remove the vegetables from the bowl. Peel the charred skin from the peppers.

Remove the vegetables from the bowl

Slice the peppers into half-inch (10 mm) strips. Remove root ends from onions and separate the layers.

Slice the peppers into half-inch

Tear the grilled bread into pieces. Toss the peppers, onions, bread and balsamic vinaigrette in a bowl. I chose to use a bottled balsamic vinaigrette instead of making my own primarily because I have not found a balsamic vinegar that was both palatable and in my price-range.

Tear the grilled bread into pieces

Serve within a half an hour for crispy bread, or wait longer for softer vinegar-soaked bread.

crispy bread

Recipe 3: Rum-Spiked Grilled Pineapple & Pineapple Caramel Sauce

Heavily adapted from “Rum-Spiked Grilled Pineapple,” Elizabeth Karmel, Cooking Light, January 2006 <>

“Pineapple Caramel Sauce” very heavily adapted from “Brandy Caramel Sauce,” Southern Living, September 2008 <>

Servings: 6-12, depending



For the Grilled Pineapple:

1 fresh pineapple

¼ cup (60 ml) (1¾ oz) (50 gm) light brown sugar, firmly packed

¼ cup (60 ml) dark spiced rum

For the Pineapple Caramel Sauce:

½ cup (120 ml) whipping cream

¾ cup (180 ml) (5-1/3 oz) (150 gm) brown sugar, firmly packed

reserved pineapple marinade

1 tablespoon butter

1/8 teaspoon table salt


For the Pineapple:

Remove the stem from the pineapple. You can chop off the top if you’d like; I prefer to twist the top off because it’s fun.


pineapple 2_edited-1

Using a sharp knife, peel off the spiny skin of the pineapple. The juices can make the knife slippery, so be careful.

pineapple 3_edited-1

Cut the pineapple into quarters lengthwise. Remove the core of the pineapple after you have quartered it. This can be done by cutting the pointed section out—the core forms a sort of triangle when you cut it this way. The second photo below should help to illustrate what I mean.

pineapple 4_edited-1

Cut each quarter into thirds for a total of 12 wedges. Place the wedges in a large casserole dish. As you can see, my first dish choice was too small

pineapple 5_edited-1

Combine the sugar and rum, stirring the two together. Pour mixture over pineapple wedges. Marinate pineapple for up to one hour.

pineapple 6_edited-1

Reserve the marinade when you remove the pineapple for grilling.

Prepare the grill as directed in the “Preparing the Grill” section above.

Grill pineapple wedges over medium hot coals for 6-8 minutes on each side. Covering the grill while cooking helps to soften the pineapple a bit to give it more of a baked texture.

pineapple 7_edited-1

pineapple 8_edited-1

Remove the pineapple to a clean dish until ready to serve.

For the Caramel Sauce:

Over medium heat in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk together the whipping cream, brown sugar, and reserved pineapple marinade.

caramel 1_edited-1

If you have one, attach a candy thermometer to the pan. I never do well making caramel without one, but if you are good at eyeballing your caramel feel free to skip it.

Caramel 2_edited-1

Without whisking, bring the caramel to a steady boil until the temperature reaches approximately 220°F/104°C. The color will deepen from a pale tan color to a light to medium amber color. According to the timestamps on my photos, this took 11 minutes. However, and this is one reason I like to use a candy thermometer instead of relying on time, it all depends on how hot your stovetop runs and how thin your pans are.

caramel 3_edited-1

Remove the sauce from the heat, and stir in the butter and a pinch of salt.

caramel 4_edited-1

Do NOT taste-test the hot caramel. It’s so tempting, but it is molten sugar and will melt your skin. Ask me how I know. Let the sauce cool for 10-15 minutes.

Serve pineapple drizzled with sauce.

pineapple drizzled with sauce

Serve it on its own, over ice cream, over grilled pound cake, or (like us) over slices of cheesecake.

grilled pound cake

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:

Tzatziki sauce and caramel may be made up to two days in advance and stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. I would not store it more than 4 days. The caramel sauce solidifies in the refrigerator, but can be warmed on the stove top or in the microwave. The other recipes did not last more than two days—we ate the leftovers quickly. They were stored in air-tight containers in the ‘fridge.

Additional Information:

If you can get your hands on it, the Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue is an excellent resource, providing detailed information about cooking on both charcoal and gas grills. <…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *