Hunks of juicy meat aren't the only things you can throw on the barbecue this time of year, think about putting some grill marks on peaches, cantaloupe, nectarines and even grapes.
Grilling fruit can be a great way to enjoy the best of the Valley's seasonal bounty. Some may ask, why grill fruit when you can just as easily enjoy it fresh?
Jonathon Perkins, executive chef for Erna's Elderberry House in Oakhurst, Calif., says the hot coals or gas grill caramelize the sugars in the fruit, creating a smoky sweetness.
"It adds a nice texture and flavor to a dish," Perkins says.
Grilled fruit can be eaten as is, with ice cream or combined in a recipe for a new taste. It's also another way to add healthy food to your diet.
For starters, pick fruit that is ripe but firm. For tree fruit, some like to slice the fruit in half, remove the pit and place on the grill cut side down. You can also quarter the fruit, making sure the slices are big enough to not fall through the grill.
Skewers also work well for combining several pieces of fruit at once, such as pineapple, mango, tree fruit and grapes.
Personal chef Wendy Carroll, of Seasoned To Taste in Fresno, Calif., says to make sure you clean the grill before placing the fruit on the grate to avoid unwanted flavors. And brush a little oil on the grill to keep the fruit from sticking.
Depending on the fruit, it may take just a few minutes on medium heat to get those great looking grill marks.
Farmer and cookbook author Nikiko Masumoto likes to go a little longer, about six to seven minutes, when she grills her halved peaches or nectarines.
"If your fruit is really ripe, the nectar of the fruit will start to boil up and pool where the pit used to be," Masumoto says. "After that, pull them off and drop a scoop of vanilla ice cream on them. And they will taste so good."
Chefs and food experts say it is fun to experiment with different types of fruits to see what works best and what you like.
Jo Ann Sorrenti, owner of Sierra Nut House in Fresno, grills peaches, apricots, and nectarines. Sierra Nut House chef Adrianna Oropeza recently prepared grilled peaches with an almond-paste filling and blueberries.
And don't worry if you don't have a grill, a skillet with ridges works, Sorrenti says.
Grapes are also good for grilling, says Courtney Romano, registered dietitian for the California Table Grape Commission in Fresno.
Romano grills grapes in small bunches, or on skewers. Just apply a small amount of oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place on the grill for about two minutes, or until they start to soften and caramelize.
"Grilling adds another dimension that enhances so many other different foods including meats," Romano says. "Grapes have a juicy delicate sweetness that cuts through the heavy proteins."
Grilled Stone Fruit with Greek Yogurt, Honey and Mint
•3 nectarines or peaches, halved, pitted
•6 apricots, halved, pitted
•Coconut oil, melted
•2 cups Greek yogurt, stirred to soften
•1/4-1/2 cup honey, plus 1 tablespoon
•Juice of one lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
•1/2 cup toasted pistachios, pecans or walnuts (chopped)
•1 bunch mint leaves, chopped
Prepare grill for medium-hot heat. Halve the fruit and remove the pits. Lightly oil the cut side of the fruit. Place cut side down over direct medium-hot heat. Cook until char marks appear, 3-4 minutes. Arrange fruit, cut-side up, on plates. In a separate bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon honey. Brush fruit with lemon and honey mixture to preserve color. Serve with a spoonful of Greek yogurt in the center where pit was removed. Drizzle honey over the yogurt and fruit. Garnish with toasted nuts and chopped mint.