It's Beautiful Out. Why Aren't You Grilling?

By now, you know how I feel about grilling. It's my favorite way to cook-anything. Meat, pizza, vegetables, you name it - I'd rather it on the grill. Not only does food cook better, but it tastes better and there's half the clean up afterwards. Here's a few of my favorite grilling recipes that are easy and delicious.

Grilled Chicken with Pesto

4 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves*
2/3 cup homemade or store-bought basil pesto
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salt and pepper both sides of chicken breasts. Combine pesto and lemon juice in a bowl. Pour over chicken breasts in a shallow dish. Let chicken marinade for about 20 minutes in the fridge. Dampen a cloth or paper towel with olive oil and oil the grill rack, or (with flame off) coat the rack with cooking spray. Preheat the grill. Shake off excess pesto and place chicken on the grill over high heat. Grill about 5 minutes per side or until chicken is cooked through, turning just once.

*It's a good idea to pound your chicken breasts down to an even thickness. This helps the meat cook more uniformly and quickly.

Adapted from: FineCooking.com

Grilled Asparagus a la Francesca

In Wicker Park, Francesca Forno is probably one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Chicago. A little over a year ago, I ordered a side of their grilled asparagus and thought I'd hit solid gold. I was set to reproduce it at home. Here is my version.

1 Lb. Asparagus, rinsed and tough ends trimmed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1/2 of a lemon, or lemon wedges for each diner

Place asparagus in shallow dish and pour olive oil over asparagus. Salt and Pepper asparagus generously and toss to evenly coat each spear with olive oil and seasoning. Over a medium-high flame, line up asparagus on the grill perpendicular to the grates. Grill about 3 minutes and then turn each spear and grill 2-3 more minutes depending on how thick the asparagus is and how done you like your asparagus. I've found that nice sturdy thick spears hold up better to grilling than the delicate pencil thin spears. Obviously then, you will have less spears to individually turn. This can be tedious. Remove asparagus from the grill and place on serving dish. Top with Asiago and squeeze juice from half a lemon over the asparagus, or just serve with lemon wedges. Don't skip the lemon though. Trust me, you need it.

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