It’s above freezing and the teenagers are beginning to walk to school in T-shirts and flip-flops. It’s time to get that grill out!

But before you fire it up, let’s go over a number of basics.

Clean. The first step is to make sure that your grill is well wiped down and free of winter debris, dust and dirt. Clean out any leftover ash in the bottom of the fire pan and add it to the compost pile or sprinkle it over your garden beds. Make sure that all of the vents work properly and are clear of ash when open. Vigorously brush the grill grate and then wipe with a paper towel or rag that has been dipped in canola or peanut oil. Oiling the grill helps create a semi-non-stick surface and canola or peanut oil have higher burning points so they won’t smoke as much as, say, olive oil.

Fuel. If you have a propane-fired grill, make sure that the tank is full and that all of the connections are well-sealed and in good working order. If you have a wood- or charcoal-fired grill, make sure that you have enough fuel on hand to get you going. A little help from newspaper and/or a fire chimney doesn’t hurt either.

Tools. If you brought your tools in at the end of the summer and cleaned them well, good for you. If you didn’t, make sure that they are well-scrubbed before using them again this year. Check to see that they are free from rust and that they are in working order.

Light. Now for some, lighting the grill is like getting back on a bicycle. But for others, a little refresher might be in order. My dad, self-appointed grill master, used coal bricks with fire starter (so-called Boy Scout helper) for years until he invested in a gas grill. Our food always tasted faintly of the fire-starter, so that wouldn’t be my first choice. My favorite is the lumpwood charcoal briquettes, but if you can’t find those, coal briquettes – started with either newspaper underneath or a fire chimney – work the best. Of course, if you have a gas grill, that’s easy. Just light and monitor.

Cuts. When you choose cuts for grilling, they should be tender cuts that are less than 1 inch thick, not super thick. Grilling is a quick source of heat, and cuts that require long, slow cooking are not going to give you the best results while you stand at the grill ready with apron on and spatula in hand. Cuts that are over 1 inch in thickness will be a challenge as they will have a hard time getting done in the center before the outsides scorch. It can be done, but usually over a medium heat rather than one that is medium-high or higher.

Grilling. Once you’ve got your heat source all fired up, the final move is to actually apply your dinner to the heat. It’s critical that your grill be hot and up to temperature before you begin to grill. The grill should be preheated 15 to 30 minutes before you will be ready to grill. Remember that hot coals are far better than flames for achieving a seared outside and a tender inside. If it’s the first time you are lighting the grill for the season, give yourself a little more time, just in case not all goes as planned … or you can’t find the matches … or the grill actually needs to be unearthed from the shed.

Happy grilling!

Garlic-Rubbed Flank Steak

2 pounds flank steak

4 tablespoons garlic, minced

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Rub the flank steak liberally with the minced garlic. Transfer to a large bowl or platter and drizzle the lemon juice and soy sauce over the meat. Let sit for 30 minutes or overnight.

Bring a grill or indoor grill pan to medium-high heat. Cook the flank steak for 5 to 6 minutes on one side and another 4 to 5 on the second side for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board with a drip edge and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve immediately with the salad and hummus.

Serves 4 to 6

Beet and Parsley Salad

2 bunches beets, about 6 beets total; stems and root ends removed

4 cups beet greens, stemmed and coarsely chopped; greens from 2 bunches of beets

4 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cups coarsely chopped Italian parsley

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 cups white beans

1 tablespoon sesame oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

In a medium stock pot, cover the beets with salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are tender when pierced with a fork or small knife. Drain and let cool somewhat. Rub off the skin and slice in half and then into ¼-inch slices.

In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients except the beets and sesame seeds. Gently add the beets and combine with your hands. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Serves 4 to 6

Cannellini Bean Hummus

If you would prefer to not have leftovers, cut the recipe in half or by one quarter. I much prefer to have extra for a lunch of roasted vegetables or crudités the next day. This recipe also freezes easily.

2 cloves garlic

1 cup tahini

2 15-ounce cans (4 cups) cannellini beans

7 tablespoons lemon juice (juice from about 1½ lemons)

4 tablespoons soy sauce

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Makes 4 cups

Annie Mahle is the chef aboard the Maine windjammer, Schooner J. & E. Riggin. Her latest cookbook is “Sugar and Salt: A Year At Home and At Sea.” She can be reached at:

[email protected]


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