It’s That Time of the Year: Get Set! Go Grill!

             These last few days of warm weather, sunshine and blue skies is all the incentive that outdoor cooking enthusiast Patti Kenworthy needed to fire up the grill.   Kenworthy of Stevensville, located in Southwest Michigan, who is the Instructional Manager of Culinary Arts and Catering Management at the Van Buren Technology Center in Lawrence, Michigan has spent a lot of time teaching her students how to grill and has streamlined many of her cooking techniques and recipes to make outdoor cookery as easy as possible.

              Worried about burned meat when the sugars from sauces and fats from the meat fuel flare-ups?

              Ever dashed in the house after putting meat on the grill to come back outside and see smoke and flames turn chicken or beef into hunks of burnt meat. Kenworthy says there’s an easy fix for that.

              If you have a three or four burner grill, after reaching the right temperature and the meat is seared, turn off the middle two and continue cooking until the food reaches the correct temperature. If you have a two flame grill, again, heat to the right temperature, sear the meat and then turn off one side and move the meat to the unlit side. This type of indirect heat cooks the meat without turning the protein into something that resembles charcoal.

              “I also often put an aluminum foil pan underneath the grate as well to catch the drippings,” says Kenworthy, “which help keep the flames down.

              And when it comes to rubs—combinations of dry herbs and seasonings—Kenworthy doesn’t recommend actually rubbing the mixtures on meat with your fingers, no matter what the name implies.

“You get more of the blend on your hands then you do on the meat,” she says, suggesting instead that starting at a height of about 10 to 12   inches high, sprinkle a very light dusting evenly over the meat. “By sprinkling the rub from that height ensures that the meat is evenly covered.”

“When I make ribs, I use my rub and special sauce but no barbecue sauce, you don’t need it. What happens is the vinegar and the Worcestershire sauce caramelize with the heat and makes the meat tender and flavorful.”

Indeed, Kenworthy is so sure of her grill skills that when she received a call from her daughter, Chelsie, a week before Thanks giving a couple of years ago saying she wanted to move up her wedding from nine months or so out to the Saturday after Thanksgiving, she said okay.

“She wanted to make sure Pete, her father who was very ill would be able to walk her down the aisle,” says Kenworthy who went into overdrive to make sure she would be able to feed the 160 people on the guest list.

Buying a 10-pound New York strip roast from Roger’s Foodland for practice, she used her own rub blend and marinade and cooked it for her family and future son-in-law, Jack Nitz and his parents, Lori and Brian Nitz.

“It was perfect,” she says, noting that you can use her beef recipe for both expensive cuts of meat and those that are more economical. “When we sliced it, it was as tender as prime rib.  And they only cost $1.99 a pound instead of what prime rib would have cost. So, I went out and bought ten more while they were on sale to use for the wedding.”

Kenworthy, who once worked in the restaurant business and now overseas the culinary arts students at Van Buren Tech Center, said that on nights when LMC is hosting the Economic Club, she takes her students to help the Lake Michigan College kitchen staff there prepare the dinners for the large crowd the club attracts.  When LMC chefs Alice Archer Snow and Christine Henderson heard she was throwing a wedding in little over a week, they volunteered to cook—their wedding present to the couple.

“The wedding turned out great, the grilled food was delicious and best of all, Chelsie’s dad got to walk her down the aisle,” says Kenworthy. “If we’d waited until the wedding was originally scheduled, he wouldn’t have been there.”

The following recipes are courtesy of Patti Kenworthy.

Special Sauce

½ cup water

½ cup red wine vinegar

½ cup dark Balsamic vinegar

½ cup Worcestershire

Mix together. Cover and set aside until needed.

Patty’s Basic Seasoning Mix

2 tablespoons Lawry’s Seasoning Salt

1 teaspoon or more (to taste) cumin

Touch of cayenne

1 teaspoon or less (to taste) chili powder

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 to 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Baby Back Ribs

Basic Seasoning Mix plus the following

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

A rack of baby back ribs

Patty’s Marinade

Baby Back Ribs

Mix the seasonings together; set aside. Spray ribs with the special sauce using enough so they soak in.

Then starting about 10 to 12   inches high and sprinkle a light dusting of the seasoning mix over both sides of the meat.

Heat the grill to 350°.  

Oil the hot grill—use one of the grill sprays available at the grocery store to oil the grates or fill a spray container with oil and use that.

Place ribs meat side down on the grill to sear and color the ribs, when color is right flip them over. Leave the burners on around the ribs but not directly beneath the ribs.  If using a grill with only two separate flame areas, once the grill is heated to the right temperature, turn off one section and put the ribs on that side.

Spray the ribs with the special sauce every 15 minutes or so until done about 90 minutes depending the on the size of the ribs and the grill.  There is no need for barbecue sauce with these ribs.

Eye of Round Roast

2 to 3 pound eye of round roast or another inexpensive cut

Special sauce with the following extra ingredients added:

1 tablespoon of kosher salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

Pierce the roast with a sharp object (I use a meat thermometer) all around the roast so that the marinade will seep into the roast.  Refrigerate overnight, turning bag every few hours to insure marinade covers entire roast.

Pre-heat grill to 350°.  Oil the grill after it is hot.  Place roast on the grill.  Sear the roast all the way around.  The remove the roast from being directly above the flame.  Allow it to continue to cook until it reaches am internal temperature of 135° about an hour or hour and half.  Serve with Balsamic Cabernet reduction (recipe below).

Balsamic Cabernet reduction.

Place a heavy bottom pot on the grill.  Add 1 cup Cabernet wine, 1 cup of balsamic vinegar, two tablespoons of agave syrup or to desired sweetness.  Allow to simmer until reduced to about half.  You will know when it is done because it will coat the back of a spoon.  When done pour over the roast.

Asian Chicken


½ cup water

½ cup rice wine vinegar

½ cup tamari (gluten free soy sauce)

½ cup mirin

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 tsp white pepper

½ teaspoon sake

2 to 21/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs,

Marinate over night or for several hours in the refrigerator.

Pre heat grill 325°, and oil place chicken thighs, placing them on the grill skin side down.  Sear for 10- 15 minutes on the grill and then turn.  Make sure the thighs are not directly over the flame after they have been seared to finish cooking. 

Tent with foil and it will continue to cook.  Serve when the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165°.

Roasted White Potatoes

Pick several round white potatoes that are uniform in size.  Rub them with oil and garlic salt, place directly on the grill with the ribs or the roast.  Move around frequently so they don’t burn.  They are done when they can be easily pierced with a fork.

Vegetable Medley

For this dish Kenworthy uses whatever veggies are in her refrigerator such as zucchini, broccoli, onion, red, green, or yellow peppers, onions, celery or mushrooms. Fill a large bowl with ice and a little bit of water. Cut vegetables into small chunks, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add to vegetables to the water. Quickly remove from heat and immerse the vegetables in the bowl of ice and water. Remove quickly, place them in a perforated oiled pan and roast on the grill, adding seasoning blend.

The following recipe is reprinted from Now & Again by Julia Turshen with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018.

Grilled Beef + Zucchini Meatballs with Tahini Dressing

Serves 6.

Dietary notes: This recipe has no bread crumbs or other carb binders, which is great if you have type 1 diabetes and it is also gluten free.

Author note: If you don’t have a grill, you can broil the meatballs (using roughly the same timing) or you can roast them on a parchment paper–lined sheet pan in a 425°F oven until they’re firm to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. If you weren’t serving these with a tomato salad, you could absolutely finish them in a tomato sauce. Throw an extra pinch of ground cumin and a cinnamon stick into the sauce.

2 zucchini, ends trimmed and coarsely grated

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 small red onion, coarsely grated or finely chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon nigella seeds (optional)

2 teaspoons ground coriander

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons ground beef

3 tablespoons tahini

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

½ cup boiling water, or as needed

A small handful of chopped fresh soft herbs (cilantro, parsley, dill, and/or chives all work well)

Get your outdoor grill going (gas or charcoal) with high heat and make sure the grate is super clean.

Place the grated zucchini in the center of a kitchen towel and gather the towel around it to form a tight bundle. Wring out the zucchini over the sink, really squeezing it as tightly as you can to release all of its excess water. Transfer the zucchini to a large bowl and add the garlic, onion, egg, cumin, nigella seeds (if using), coriander, and 1 Tbsp salt.

Mix everything together well, then add the beef and mix until well combined (your hands are the best tools for this job). Form the mixture into golf ball–size meatballs (it will make about 30 meatballs; feel free to make them whatever size you want, really, keeping in mind they will shrink a little as they cook). The mixture will be sticky, so wet your hands with a bit of water to help prevent the meat from sticking to them. Transfer the meatballs to a sheet pan or something else that will hold them in a single layer and then carry them out to your grill.

If your grill needs it, brush the grate with some neutral oil (I like to fold up a paper towel and drizzle it with oil and then use tongs to rub it on the grate). If your grill grate has particularly wide bars, you can put a wire baking rack, a mesh grill topper, or a sheet of aluminum foil on the grate, so you don’t lose any meatballs through the bars. Grill the meatballs, turning them a few times as they cook, until browned all over and just firm to the touch, about 10 minutes all together.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, and boiling water. The mixture should run off of your spoon. If it doesn’t, add a splash more boiling water (the amount you need will depend on how thick your tahini is). Season the mixture to taste with salt.

When the meatballs are ready, transfer them to a serving platter and drizzle them with the tahini mixture. Sprinkle with the herbs and serve immediately.

The following recipe is reprinted from Ruffage by Abra Berens with permission by Chronicle Books, 2019

Grilled Corn on the Cob with Parmesan Butter

½ cup neutral oil

½ teaspoon chili flakes

4 ounces butter, at room temperature

½ teaspoon salt

2 ounces Parmesan, grated

½ bunch parsley, leaves only, chopped

6 ears corn, shucked

Heat the neutral oil in a frying pan until it begins to smoke. Add the chili flakes and remove from the heat. Let steep in the oil for 10 minutes.

In a stand mixer or a bowl, combine the butter, salt, chili oil, Parmesan, and parsley. Paddle until well combined. Taste and add salt as needed.

Lay a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment on the counter and spoon on the butter in a strip. Gently roll into a round log, tightening with each pass, and chill until firm (this butter can be frozen for later use).

When you’re ready to grill, heat a grill at medium to high heat.

Cut the butter into coins.

Grill the corn until the kernels are golden brown and slightly charred. Top with the butter rounds and serve immediately.

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