When it comes to sides, most of us tend to get stuck in a veg or starch rut. But the grill gives us an easy way to break out of this.
I love fruit with most any grilled protein as long as there are some savory notes in the seasoning to balance the inherent sweetness of it. Growing up, we would have homemade applesauce for dinner in the fall. And I still often make that with dinner. It goes wonderfully with so many meats.
But more often lately, I've been grilling and glazing apple slices with a gussied-up maple syrup glaze. This time of year, I serve these apples alongside everything and anything grilled.
The apple slices are brushed with a sweet and slightly salty maple syrup glaze that is enhanced with apple cider and warm autumn spices. A touch of soy sauce balances all the sweetness and turns what are most often thought of as dessert or breakfast ingredients (apples and maple syrup) into a side dish for pork, chicken, flank steak and salmon. And if a touch of the glaze hits your main, I won't tell anyone! It's divine on everything!
For grilling, a hard, tart apple such as a Granny Smith or a Pink Lady is best. Softer apples tend to get a bit mealy. But this time of year if you use fresh, crisp new apples, you can grill any of your favorites.
These apple rings are delicious hot-off-the grill or at room temperature. They also make a very pretty plate. The glaze recipe makes more than you need for one batch, making it easy to store in the refrigerator and have it at the ready for several weeks.
Once the glaze is made, this simple side dish can be prepared in under 10 minutes. To save even more time, you could spare yourself from cooking a main dish and just serve the apple with a rotisserie chicken.
GRILLED MAPLE-GLAZED APPLE SLICES
The recipe makes about 1 cup of glaze, but you won't need all of it. The extra can be covered and refrigerated for several weeks. It is delicious over pancakes, waffles, French toast or ice cream. It also is great used on chicken, turkey and pork.
Start to finish: 40 minutes
For the glaze:
1 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole star anise
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 to 2 teaspoons soy sauce (optional)
2 large tart apples, such as Granny Smith or Pink Lady
Vegetable oil (or a nut oil, such as peanut)
To prepare the glaze, in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, combine the maple syrup, cider and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then add the cinnamon stick, star anise and cloves. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by about a quarter. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce. Taste and adjust with more, if desired. Let cool to room temperature, then remove the spices.
Heat the grill to medium-low.
Using an apple corer, cut out the cores and seeds from both apples, leaving the apples otherwise whole. Setting the apples on their sides, cut each into 1/2-inch-thick rings. Brush both sides of each apple ring with oil.
When the grill is ready, place the apple rings on the grill grates and cook with the grill covered for 2 minutes per side, or until they have deep grill marks on both sides. Brush the tops of the apple rings with glaze, then cook for another 2 minutes. Turn over, brush with more glaze, then grill for another 2 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving: 230 calories; 45 calories from fat (20 percent of total calories); 5 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 50 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 43 g sugar; 0 g protein; 85 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling and Southern foods expert and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, as well as Hill Country Chicken in New York. She is the author of three cookbooks, including "Soaked, Slathered and Seasoned."