Cooking outdoors over an open flame is as much a part of summer as hammocks, swimming pools, and the Fourth of July. While food takes on a wondrously tasty quality when grilled, it's important to keep it healthy. First, marinate meats to keep them moist, and don't cook them to a crisp; charred meats may harbor carcinogens. Second, select ingredients that are low in fat, high in nutrients, and bursting with taste to maximize pleasure and health benefits. And finally, ditch the lighter fluid and conventional briquettes; new, nontoxic hardwood charcoals, fired with pitch-pine sticks or a chimney starter, heat up in less time and burn hotter. Fire away!

quick: Sesame-Soy Halibut

Serves 6 / Serving tip: Accompany with baby bok choy that's been sliced lengthwise, brushed with olive oil, and grilled for 10 minutes until lightly charred. View Recipe...

quick: Grilled Pita Bread

Serves 6 / A crispy accompaniment to grilled vegetables or fish. View Recipe...

vegan: Mediterranean Grilled Vegetables

Serves 4-6 / If you can't find baby vegetables, use larger ones and cut into 2-inch pieces. Prep tip: If you have time, salt the eggplant and squash; leave in a colander for 30 minutes to draw out extra moisture, then rinse and pat dry. Serving tip: Great with Grilled Pita Bread. View Recipe...

vegan: Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Miso Vinaigrette

Serves 6 / Ingredient tip: Long, slender Japanese eggplant are lovely, but this side dish also works well with regular eggplant (slice crosswise into disks) or zucchini (slice lengthwise). Use leftover vinaigrette as a tasty salad dressing or marinade for fish. View Recipe...

staff favorite/quick: Grilled Peaches and Cream

Serves 6 / An elegant, supereasy dessert. Accompany with Sauternes wine. View Recipe

Turkey-Feta Burgers with Cantaloupe-Cranberry Salsa

Serves 4 / Serving tip: Place atop a mound of arugula tossed with olive oil and lemon juice. View Recipe...

Natural aromatic woods to add to your grill

Alder and aspen: delicate and sweet
Apple: mild and fruity
Ash: light but distinctive
Cherry: very mild yet somewhat bitter
Hickory: a strong, aromatic favorite
Maple: mellow and sweet
Mesquite: honeyed and earthy, with a very hot flame

TIP: Gas grills produce a less intense heat than charcoal fires, so cooking times will be longer.

Recipe developer Karin Lazarus enjoys the role of culinary sleuth, including finding new ways to enjoy foods from the grill.

Get more grill recipes: tomato-stuffed portobellos