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Alex Guarnaschelli

Alex Guarnaschelli is an Iron Chef, Food Network celebrity chef, author of Old-School Comfort Food and the executive chef at New York City’s Butter restaurants. Read her PEOPLE.com blog every Tuesday to get her professional cooking tips, family-favorite recipes and personal stories of working in front of the camera and behind the kitchen doors. Follow her on Twitter at @guarnaschelli.

Grilling is something that I associate with American cooking and with the spring and summer months. Memorial Day weekend always kicks that off with the first feeling that winter ice is going to be replaced with grilled corn. I just caught a wonderful waft of grilling hamburger grease as I was strolling down the street this afternoon and it straight up made my stomach growl.

Of course, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken and shrimp are the classics for the grill but I find myself increasingly gravitating toward the grilled vegetables and grilled seafood. They are more creative and cool ways to kick off the summer grilling season. Why not give them a whirl? Have you ever tossed some clams or mussels on the grill? Or just cooked some meaty mushrooms until tender? What flavors. And grilling keeps the food light and “clean” but loads it with tons of flavor.

RELATED: Add Alex’s Simple Vegetable Side Dishes to Tonight’s Dinner

I love all kinds of meaty mushrooms. Portobello and oyster mushrooms are a couple of my favorites. I also use this simple method of making a little vinaigrette (can also make a simple one with one part lemon juice and two parts olive oil) and tossing some vegetables like eggplant or asparagus on the grill and cooking until tender. What’s great is to char them for a few minutes in the hot area of the grill and then move to a cooler place to finish cooking without over charring. Then, douse with vinaigrette and devour…

Alex Guarnaschelli Mushroom Recipe

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
Serves 4-6

⅓ cup Balsamic vinegar
⅔ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. smooth (Dijon) mustard
Kosher salt
4 large Portobello mushrooms, stemmed

1. Preheat the grill.

2. Make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the Balsamic with the olive oil and mustard.

3. Grill the mushrooms: In a medium bowl, toss the mushrooms in the olive oil. Season with salt. Place them, stem side up, on the hottest part of the grill. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until you see liquid emerge from the stem area. Turn on their second side and cook for 5-8 minutes. Move to a cooler area of the grill a tray and cook for an additional 5-8 minutes until they are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Arrange the mushrooms on a serving platter and top with the dressing.

RELATED: Alex Guarnaschelli: How to Make Amazing Asparagus

Another one of my favorite recipes for the grill:
I didn’t know grilling something (like clams) that you would normally cook in a skillet or pot with wine and other liquids could so benefit from the dry heat of the grill and the “char” taste on the outside of the shells. Grazing the shell exterior with my teeth and tasting a bit of the char is an amazing prelude to the flavors in this dish. I love to have this with some brain-numbingly cold lemonade or an almost freezing beer.

Grilled Calms
Makes 3 dozen – Serves 6-8

4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, grated
Kosher salt
3 tbsp. pine nuts
3 dozen Littleneck clams, thoroughly scrubbed of all sand and grit
The juice from 1 large lemon

1. Preheat the grill.

2. Cook the garlic: In a medium pan on top of the grill, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When it gets hot, add the garlic with a pinch of salt until it turns golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts. Set aside.

3. Cook the clams and finish the dish: Scatter the clams on the grill in a single layer. Have a pair of tongs and a large platter ready. As they open, use the tongs to remove them from the grill and place them on the platter. When they are all opened, squeeze the juice from the lemons over them and scatter the pine nut garlic oil all around. Try to get the mixture inside the clam shells as well. Serve immediately.

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