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Portable Grills: Giving Urbanites Access to a Summer Pastime

When it comes to portable grilling, aficionados say the key is to keep the menu simple. Raizman is inspired by Chris Schlesinger, owner of Boston's East Side Grill and co-author of "The Thrill of the Grill" (Morrow, 1990), among other books. Schlesinger's favorite grill is Weber's 37.5-inch Ranch Kettle, whose size easily allows for both hot fire and indirect heat on the same grate, a strategy that gives the cook more flexibility.

"It's really hard to build a fire and have zones on a small grill," Schlesinger says. "You can, but it really would reduce the volume of what you can cook. Already you have a small surface area, and zones would just reduce it." Schlesinger recommends small cuts of quick-cooking meat that can be prepped ahead of time, such as lamb chops and skewers. Raizman follows his advice, stacking skewers with andouille, poblano peppers and onions; red pepper, pork and pineapple; shrimp and mango; or "seemingly outlandish combinations with a simple, marinated meat and some fruit or vegetables for flavor," he says.

Raizman also likes corn on the cob, husks on, prepped by soaking in saltwater for an hour. "When you leave the husks on, it helps caramelize the corn a little bit," he says. For sides, Schlesinger advises simple things such as couscous or bean or tomato salads that don't require grilling, since space is at such a premium.

Then there's dessert. Gans is nostalgic for her post-D.C. United tailgate grilled pizza with Nutella and bananas. But it doesn't have to be complicated. Sweet grilled peaches, pineapple, pears or figs caramelized by the fire can be memorable flavors of the season.

With practice, I'm getting the hang of things and am almost ready to grill for company. There are many renters and condo owners like me who don't have easy access to a grill, and pretty soon I'll be able to take pity and invite them to my sidewalk party.

Melissa McCart writes the Counter Intelligence blog at

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