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Good Eating From The Grill

Joe Bonanno grilled up a three-course meal for four with our $30.

A 20-year veteran of the NYC Fire Department, he retired from the department about two years ago.

He has always loved food and enrolled in a course at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan while still fighting fires. He felt that he wanted to learn how to cook healthy meals for his food lovin' firefighters. He realized that they needed food that was filling, easy, and healthy.

He refined his cooking skills at New York City's Peter Kump Cooking School and has won numerous cooking contests for firefighters. He graduated from the Culinary Academy of Long Island and earned his degree as "chef" there. He is also a personal fitness trainer.

"The Firehouse Grilling Cookbook" is Bonanno's second book. His first is titled "The Healthy Firehouse Cookbook."


Some people grill whole red peppers, but if they are cut and opened to form a long strip, they will cook faster and have a crunchier texture. Keep in mind that the peppers should be grilled just until the skin are charred and blistered enough to remove the skins -- don't burn a hotel through them!

Grilled Red Peppers With Balsamic Vinegar And Garlic

3 large red bell peppers
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 fresh ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil


  1. Cut off the top of one pepper and reserve. Poke out the stem and discard. Cut the bottom inch off the pepper and reserve. Slice down the side of the pepper and open it up into a long strip. Repeat with the other peppers.
  2. Build a charcoal fire in an outdoor grill and let burn until covered with white ash. In a gas grill, you will want to preheat on high.
  3. Lightly oil the cooking grate. Place the pepper strips, tops, and bottoms on the grill, skin sides down and cover. Grill the peppers, skin sides down until the skins are blackened and blistered about 6 to 8 minutes. Don't worry if every single part of the skin isn't charred. Transfer the peppers to a paper bag and close the bag. Let stand for 20 minutes -- the heat will soften the peppers and make the skins easier to remove. Using a sharp knife, remove the blackened skins. Don't rinse the peppers under water unless you absolutely have to.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the garlic. Cut the peppers into 1-inch-wide strips. Place the peppers in a shallow dish. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with the basil. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Flank steak: It is long, thin, and fibrous. This boneless cut of beef comes from the animal's lower hindquarters. It's usually tenderized by marinating, then broiled or grilled whole.

Grilled Flank Steak

1 pound flank steak
1 garlic clove, cut in half
1 tablespoon olive oil

Rub entire outside of steak with garlic cloves. Then rub with olive oil. On a preheated outdoor grill or indoor cast iron ridge pan, grill, leaving cross hatch marks, on both sides alternating until medium rare. Allow to rest on warm plate for 5 minutes before slicing on bias. Serve on bed of greens.

To make cross-hatch marks: Place the meat on a hot grill. When it is seared with grill marks, turn 90-degrees and sear with grill marks again, turn and repeat.

Note: To slice on the bias means to slice diagonally.

Serve the flank steak with mixed greens and arugula. Rinse thoroughly and combine with pre-mixed greens (about 4 cups of mixed greens).

Mexican Bananas Foster:

These are fun to make and everyone goes crazy over them, according to Bonanno. If you are serving them to kids, substitute apple juice for Kahlua.

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup apple juice or 3/4 cup Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
4 ripe bananas, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
Ground cinnamon to taste
1 pint vanilla ice cream
Aluminum foil


  1. Build a charcoal fire in an outdoor grill and let burn until the coals are covered with white ash. Let the fire burn down to medium-hot (you should be able to hold your hand at grate level for 3 seconds). In a gas grill, preheat to medium.
  2. Tear off six 12-inch squares of aluminum foil. Fold one foil square in half. On the bottom half, place 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 or tablespoons apple juice or Kahlua, 2 tablespoons butter, and 1 banana. Sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon. Fold the foil over to form a packet, crimping the open edges to seal. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. The packets can be prepared up to 1 hour ahead and kept at room temperature.
  3. Grill the packets until the sugar, Kahlua, and butter are boiling which takes about 5 to 7 minutes. Open the packets, pour over bowls of ice cream, and serve immediately.
Note: The original Bananas Foster was created at New Orleans' Brennan's Restaurant in the 1950s. This dessert consisted of lengthwise-sliced bananas quickly sauteed in a mixture of rum, brown sugar, and banana liqueur and served with vanilla ice cream. It was named for Richard Foster, a regular customer at Brennan's.
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