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Girls on the Grill | By Allison Williams

Move over men, there’s a new chef (wo)manning the fire and she’s dressed to grill. As summer comes to a close, women have been taking their rightful place at backyard cookouts all season long. They have mastered the tried and true, searing burgers and steaks with the best of ‘em, but women aren’t afraid to try something new. Their grills simmer with golden corn, tender onions plus peppers, squash, zucchini, even fruit, salad and desserts. “If you can eat it, you can grill it,” says Elizabeth Karmel, who shares her recipe for grilled romaine with blue cheese dressing as proof. (Page 20) Karmel has been described as America’s female grilling expert. A North Carolina native, she now splits her time between Chicago and New York, where she is executive chef of Hill Country restaurant.. “I spend all my time spreading the word because I really do think outdoor cooking is the best way to prepare food, bar none.”

Karmel swears by three ingredients when grilling: olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. “Grilling is 10 percent skill, 90 percent the will of the grill,” she said. Her free “Girls’ Guide to Grilling” may be downloaded at her Web site, www.girlsatthegrill.com. Alison Friend grew up grilling in Ohio. She moved to Fayetteville for college and stayed after graduating from Methodist University. Now a sales representative for a North Carolina lighting company, she grills after work and on weekends, accepting a few tips now and then from her boyfriend, Steve Cargill, who claims to have taught her everything she knows. “I let him believe that,” she says and laughs, turning skewers of kebabs.Friend especially likes to grill steak but she also shares some mouth-watering recipes for a slow-cooked whole onion plus grilled corn on the cob.

Gas or charcoal, you can make these recipes, too. Whitney Allen says she’s a fan of grilling with gas because of the control it gives her. When cooking for a large group, for example, it’s easy to tailor the temperature for steaks, rare to well-done. If she had to name one secret weapon it might be tinfoil or perhaps a grill basket to keep vegetables from falling into the flames. Allen started grilling in college to save money, both on food and entertainment. Gathering around the grill is an instant meal and party, too. And, “I learned that you can grill practically anything,” she said. She started out simple with chicken breasts, carrots and broccoli, wrapped in tinfoil and topped with Italian salad dressing and seasonings, and branched out from there. “I love grilling because it allows you to experiment with different foods, herbs, sauces and tastes,” she said. “It is also super healthy, which is always a plus.”

Now that the fear factor is gone, and just in time for Labor Day, here’s a quick primer, with recipes (left), for a backyard barbecue, girl-style: Dress up the patio table with a tablecloth and fresh flowers. It doesn’t have to be fussy – a few serving pieces, casual dinnerware and chairs from inside will do just fine. Prepare fresh lemonade and vegetable dip the day before so guests can munch while you grill. Or even better, put friends to work slicing vegetables such as summer squash, zuchinni or eggplant. Other vegetables require no prep at all: corn is delicious grilled in the husk. We love a veggie plate but by all means, grill your favorite meat or fish, if you like. Kebabs are a super simple main course – provide a platter of meats, veggies, even fruit, so guests can mix and match. And for dessert, make-your-own sundaes are always a hit but peaches or slices of pound cake are great on the grill. Be daring you’re a grill girl now.