Seafood a classic starter course

Chefs into grilling know a starter is important - not a gas one, but a food one. A starter here gets folks busy eating while the rest of the main course finishes on the grill.

Starters should be quick cookers. Time them to be finished by guests just as the main course arrives.

Colorful is nice to stimulate appetites. Light and not-too-filling is crucial, as you want your diners to have space for the big show. Remember that the starter stimulates appetites and should not fill them.

The classic starter is seafood, as it is a quick cooker. Shrimp leads the list here. It grills in 4 minutes or less, is a showy red and always welcome. Grill them deveined and in-shell for best flavor.

Shrimp kebabs simplify cooking by placing ingredients on one skewer per person. Whole cherry tomatoes between shrimp work well; so do button mushrooms. Brush with vinegar and oil plus Italian herbs or with oil and chili powder for Cajun style. Smoky chilpotle powder complements the grill.

Tired of shrimp? Scallops do the deed. The drill is the same, but expect them to cook faster than shrimp. They are done when they turn bright white.

The skewers prevent your food from falling into the fire and make serving a cinch. Remember that it's easy to overcook seafood. Keep a close eye on it.

Vegetables by definition are less filling, making them ideal food starters. The fresh artichoke is least filling of all. Remove the top 25 percent of each choke's leaves. Then remove outer leaves. Slice choke in half lengthwise. Brush with oil and lemon juice, grill 8 to 10 minutes to the side, one per person. Serve with a dipping sauce made with 1⁄4 cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard and 1⁄4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.

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