(April 21) Flip the fun of healthful outdoor grilling to your advantage this summer. Turning your customers on to grilled fruits and vegetables with easy-to-follow recipes can bring added sales to your department during the height of the summer.

Shoppers at Dierberg’s, a 19-store chain based in Chesterfield, Mo., see grilling displays three times during the summer: Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend and the Fourth of July. Staff build barbecue-themed endcap displays in the produce departments that include produce and items from throughout the store.

Zucchini squash, onions, corn, tomatoes and portabella mushrooms appear with barbecue sauces, marinades and olive oil. The deli and bakery departments offer their salad dressings and signature breads, respectively. Nonfood items such as corn skewers and utensils drive home the concept.

“The displays are idea generators,” says Steve Duello, director of produce operations. “But you do see a boost in sales that also coincides with the increase in business that comes in the summer months.” Similar displays also appear in the alcove at the front of the stores.

Eggplant, portabella mushrooms, onions and zucchini squash are top produce grilling items at Reasor’s, Broken Arrow, Okla., says Mark Faust, director of produce and floral for the 12-store chain based in Tahlequah, Okla. The words “great for grilling” appear alongside such items in the weekly ad.

Many fruits and vegetables adapt well to grilling. Few tools or ingredients are necessary to create healthful, tasty dishes. Some produce items, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and beets, may require precooking to avoid charring. Try parboiling on the stovetop or using a microwave oven. Suggest these easy recipes to your customers to spark grilling ideas. Better yet, write these recipes on slips of paper and tuck them into your displays.

AVOCADOS

The California Avocado Commission, Santa Ana, offers colorful brochures with recipes for grilled avocado slices and grilled avocado half shells. The trick is to teach consumers to use avocados that are not fully ripe.

“Try ones that are a day or two away from being ripe,” says Jan DeLyser, vice president of merchandising. “If you use a fully ripe avocado, you run the risk of getting it softer than you would want it.”

DeLyser says hass and pinkerton varieties are especially suited to grilling. “The nutty flavor of the Hass avocado is enhanced by the grill,” she says.

To grill avocado slices, tell shoppers to cut them in half, seed, peel and slice them into three-eighths-inch thick slices. Drizzle them with fresh lime or lemon juice and brush lightly with olive oil. Consumers then place the fruit on grill over hot coals for two minutes on each side and season with salt to taste. For half shells, cut avocados in half, remove the seed and prepare as for slices. Grill cut side down over hot coals for two to three minutes. After grilling, suggest shoppers fill the top with salsa or another topping.

ASPARAGUS

If your customers are short on ideas for preparing asparagus, offer an easy grilled asparagus recipe from the California Asparagus Commission, Stockton. “Magazines are using grilling a lot more in recipes to teach people there’s more ways to fix asparagus than boiling,” says Cherie Watte, executive director. She suggests threading several jumbo spears side by side onto two skewers to form a raft. Brush both sides with olive oil and grill for five minutes. Turn once each minute or so.

To grill individual spears, instruct consumers to drizzle olive oil in a plate or baking dish. Add spears and roll in oil to coat. Place individually crosswise on the grill and roll each spear one-quarter turn each minute for five minutes. When done, season with salt and pepper to taste. Watte suggests topping the asparagus with crushed garlic, a reduced balsamic vinegar and lemon zest.

“It’s easy to grill asparagus. I don’t think there’s any real magic to it,” Watte says. “I just think that because of its shape people may think it’s hard to do.”

EGGPLANT

Eggplant sales jump 25 percent when placed on ad and promoted as a grilling item at Reasor’s, Faust says.

“Eggplant can be used as a meat substitute,” Faust says. To grill eggplant, slice it into half-inch thick slices. “Season it like a steak, or just brush with olive oil or Italian dressing and throw it on the grill,” he says. Grill slices for two to three minutes per side on a sheet of foil or over a low fire.

MUSHROOMS

Button mushrooms are classic fare on mixed grill skewers alongside cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and steak cubes.

Invite your customers to try portabella mushrooms on the grill as well. “They’re a great grilled item. They’ve become very big in St. Louis,” says Dierberg’s Duello.

Put the following easy recipe on a card: Trim stems from mushrooms and cut in one-fourth inch slices. Brush both sides with olive oil and place on grill four inches from heat. Grill for four minutes until tender, turning once. Arrange slices on crusty bread and layer with mozzarella cheese, roasted red peppers and other add-ons.

Border your mushroom display with the add-ons for this recipe. They include shredded or sliced cheeses, jarred roasted red peppers, prepared pesto and sandwich spreads.

POTATOES

Grilled potato slices are the perfect complement to steaks. The Idaho Potato Commission, Boise, offers an easy recipe: grilled potato rounds. Slice potatoes into three-eighths-inch thick slices. Microwave on high for five minutes to speed cooking time. Brush potato pieces with oil and grill for two to three minutes per side. “Use the elevated rack to avoid over-cooking,” says Jack Hansen, the commission’s vice president of retail.

Or encourage customers to make delicious grilled potato sticks. Offer these instructions: Cut four potatoes into long one-fourth to one-half-inch thick sticks and toss in bag with two tablespoons olive oil and one teaspoon. lemon juice. Make a seasoning mix by combining one teaspoon. seasoned salt, one-half teaspoon cumin and one-fourth teaspoon black pepper in a bowl. Grill potato sticks in center of grate for 12 to 15 minutes turning twice. Remove from grill and sprinkle with seasoning mix.

SWEET POTATOES

Your customers may only think of Thanksgiving when they think of sweet potatoes. Give them another idea: grilled sweet potato coins.

Provide this recipe for shoppers: Blanch the sweet potatoes first by boiling one-fourth to one-half-inch thick slices in water for three minutes. Remove and plunge into ice water, then remove, dry and place in a bowl. Pour vegetable oil over the potatoes and toss to coat. Tell shoppers to place disks in center of cooking grate and grill about five minutes turning once. They should remove the coins when tender and sprinkle with salt or drizzle with maple syrup. Consider adding brown sugar and butter or margarine to your display to further the sweet dish idea.

SWEET CORN

Shoppers find bulk sweet corn, bell peppers, packaged button mushrooms and baking potatoes in a 2-foot space in the meat department at Econofoods No. 337 in Rochester, Minn., one of 55 stores owned by Nash Finch Co., Edina, Minn. “I work with the meat department to highlight grilling. The vegetables are put in the case next to the cuts of meat,” says Larry Goedhart, produce manager.

Offer a creative, easy recipe for grilled corn on the cob: Combine olive oil with oregano and parsley and set aside. After soaking corn husks for 30 minutes and draining, pull back husks, leaving them attached at the base. Brush corn with seasoned oil, then fold husks back around corn, securing with string or strip of corn husk. Grill ears for 12 to 14 minutes, turning once. Remove husks and sprinkle corn with parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

BELL PEPPERS

Red and green bell peppers can be grilled and then used in other recipes.

Tell consumers to drizzle peppers with olive oil and sprinkle them with balsamic vinegar and salt. Instruct them to grill the whole pepper, turning every five minutes until it’s charred evenly on all sides. Remove from grill and place in a paper bag and close tightly so skin steams off. Then they may remove the peppers from the bag and peel away charred skins. They can cut off the tops and remove seeds before using the peppers as a garnish, side dish or meat topping.

HEIRLOOM TOMATOES

Let your customers know that heirloom tomatoes can achieve extra flavor when grilled. To grill, have consumers halve tomatoes and place skin side down. They may sprinkle them with olive oil, salt and pepper. The heirlooms can then be grilled over medium-hot coals until lightly charred on the outside but still firm, about three minutes per side.

PINEAPPLES & OTHER FRUITS

Vegetables don’t have a monopoly on grilling. Grilled fruit makes a great side dish or dessert. Provide an easy recipe that works with pineapple slices, quartered bananas and halved peaches, plums and nectarines.

Make a honey glaze with eight tablespoons butter or margarine, one-fourth cup honey and three tablespoons lime juice. Stir together until smooth and brush onto both sides of the fruit pieces. Grill over direct medium heat for 12 to 15 minutes, turning once.