Nothing says summer quite like the aroma of food grilling over an open flame, a gentle breeze riffling the red-and-white checked cloth on the picnic table. Add a glass of chilled white wine and some good friends and the living is easy. Or it was. Until news reports told us that high heat, dripping fat, and even the beloved aromatic smoke involved in grilling meat, poultry, or fish exposes the food-and whoever eats it-to such carcinogens as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Now the latest research out of Mount Sinai School of Medicine links grilling animal products with another acronym: AGEs (advanced glycation end products), a class of damaging compounds that build up in the body over time and increase the risk of developing diabetes or Alzheimer's. Food cooked over a flame may awaken a primitive hunger, but evidence suggests that those grilled meats don't love us back.
Don't hang up your tongs just yet, though. Skip the meat and use fresh vegetables instead. They lack the fat and protein necessary to form carcinogens, so you can satisfy your primordial cravings without possibly endangering yourself or your guests.