Grilling is a much anticipated aspect of warm weather, but not all grilling has to involve meat. For a non-meat eater like me, grilling can be just as delicious and savory as those who enjoy sizzling pork tenderloin or a juicy burger. I grill a wide assortment of vegetables and fruits all summer, and love experimenting with them over a flame.
The key is moderation for your heat. While high heat is terrific for getting that perfect sear on meat, it results in scorching when used on vegetables. Heat your grill as you would for cooking any meat, but then cut back on the heat, or reduce your gas flame prior to putting vegetables on the grate. And don’t forget a smear of oil on that grate.
A good accessory to have for grilling vegetables is a grill plate or basket to place on the grate. This will prevent smaller vegetables from slipping through the grate to the flames below. Grill plates can be found with other grilling accessories and it’s a must when I grill thick asparagus stalks, sweet potato fries, potato wedges or any vegetable that could easily disappear.
In prepping vegetables to grill, wash and trim them as usual, then toss them lightly in oil with a seasoning of your choice. Many of our Lunds and Byerly’s seasoning blends work splendidly with vegetables. My personal favorite is a basic vinaigrette of olive oil and balsamic vinegar with fresh ground black pepper.
The following vegetables have made a repeat appearance on my grill over the years: asparagus, portabella mushrooms, bell peppers of every kind, onions, tomatoes, avocado, zucchini, yellow squash, fennel, eggplant (a personal favorite- grilled is really the only way I enjoy it!) carrots, yams, cauliflower, potatoes, pea pods (both snow and sugar snap), radishes, baby bok choy, radicchio and romaine lettuce. I’m sure there are others I’ve forgotten as I love to experiment and am willing to try anything over a flame. I love to grill all the components of Guacamole before making it, including the limes. The smoky flavor can’t be beat.
Fresh fruit is also amazing when given a good sear, allowing the natural sugars to caramelize and deepen the sweetness of the fruit. Try pineapple or watermelon slices, peach and nectarine halves, bananas, oranges, apples and mango. For a particularly delicious summertime dessert, brush slices of angel food cake with a small amount of melted butter or good quality olive oil and place on a very hot grill for a just a minute or so to char. Turn over and heat the other side, then remove and top with fresh berries and whipped cream. You’ve never tasted angel food cake like this!
Don’t forget the appetizers! Enhance your meal with a simple Bruschetta, and try grilling your bread first. Rub a cut garlic clove on thick slices of fresh baguette or peasant bread and place on a hot grill to sear. Top with your favorite spread, olive tapenade or a slice of fresh tomato with a sprinkle of good sea salt and cracked black pepper.
An easy summertime dish can be made from cooked quinoa and grilled vegetables. Cook off a cup of quinoa in 1-½ cups of water, grill your favorite fresh vegetables- my personal choices for this is portabella mushrooms, red peppers, onions, asparagus, bok choy and radishes, then mix them all together in a large bowl. Season lightly with sea salt and pepper and you’ve got a light, flavorful and healthy summer meal.
Kate Selner, FoodE Expert, Byerly’s St. Paul