A few of my neighbors who have green thumbs are forever bringing me vegetables from their garden. This time of the year I am usually besieged with peppers and zucchini and even an eggplant or two. Though I swear my neighbors have been having some time type of “who can grow the biggest zucchini contest” as every time they bring me one they get bigger and bigger. At the present time we are up to the size of tree trunk. Then of course the question becomes what to do with all this bounty as it piles higher and higher.
I love to use the grill; from burgers to chicken, ribs to swordfish you name it. I love throwing it on the grill and getting some great meal started. However, only recently have I discovered the joys of grilling vegetables. I have done corn in the husk on the grill and had always seen peppers grilled but I never thought of grilling other veggies. Five years ago a client of mine asked me to come up with a unique dish to go with her family BBQ. She was handling the main courses and asked me to do all the sides, Pasta Salad, Tomato Salad and something else. After rejecting a few of my suggestions she told me to “just come up with something different.” I thought about it for a while and decided to create a platter of veggies and that I would sauté but keep separate on the platter for visual appeal. Then one of my chefs suggested grilling the veggies instead, I took the suggestion and have used it frequently ever since.
My first rule of thumb when grilling veggies is cut them thick. Fleshy veggies like zucchini, squashes and eggplant break down quickly on the heat so a thick cut allows for a decent amount of time on the grill to get that smoky grilled flavor while maintaining texture. The second rule is to marinate the veggies in Olive Oil with a bit of salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Give them some flavor beforehand and you won’t be disappointed. This works well with peppers, beets and carrots especially. Once grilled however, I toss them in a bit of balsamic vinegar to give them additional flavor. Be careful though as the vinegar will continue to cook them, so if you are not serving them for a bit, hold off on that step. The third and final rule doesn’t over-grill. I REPEAT do not over-grill veggies, they break down quickly and can become like mush. As a general guide I grill them for a about a minute and a half on each side.
I love to try all different kinds of veggies and have become especially fond of beets, carrots and asparagus off the grill. I have yet to come across any veggie that I don’t like on the grill although I am skeptical about the Brussel’s sprout. So while the summer is here don’t limit your grill to meat, poultry and seafood. Give those veggies a try. They’re beautiful in their appearance, taste and simplicity.