One of the most flexible and grill friendly foods is the humble vegetable. Grilling vegetables adds new complex dimensions that surprise the palate to what many consider to be only edible if mixed or hidden in some other dish. Vegetables get a bad rap. Our guest writer today clearly knows her way around a grilled vegetable or two. Beverly Jo Noble from A lifetime of Recipes.com shares her take on grilling vegetables.
Grilling Vegetables: Tools, Techniques & Tips (part 1)
Have you ever lost an asparagus spear or onion slice between the bars of your grill? Had the tomatoes fall off the skewer while the onions were still raw? Here are some tools and tips to help you cook vegetables outdoors successfully.
First, the tools:
1) Buy a wok, grill basket, or grill topper. Skip the non-stick surfaces; Teflon will not hold up to the high temperatures found on your grill. Any of these products will keep your vegetables topside, while creating the grilled flavor you want. They are also great for fruit (more on that in a future article) and seafood. You can find these at hardware stores, cooking equipment stores, and on-line. Most cost less than $20.
2) Metal skewers hold vegetables in place better than do wood picks, plus they don’t burn. You can use them over and over again; I have had my set for at least 20 years.
3) A shallow, 9×13 casserole dish is the perfect container to marinate your vegetables. Zip-lock bags also work well.
4) The Island Grill Stone… Learned about it here at Cooking Outdoors. Mine is on order, will play with my recipes, see what changes need to be made, and report in a later posting.
Now for the techniques:
There are three basic techniques for cooking vegetables outdoors: direct grilling, wrapping in foil, and skewers. Small amounts of oil are needed to keep the vegetables from sticking to the grill, and marinades will add flavor. This article will focus on direct grilling. Foil wraps and skewer tips will follow in a later article.
Marinades: this is the basic marinade I use for most vegetables. You have several options for seasoning. Please don’t use them all together… Marinate vegetables for 15 – 20 minutes, then grill.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice
1 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic, mashed
seasoning: pick from the following list
1 tsp. dried Italian herbs
1 tsp. Greek seasoning mix
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, minced
1 tsp. dried dill, or 1 Tbsp. fresh dill
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced + 1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. soy sauce & 1 Tbsp. white wine
Asparagus, just rinse and trim ends
Bell peppers: discards seeds & pith, cut in quarters
Onions: slice thickly, ¼ – ½ inch, or cut in quarters
Mushrooms: rinse and cut off stems
Grape or cherry tomatoes: refrigerate to slow cooking time
Summer squash & zucchini: trim ends. Slice in half lengthwise if small, other- wise slice diagonally about ½ inch thick.
Potatoes: can be cut in wedges, chunks, or sliced thickly. They take longer to cook than other vegetables, so consider parboiling if you use them in a combination.
Yams: slice diagonally, about ½ inch thick, or cut in wedges lengthwise
This is where you need the wok, basket, or topper. Even if the vegetables seem ok when you start, they will soften as they cook. Oops, there went another onion slice…
This medley includes bell peppers, red onion, mushrooms, zucchini, and yellow straight-neck squash. I used olive oil, lime juice, fresh cilantro and cumin for the marinade. The yams were cooked separately, as they take longer. I used a pastry brush to coat lightly with olive oil, then sprinkled them with cardamom.
Marinate vegetables 15 – 30 minutes, drain & grill 5 – 10 minutes per side. Onions and potatoes take longer; tomatoes cook very quickly. If you are doing a mixed grill, start with the potatoes, yams, and onions, add the other vegetables after about 5 minutes, and the tomatoes only after you turn the other foods.
Corn: For the best corn on the cob ever, start at least 2 hours before dinner. Buy unshucked corn. Carefully ease back the tops of the shucks, pull out the silk, then pull the shucks back up. Place the corn in a large pail or stockpot and cover with water. When it’s time to cook the corn, use extra pieces of the shucks, cotton twine, or little pieces of aluminum foil to secure the top of the shucks. Place directly on the grill. Cook over medium-high heat about 15 minutes, turning several times. The soaking will keep the shucks from burning. Tastes so good you won’t even need butter or salt!
Potatoes: I simply scrub russet potatoes, pierce them with a fork, and microwave for 2 – 3 minutes. Then place them on the top rack of the grill. Turn every 15 minutes until they are soft when squeezed gently, about 30 – 45 minutes. The skin will be crispy and crunchy… and that is where the nutrients are.
Yams: Scrub, and slice diagonally or cut into lengthwise wedges. Brush with olive oil; sprinkle with sea salt, cinnamon or cardamom, and grill 10 minutes per side.
Grilling vegetables creates great flavor and texture. It’s also healthy, reduces your food costs, and easy to clean up. (In our house the cook doesn’t clean up, so Cliff LOVES to grill anything and everything!) Give it a try.
Beverly received her first cookbook as a birthday present at age 8, and has been cooking for family and friends ever since. Growing up in the small town of Spenard, Alaska, long winters and long distances combined to make fresh produce a luxury. The family moved to Pomona, California when Beverly was 12. Suddenly, fruits and vegetables were FRESH, and oh, what a difference that made.
As a single young adult, Beverly continued to cook for her own pleasure. Collecting and trying new recipes became a hobby. She soon started to play with recipes… modifying ingredients, and trying duplicate restaurant dishes at home. Fruit trees and berries in the back yard produced seasonal abundance that led to new uses in the kitchen.
Heart disease, diabetes, and weight control concerns in the family led her to modify old favorites and search for new items to replace high-‐fat, high-‐sodium foods while balancing proteins and carbohydrates. Then a dark time: first Mom, then a son, then her husband died, all within an 18 month period. Hiding out in the kitchen helpedto disguise the loneliness…. Enough already! She left the sorrow behind and moved to a new town and a new life.
The Series: The first book in the series, Fabulous Fresh Fruit, is focused on seasonal, locally grown food and how to use it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Go beyond pies and cakes to Lemon Raspberry Chicken, Pork with Pears, Nectarine-‐Red Onion Salsa, and 400 more…. Future books include Veggie Love; Recipes from the Farmers Market, and Long and Slow: Soups and Stews.
You can reach the author at bev4recipes @gmail.com on LinkedIn, as Beverly (Wilson) Noble, at
www.Facebook.com/Beverly.Jo.Noble or at www.ALifetimeofRecipes.com