Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
Grilling really is the perfect way to prepare food. It’s fast, it produces delicious results and it cleans up with a minimum of fuss. The moment the mercury on the thermometer rises above 75 degrees, the grill is my go-to for delicious and fast meal prep. All summer we enjoy burgers, steak, hot dogs and chicken.
While these meals taste wonderful, by the end of a grilling season, I do begin to imagine that I can actually feel my arteries begin to clog. I try to eat “meatless on Monday,” so in an effort to keep up with that tradition during the summer months, I started to experiment with ways to prepare vegetables on the grill with results that are just as delicious as their animal-food counterparts. It turns out that vegetables on the grill are delicious and easy and even faster to cook than meat and poultry.
August is a great time to grill virtually any vegetable, since almost any vegetable you might want to eat is easily available in your home garden, farmers market or grocery store. This bounty makes for a perfect opportunity for experimentation on the grill since almost anything you might like to eat can be found easily at a reasonable price.
A few things to think about when you’re slapping plants on the grill: First, think about the size of your slices. In order to keep food from slipping through the grates, you’ll want to be sure to keep your slices generously sized. Alternately, you can purchase a basket to keep smaller slices from falling victim to the flames (though I don’t favor the use of a basket since it counts as a dish to wash at the end of a meal)! The other factor to consider when grilling vegetables is a plant’s water content. More water means shorter cooking time. Tomatoes, for instance, are very high in water content and can only stand a few seconds of grill time. Squash, on the other hand, can be grilled for quite a while before it becomes soft and tasty. Both veggies are great sprinkled with a bit of Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper after cooking.
Vegetables do often contain a fair amount of sugar, so without a little bit of help, they might tend to stick to the grill during cooking. Oiling the grates can help prevent sticking, but so can a marinade, which not only keeps food from sticking but also adds flavor and color. Nearly any marinade used for meat can be used for vegetables. The same goes for sauces – barbecue sauce and teriyaki sauce are particularly tasty, but if you’re going for healthy options you might want to choose a simple preparation like the one I’ve shared here.
Grilled vegetables are a satisfying side dish, a perfect accompaniment to any meat, but don’t be afraid to let them take center stage. If you’re a purist, these vegetables can stand alone, but if you want to round out a meal grilled vegetables mixed with chopped fresh tomatoes and basil would be wonderful over pasta with a bit of fresh mozzarella tossed in to allow the cheese to melt slightly.
The only other piece of advice I have? Make lots. These veggies taste delicious, so they’re perfect for sharing.
Zucchini and peppers on the grill
– Two or three large zucchini
– Two or three large red or yellow bell peppers
– 1/3 cup olive oil
–2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
– salt and pepper (to taste)
Heat grill to high heat. Rinse zucchini and peppers, then remove stem ends. Cut peppers into quarters (thirds if the peppers are small), and cut zucchini lengthwise into four or five thick slices. Using a pastry brush, coat vegetables with olive oil and place them gently on the grill, taking care not to drop them through the grates. Grill vegetables until they soften and have a nice char on both sides. Remove to a platter and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.