Food & Wine

Grilling your veggies is easy


Courtesy of Rita Held
Any mix of summer squash, tossed with oil, salt and pepper, can cook as quickly as meat on your grill when chopped small enough. Scoop them into an already-hot grill basket for easy transfers and cleanup. Add eggplant, mushroom, onion and garlic – as many as your ambition allows.

Summer is a tasty time to eat your veggies, and it’s so easy to grill them alongside your steak, chicken or fish. What I really like about grilling veggies is the extent to which it’s an “ad lib” kind of cooking. You can prepare 4-5 cups of cut-up veggies or just 2 cups. Use more or less olive oil or vinegar. Try different herbs. The more often you grill vegetables, the more you’ll learn how long to grill them to suit your taste and how big or small to cut them. 

There are three basic ways to grill vegetables:  1) Use a metal grill basket or flat grill pan for cut-up veggies.  2) Grill directly on the grates using large pieces of vegetables – zucchini, for instance, cut in half length-wise.  3) Skewer cut vegetables on wood or metal skewers. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water before adding the veggies.

I most often use my metal grill basket because it seems easier to manage on the grill. I think of it as stir-frying on the grill. How hot the grill should be is determined by the protein you are cooking. If your chicken or fish needs medium heat, the vegetables will take longer to cook. And that’s okay.

No outdoor barbecue? Use an iron frying or grill pan to nicely brown vegetables on the stovetop. Use whole vegetables such as asparagus spears in springtime, or cut summer squash in half lengthwise. Heat a little olive oil in the pan. Add the marinated vegetables to the pan, cut-side down and side-by-side. Cook over high heat until lightly browned. Turn and continue to cook until tender.

Grilled Summer Squash

• Summer squash such as zucchini, crook neck or pattypan. Use any combination and any amount that fits the grill pan with enough room to stir veggies while cooking.

• Olive oil

• Balsamic vinegar (1-3 tablespoons), or wine vinegar (red or white)

• Chopped fresh rosemary and/or fresh sage or thyme

• Kosher salt & fresh-ground pepper

• Optional ingredients: Japanese eggplant; whole mushrooms; red onion cut in wedges; whole peeled garlic cloves. There are many possibilities. Garlic cloves should be large, mushrooms about 1-1/2”-wide caps. Cut larger mushrooms in half.

Rinse vegetables and pat dry. Cut into half- to three-quarter-inch chunks if you want them to be finished cooking when your meat or fish is done.

Peel garlic. Rub mushroom caps with a damp towel and trim off ends of stems. Place vegetables, including mushrooms and garlic cloves, in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and some of the vinegar. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary. Toss again. Let stand 10 to 30 minutes.

Preheat the barbeque and place grill pan on top of the grates to one side, leaving room for whatever else you are cooking. The grill pan should be hot before you add the vegetables.

Use a large, long-handled metal spoon to add vegetables to pan. Close grill cover and cook about 10 minutes. Stir vegetables. Continue to grill and stir until vegetables are tender and nicely browned on at least one side.

Los Altos resident Rita Held develops recipes for Angostura USA. For more cooking ideas, visit her blog at GetCookingSimply.com.

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