by Buck Reed
Vegetables On The Grill
Summertime means it is time to get out of the kitchen and start cooking outdoors, that is get out of the kitchen once you prep all the food for the grill. Steaks, ribs, burgers, and leg of lamb are easily the stars of the glorious stage that is flame, but don’t overlook the supporting cast of side dishes. Now is the time to think about vegetables on the grill.
Right off, grilling vegetables is a fantastic method of preparing them. The heat from a grill will give them an enriched flavor that other cooking methods cannot duplicate. The higher heat will also quickly caramelize the natural sugars in veggies giving them a pleasing flavor. It is not uncommon for someone who turns their noses up to eggplant or zucchini to appreciate them when served off the grill.
First, we have the easy vegetables, corn on the cob and potatoes are the more common vegetables you will find at a cookout. Corn is an easy preparation, just pull back the husk remove the silk tie it back up in the husk and soak in water over night. Potatoes you need to scrub them clean poke with a fork in a few places and wrap in foil. You can do make this work with a baking potato or go wild and work it the same way with a sweet potato. It will also help if you have a fancy but simple compound butter to serve it with. Like most cooking the experience is in the details.
Another great vegetable that screams summer freshness is spring or green onions. Like most vegetables, this dish can be propelled to culinary greatness by a marinade. “Propelled to culinary greatness”…..I am such a hack! Just mix some olive oil with some lemon juice, salt and pepper, garlic, and some herbs. Place the marinade over the vegetable, cover and refrigerate at least overnight.
Then there are the smaller vegetables, sliced peppers, mushrooms, yellow squash, and zucchini. Most people will try to thread these on a skewer, but I prefer a grill basket. Just drain the marinade off and toss them around in the heated basket till they are done. This also works well with shrimp and such. If you are going to use skewers it is better to thread them on two skewers. You will be able to turn them easier and you may have fewer pieces falling off in a sacrifice to the grill gods.
Preparing extra vegetables for the grill is never a bad idea either. You can plan whole meals around these morsels. They can be added to pasta or salad dishes, or you can build a soup out of them.
But my all-time favorite is eggplant. Once marinated and grilled it is a whole new flavor for your plate that most will find very pleasing. I always grill extra to make caponata, a Sicilian dish made with red wine vinegar, olive oil, peppers, capers, garlic, and herbs. Recook them quickly with those ingredients and keep in a covered jar in your refrigerator.
Pull them out and add them to any Italian style cold sandwich you are making. It is a game changer for any antipasti plate you might want to make down the road.
By all means, put more than a little effort into your steak or other proteins you plan to serve but do not think of the vegetables as a throw away dish. As with most things a little bit of attention here could make you the neighborhood grill master or mistress.