April 6, 2008 | Technique, Vegetables
It only takes a few warm spring days to inspire me to start grilling again. While I cook a lot of meat on the grill year-round, it seems when warmer weather beckons, I think beyond the protein. Vegetables take on an entirely new – and more complex – flavor when grilled and will entice you to eat more than your recommended daily servings. Here are some tips to keep in mind to get the best results:
- Vegetables are 80-95% water, so will shrink considerably during grilling. I usually cook about twice the volume I think I can eat to make sure I don’t end up short.
- Cut thick slices or slabs so the vegetable can maintain it’s shape as the water evaporates during cooking and the vegetables shrink.
- There’s no right or wrong amount of time for cooking vegetables – char them briefly over high heat if you like a crisper vegetable, or let them linger over a low flame a little longer if you prefer a softer texture.
- Flat pieces are easier to grill – slice zucchini into thick rounds or slabs, slice the sides off peppers working your way around so you have flat pieces, and cut onions into thick rounds that will help hold the various layers together while cooking.
- Tongs are an indispensable tool for turning vegetables along with other grilled food – they let you grab the food without piercing it so it’s more likely to stay in one piece.
- A little olive oil goes a long way – rub the vegetables down before grilling, but go easy as too much oil will just ignite and cause you to burn instead of char your vegetables.
- Many chefs prefer to salt vegetables after they are cooked so they know the true volume they are seasoning. If you season before grilling, go easy on the salt.
- If you are doing a large platter of grilled vegetables, grill the thicker and more dense vegetables first (carrots, potatoes, red peppers) and add the softer vegetables at the last minute (tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce) so that it doesn’t disintegrate before the other food is cooked.
- Enjoy your grilled vegetables on their own or try mixing them with salads, soups, or pasta. You can add cheese (feta and Parmigiano are both great with grilled vegetables) and dress up the dish with either a little extra virgin olive oil or a touch of cream. Season with coarse sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper and enjoy!