One of the best parts of summer: cooking on the grill! If you’ve ever laid a cob of summer corn across the coals, you know you can get a delicious feast without heating up your kitchen.
The outdoor grill is ideal for making lots of food in one shot, yielding leftovers for the rest of the week. And it doesn’t mean you have to abandon your commitment to healthful eating.
Take a break from the hot dogs and glaze-lacquered ribs, and take advantage of summer vegetables. They are quick to prepare, can be made in bulk and don’t need to be doused with butter, sauces or dressings. They are tastiest ‘au natural.’
Vegetable prep equipment is fundamental: a knife, a cutting board and a large bowl or cookie sheet. The key is to cut vegetables appropriately for their size and shape, toss or brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Here’s your guide to proper sizing and cook time:
- Zucchini and Yellow Squash: Make 2/3-inch, 45-degree slices to create maximum surface area. Grill over hot heat for long enough to mark on both sides.
- Eggplant: Cut into 3/4-inch planks. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 10 minutes. Blot the salt along with moisture until dry. Grill over hot heat for long enough to mark on both sides.
- Onions: Peel the onion and cut into 6 wedges, keeping the root intact. Grill over medium heat until marked on all three sides.
- Bell Peppers: Put peppers on the hottest part of the grill—whole. Blister all skin fully. Put peppers into a paper bag or a bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let sit for 15 minutes. Peel the burned skin, and remove seeds and stems. Rinse and enjoy.
- Portobello Mushrooms: Cut the stem of the mushroom where it connects to the cap. Clean tops of caps with a damp paper towel. If the caps are very dirty, you can peel them by gently grabbing the ‘skin’ at the edge of the cap and peel up towards the center. Grill gill side up until tender—which is when mushroom ‘drippings’ collect in the cap … so don’t turn it over.
- Asparagus: Snap the bottoms. Place on grill perpendicular to the grates. Grill briefly, turning carefully to mark.
- Sweet Potatoes: Make 2/3-inch, 45-degree slices to create maximum surface area. Grill over medium to high heat until marked.
- Garlic: Cut off the top 1/2 inch of a bulb of garlic. Place bottom on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold down the foil on top of the bulb, and then fold in the sides. Place garlic on the coolest part of the grill. Let roast until cloves are tender—about 35 minutes.
- Endive, Fennel, and Radicchio: Wedge radicchio like onions, slice fennel and cut endive in half. Place on hot part of grill, and turn once when marked.
The Zen of Leftovers
Once you have grilled your vegetables, enjoy them whole or chop them and mix together for a killer ratatouille dish; fill an omelet or a tortilla with them; mix veggies into a grain like quinoa to yield a hot or cold salad; add sliced protein and Cajun spice for fajitas; put veggies in quiche; mix with feta and wrap them in phyllo dough for a tasty finger food. Make these outdoor delights the staple of healthful summer sustenance.
Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Yields: 7 cups
1 medium eggplant, 3/4-inch slices
2 medium zucchini, 2/3-inch slices on a slant
1 medium yellow squash, 2/3-inch slices on a slant
1 medium onion, peeled, with root intact and cut into 6-8 wedges
1 medium red pepper
2 dozen pitted olives, halved
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
1/2 cup basil, chopped
1/2 cup flat parsley, chopped
Zest of one lemon
Juice of half a lemon
5-6 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sprinkle the eggplant with salt. Let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix other vegetables in a bowl with salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Blot eggplant with paper towel until dry. Drizzle eggplant with 1/2 tablespoon oil.
For red pepper: Place on hottest part of the grill, and blister skin all over pepper. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 10 minutes. Under cool water, rub skin off pepper with your hands. Core and de-seed.
For eggplant, yellow and green squash: Place on hot area of grill. Grill until marked, turn over and mark on second side.
Put onion on coolest part of grill. Handle carefully, so the onion doesn’t fall apart. Mark on three sides.
Let all vegetables cool, chop and toss with olives, capers, basil, parsley, zest and lemon juice. Finish with olive oil.