The grill isn’t just for meat. Vegetables are also right at home cooked above a hot layer of coals. The grill’s smoke lends a unique flavor to vegetables, and the high heat draws out their natural sugars, caramelizing their surface for an irresistible bite.
From greens to dense roots, it is possible to grill almost any vegetable. The key is to take special care when grilling and to use the freshest produce available. Farmers markets and farm stands, grocery stores that feature local produce and home gardens are often the best sources for fresh vegetables. Ideally, vegetables should be firm and unblemished with bright colors. Attached leaves should be full, not limp or wilted, and root ends, if any, should be dry.
Howie Velie, associate dean of culinary specializations at The Culinary Institute of America, offers these tips when preparing vegetables for the grill:
‰Give them a good rinse and allow them to dry well. It is especially important for vegetables to be dry if they are going to be coated with oil before grilling.
‰Parboil denser vegetables to help speed their grilling time. Place them in boiling salted water, or steam them, until they are slightly tender.
‰Brush a light coating of oil on the vegetables as well as on the cooking grate to keep the food from sticking.
‰To prevent a flare-up from too much oil dripping onto the burner or coals, shake off the excess oil from the vegetables before placing the items on the grill.
Feel free to grill other vegetables such as cauliflower, poblano peppers, and baby carrots to add in the following salad recipe. You can also include thin slices of celery, fresh basil or cilantro or red onions. This recipe is a great accompaniment to grilled, roasted or baked meats, fish or poultry.
The following recipe is from The Culinary Institute of America Grilling cookbook (2006, Lebhar-Friedman), available for purchase at bookstores or at ciaprochef.com/fbi/books/grilling.html.
MARINATED PEPPER SALAD WITH PINE NUTS AND RAISINS
Makes 8 servings
4 red peppers, cored and quartered
4 yellow peppers, cored and quartered
1⁄4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1⁄3 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Preheat a gas grill to medium. If you are using a charcoal grill, build a fire and let it burn down until the coals are glowing red with a moderate coating of white ash. Spread the coals in an even bed. Clean the cooking grate.
In a large bowl coat the vegetables with the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper.
Grill the peppers until marked on each side and tender throughout, but not mushy, about 5 minutes per side.
Cut the grilled peppers into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices and drain on a rack.
Combine the vegetables with the extra-virgin olive oil, raisins, pine nuts, parsley and garlic. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, if desired.
Although not considered summer produce, coconut says “summer” better than most flavors.
This Citrus Coconut Milk Cake from justapinch.com is moist and packed with citrus flavors.
CITRUS COCONUT MILK CAKE
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
21⁄4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon orange juice
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
3⁄4 cup pureed kumquats (remove seeds, do not peel)
3-ounce packet of instant vanilla pudding mix
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
5 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
21⁄2 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons coconut milk
11⁄2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9- or 10-inch Bundt pan. Set aside.
In sauce pan add coconut milk and butter. Heat the coconut milk, slowly, until butter is completely melted. Take off heat and cool.
In a bowl sift flour, instant vanilla pudding, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
In another bowl, cream eggs and sugar. Beat on high for 2 minutes.
Beat vanilla into egg mixture.
Add kumquat puree, lemon zest, orange zest, lemon juice and orange juice to the egg mixture. Beat until incorporated.
Slowly beat coconut milk into egg mixture.
Add flour mixture to egg mixture in thirds completely incorporating the flour mixture before adding more. Mix until just incorporated.
Fold in shredded coconut.
Pour batter into Bundt pan and bake on center rack for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out barely clean.
Cool on wire rack for 1 hour.
For glaze: Combine lemon and orange juice and whisk in confectioners sugar. Whisk in vanilla and coconut milk.
If the glaze is too thick add coconut milk 1⁄2 tablespoon at a time; if it is too thin, add confectioners sugar 1⁄2 tablespoon at a time; glaze should be the consistency of table syrup.
Once cake has cooled drizzle glaze over cake.
TIP: If you can’t find kumquats (and you probably can’t), substitute thin-skinned oranges and a little lemon juice.
I’m an advocate of quiche. Make one any time and reheat a slice for breakfast or serve it as dinner with a salad. For most meals, most everything is in one dish and that keeps cooking and eating pretty simple.
My favorite way to eat spinach is in quiche. A ham and cheese quiche is good, too. I’ve heard of quiche made with chicken, and Swiss and a broccoli quiche I made for a party once was a big hit. Zucchini, mushrooms, onions, garlic, sausage and bacon are all delicious additions to quiche.
Quiche is a good way to get rid of leftovers, too.
I never make my own crust, and sometimes I skip the crust to make it gluten-free.
While I don’t claim to be an expert cook, I do like to cook and love to eat. Readers are encouraged to send questions about food and cooking to firstname.lastname@example.org.