Summer is a great time for grilling and eating light. We could all stand to get more fruits and veggies into our diets, and grilling fruits and veggies is a great way to do it! Grilling them tends to intensify their flavors. As the fire from the grill draws out the moisture from the fruits and vegetables, the sugars and other flavor compounds become more concentrated, so grilling them really draws out their flavor and sweetness. For this post, we’ll focus on vegetables.
Vegetables typically should be grilled over medium heat, with the length of cooking time depending on the type of vegetable, the size of the vegetable and/or the size of the pieces into which the vegetable has been cut. Some vegetables do very nicely when grilled whole or simply cut in half, while others work best if they are cut into smaller pieces. When cutting vegetables for grilling, it is best to cut them into uniformly sized pieces, so they will cook evenly. Obviously, the larger the pieces, the longer the required grilling time.
With some harder veggies like potatoes (peeled), sweet potatoes (peeled), artichokes and leeks, it works better if you precook them a little (by steaming or boiling depending on the vegetable and your preference) before you place them on the grill. This is especially important if you are grilling multiple different vegetables together and want them to finish cooking at the same time.
If you are grilling small chunks of vegetables, you may want to use a grill basket or skewers to prevent the vegetables from falling through the grill grating. If you are using bamboo skewers, you will want to soak them in water for a half hour or so before you use them, so they don’t burn. Another option, if you don’t have a grill basket, is to spread some foil over the grate. Vegetables like whole asparagus spears can be skewered together side by side (using two skewers) to make them easier to maneuver on the grill and prevent them from falling through the grate. You will want to leave some air space between each spear to allow for more even cooking.
If you have a bunch of small veggies heavily marinated, you can create a foil tray by folding up the edges to keep the liquid contained. One simple and delicious option for marinated vegetables is to cut the vegetables into uniform sized pieces, throw them into a ziplock bag with some Greek dressing and marinate them for an hour or more, then grill them on a foil tray with the edges folded up to keep the dressing from running down into the grill.
To add some more flavor to your grilled veggies, try cutting onions and lemons in half and smearing them all over the surface of the hot grill grating before you place your veggies on the grill. You can place these same onions and/or lemons over top of the items you are grilling as well, so the juices will run down over the veggies as they cook. (This works great with meats, too!) Seasoning the veggies before grilling with a coarse salt will draw additional moisture from the vegetables as they grill, which will help to further intensify the wonderful flavors in your veggies. Veggies can also be seasoned with other herbs and spices to taste before grilling.
As a general rule, before you place your veggies on the grill, you will want to brush olive oil, softened butter or other favorite cooking oil onto the vegetables to prevent them from drying out and sticking to the grate. After you wash or soak your veggies, always make sure to dry the vegetables with paper towel or a clean cloth towel before you brush on the oil so that the oil has the best chance to stick to the veggies. Another option to prevent sticking is to spray the grill grating with a non-stick cooking spray.
How do I know when my grilled veggies are done? Keep them on the grill until you see browned grill marks (flipping the veggies to get the grill marks on all sides and to facilitate even cooking throughout), and just until they are tender when you pierce them with the tip of a knife or a fork.
You can find some suggestions and approximate grilling times for grilling various different veggies here.
What are your favorite veggies to grill, and how do you prepare them?