By Lisa Readie Mayer
Step aside, steak. A desire to eat healthy, combined with the growing farm-to-table trend, means vegetables are moving to the center of the plate at more cabin cookouts. Here are nine tips for grilling garden goodies.
1. Grilling the greens adds delicious flavor and texture to salads. Choose sturdy lettuces like romaine, iceberg, radicchio, and endive, and make sure they are completely dry so they won’t wilt in the grill’s heat. Cut the greens into wedges, brush with oil, and grill cut-side down over a hot fire for a few minutes or until grill marks appear. Garnish with choice of toppings and dressing.
2. Jalapeño pepper poppers are a hot appetizer (pun intended!). To make, hollow out the seeds and then stuff with your favorite filling – try goat cheese and chopped mint (the mint cools the heat of the pepper), or cheddar cheese and crumbled cooked bacon. Place stuffed jalapeños in a chili pepper rack or on the grid over indirect, medium heat until slightly soft.
3. For a lighter lasagna, substitute grilled produce for pasta. Slice eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, and peppers lengthwise, brush with oil and grill a few minutes on each side. Alternate layers of grilled veggies with cheese and tomato sauce and bake like a traditional lasagna.
4. To prevent asparagus or any long, slender vegetable from wedging between the grill slats, thread two thin wooden skewers crosswise through four or five asparagus placed side by side, leaving a little space between the spears. This will form a “raft” and make turning easy. Brush with oil and grill two to four minutes per side.
5. Grilling is not limited to the grid! Nestle white and sweet potatoes right into the charcoal embers and roast 40–60 minutes. You won’t be able to eat the charred skin, but inside the spuds will be fluffy with a slightly smoky flavor. This works great with beets, onions and other root vegetables, too!
6. Grill delicate or tiny veggies like tomato halves, green beans or mushrooms on a cedar plank. The smoldering plank infuses the produce with smoke flavor, while acting as a protective platform.
7. Grilled corn is an essential at cabin cookouts. For fresh-steamed flavor, grill corn in their husks. But before doing so, fold husks down and remove the silks, then soak in water. Fold husks back before grilling directly over high heat. For fire-roasted flavor, remove husks and brush corn with butter and any desired seasonings before grilling. Cut leftovers from the cob and use in salsas or salads.
8. When your garden or farmers market bounty overflows, grill up all the extras. After cooling, chop the veggies, place in containers, and freeze. You’ll have fresh-grilled flavor in a flash when cabin fun puts dinner-making on the back burner. One note: Although tomatoes will be watery when defrosted, they’re excellent additions to soups, sauces and salsas.
9. Check out accessories like perforated grids, racks, baskets and roasting spikes that offer new and convenient ways to grill vegetables. I can’t live without my wok-style perforated grilling grid. Its raised sides are the easiest way to corral and turn small veggies.