Giving fresh vegetables, stone fruit, and even lettuce a turn on the grill will intensify their flavor, with delicious results.
While most people associate outdoor grilling with burgers, hot dogs and steaks, the grill imparts big flavors to fruits and veggies, too. A wide array of produce paired with spice rubs, marinades and sauces galore will keep your patio table overflowing with delicious additions to your grilling repertoire.
Seasonal summer vegetables just happen to be perfect for grilling: zucchini, eggplant and bell peppers are naturally tender and become even sweeter on the grill. Slice these vegetables about 1 ⁄4-inch thick and toss them in an easy marinade for 30 minutes (or better yet, overnight) before grilling for a few minutes per side.
A simple combination of wine vinegar, olive oil, chopped garlic and herbs, and salt and pepper are all you need for a tasty marinade. This easy mix will turn grilled vegetables into Italian antipasti to serve with bread, olives and cheese. Or change the blend to vegetable oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chopped garlic and ginger for Asian-flavored vegetables that are delicious with rice. Store-bought dressings with a vinegar base make wonderful marinades as well.
Summertime peaches, apricots, nectarines and figs are delicious grilled. Cut fruit in half and remove any pits, then coat lightly with oil. For a sweet-savory side dish to grilled pork, chicken or lamb, sprinkle on a little salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar, then grill for a few minutes per side. And for dessert, dust with brown sugar, then place the halves on a clean part of the grill for a few minutes per side before serving with ice cream or pound cake (or both).
Use moderate heat, not high.
If it’s a charcoal grill, move the charcoal to one side and grill your fruits and veggies on the other side, over indirect heat.
Oil your grill thoroughly.
Fruits and vegetables are high in natural sugars, which means they can easily burn and stick to the grill. Before you begin cooking, clean the grill well, preheat it, and then use several layers of paper towel dipped in vegetable oil to grease it.
Cut vegetables into the largest possible pieces.
This will prevent them from falling through the grill grate and avoid extra time spent flipping more pieces. For example, cut zucchini in slices along the length of the vegetable, rather than slicing into small rounds.
Give corn on the cob a head start.
Blanch it in boiling water for a few minutes, then grill for 5 to 10 minutes to finish cooking and add smoky flavor.
Total time: 25 minutes
2 teaspoons water
1 ⁄8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 cup vanilla ice cream
1 ⁄4 cup cinnamon-flavored granola (optional)
1. Heat the grill to high.
2. Slice the pluots in half lengthwise, then twist to open and remove the pit. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl whisk together the water, cinnamon and marmalade until well blended, then brush the mixture onto each pluot half. Place the pluots, flesh side down, on the hot grill and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, brushing occasionally with more marmalade. Turn the pluots skin side down, brush the flesh with marmalade and grill 2 more minutes until tender and caramelized. Remove from the heat, place the grilled pluots on a dessert plate, top with ice cream and sprinkle with granola.
Grilled Fruit Kebabs
Total time: 20-30 minutes
1⁄2 cup ginger ale
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 ⁄4 cup brown sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 pound fresh ripe peaches and/or plums, pitted and cut into quarters
1 small pineapple (2–3 pounds), peeled, cored, and cut into 2-inch cubes
6 metal or bamboo skewers (soak bamboo skewers in water before using)
1. Prepare and heat the grill.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the ginger ale, honey, orange juice, oil, brown sugar, allspice, thyme leaves, salt and cayenne pepper, if using.
3. Thread the fruit onto the skewers and place them on a rimmed sheet pan. Brush the fruit with some of the marinade. When the grill is hot, put the skewers on and grill on each side for 3 to 4 minutes, glazing the fruit with more marinade every couple of minutes.
Grilled Marinated Zucchini
Total time: 50 minutes; 20 minutes active
1 pound zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
Zest from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 ⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1. Remove the ends from the zucchini and slice them lengthwise into halves or thirds.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and juice, vinegar and spices. Place the zucchini in a large dish or on a rimmed sheet pan and pour the marinade over the zucchini. Let sit for 30 minutes or more, stirring occasionally.
3. Heat grill to medium-high heat. Grill the zucchini slices for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, basting with any remaining marinade when flipping. Serve warm.
Tip: Toss the zucchini with chunks of fresh tomato, feta cheese and cooked couscous for a light Mediterranean salad.
Grilled Romaine Salad
Total time: 25 minutes
1⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ear corn
2 slices day-old bread
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large head romaine lettuce
1⁄4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1⁄2 avocado, chopped
1. Make the dressing by whisking together the cheese and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add the olive oil, balsamic and black pepper and whisk again until incorporated. Set aside.
2. Heat an outdoor grill or stove top grill pan to medium-low, about 350˚F.
3. Place the corn on the grill and grill for about 4 to 5 minutes per side until the kernels start to char. Remove from grill once the whole ear is slightly charred, cut the kernels off the cob and set aside.
4. While the corn grills, drizzle the bread with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and place on the grill for about 1 to 2 minutes per side until just slightly toasted and grill marks appear. Remove from the grill and cut into cubes.
5. Cut the head of romaine in half lengthwise, keeping the core intact. Wash each half thoroughly, gently shake off any excess water and dry well.
6. Drizzle both halves of romaine (cut side) with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Place the lettuce halves on the grill, cut side down and grill for 1 to 2 minutes per side until the outer leaves just start to wilt and the core has some nice grill marks.
7. Plate the grilled romaine on a serving platter, top with the grilled corn kernels, sliced red onion, chopped avocado and grilled croutons.
8. Drizzle the dressing on top and serve warm.