When your garden delivers loads of vegetables, toss them on the grill. Something happens to vegetables once they are kissed with the heat of a grill. The natural flavors of most vegetables exude and caramelize. Asparagus and eggplant flavor becomes more intense. Mushrooms switch to their meatier side. Yellow, red or white onions become sweeter. Just about any vegetable works on the grill, even romaine lettuce. Grilled Ceasar Salad, anyone?
Do vegetables up right, and they are pretty and look inviting. Grilled vegetables are also a different way to add some veggies to your grilled meal.
Here are 5 tips for grilling summer’s best bounty.
1. Choose vegetables suited for the grill. Sturdy vegetables like asparagus, bell peppers, corn on the cob, eggplant, mushrooms (good-size — about 2-inches in diameter — white mushrooms or portobellas) yellow squash and zucchini do particularly well. You can also grill wedges of cabbage and romaine lettuce, but do them quickly.
2. Clean by rinsing under cool water. Pat dry. If using potatoes, scrub them.
3. Prepare by cutting, slicing or leaving whole. Make sure they aren’t so small that they’ll slip through the grill grates. Asparagus, mini bell peppers and mushrooms can be left whole. Cut potatoes into wedges or planks; slice other vegetables according to our guide on this page.
4. Season or marinate for an hour or two. Any longer, and you risk the veggies becoming mushy. You can also brush them with oil and season as desired. The exceptions are mushrooms and eggplant; both will soak up the oil too quickly and become soggy. Season liberally with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper — a lot will fall off.
5. Grill most directly on grill over medium direct heat. You can also skewer vegetables, which makes it easier to turn them while grilling. This also means you can grill a variety of them at the same time.
Favorite grill veggies
Here are some of our favorites for the grill. Unless noted, or if you’re using a marinade or favorite seasoning, brush vegetables with oil and season well with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can do this just before grilling or an hour or two in advance.
Choose: Thick spears with closed tips.
Prepare: Trim off or peel woody ends. Double-skewer six spears on wooden skewers if you want to make it easier to turn on the grill.
Grill: About 5 minutes over medium heat, turning frequently to prevent too much charring.
• BELL PEPPERS
Choose: Whole bell peppers or mini bell peppers (our favorite for grilling).
Prepare: Cut whole peppers into pieces or skewer mini bell peppers.
Grill: Over medium heat, about 8 minutes, turning frequently to prevent too much charring.
Choose: Corn on the cob with silk that is damp.
Prepare: Leave husks on or off. Soak in water for several hours if desired. If desired, peel back but don’t completely remove husks. Use a piece of husk to tie husks together to use as a handle. Brush with melted butter and season as desired.
Grill: Place the corn on the grill with the tied-back husk portion sticking out of the grill. Positioning the corn this way makes the cobs easier to turn and the husks won’t burn. Use direct heat for about 15-20 minutes, turning often.
Choose: Globe eggplants
Prepare: Slice with a serrated knife into 1/3-inch-thick rounds. Brush with oil and season just before grilling.
Grill: Over direct heat, about 8 minutes, turning once.
Choose: Portobella caps or cremini or white mushrooms about 2-inches in diameter.
Prepare: Scrape out gills of portobellas, cut large cremini or white mushrooms in half and thread on skewers if desired. Brush with oil and season as desired just before grilling. Skewer smaller mushrooms if desired.
Grill: Over direct heat, 6-8 minutes depending on size. If stuffing portobella caps, grill top-side-down first. Then turn so the gill side is facing up.
Choose: Whole red, white or sweet or yellow onions. Bulb onions are also terrific on the grill.
Prepare: Peel and slice into 1/2-inch-thick slices (they’ll shrink some when cooking.) Or, cut onions into quarters, leaving the root intact. Leave bulb onions whole.
Grill: About 4 minutes each side.
Choose: Smaller is better. Choose blemish-free squash, about 6-inches in length.
Prepare: Cut squash in half lengthwise or into at least 1/3-inch pieces. Lengthy pieces are easier to grill and make a nice presentation.
Grill: Flesh-side-down first, about 3 minutes, or until you get nice grill marks. Turn and grill another 2 minutes.
Sources: The Barbecue Bible, by Steven Raichlin Weber’s Time to Grill, Detroit Free Press Test Kitchen.