by Alain Bossé photography Jackson Productions Inc
I’m not sure that the world really needs another article on grilling vegetables. After all, this is not a new practice—the Aztecs were grilling corn as far back as the 1500s—and I’m willing to bet that any of you who have a barbecue, a charcoal grill, or a fire pit have grilled vegetables at one time or another. So instead of focusing on what you’re grilling, I’m going to talk about when you’re grilling it. I’m guessing that many of you grill vegetables to enjoy with your steak at dinner time: perhaps you throw a few cobs of corn on the grill; zucchini is another popular choice for popping on the barbecue.
Personally, I love to grill plump juicy tomatoes that are ready to pop in your mouth and tantalize your taste buds; but is dinnertime the only time you’re using your grill? What about breakfast time? There’s nothing better than taking a few fat slices of a bright orange sweet potato, basting with good quality olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper, adding to a hot grill and leaving them until soft and caramelized. Once you reach that perfect stage, you just slide the slices onto your breakfast plate, top with fresh avocado and a perfectly poached egg; and if you’re like me and you enjoy a bit of heat, add a little Sriracha sauce on top.
Try elevating your lunchtime salads by adding roasted grilled vegetables; even lettuce can be grilled, and two salad offerings that I love to throw onto the barbecue are radicchio and romaine. There’s something in that smoky charred flavour that turns a plain, humdrum salad to something really special.
Dessert is the perfect time to grill fruits. Yes, really! But along with dessert offerings, I particularly like stone fruits, such as peaches, plums, and nectarines, grilled as fabulous accompaniments to chicken and pork. Try putting some pineapple drizzled with a bit of olive oil on the barbecue; you will have a dessert that will leave people completely satisfied. A bit of fresh grilled pineapple topped with some French vanilla ice cream and a bit of homemade salted caramel sauce is a joy to behold. And while we’re on the subject of grilled pineapple, let’s talk about burgers: if you thought pineapple was strictly for dessert, then you’re missing out. If you’re barbecuing burgers—especially those made from white meat such as ground chicken, turkey or pork—consider adding a slice of grilled pineapple to the fixings for a gourmet treat.
There are a few tricks to grilling fruits and vegetables for the best results. The first is assessing your vegetables to determining how long they will take to reach the desired stage of doneness. This is especially important if you’re grilling more than one type of veggie: denser vegetables such as potatoes will take longer than something more delicate like asparagus. Always start with the vegetable that will take the longest to cook: begin grilling over direct high heat and then move to a cooler spot on the grill and allow them to finish there. Consider roasting your vegetables in foil packets, use skewers, or try a grilling basket—all of these give you more control.
Also, when it comes to grilling, vegetable size really does matter—you’ll need to cut your vegetables in such a manner that they will cover the grill and not fall through the grates, and you also want your vegetables relatively close in size to ensure that they take approximately the same amount of time to cook. Be generous in the amount of olive oil you use on the veggies or fruit; not only does this give added flavour but the oil will also keep your produce from sticking to the grill. The nice thing about grilling vegetables is that you can do a week’s worth at once rather than having to deal with doing them daily. I find they reheat beautifully, but as a bonus, cold grilled vegetables and grilled fruit are just as delicious as when they’re hot, and are especially nice in the summer when the temperatures soar.
Grilled Radish and Asparagus Salad
2 lbs (1 kg) radishes, trimmed
1 lb (500 g) asparagus, trimmed
1 medium red onion, chunked
¼ cup (50 mL) olive oil
1 tsp (5 mL) sea salt
½ tsp (2 mL) fresh ground black pepper
½ cup (125 mL) Maple Grapefruit Vinaigrette
½ cup (125 mL) pumpkin seeds
½ cup (125 mL) crumbled feta cheese
Heat grill to medium high. Combine radishes, asparagus and onions in a bowl, add olive oil, salt and pepper and toss well to combine. Add vegetables to a grill pan or mesh and place on the barbecue. Grill until a rich brown colour appears, tossing the vegetables from time to time. Assemble dressing while vegetables are grilling. Place grilled vegetables back into the bowl, drizzle with the dressing and top with pumpkin seeds and feta.
Grapefruit and Maple Vinaigrette
Makes 3 cups
2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ cups (375 mL) vegetable oil
½ cup (125 mL) maple syrup
1 cup (250 mL) fresh grapefruit juice
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Whisk all ingredients together until emulsified.
Grilled Summertime Medley
6 medium potatoes, washed and quartered
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
1/4 cup (50 mL) cold butter
Salt and pepper
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into lengths
12 grape or cherry tomatoes
1 medium zucchini, cut in 1 inch chunks
¼ cup (50 mL) olive oil
½ cup (50 mL) fresh basil, chopped
Place potatoes and onions on a large piece of foil. and toss with olive oil. Dice chilled butter and scatter over potatoes. Top with onions, salt and pepper. Seal foil forming a flat envelope. Place on upper rack and cook for 30 minutes. Open foil and pierce potatoes, if hard re-seal and continue to cook, if fork tender reseal and set aside.
Toss pineapple, tomatoes and zucchini in the olive oil and grill over medium high heat, turning until heated through and the natural sugars have caramelized. Remove from heat, cut pineapple into bite size pieces and toss pineapple, tomatoes, zucchini and basil with potatoes. Add more salt and pepper to suit your preference.