A few years ago, I entered a culinary school program, but decided to "take a break" after the first unit and never went back. Which I guess makes me a cooking school drop-out (no graduation day for you, cooking school drop-out, you mixed up mixing and flunked fondue... gives whole new meaning to the title 'Grease'). I always wanted to learn the "right" way to do things, but found when I was there that I missed cooking in the bootleg, improvised, way I've always cooked.
Which is why I love grilling- you can pretty much walk the produce and meat aisles of the supermarket and pick things with your eyes closed (I don't recommend this on Sunday evenings) and, chances are, they will make a delicious meal thrown together on the grill. In the summer, I love to make a "mixed grill" plate of assorted veggies- it's great as a side to any meat, or you can serve the veggies over couscous for a delicious vegetarian meal with a Mediterranean vibe. And it's quick, easy, and saves you from having to turn on the oven or stove on a hot summer day.
There are a few tricks to grilling specific veggies (some lend themselves better than others),but follow these (very loose, of course) rules-of-thumb, as you'll be grilling like a pro.
Cut it down: Slice whatever veggie you are working with into workable pieces- you want to aim for a size that is small enough to cook quickly, but big enough to keep from falling apart while cooking. Slice tomatoes in half, cut corn into 2-inch pieces, slice eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash into 1/4-inch thick slices or rounds, cut bell peppers into thick strips and trim the stems off of mushrooms. Asparagus and scallions can go on whole.
Season: Sprinkle veggies with olive oil, salt and pepper to prep them for the grill. You can also marinate them in a teriyaki sauce, if you want (or you can add a sauce after they are cooked).
Pre-cook: if you want to grill carrots, yams or potatoes, you are better off pre-boiling them until tender (about 5 minutes for carrots, or 10 for potatoes), or else you will be waiting a loooong time for dinner. This can be accomplished inside on the stove, or by putting a pot of water over the grill, clam-bake style.
Grill: Place the veggies directly on the grill, over medium heat. Cook, flipping once, until tender and those gorgeous grill marks appear, roughly 4-10 minutes, depending on the veg.
Flavor: It may be gilding the lily, but feel free to dress your veggies with a tasty vinaigrette or a dash of balsamic vinegar after grilling.
Vegetables and a grill- they go together like rama lama lama ka-dinga de dinga dong.
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