Is there anything better than lighting up the grill, tossing on some nice fresh food, and spending time with friends and family?
I’m not sure there is. It’s absolutely one of my favorite ways to spend a lazy afternoon in the summer.
If you grill a lot though, you might find it fun to change it up from standard grill items like burgers and hot dogs.
I have a big list of vegetables that I love to grill. Grilling them is actually fairly straightforward and the light, smoky flavor the grill imparts is pretty hard to beat.
So, I picked out six of my favorite vegetables that are a bit on the tricky side to grill.
Artichokes are very in-season right now. They are big and fresh and cheap in most stores, which is great news. The bad news: They can be a bit of a pain to clean.
Once you get the hang of it though, it’s not too bad. Just use a sharp knife to chop the top off of the artichoke. Then slice it in half down the center vertically and use a spoon or paring knife to dig out the fibrous center part.
If you aren’t going to steam these immediately, keep them in a bowl of cold water with a lemon to keep them from browning.
And yes, you read that right. The trick to grilling artichokes is to steam them first. If you just grill them, they’ll burn way before they are cooked through.
So I put my artichoke halves in a steam basket with water and some lemon juice for about 15 minutes until they are nice and tender.
Now you can let these cool and toss them on the grill! I just brush mine with olive oil and grill over them over high heat for about six minutes on the cut side only.
I always serve my artichokes with lemon wedges and mayonnaise mixed with hot sauce!
Eggplant is another tricky vegetable to grill. If you just toss it on the grill as-is, it will be really tough and bitter tasting. The trick is to salt the eggplant 30 minutes before you want to cook it.
Peel the eggplant and cut it into 1/4 inch slices. Then lay the eggplant slices around a colander and sprinkle them with a liberal amount of kosher salt. Get a bowl that fits in the colander and fill it with water to add some weight. Set the bowl on the eggplant slices and let it slowly press in the sink for 30 minutes.
You’ll be amazed at how much liquid gets press out.
Once your slices are salted, rinse them with cold water and dry them well. Then I just drizzle my slices with olive oil, a pinch of salt, and fresh rosemary! Grill these guys on high heat for four minutes per side.
3. Sweet Potatoes
Now our vegetables are getting easier. All you need to do for sweet potatoes is peel them and slice them into 1/4 inch coins.
I like to drizzle mine with olive oil and season them with chipotle pepper flakes. Sweet potato and chipotle go really well together.
The sweet potatoes will need a bit longer than the eggplant. I grill mine for five minutes per side over high heat.
Whole portabella mushrooms are one of my favorite grilled treats. They are so easy and super-flavorful. Sometimes I use these instead of a hamburger for a nice and simple natural veggie burger.
All you need to do is wash and dry them well and then drizzle them with oil and season them really well with salt and pepper.
Then toss them on!
Mushrooms are really sturdy and very hard to burn, but five minutes per side over high heat is a good starting point for them.
5 & 6. Lettuce and Endives
And now for some more delicate items. Grilling greens like endives and lettuce give them a subtle char flavor, but you have to be careful, as they’ll go from perfect to wilted and gross in about 30 seconds!
Again, olive oil, salt, and pepper is all you need here. Nothing fancy.
The key to grilling greens is to make sure your grill is as hot as possible. Blazing hot! Cut the endive or Romaine lettuce in half and season it well. Then place them, cut side down, on the grill for 90 seconds. That’s it.
I like to let the lettuce cool a bit and then use it in a salad. It adds a nice touch to a normal salad. Try it with a Caesar salad, for example.
If you didn’t catch it, the real trick with all of these is to make sure your grill is pre-heated nicely and hot. If you have a cold grill, the veggies will cook slowly and turn to mush – not what you want!
You want them to sear quickly, crisp a bit, and still maintain their structure.
These have the perfect amount of char in my opinion.
Don’t fear the veggie when you have the grill going. All of these are fantastic side dishes and will wow your guests!Nick would like you to get your grill on and also check out his blog, Macheesmo, and follow him on his Tablespoon Profile.