When lilac blossoms appear on the trees (and show up as bouquets in the bodegas around NY) it is time to begin thinking about grilling. There are many ways to approach grilled vegetables, but as you may know, I like to keep things simple. Easy. Not too complicated. Grilling should be fun and a little primitive. You can't help but get a little messy and I always manage to lose a few pieces into the fire, no matter how careful I am.
Amanda and I would like to share some of our favorite grilled vegetable recipes over the next few weeks. As always, technique is key. Once you have that down inspiration can take over. Prepping the vegetables is really where the work is involved here. I like to slice raw vegetables, like carrots and zucchini, thin- about 3/4", so that they cook through quickly and evenly. Par-cooked vegetables can be cut thicker. Leafy heads of lettuce like escarole and radicchio can just be sliced in half, with the core intact to keep the leaves together.
I don't really marinate vegetables, just brush with olive oil and dust with herbs and spices, but I am not opposed to it. Just remember to dry off anything that is wet before you put it on the grill for best results.
A pan of vegetables all ready for the grill. I use the lemon half to scrub the hot grill clean and discard.
For this meal I pulled out what I had in the fridge, always a hodge-podge. I find potatoes cook best when par-boiled or microwaved till almost tender. The grill will give them a nice golden finish. Most vegetables are grilled raw. Asparagus can be thrown on whole and the cauliflower (which turned out to be DELICIOUS grilled) gets sliced into more or less even thickness without driving myself crazy measuring.
To determine doneness I aim for tenderness and a touch of color. For a long time I only grilled the traditional vegetables like carrots, zucchini, onions and peppers, but I am starting to expand my opinion on what works on the grill and will report here some of my new finds. The cauliflower was a revelation, for example, and I can't believe it took me this long to figure it out.
A PARTIAL LIST of Vegetables to Grill
Raw: carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, cauliflower, mushrooms, scallions, radicchio, escarole, peppers, asparagus
Par-boiled or micro: potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, Brussels sprouts, leeks
Jury is still out on: broccoli, green beans
Have fun grilling and let us know what you think works.
I am in love with my new grill. It's true. I clean it after every use, so it's shiny "newness" stays just that way. It's my new "baby". Right now I'm all about grilling vegetables. I grill anything "grillable". One comment on Deb's mention of green beans - delicious grilled, raw. A week or so ago, I followed a recipe in Andrea Chesman's wonderful new book, The New Vegetarian Grill: 250 Flame-Kissed Recipes for Fresh, Inspired Meals for grilled green beans. Basically, I tossed them in an Asian vinaigrette, and threw them on a vegetable grilling tray. I grilled them until a little brown. Then, I actually tossed them with some arugula and grilled shitakes, and drizzled a little of the vinaigrette on the finished product. I have to say, it was outstanding. Even my non-vegetable-eating husband thought they were delicious! They actually tasted like something from a Chinese restaurant!
I can't wait to elaborate more on some of the grilled recipes I've tried in future posts! But right now, I want to comment on wine. Unless there is a specific sauce or marinade you are using for your grilled veggies, you don't really need to think too much about what wine to drink. If there is a sauce or marinade, then what you choose will definitely require more thought.
During the summer, I barbeque A LOT. I have my regular "go to" wines that I enjoy during barbeque season. For reds, Zinfandel never fails for grilled delights. Also - I never select expensive wines. Grilling demands inexpensive, "fun" wines - not overly complex or serious. For wonderful Zinfandel producers, check out Rosenblum or Seghesio. Ravenswood also carries a line of very inexpensive Zins. I also will look to Australia for some affordable Shiraz, or Grenache. D'Arenberg creates some delicious "everyday" wines that are a sure-fire hit every time.
For whites, I like to sip "summery" wines. Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, and Torrontes are some of my favorites. These make perfect choices for simple grilled veggie dishes. You can't go wrong with any of these! And, having plenty of Rose on hand is not a bad option either. Spanish Roses are entirely affordable, fruit-filled wines. These can even be found for $7-$10. There are so many terrific producers, be sure to ask your local retailer for advice.
Remember, keep it simple. Fun wines will work best with barbeque. Save the serious stuff for more serious dinners and special occasions!