Food & Drink

How to grill vegetables right, no matter the shape

Grilling vegetables need not be complicated. The principles are the same as when grilling meat. The main thing to think about is whether your vegetables will work better with direct heat or indirect heat.
Grilling vegetables need not be complicated. The principles are the same as when grilling meat. The main thing to think about is whether your vegetables will work better with direct heat or indirect heat. Tribune News Service

Look on the bright side: What with global warming sending our precious planet into a hellbound death spiral, and summer’s newly blistering temperatures turning your kitchen into Satan’s sauna, this is the perfect opportunity for you to spend a little more time outside at the grill.

WHY LEARN THIS

Unless you’re a werewolf, you can’t just be grilling meat all the time. I suggest hieing down to your local farmers market, picking up an armload of beautiful, fresh vegetables, and then firing up the grill.

THE STEPS

Remember that the grilling of vegetables is not an impenetrable mystery like the true identity of Jack the Ripper or the whereabouts of D.B. Cooper. All we’re doing is applying heat, just like in the kitchen. The principles are the same. Once you come to terms with that, the main thing to think about – and you’ve got to think about this with meat, too – is whether your vegetables will work better with direct heat or indirect heat.

Grills, particularly charcoal grills, tend to be very, very hot. That’s why they’re perfect for relatively thin items like steaks, because the interior cooks quickly, before the surface gets overly charred. If an item is very thick, on the other hand, when the outside is perfect, the inside will still be raw. For those larger pieces of meat or vegetables, indirect heat in a covered grill works just like your oven.

A couple more general things: First, grill marks. If your vegetables are cut into long, thin, oblong planks (as opposed to rounds), lay them on the grill at a 45-degree angle to the grate. After grill marks develop (gently lift an edge to peek), rotate 90 degrees to create a great-looking cross-hatched pattern. After you flip the vegetables, no need to rotate because that’s the side that will be down.

Second, make sure to oil your grate or your vegetables to keep them from sticking. If you use an oil-based marinade, that’ll probably be enough.

Now, let’s take a look at a few vegetables:

Eggplant. One of my faves for grilling. Peel them or not, then cut into circular cross sections or lengthwise planks.

Summer squash. Zucchini, yellow squash, golden zucchini. Cut half-inch slices on the bias or lengthwise, marinate for up to 20 minutes, then grill two to three minutes per side.

Long, skinny green things. Asparagus. Green beans. Scallions. All of these work well on the grill. Marinate them if you want, or just throw them directly onto the grill, directly over the heat. Also: Make sure skinny green things are at a 90-degree angle to the grate so they don’t slip through.

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