Heat up the flavor of veggies on the grill
During these waning days of summer, a good way to use the vegetable haul from your garden or farmers’ market is by firing up the grill.
Skewers laden with seasonal produce, lightly charred green beans, a colorful roasted vegetable platter with a creamy feta dip (and for dessert, honey-slicked and toasted peaches) — all have a welcome place on the August table.
You don’t need a fancy grill to cook delicious vegetable dishes outside — we have a small, inexpensive charcoal grill from Lowe’s that does the trick — and the recipes don’t have to be complicated. Keep preparations simple to let the flavors of the current crop of summer produce really stand out.
A garlicky marinade with soy sauce and maple syrup elevates vegetables that have been threaded onto wood or metal skewers. (A simple olive oil and salt rub works fine as well.) Choose your preferred type of protein (tofu, chicken, meat or fish) to alternate with peppers, red onion and cherry tomatoes. Grill the skewers until the vegetables release their juices and take on a lovely smoky flavor. Serve the skewers with lemony quinoa, brown rice or pearl couscous for a complete meal or omit the protein and serve skewers alongside grilled meats.
Charred corn and avocado toasts make for a delicious starter to a barbecue or they can be a light, stand-alone meal served with a hearty green salad. Toast thick slices from your favorite sourdough loaf and top them with corn that has been cooked in its husks until slightly crisp. A lime and sesame dressing pairs perfectly with creamy slices of avocado that are gently tossed with the shelled corn.
Another memorable starter or complement to a summer meal of slow-roasted tomato soup is a beautifully arranged, grilled vegetable platter. You may use whatever vegetables you have on hand — zucchini and summer squash are sure bets, along with tomatoes, asparagus and onions. The real show-stopper is a bowl of smooth, salty feta dip placed in the center of the plate for dipping the vegetables.
If you find yourself with a lot of green beans, a wonderful way to cook them is by soaking them in a gingery sauce and then placing them directly on the grill to cook briefly until tender. Make a warm, lemon-infused bowl of farro — a grain similar to barley, so if you can’t find farro, barley would make a fine substitute — and top with the green beans for a vegetarian main dish. Or you could serve the farro and green beans with grilled fish.
Other options for grilling vegetables include baking sweet potatoes or potatoes in their skins directly on the grill, or if using a charcoal grill, you can tuck them into the leftover coals. Wait until the charcoal is completely covered with ash and no black spots remain.
Shake the grill to knock excess ash off coal, then rake them around and pile them up around the potatoes. Cook in the coals until fork-tender.
Grilled cauliflower, portabello mushrooms or eggplant “steaks” brushed with olive oil and cooked until charred and soft are a popular preparation. This is more of a time commitment — the steaks are cooked on medium-low, indirect heat (for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side of grill; for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off) for about 45 minutes — but you’ll be rewarded with meltingly soft and luscious vegetables. Lemon wedges to squeeze over are a must.