Images of steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken float through most people’s minds when they think of grilling, but the grill is an exciting way to cook vegetables too. It doesn’t have to be complicated and, in the end, you’ll have a colorful, flavorful feast to dig into!
Adding more veggies to meals is on the wish list of most parents these days. With grilling season in full swing, it can be even easier now that you have that hot grill already fired up waiting for that chicken, steak, burgers or kebabs to cook. By adding veggies to your grill menu, with good timing, you can cook everything in sequence so that the whole meal is completed together. It will save you time and energy, but most importantly the knowledge that grilling will coax out some amazing flavors.
First, you will want to start off with a clean grill. Anything that is baked on to the grate where you lay down your food will give your veggies an unpleasant flavor. It’s definitely not the type of “smoky flavor” you will want to infuse into your veggies.
Second, you will need some different kinds of tools depending on what veggies you plan on grilling. Skewers for kebabs can be metal or wood, but the wooden ones need to be soaked thoroughly so they don’t catch fire. Investing in a grilling basket or a cast iron frying pan will help with smaller veggies, like our Juno® Bites Red Grape Tomatoes and Aurora Bites Mini Sweet Peppers, so they don’t fall through the grate. A good set of tongs that are long enough to allow you to turn your veggies without getting burnt will certainly come in handy too.
The most tragic thing that can happen when you are grilling vegetables is that they get stuck to the grill. You will want to lightly coat your veggies in oil before grilling. Make sure you don’t use too much because dripping oil can cause flares and burnt flavor. Tossing them in oil also has another benefit, it will help seasonings stick. You can keep seasoning simple to just salt and pepper, or you can be adventurous and use a variety of fresh or dried herbs to enhance the flavors of your grilled veggies. After grilling, a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime, a touch of balsamic vinegar or some flavor enhancing finishing oils like toasted sesame or chili oil can really make those veggies spectacular.
Now that you’re ready to fire up the grill and make your veggie feast, there are some tips you should know for grilling specific vegetables.
When grilling larger tomatoes, like our Red Beefsteak or our award-winning Tomatoes On-The-Vine, coring and halving them will add a smoke char to that fresh tomato. The best way to halve a tomato for grilling is to cut it along the equator and not pole to pole. This allows moisture to escape, and the tomato will stay intact. Sprinkling a little bit of salt on the tomato before putting it on the grill will help draw liquid from it – the drier the tomato, the more caramelization occurs. That’s when you get that lovely, sweet flavor.
If you have tomatoes that are still on the vine, like our Tomatoes On-The-Vine, Luna® Sweets Cocktail Tomatoes or our incredible RedRoyals® Sweet Cherry Tomatoes On-The-Vine, it is perfectly fine to brush some oil on them and put them directly on the grill without removing them from the vine. This will help prevent the tomatoes from rolling around or falling through the grate. Leave them on the grill until their skins are charred and blistered, this way you get a delightful smokey flavor.
For smaller tomatoes, like our Juno® Bites Red Grape Tomatoes, Cloud 9® Bite-Sized Fruity Tomatoes, or Sangria® Medley Tomatoes, you will want to use skewers, a cast iron pan, or a grill basket to prevent the tomatoes from rolling or falling through the grate.
To grill a whole Sweet Bell Pepper or Craft House Collection® Aurora Long Sweet Pepper, start by brushing the outside with olive oil. Cook each side for 3 to 4 minutes, looking for the skin to char and blister. While you can grill these peppers whole, you can also cut them into quarters. If you’re cutting them, always grill the skin side first.
Peppers, like our Aurora Bites Mini Sweet Peppers, are also great on skewers or grilled in a basket with other veggies. Our mini peppers don’t need to be cut up if you don’t want the fuss. You can put them directly onto a skewer or in the basket. If you’re using larger peppers, when you are cutting them up, make sure they are all relatively the same size so that they cook evenly.
One of our most exciting peppers to grill is our Craft House Collection® Shishito Pepper. It is a savory bite-sized pepper with an elusive bite that ignites the senses. You can even purchase it with its own grill pan! Shishito peppers are traditionally served blistered in oil and a sprinkle of salt, making it the perfect grilling pepper.
Our Craft House Collection® Baby Eggplants can be great on the grill, whether as part of a veggie skewer or even a substitute for a burger. To use it as a burger patty, slice the eggplant into a quarter or half inch thick disks and soak the slices in saltwater before grilling. This ensures they end up crispy brown on the outside, creamy sweet on the inside and full of flavor every time.
You can also opt to slice the eggplant lengthwise into quarter or half inch thick slices. Sprinkle them generously with salt to help draw the moisture out and that will do two things: first, it will keep the eggplant from falling apart on the grill and second, it will tenderize it, concentrating the flavor. You will also want to press the eggplant slices. While this is slightly time consuming, the more water you extract from the eggplant, the better it will hold its shape. Simply turn a baking sheet upside down, place some paper towels on it, lay out your eggplant, put another layer of paper towel over top, another baking sheet and then place something heavy on top to form a press. We recommend at least 30 minutes, but 2 hours would be best.
Now that you have all the tips and tricks to grilling up some amazing veggies, it’s time to fire up that grill! There are so many different colors and flavor combinations for you to explore this summer, we bet you could make a different veggie feast every day and not have the same one twice.
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