by: Betsy Peirce, Produce Manager
It may not officially be summer, but as I type this it is a good 85 degrees outside – in April. It sure feels like summer and for many that brings to mind grilling. Meat is synonymous with grilling. When the aroma of charcoal embers wafts through the air my mouth starts watering for a good burger. With this article I am going to help you broaden your grilling horizons. No more will you automatically assume you are smelling meat on the grill! There’s a whole wide world of fruit and vegetable options to choose from and grilling is the perfect way to bring out the smoky sweetness of almost anything.
The first thing you need to invest in when you are considering becoming a Grill Meister of vegetables is a grill basket. There are lots of kinds- all with holes in them which allow the flames to leap through and sear your food to perfection. There are flat ones, wok shaped ones and skillet-like grilling pans. They are relatively inexpensive ($4.99-$29.99 at Ace Kitchen store) and take the headache out of trying to prevent your potatoes from falling through into the flames. Also helpful are wooden skewers – sharpened sticks you can soak in water and then skewer veggies onto to create shish kabobs. The advantage of a grill basket over skewers is that you can basically stir fry your veggies on the grill and not be concerned about burning them the way you do when turning the kabob.
My very favorite thing to grill in my wok-style basket is potatoes. I par cook them on the stove top until they are still a bit crunchy- don’t cook them until they are done or they will fall apart. I cut them into big chunks and have a marinade of equal parts balsamic vinegar and tamari, ¼ c olive oil, a tablespoon of prepared mustard and crushed garlic. I have the marinade ready to dump my potatoes into when they are done cooking and while they are still hot. This allows them to absorb the marinade quickly. I put them in the grill basket on the grill over hot coals and toss them every minute or so until they are cooked all the way through.
Another great combo is zucchini, onions, eggplant and red peppers in the grill basket. All that’s needed is some salt and pepper and olive oil tossed gently. The process is the same, times will vary according to grill temps. You can toss in some cherry tomatoes and mushrooms in the last few minutes of cooking.
Asparagus tastes great grilled and works well in small pieces in a wok or long spears on the flat grill basket. Coat with olive oil and salt and pepper and grill over hot coals to your doneness specifications.
Have you ever tried grilling fruit? It’s quite delicious. Fruit is basically made up of water and sugar. By grilling it you can concentrate the flavors by reducing the water and caramelizing the natural sugars. Hard fruits like apples, pears, and pineapples are the easiest to prepare since they hold their shape and texture while cooking. Pineapple is a natural favorite as its size and shape lend well to a grill. Softer fruits like peaches, nectarines, plums and mangos will become soft and mushy if overcooked. You will need to be more attentive to these kinds of fruit. Either way, pick a fresh firm fruit that is just short of being perfectly ripe. You will want a fruit that is solid enough to hold together and maintain its texture on the grill. Soaking the fruit in water ahead of time prevents burning. Grilled fruit makes a perfect summer dessert option- just serve on its own or over ice cream.
This grilled fruit recipe can be transformed into any dessert you wish. You can add a scoop of ice cream and crumbled cookies to make a sundae, or slice and place on top of baked sugar cookie dough to make a dessert pizza.
Grilled Honey Basted Nectarines
Yield: Serves 4
• 2 medium nectarines, halved and pitted
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 1 tablespoon margarine or butter, melted
• 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat grill. Brush nectarines with butter or margarine. Place nectarine halves on grill and cook uncovered for 10-12 minutes. Brush with honey during cooking process. Remove from grill and allow to cool. Serve sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg (or a scoop of ice cream).