Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Grilled Vegetables & Grilled Peaches

squash, onion, peaches, and meat on grill
Fill Up the Grill

Recipe by Bruce

It’s almost Labor Day. I know, I know, end of summer is coming too soon, just like last year. But we have one more holiday, and several more grill-friendly weekends before we need to winterize the BBQ. Late summer produce is cheap and plentiful…so let’s get grillin’…veggies! All types of summer squash, eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, and onions are classics. Peaches make a yummy dessert at barbecues, with or without vanilla ice cream. Grilled corn is delicious, but remember that it’s typically genetically engineered (a GMO) when grown commercially. GMOs have not been well tested for safety. Buy corn from your local farmer or organic market if you don’t grow it in your backyard.

Cutting Board with Bell Peppers, Peaches, Squash
Pepper Halves Grill Better than Quarters
Here are hubby Bruce’s basic guidelines for grilling veggies. Garden-fresh veggies are tasty enough on their own to prepare simply with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. If you have more time, you can marinate the veggies (not the corn or peaches!) in one part of balsamic vinegar to one part of olive oil, plus garlic and onion powder, before grilling (see Kelly’s Marinated Grilled Portobello Mushrooms for recipe). Sprinkle with rosemary or other green herb after they’re cooked, if desired.

Simply grilled veggies make useful leftovers, so fill up your grill. Stuff them into sandwiches or cut them up to top salads. Serve them lightly microwaved with leftover BBQed meats, or dice them into pasta or rice salads. Slice them and serve them as appetizers with toothpicks and salad dressing for dipping. Or dream up some wilder ideas; their smoky goodness will hold up under most any treatment. Enjoy your summer, it ain’t over yet!

Plates of grilled veggies and fruit
Zucchini, Padrones, Hungarians & Peaches
Grilled Veggies & Peaches

Mixed summer squash
Eggplant, Italian or Japanese
Maui, Vidalia or other sweet onion
Hungarian wax and/or bell peppers
Padron peppers
Wooden or metal skewers
Olive oil
Wood chips (if using gas grill)

I. Cut up Veggies:

Soak the wooden skewers (if using for onions, padrons, and/or peaches) for 20 or more minutes so they won’t burn. Meanwhile, prepare veggies.

Squash: Slice about ½ inch thick lengthwise.

Eggplant: Slice Italian (chubby) eggplant about ½ inch thick crosswise. Slice Japanese (long thin) eggplant ½ inch thick lengthwise.

Onions: Slice across the grain (like for onion rings) about ½ inch thick. Carefully thread skewers into onions to hold rings together. Gently push the skewer while twisting it back and forth. Metal skewers are easier to use than wooden for onions.

Peppers: Cut bell peppers in half. Leave flat or small peppers whole. You could choose to thread small peppers onto wooden skewers to flip them more easily on the grill.

Peaches: Slice peaches in half and remove pit. If large, make 1/2 inch slices. You can choose to skewer these together to handle more easily as they’ll become soft on the grill, especially if peaches are small. You could also cook them in a grill basket.

Corn: Pull back corn husks and remove silk. We like to keep the husks on because it looks cool and gives guests a “handle” to pick the corn up. Since we also like the corn to brown and caramelize on the grill, we tie back the husks with cotton string.

If you’re grilling with husks, SOAK the corn and string in water for 20 minutes before starting to grill. Otherwise they’ll catch fire surprisingly fast for something that looks green. Of course, no one is going to complain if you choose to discard the husks instead.

Plate of grilled corn
Soak Corn to Prevent Burnt Husks
II. Oil and Season Veggies

Squash, Eggplant, and Onion: Pour about ¼ cup olive oil into small bowl and brush oil over both sides of each veggie slice. An inexpensive silicone brush makes brush cleanup a breeze. Salt and pepper both sides and pile on a platter. Refill bowl with a little more oil as needed.

Peppers: Brush with olive oil on all sides, or (if not on skewers) put them into a bowl with some oil and toss with hands until coated. Salt and pepper if desired, and add to platter with other sliced veggies.

Peaches: Brush with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. The salt, according to culinary wizard India Joze, brings out the sweetness of the peach. And a little pepper adds spice.

Corn: Remove from soaking bath if using husks, and tie back husks with (soaked) cotton string so they won’t stick into flames. Brush lightly with olive oil and salt and pepper lightly if desired. Bruce sometimes spreads the corn with melted butter instead.

Plate of assorted grilled squashes and red onion
Grill Any Summer Squash or Onion
III. Grill Veggies

Preheat grill. Use either charcoal or gas. You may need to finesse the techniques below to accommodate your grill’s idiosyncrasies.

On charcoal grills, it’s recommended to let coals burn down a bit so they’re not super-hot. Use this time to grill fish or a small steak! If your grill is large (with more air space.) you might be able to cook the veggies when coals are hotter.

On gas grills, cooking veggies over indirect heat is sometimes recommended. We’ve had better luck grilling them directly over the burners. It depends on how “cool” your grill is. Do use wood chips to give your veggies a smoky kick.

Put veggies on hot grill. Turn periodically to cook all sides (corn and whole peppers), or flip to opposite side when partly done (sliced veggies, peppers, and peaches). Inexpensive non-locking grill turner - tongs are the best tool for this. For the best-looking grill marks, avoid cooking more than twice on each side.

Plate of grilled zucchini
Another Grilling Night: Lotta Zucchini
Estimated cooking times:

Squash and Eggplant: Grill on medium for 8 – 20 minutes, depending on how soft you like them and how you plan to use leftovers. Firmer is better for salads, but softer can be good in sandwiches. Flip once or twice (for best grill marks) on each side to grill both sides and assess doneness.

Onions: Grill about 10 – 20 minutes on medium, depending upon how soft you like them and how you’ll use them. Skewers will keep them from falling into the grill even if they’re soft. Flip periodically to grill both sides evenly and assess doneness.

Peppers: If not using skewers, arrange small peppers crosswise on the grill so they won’t fall through; they will shrink and get soft while cooking. Grill peppers on medium for 8 - 15 minutes, depending upon size and desired doneness. Halved bell peppers will take 8 - 12 minutes, and flat peppers like Hungarian wax will require closer to 10 - 15. Small peppers like Padrons take about 10 minutes, but can be cooked longer for more charring.

Turn peppers frequently during the cooking process to assess doneness and prevent burning. Some charring is desirable, but  don’t overdo it.

Peaches: Grill on medium heat 6 – 8 minutes. Flip once or twice to cook evenly and assess doneness.

Corn: Grill for about 12 minutes on medium heat. Turn in small increments till kernels are roasted on all sides. If husks start to burn, arrange corn so most of husks hang off the grill.

Have fun exploring how your grill and your garden can interface, deliciously!

Grilled Yellow Squash and Red Peppers
Grilling the Rainbow

Grilled Pork, Mixed Squash, and Red Onion
Combine Grilled Veggies with Grilled Meats

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