Grilled vegetables provide a way to use up the bounty of the summer season in an appealing and delectable way. Most vegetables benefit from the smoky experience, becoming soft as their natural sugars begin to caramelize. A marinade enhances the flavor and prevents the veggies from sticking to the grill. Serve them as an accompaniment to ribs, burgers and dogs, or make them a meal by themselves.
Variety makes for a colorful, flavorful grilled vegetable platter. Eggplant, colored bell peppers, summer squash, red onions, asparagus and scallions are common summer fare. Other slice-able vegetables, including potatoes, sweet potatoes and even rutabaga do well on the grill too. For vegetables that are whole, cut them into 1/4-inch wide strips or, for large potatoes and eggplant, rounds.
You may also prepare the vegetables kabob-style. Cut squash, peppers and onions into cubes and thread onto a soaked bamboo or metal skewer. Add cherry tomatoes for a juicy, smoky treat. Do choose vegetables that cook at about the same rate or you risk burning those that need less time.
Add oil before your grill veggies or they’ll dry out when they hit the grill. Their innards will stick to the cooking surface. Brush each slice of vegetable with a light layer of cooking oil, such as olive or corn. Alternatively, marinate the vegetables in a seasoned mixture that includes 1 part vinegar or citrus juice, 2 parts olive oil, and dried herbs, such as thyme, oregano and tarragon. You can put this marinade in a ziptop bag with salt and pepper to taste, and add the veggie slices. For root vegetables, leave them in the marinade for 30 minutes to 2 hours; for less dense vegetables, such as peppers and summer squash, 30 minutes is fine.
Sear long-cooking vegetables, such as root vegetables or thick slabs of eggplant, over a moderately hot section of the grill. Leave them on the high heat for just a minute or two, switching their positions to create grill cross marks. Once slightly colored on the outside, move them to an upper or outer rack that provides a much more moderate heat, until they soften thoroughly. Leave them for too long in a hot area, and you’ll have veggies that char on the outside but are hard and crunchy inside.
Quicker cooking vegetables, such as summer squash and bell peppers, may need just a few seconds on high heat to develop grill marks — then move them to lower heat to cook through. Skewered veggies usually fall into this category of quicker-cooking options.
The fastest-cooking vegetables, such as scallions and asparagus, should stay on moderate to low heat for their whole grilling process, which lasts just a few minutes. Keep your eye on these skinny specimens that tend to fall through the grills; you may opt for a grill basket that’s compatible with your grill to prevent disaster. Build your own grill basket if you don’t have a ready-made version by folding a 24-inch long piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil in half, then fold up the edges to create sides that keep the food inside.
How long it takes your vegetables to grill depends on the particulars of your grill and the size of the vegetables you’re preparing. Keep your attention on the vegetables as they cook because they can burn easily; avoid undercooking, though, as the flavors intensify only when thoroughly cooked.
These grilling protocols are valid for gas and charcoal grills. If you do use charcoal, build the fire so you have hot spots and cooler areas to accommodate the vegetables.