Sharon Jessup Joyce
We love grilled vegetables, and eat them often. And despite the fact that Bob has a big and manly and meat-focused grilling cookbook, given to him by an investment fund sales rep, he is a proud and skilled griller of the vegetable. It’s nice to grill a big batch for several meals. We eat them first right off the grill with fish or chicken. Later we have them cut up in rice pilaf, sliced onto pizza, mixed into bean salad, or pureed into soup. Our basic go-to list of veggies is a bit boring, but always available: different colours of sweet red pepper, onion, zucchini, and sometimes mushrooms and (seasonally) patty pan squash.
One challenge with grilled vegetables is that different veggies do need different cooking times. You can accommodate to this by starting longer-cooking vegetables sooner, or making sure you select groupings that will be ready at about the same time. And we skip the cherry tomatoes: if you cook them on the grill, they burst and burn and make a mess, unless you give them a very few minutes. I prefer to roast, lightly sauté or just toss in cubed, raw tomatoes – or to put the tomatoes in some other dish.
The other thing about grilling veggies is that they can be dry and discoloured by the time the flesh is soft enough to be really flavourful. One solution to this is to marinate cut-up vegetables for at least a couple of hours (but less than a day) in a vinaigrette. Depending on the other flavours of the meal, our marinade is usually a mix of equal parts olive oil and either lemon or lime juice or some type of vinegar, salt, pepper, chopped fresh herbs, and sometimes garlic. We put it all in a Ziploc bag and give it a shake every time we pass the fridge. The acid in the marinade softens the vegetables just enough that they cook faster, and the marinade adds flavour. If you haven’t also put meat into the bag with the veggies, you can use the uncooked marinade afterwards to dress the veggies or a green salad or bowl of rice, since the marinade will have all its own nice flavours, along with a tang of the raw veggie flavours. If it tastes too sharp as a dressing, just add more oil.
It’s a shoulder season for crops, so right now we’ll enjoy as many grilled summer veggies as we can. And when the cooler weather crops start, we’ll enjoy a batch of grilled veggies with mini potatoes, two or three kinds of cubed winter squash, and a couple of different onion varieties. I’ll marinate those in boiled apple cider, apple cider vinegar, hardy herbs from our garden like rosemary, thyme and sage, salt, pepper, and pumpkin seed oil. Bob will cook those for a longer time, over lower heat.
Recently we had some grilled veggies left over, along with tomatoes and cooked corn. Adrian loves turmeric, and I remembered having a soup years ago at a lovely Halifax bistro (now closed, sadly). It was a corn chowder, but the corn was pureed with tomato, turmeric and some other things I have now forgotten. So I put together this soup. Like all good soups, the whole was even better than the sum of its parts. And Jesse, that corn texture you dislike was totally absent – the corn just added a nice sweetness and body. You can see all the ingredients I used in the photo. (What looks like dark-green sludge in this bad photo was actually perfectly fresh chopped herbs, and the sinister-looking yellowish ice block in the pot is previously-frozen chicken stock).
The last point I want to make about grilling vegetables is about the grilling basket or skewers you use. Skewers make for a pretty presentation, but a grilling basket lets you cook more, move the veggies around better, and helps keep the veggie pieces intact. Just make sure you get a basket with smaller mesh. Livy, Ben and I had a frustrating experience a few weeks ago with a grilling basket in Nova Scotia that was apparently designed to grill racks of ribs or something large and solid. We ended up having to line the bottom of the basket with foil, not great, but the best solution that day. The vegetables tasted nice, but there was some strong language (mostly from me, I have to admit) while we rescued bits of zucchini and pepper from the grill surface.
If you don’t have a barbecue, you can broil marinated veggies. Drain off the marinade (so it doesn’t smoke and burn), put the veggies in a foil-lined, sided cooking sheet on a lower-middle rack in your oven, turn them often, and watch them closely.
|Sharon lives in Kingston, Ontario – home of a wonderful farmers’ market – where she dabbles in the domestic arts and eats very well.|
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