Grilled veggies that keep on giving

Sharon Jessup Joyce

Blog - grilled veggie soup serving

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.

blog - raw veggies for grillingThe 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 someblog-grilled-veggie-soup-ingredients brighter 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.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at

After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance


Seaside brunch in a hurry

Text by Sharon Jessup Joyce; most photos by Olivia Schneider

Blog - seaside brunch the finished table

The plan was for Olivia and Ben to get to the Nova Scotia house around 10 on Sunday morning, so Bob and I – and Spenser, the Wonder Wheaten – would have a chance to sleep in a bit after our two-day drive from Ontario. Olivia and I could take our time putting together an over-the-top Sunday brunch: pan-fried fresh haddock, home fries, grilled veggies, cheese-and-chive biscuits, and fruit crisp. Bob and I had stopped at Masstown Market in Central Nova to pick up local fruits and vegetables and fresh haddock.

But by Sunday morning Spenser was vomiting and lethargic, so we rushed him to the regional veterinary emergency hospital in Dartmouth, nearly an hour away, telling Livy that she and Ben should sit tight in Halifax and wait to hear from us. After a few hours of tests and care there was good news: the results were normal, and the symptoms were subsiding. The bad news? It was noon, and we were still in Dartmouth. Bob, Ben and Stewart had a 3:50 tee time in Chester, another hour west of our house. And Livy needed to get back to Halifax by 4 to go to work.

blog - seaside brunch Livy holding veggiesWe talked about cancelling brunch, but we had those nice fresh ingredients, and we had all been looking forward to it. Livy and I agreed to strip the menu down to fast and easy, and we promised the guys they wouldn’t miss their tee time.

When we got back to the house, the first priority was to send Bob upstairs for a rest. After doing all the driving on our two-day trip, he had gallantly taken sick-dog duty through the night, while I slept obliviously on. He wasn’t going to get through the meal, let alone a round of golf, without a nap.

blog - seaside brunch raw haddockLivy and I set our stopwatches and, with help from Ben, buzzed through a simplified menu. The pan-fried haddock was too fiddly to cook quickly for four, so it was BBQ time, with grilled cedar-planked salmon with maple sugar and mustard; haddock en papillote with lemon, olive oil and Italian herbs (okay, it was Williams-Sonoma pizza seasoning, actually – we keep limited ingredients at the Nova Scotia house – but it tasted great); and grilled veggies that included pearl onions, sweet peppers, patty pan squash, zucchini, carrots and mushrooms, seasoned – no time to marinate – with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and fresh thyme. We also scrapped the biscuits and instead put together a simple garden salad with lots of basil. Fruit crisp was out. Instead, dessert would be a fresh fruit plate of local strawberries, cantaloupe and watermelon, and green table grapes we brought from our garden in Kingston.

blog - seaside brunch fruitFinally, we reluctantly decided to pull the plug on mimosas. To spare Spenser another round trip to the city, Livy would now be driving Ben’s car back to Halifax in time for work, while Ben would catch a ride home with Stewart. So we’d all join Livy in sparkling water.

Somehow, our lavish brunch had turned into spa cuisine.

We decided to inject a bit of self-indulgence back into the menu by keeping the home fries: baby yellow-fleshed potatoes sliced into quarters and sautéed with onion, olive oil, salt, pepper, lots of mild smoked paprika and just a touch of chipotle chili powder.

blog - seaside brunch potatoesWhen the potatoes are either new or raw – or both, as these were – you can counteract their tendency to cook slowly by adding a bit of broth or water to the skillet after the cut side has formed a golden-brown crust, and then covering the skillet just until the potatoes have absorbed the liquid. It was a trick we needed, to make sure the potatoes would be ready in time. But Livy and I knew the home fries were a good idea when Ben came back into the kitchen from lighting the BBQ and said, “Mmmmm. What smells so great?”

blog - seaside brunch Livy and BenIn the end, it was a perfect brunch. We ate on the main deck, and everything from the food, to the sunshine, ocean view, and fresh breezes – not to mention the company—was wonderful. Bob and Ben insisted they felt well fuelled as they ran out the door at 2:30 to make their tee time.

We had already set aside some of the grilled veggies for Livy to take home. The only thing left of the food on the table was a bit of fruit, which Bob had as a snack when he got home. Oh, and a smallish piece of haddock. I rinsed it thoroughly to remove the seasonings and fed it to Spenser, who was feeling better. He thought it was almost as good as pan-fried.
Spenser enjoys Peggy's Cove

Sharon lives in Kingston, Ontario – though she really wants to live in Nova Scotia – where she dabbles in the domestic arts and eats very well.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at

After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance