Grilling Veggies

When most people think about grilling, they imagine a thick steak or spicy rubbed chicken. Well, I find myself dreaming about grilled veggies. There's something special about the flavor and texture of a perfectly fresh vegetable that's been tossed in oil and held to the flame until there's a smoky softness to it. In addition to being a healthy choice for grilling, vegetables offer a wide range of uses ranging from quick soups and salads to elegant kabobs and pizzas.

There are only a few rules to keep in mind when grilling vegetables:

  1. Choose the highest quality of vegetables you can afford. Freshest is best and avoid any vegetable with visible signs of damage. Skins should be bright in color and relatively firm to the touch.
  2. To help avoid charring -- which is really just carbon and not a desirable trait of good grilled foods -- use a marinade for your veggies. If you don't want to bother with a marinade, at least coat your vegetables in a small amount of olive or canola oil.
  3. Since not all vegetables grill in the same amount of time, stagger the addition of your veggies to the grill. For example, you would want to add onions to the grill before peppers or zucchini and tomatoes would only require a short grilling time. Another option is to cook those veggies that require more time directly over the flame while placing other in more indirect areas. While this does save some effort, I like to opt for the staggered addition method.

When I grill vegetables, I almost always make more than I'll need for one meal. It's not unusual for me to fill two gallon-size resealable bags with prepared veggies and toss in anything from a homemade marinade to bottled Italian dressing before I fire up the grill. The leftovers find themselves in everything from lunch's sandwich to dinner's pasta salad. They're even a great snack when I find myself craving something "extra" in the afternoon.

Here's what's on our grilled vegetable menu this month:

  • Basic Grilled Veggies
  • Thai Vegetable Kabobs
  • Grilled Vegetable and Pasta Salad
  • Grilled Veggie Pesto Pizza

I'm always looking for great ways to use perfectly grilled vegetables of all varieties and I'd love it if you'd share your favorite recipes and ideas with me. Either post them to our discussion board using the form below or send me them to . Thanks in advance and enjoy the recipes!

Basic Grilled Veggies

This simple recipe is a great way to make a lot of grilled vegetables without a lot of fuss. If you don't have time to make the marinade, add your favorite bottled marinade or oil and vinegar-based salad dressing instead.
  • 2 large sweet onions
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 4-6 large portabella mushroom caps
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 1/3 c. red wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Cut the onions into quarters, leaving the base intact to keep the layers together. Peel any outer layers that are inedible away. Halve and core the peppers, stripping away any inner membrane. Cut the ends away from the zucchini and cut lengthwise into strips about 1/4-inch thick. Place the onions, peppers, zucchini and mushrooms into a large resealable bag.

In a screw-top jar, combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Screw on the lid of the jar and shake vigorously to mix. Pour the contents of the jar into the resealable bag and seal. Shake the bag to coat all of the vegetables well.

Preheat the grill to medium heat. Once preheated, add the onions to the grill. After 5 minutes, add the peppers and zucchini. After another 5 minutes, add the mushrooms and turn the other vegetables. After another 5 minutes, turn the mushrooms. After another 5 minutes, check all of the vegetables for doneness and remove those that are cooked through. Continue checking and turning the remaining vegetables until they are all cooked.

Toss the cooked vegetables together and, if desired, serve with crusty French bread and fresh tomatoes.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Thai Vegetable Kabobs

These spicy kabobs get their flavor from a simple marinade featuring peanut butter, soy sauce and steak sauce. The marinade also is great with poultry, beef or pork.
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 12 oz. large mushrooms
  • 1/4 c. steak sauce
  • 3 T. peanut butter
  • 1 T. soy sauce

    Cut the red pepper into 12 1-inch pieces. Cut the zucchini crosswise into 12 1/2-inch slices.

    In a large resealable bag, combine the steak sauce, peanut butter and soy sauce. Seal the bag and shake well to mix. Open the bag and add the pepper, zucchini and mushrooms. Reseal and shake to coat the vegetables. Allow to stand for 15 minutes.

    Preheat the grill. Alternately thread the marinated vegetables onto 4 large metal skewers. Brush them with any remaining marinade. Grill the kabobs over medium-low heat for 12-14 minutes, turning once, until they are tender and browned.

    • Yields: 4 servings
    • Preparation Time: 40 minutes
  • Grilled Vegetable and Pasta Salad

    This simple recipe takes advantage of the Basic Grilled Veggies found earlier in this article. Simply save half of your veggies and this one practically makes itself.
    • 8 oz. dried penne pasta
    • 1/2 recipe Basic Grilled Veggies
    • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
    • 3 T. balsamic vinegar
    • 1 T. chopped fresh thyme
    • 3 oz. crumbled feta cheese

    Cook, rinse and drain the pasta according to the package directions.

    While the pasta is cooking, cut the leftover grilled vegetables into pieces that measure 1-inch or less.

    In a screw-top jar, combine the oil, vinegar and thyme. Seal the jar and shake to mix.

    In a large bowl, combine the drained pasta, chopped vegetables and feta cheese. Add the dressing and toss to coat.

    • Yields: 4 servings
    • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

    Grilled Veggie Pesto Pizza

    This one also takes advantage of the Basic Grilled Veggies recipe. Make a full batch and have the salad one night and this great pizza the next.
    • 1 large Boboli crust
    • 1/4 c. prepared pesto sauce
    • 1/2 recipe Basic Grilled Veggies
    • 1 large tomato, diced
    • 4 oz. shredded havarti cheese

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    Place the Boboli crust on a pizza pan. Spread the pesto evenly over the crust. Arrange the grilled veggies and diced tomato over the pesto -- slicing any veggies that require it. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the veggies.

    Bake the pizza for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

    • Yields: 4 servings
    • Preparation Time: 15 minutes
    Editor's Note: For more on grilling vegetables, check out this month's Victoria's Vegetarian Victuals and Cooking Corner columns.