Kitchen Focus

When summer rolls around, vegetables often find themselves playing second fiddle to steaks, roasts or chops. After all, those ingredients usually get a spice rub and some quality time with the grill while veggies are often relegated to a platter with some dip or an addition to a potato salad. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Vegetables are great on the grill and many have intensified sweetness and flavor after a little time with the heat. The key to making your life easier when grilling vegetables lies in a few important rules:

  • When preparing vegetables for grilling, keep them consistent in size and shape to help ensure even cooking. You might also want to segregate different vegetables as most will need to be taken off the grill at different times.
  • Especially when it comes to grilling vegetables, adding a little oil to the mix is important. Since many vegetables -- especially those most often grilled -- are fat-free, they tend to stick to the grill grates easily. That's a problem that's easily fixed with the addition of some oil to coat them. It also gives you a chance to add some extra flavor to the mix.
  • Don't overcook vegetables on the grill. Like a good steak, grilling can raise vegetables to their ultimate in flavor and texture or it can be used to drain away all of their goodness. If you take them off the grill when they still have a touch of "crunch" to them, they are likely to be perfect when they are presented at the table!

Of course, we're about more than talk in the column ... we're also about putting these ideas into practice. And I can't think of a better way to do just that than to present a recipe that has you grilling not one, but six different vegetables and finishing them with a dressing. Who said that salad was boring?

Grilled Vegetable Salad

  • 2 small zucchini squash
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 3-4 portabella mushroom caps
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 2 T. finely chopped chives
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil

Clean and cut all of the vegetables into similar sized and shaped pieces. I like to cut the squash and eggplant into 1-inch slices and halve them as necessary to keep them consistent in size. The peppers are easy to slice into thick strips and the mushrooms can be sliced into 1/2-inch slices. The onion is perfect when sliced into 1/2-inch round slices and a bamboo skewer carefully poked along the diameter of the onion to form large onion "coins".

Place the vegetables in a large resealable plastic bag. Add the 1/4 cup olive oil, seasoned salt and black pepper. Seal the bag and shake vigorously to evenly coat the vegetables.

Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. If desired, place a grill pan on the grill to keep the vegetables from falling through the grill grates. Grill the vegetables on the hot grill, making sure to leave them slightly crisp. Some may be done slightly earlier than others, but use your tastes to determine how "done" you'd prefer them. Remove the vegetables to a large bowl, remove the bamboo skewers and cut any large pieces into smaller ones. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to coat. Serve the salad warm or chilled.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes
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