Summertime is a great time of year to cook out on the grill, enjoying the sunshine with your friends and family. There are many wonderful things we can prepare on the grill such as chicken, fish, or pork chops but don’t forget your vegetables too! You can grill your veggies right with them.
While some vegetables such as potatoes can take a little longer to cook in the kitchen, grilling your vegetables is very quick and can be done without dirtying up any extra dishes. You can cook your potatoes for about 12-15 minutes on the grill, while less dense vegetables like broccoli, snap peas, summer squash, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and corn take just 5-7 minutes depending on your tenderness preference. Who doesn’t enjoy grilled corn on the cob or squash? The slight charring brings out the sweetness and adds a nice smoky flavor.
The key to grilled vegetables is the marinades, as they add moisture and flavor. To marinate vegetables:
1. Chop vegetables to desired thickness and put in bowl.
2. Pour marinade over vegetables and stir to coat evenly.
3. Marinade vegetables for 30 minutes before grilling.
You can use a variety of marinades, but try to make your own, as the marinades typically sold in stores are filled with added sugars. All you need to make your own marinade is an acid (vinegar, citrus juice, wine or combo of the three), an oil (olive oil, canola oil, or sesame oil), and a seasoning/combo of seasonings (oregano, cumin, garlic, shallots, chili). Below are a few recipes to try at home, just add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk together:
1. Lemon Soy Ginger: ½ cup olive oil, ½ cup fresh lemon juice, ½ cup low-sodium soy sauce, 1 clove crushed garlic, and 1-inch piece of peeled, minced ginger.
2. Balsamic Dijon Vinegarette: ½ cup olive oil, ½ cup balsamic vinegar, 1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste.
3. Sherry Vinaigrette: ½ cup sherry vinegar, 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard, ¾ cup olive oil.
4. Chili Lime Vinaigrette: 6 tablespoons vegetable oil (canola, grapeseed, or sunflower seed), 6 tablespoons white-wine vinegar, 1 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno, 1 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves, juice and zest of 3 limes, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.
Also try these four different ways to grill your vegetables:
1. Use a grill basket. Line the basket with aluminum foil to prevent drippings from the marinade. If you do not have a grill basket, fold a 24-inch long piece of heavy-duty foil in half and fold up and crimp the edges to create a lip and prevent spilling.
2. Make kabobs. Cut the vegetables into thick, chunky pieces so that they stay on the skewer. Smaller vegetables like cherry tomatoes work well on kabobs. Pineapples also work well on skewers and are delicious on the grill. When grilling both meat and vegetables at the same time, make separate skewers for each, as the vegetables do not take as long to cook and will need to come off first.
3. Wrap in a foil packet. Use a 24-inch long piece of foil and fold in half. Open the foil and on one-half arrange thinly sliced vegetables in a single layer, slightly overlapping. Once you have assembled the vegetables, fold the foil in half over top of the vegetables. Fold over and pinch the edges of the bottom and top together to create a tight seal. Close the grill and cook until the vegetables are tender. Use caution while opening, as the steam is HOT.
4. Put directly on the grill. Cut into thin, long pieces so that the vegetables do not fall through the grates. Try to cut your vegetables the same size so that they will cook uniformly. Also, keeping vegetables thin will maximize the amount of surface area in contact with the heat allowing them to cook quickly and to get that crispy outside. Corn, either shucked or unshucked, cooks well on the grill. If you choose to shuck the corn, just lightly brush with some olive oil and a little salt.
Check out esmmweighless.com for more great articles and webinars on healthy eating.
Sydney Johnson is an Area Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. She can be reached by calling the Sampson County Center at 910-592-7161 or by e-mail: Sydney_Johnson@ncsu.edu