Grilling season is officially on and it’s time for burgers, sausage and kebabs. But while you’re at it, make some room on the grill for fresh vegetables. Here are some tips for making perfectly grilled eggplant, zucchini, mushroom and red peppers.
First off, you want to make sure you have thick slices when grilling eggplant or summer squash. If they’re too thin, they’ll get mushy and will be harder to manipulate with your grillin’ tools. If you’re dealing with peppers, I’d say grill them whole, then let them cool before removing the seeds. Some people like to remove the skin of the peppers as well, but I don’t recommend it because you’ll lose a lot of the char-grilled flavor. If you’ve got mushrooms, you’ll want to stick with portabellos since they’re big and meaty. Otherwise, you’ll have a lot mushroom casualties falling through the grate.
Next up, marinate for the best flavor. I like to mix some oil, vinegar or citrus juice and fresh herbs with salt and pepper and let the vegetable slices marinate for at least 2 hours, even overnight. The marinade will prevent them from sticking to the grate will give you more flavorful results.
Controlling your temperature is also very important. For quick-cooking summer squashes and eggplant, high heat is fine, even preferable so that you’ll get a nice char. For mushrooms, stick with medium temperature, but don’t overcook them. More on that in a minute. You’ll want to keep the heat on medium-low for peppers until they’re tender, then up the heat to high until the skin blisters.
Finally, don’t overcook your vegetables. You want them to be slightly browned, charred in places and have nice, defined grill marks. This means resisting the urge to move them or flip them constantly. Just throw them on and flip them once halfway through. For eggplant, summer squash and mushrooms, 3 – 4 minutes on each side is plenty. Peppers will need a bit more time, 6 minutes on each side, plus 1 – 2 minutes over high heat.
I love a grilled vegetable sandwich with jamon serrano (see photo), or on top of flatbread. They also make a perfect addition to an antipasto or charcuterie plate. Read on for marinade recipes.
All of these marinades are good for 1 – 2 lbs. fresh vegetables.
Olive Oil & Balsamic Marinade
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup good, aged balsamic vinegar
few sprigs of thyme (lemon thyme is also great here if you can find it)
1 tbsp. coarse salt
1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup (brown) rice vinegar
3 tbsp. shoyu (or soy sauce)
2 tbsp. honey
dash fish sauce (optional)
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
Curry Spice Marinade
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. toasted brown mustard seeds
2 tbsp. curry powder (I like Maharajah-style)*
pinch coarse salt
pinch cayenne pepper
*Maharajah-style curry powder is a blend of turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom, fenugreek, ginger, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, white pepper, black pepper, cloves, red pepper and saffron. My Indian spices are supplied by my aunt-in-law, who gets them from Penzeyâ€™s.