Dinner diva: seven tips for grilling produce

Dinner DivaBy Leanne Ely

I shared some tips with you a couple weeks ago about grilling, but there’s more to summer barbecue season than burgers and steaks.

Why turn on the stove to cook veggies when there is a perfectly good hot grill already prepped? Never mind the fact that grilled veggies and fruits taste like something out of heaven—if one knows how to cook them properly.

Here are some of my best produce grilling tips:

  1. Don’t use a veggie peeler

Don’t peel vegetables before grilling them. This is yet another reason why to buy organic produce. If one peels veggies before they hit the grill, they’ll lose nutrients and much of the flavor. They will also have a smokier flavor if peels are left on. Remember the clean fifteen list and the dirty dozen when deciding where to invest in organic produce.

  1. Precook

Some hardier veggies need a bit of precooking to shorten the time they must spend on the grill. These types of vegetables include: asparagus, broccoli, beets, artichokes, parsnips, carrots, winter squash and potatoes. Steam them or blanch them until they are only slightly tender, then pat them dry and cook them on the grill. That extra step will make sure the outside and inside of those sturdy veggies are evenly cooked. Vegetables like peppers, onions, eggplant, fennel, tomatoes and summer squash can be grilled raw.

  1. Oil them

Rub a tiny little bit of olive oil (not extra virgin) or coconut oil on your veggies before grilling them. This will help prevent them from sticking to the grill and will also prevent them from drying out. Use only a little bit of oil. If there’s oil dripping from the food, they’ll be flare ups.

  1. Soak your fruits

Before grilling fruits, try drizzling them with honey or maple syrup. Soaking them in liquor is also an option. Soaking fruits will subsequently result in a flavor burst, especially when serving grilled pineapple or pears for dessert (and yes, pears can be grilled, as can apples, watermelon and peaches). Reach for fruit that is firm and just barely ripe to achieve the best results in fruit grilling.

  1. Indirect heat

When grilling fruits and veggies, use moderately hot coals or indirect heat. They may need to be moved around throughout the cooking process to make sure they cook evenly.

  1. Stick it to them

Skewers are great tools for grilling veggies. It’s tempting to make beautiful kabobs out of meat and veggies. But to ensure even cooking, skewer all the same type of veggie per skewer. Cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, chunks of onion and pineapple are all wonderful when cooked on skewers.

  1. Use packets

Some veggies don’t lend themselves well to skewers or grill baskets, esp. peas, beans and sliced peppers. For these lovely foods, try making a packet out of tin foil to cook them in. This is also a good way to cook potatoes or other veggies with a sauce or topping of some sort.

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