Grilling vegetables will enhance their flavor and appeal

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

Many vegetables do well on the grill, but those high in water content, like cucumbers, celery, lettuce or most any leafy green, just don’t make the grade. My favorites are asparagus, eggplant, onions, cabbage and tomatoes. Peppers are a natural grilling choice too, whether you choose bell peppers or the hot variety.

Grilling Tips
Grilling vegetables is really easy. I’ve always wondered why more people don’t do it. As a general rule, you should cut the vegetables into pieces that will cook quickly and evenly. All pieces should be of consistent thickness and no more than about 3/4 to 1-inch thick. It’s also best to soak your vegetables in cold water for about 30 minutes before putting them on the grill. It helps keep them from drying out.
To prevent sticking on the grill, pat the veggies dry and then brush them lightly with oil. Be sure not to over-cook them! If you find that you like grilling vegetables and want to try grilling smaller ones, just use a grilling basket or a fine-mesh grill grate to keep them from falling through into the fire. Sometimes, sliced veggies do better when speared on kabobs or wrapped in heavy-duty foil. Cooking in foil will lessen the smoky flavor that is part of the appeal of grilling.
Cooking times vary according to the vegetable, so be sure to keep a close watch on them, as veggies are generally more delicate than meats and other grillables. A touch of smoke greatly enhances the flavor of the vegetables, but charred lumps of carbon won’t be a hit at anyone’s cookout!

Grilled Tomatoes with Basil Vinaigrette
I love the taste of grilled tomatoes. These will taste great with grilled chicken or fish.
3 medium yellow tomatoes
3 medium red tomatoes
3 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsps. freshly chopped basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cut tomatoes in half and thread onto skewers, alternating colors. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill over medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning skewers often.
Remove tomatoes from skewers and place on a serving plate. Combine remaining olive oil, vinegar and basil and drizzle over kabobs. Makes 6 servings.

Grilled Soy-Sesame Asparagus
If you don’t want to grill these, just roast asparagus spears in the oven at 450 degrees and they’ll taste just as good.
1 Tbsps. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. brown sugar
1-1/2 lbs. fresh asparagus, trimmed
2 Tbsps. toasted sesame seeds
Preheat grill for high heat. In a bowl, mix sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and brown sugar. Place asparagus in the bowl, and toss to coat. Lightly oil a fine-mesh grill grate. Place asparagus on grate, and cook 8 minutes, until tender but firm. Garnish with sesame seeds to serve. Makes 4 servings.

Cabbage on the Grill
1 large head cabbage
1-1/2 tsps. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat grill for medium heat. Cut the cabbage into 8 wedges; remove the core. Place all the wedges on a piece of aluminum foil large enough to wrap the cabbage. Season to taste with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Seal cabbage in the foil. Grill for 30-40 minutes or until tender.

Marinated Grilled Veggies
Marinades often work well and most vegetables cook better and are less likely to stick if brushed with high quality oil. For added flavor, sprinkle grilled vegetables with some fresh herbs.
1 small eggplant, cut into 3/4 inch thick slices
2 small red bell peppers, seeded and cut into wide strips
3 zucchinis, sliced
6 fresh mushrooms, stems removed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Place eggplant, peppers, zucchini and mushrooms in a medium bowl. In another bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, basil and garlic. Pour the mixture over the vegetables; cover and refrigerate at least one hour.
Preheat your grill for high heat. Place vegetables directly on the grill or on skewers. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side or to desired doneness, brushing frequently with the marinade. Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Potatoes, Onions and Red Peppers
This is one of my favorites, especially with pork. I use sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, red bell peppers, onions and top it with balsamic vinegar and crumbled bacon.
1 large orange sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large russet potato, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, cut into thin wedges
1 cup red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsps. butter, softened
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled
Preheat grill to medium heat. Spread potatoes, onions and red pepper onto a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil; dot top of vegetables with small pieces of softened butter. Top with another piece of foil and seal edges by folding over twice. Place foil packet onto grill. Grill until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Carefully open packet; spoon vegetables into serving bowl. Add balsamic vinegar and crumbled bacon; gently toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Grilled Garden Kebabs
2 ears corn, husked and cut into 3 pieces each
3 small zucchini, each cut into 4 pieces
1 large onion, cut into 12 wedges
12 large fresh mushroom caps
2 bell peppers, cut into 2-inch pieces
6 cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tsps. fresh chives, chopped
2 tsps. fresh dill weed, chopped
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
Preheat grill and prepare for indirect grilling (flame on either side but not directly underneath). Boil corn for about 5-8 minutes or until tender. Allow corn to cool enough to handle. Place vegetables on kebabs, alternating between vegetables. Stir together baste ingredients and brush over kebabs. Place kebabs on middle of grill and grill for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are cooked. Brush occasionally with basting mixture.

Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at nharding@brunswickbeacon.com.