There were more fireworks on my old beat-up kettle grill than in the Macy's light display over New York Harbor. I grilled every land animal, fish and plant I could find. Even my dog Teesha got a little nervous when we ran low on food!
After running through the classics, and after the quail, baby lamb and lobsters came off the grill, I seemed to throw on even more vegetables than protein. A healthy diet is important to me, so I try to eat lots of vegetables -- and it turns out you can grill almost all of them. You name it: string beans, asparagus, tomatoes, radicchio, Belgian endive, corn and baby leeks were surprisingly great. And of course, the usual suspects, such as red, yellow and green peppers, zucchini, red onions, eggplant and mushrooms delivered like champs, as always. You see, you could caramelize an old shoe, and it would taste great. Vegetables have sugar in them, just like protein does, and when you convert those sugars into carbon through searing heat, they taste just as delicious as a perfectly charred steak. There's nothing complicated about it: just prepare a favorite vegetable as you would for a more traditional recipe, and grill it instead of boiling or steaming. Of course, I added some personal touches and embellishments -- simple things like seasonings, cuts and methods can make a big difference in the final result.
Let the Seasoning BeginFirst of all, let's separate grillable vegetables into two groups: big flavors and small flavors. Think of vegetables as savory, and your goal to make them sweet, using the grill. However, seasoning these vegetables isn't like marinating meat. Vegetables have lots of personality that come from the sweet, acid and bitter flavors inherent to them. Simple things like salt, freshly ground pepper and olive oil are perfect foils; sprinkling a bit of sherry wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, chili oil or mustard is also great. Even try some lemon zest, orange zest and freshly grated ginger -- these seasonings definitely add a flare to your vegetables. And a quick toss in your favorite barbecue sauce (not too much!) is always another option. Making use of summer's bounty of fresh herbs is also a good idea. Oregano, rosemary, tarragon and summer savory tossed in with the olive oil at the beginning works well. I found that vegetables such as asparagus, tomatoes, radicchio, endive, peppers and kale taste better if they are seasoned after you grill them.