As grilling season gets underway, most of us are familiar with grilling burgers and hot dogs. In fact, you may even be an expert at grilling steaks, but fruit and vegetables? For many, how to achieve those perfect char marks on your vegetables is still very much a mystery.
But don’t despair, vegetarians and carnivores alike can enjoy that charbroiled taste on their fruits and vegetables as long as they follow some simple advice. To start, vegetables and fruits aren’t meat. Since they lack the fat of meats, a dip in some flavorful olive oil will keep your fruits and vegetables from sticking to the grill grates.
Softer fruits, like most stone fruits, papayas, and such require a more watchful eye than fruits like apples, pears, and pineapples that have firmer flesh. The natural sugars in the fruits require a lower cooking temperature to prevent the sugars from burning. For caramelized, but not burnt fruit, cook your fruits over indirect heat or what until the coals begin to die out and the temperature is less intense.
If you plan to cook your fruit directly on the grates, make sure you cut your fruit into large enough chunks. As the water evaporates from your fruits and vegetables, they will shrink. For smaller fruit, use a grill basket or bamboo skewers soaked in water to prevent your food from falling onto the coals.
Because of their somewhat lower sugar content, vegetables can stand a slightly more intense fire than fruits. For best results, cook your vegetables over medium heat on the grill. For very firm vegetables, such as butternut squash, you make need to par cook your vegetables before grilling, to ensure they cook through without burning on the grill.
Lightly salting vegetables about 30 minutes before grilling helps to draw out moisture from the vegetables and concentrate flavor. This is particularly important for water-laden vegetables, like eggplant and zucchini.
Like fruit, vegetables will shrink as they cook, so be sure to cut vegetables into large chunks or use a grill basket or skewers to keep your vegetables from falling onto the coals.
With these tips in mind, start grilling this summer with a few of our favorite grilled fruit and vegetable recipes using everything from peaches to sweet potatoes.
The sweet caramel and subtle char on the peaches gives this grill-time snack a pleasant smoky flavor. — David Burke
When it comes to “manning” the grill, few do it better than Melissa Cookston, owner of the South’s hottest restaurant group, Memphis Barbecue Co. and author of the newly released BBQ and grilling cookbook Smokin’ in the Boys Room. For Melissa, mother’s day starts with a perfectly grilled ribeye and smoked Vidalia onions (the recipe for which can be found in her book) and ends with one of her favorite desserts, grilled cayenne peaches. — Clint Cantwell
Salt for Life
Fire up the grill for an easy-to-make side or snack with this recipe for grilled avocado stuffed with tomato and feta. — Salt for Life
Charred cabbage coated in a spicy, citrus dressing is going to be your favorite vegetarian dish this summer. — Hannah Hoskins
Try this grilled avocado-corn relish made with roasted corn, avocados, and peppers. — Ivy Stark
This simple grilled taco filling is healthy, delicious, and easy to make. — Hannah Hoskins
These whole-wheat, vegetarian quesadillas make a tasty, healthy Mexican dinner. — Hannah Hoskins
This is a fun dessert to serve to company in the summer, and a great way to use the grill. — Pam Braun
Choose your favorite seasonal fruit, douse it in a spicy maple syrup glaze, and cook it over charcoal for a healthy, summer dessert. — Hannah Hoskins
To grill the kale, [Justin] Burdett, [chef–owner of Local Provisions in the heart of downtown Asheville, N.C.,] blanches and shocks whole kale — stems and all. He then coats the kale lightly with olive oil, salt, and pepper before charring it on the grill. Once charred, he removes the kale from the grill and finishes it with lemon juice. The result is hearty kale stalks with a slight char flavor, which is brightened by the acidity from the lemon juice. — Justin Burdett
For the Grilled Kale recipe, click here.
Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi
The season for ramps is way too short, and you definitely don’t want to miss out. I created this recipe specifically to highlight the ramps, but we enjoy this lemony quinoa long after ramp season is over. — Terry Walters, Eat Clean. Live Well
A fun way to serve vegetables, simply roasted and grilled butternut squash is topped with sweet marshmallow fluff. Use a kitchen torch or the broiler of the oven to achieve a browned top. Recipe courtesy of chef Janine Booth of root & bone in New York City.
Dale Talde combines the natural sweetness from the sweet potatoes with the umami flavor of soy sauce for these sweet and savory grilled sweet potatoes that are finished with a shower of pungent spring onion and crumbled bacon.
Nothing adds flavor to food like a little bit of char. Give your salsa a smoky kick by charring the tomatoes, peppers, and onion under a broiler before using them to make this easy salsa. Serve it with crunchy tortilla chips for the perfect good-for-you snack. — Brenda Novak
This recipe combines the best of both worlds to bring two of America's favorite comfort food dishes, grilled cheese and scalloped potatoes, together for the ultimate gooey cheesy side dish. — Great Flavors
Viviane Bauquet Farre
These grilled vegetable napoleons pack a lot of flavor in every bite — smoky, deep, spicy, robust, crunchy, it’s a carnival for the taste buds! — Viviane Baquet Farre
The herb-packed Green Goddess dressing will be your new culinary party trick: Drizzle it on kabobs, burgers, and salads to turn every meal into the most flavor-packed food. — Hannah Hoskins
Here I take the classic Provençal dish and serve it with grilled vegetables and a basil vinaigrette — all in celebration of summer’s exuberant flavors. — Viviane Bauquet Farre