I not only love to eat, I love to cook. Cooking outside over leaping flames though? Nope, I’ve never been a griller. The grill master in our home, my husband, unfortunately works as a nurse on second shift. So what’s a woman to do when she wants the taste of grilled goodness? For me, it means learning how to do it yourself of course!
Nutritionally, meals prepared on the grill can be lower or higher in fat and calories compared to boiling, baking, or frying. Cuts of meat which do well staying moist and juicy over flames often have a higher fat content like steak compared to chicken breasts. Steer clear of too many processed meats which can be extremely high in sodium and other additives. Too much of the blackened charred parts though (my favorite) is considered a possible carcinogenic risk by some experts in cancer prevention so it’s best to not consistently burn your food to a crisp.
If you’re trying to eat healthier you can balance your plate better, decrease the calories in your meal and up the nutritional quality by adding some vegetables to your grill. I love grilled veggies in all their smoky goodness. In one of my recent grilling experiments though, two of my sliced zucchini slipped though my clutches to end up totally done for in the bottom of the grill.
Obviously my technique needed help. So I went straight to the one person that makes the best grilled veggies I’ve ever tasted. My neighbor, grilling wizard Chef Luc St. Onge was happy to offer his advice on how to save my poor zucchini from its fiery fate at the bottom of the grill.
Grill first, cut later.
This is definitely where I went wrong. For zucchini or yellow squash, slice them just in half. Keeping the squash in a bigger piece allows you to get good grill marks and flavor without it getting overdone. Add a light coating of olive oil, seasoned salt and ground pepper before grilling. Luc offered a warning to avoid lathering on too much oil as it can cause the flames to flare up and burn the food. Keep a squeeze bottle full of water handy to squirt the grill if the flames get crazy. Grill it until it has nice marks, normally three minutes on each side. Slice it after it’s done for a better appearing presentation and no runaway skinny ones slipping through the grill.
Hot grill, medium heat.
Chef Luc recommended choosing ripe vegetables but not over ripe, so that they hold their firmness on the grill. For vegetables it’s important to avoid having the grill too hot. Medium heat works best. In my personal opinion, Luc’s grilled asparagus completed with a balsamic reduction is near heaven in flavor.
What I didn’t realize was how tricky asparagus is too grill. Luc shared, “It’s easy to burn the tips while the rest of it is cooking. The key is to turn down the heat on the other side of the grill to prepare asparagus perfectly.”
Don’t turn your back.
Keep an eye on your veggies since they’re done so quickly. Be sure to move vegetables up to the second part of grill if you’re going to do something else. Turning your back on them will end in a charred mess pretty quickly. Obviously if you’re grilling something thin in shape, position the veggies perpendicular to the grill tines or use a grill pan so that they don’t slip through the spaces in the grill.
Seasoned grill = more flavor.
One key Luc also emphasized was to have a seasoned grill for flavor. Covering all of the grill with aluminum foil decreases the flavor of the food. When I asked Luc whether he ever had a “grill fail” with a fruit or vegetable the only one he could even think of was a grapefruit idea gone awry. Other than that Luc and I had a hard time even thinking of a vegetable you couldn’t grill.
Here are a few veggie & fruit ideas for your next grilling adventure:
Carrots are a tasty addition to the grill that most people don’t think of
Bell peppers can be cut length wise in half to grill and cut afterwards
Pineapple, mango hold up well to grilling
Eggplant- Luc recommends cutting lengthwise, leave skin on to keep it together
For Smaller vegetables like grape tomatoes or peaches you can use a grill pan and even finish it in the oven.
Sweet potatoes- Cut in halves length wise, coat with a little olive oil or butter.
Romaine hearts- coat with a little olive oil and pepper, Place on grill on high. Will be done VERY quickly!
I’m hoping with my new found advice I’ll have all my veggies survive so there’s enough for leftovers!