Bring some innovation to the backyard barbecue this holiday weekend. After all, that's the American way!
Grilled watermelon, leafy greens pizzas and more can add an unexpected spark to your Fourth of July celebrations.
Grilling enhances the natural sweetness of summer veggies while imparting a smoky flavor to their bite. Added to grain bowls and pasta salad or sandwiched between slices of sour dough with your favorite cheese, grilled vegetables make a healthy vegetarian main dish.
There is a nearly endless number of vegetables that cook well on the grill. Grilling is also a great way to use up produce that is wilting or you don't want to eat raw.
What's more, grilled vegetables are the best, healthiest way to grill! According to WebMD, produce is safe to grill because risk-potential PAHs and HCAs don’t form on grilled fruits and vegetables. There's no fat to render and drip onto the grilling element to cause the flare-ups that deposit those compounds back onto the food.
Here's our line up for the best vegetables for grilling and suggested cooking times:
Let's get grillin'!
Follow these 5 techniques to become a veggie grill master:
1. Slice the vegetables the same thickness so they cook at the same rate. Use a handheld mandoline for zucchini, eggplant, and onion. Aim for slices that fall somewhere between 1/3″ and 1/2″. Slicing the veggies too thin will make them disintegrate on the grill.
2. Give your veggies a good oil down. Follow the golden rule of grilling: oil what you grill, not the grill itself. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil then spread it evenly with your fingers.
3. Season simply. Sprinkle the vegetables somewhat generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add dried herbs such as oregano, mint, tarragon, or basil if you’d like.
4. Grill ’em up hot. Start your veggies over medium heat, about 350°F to 450°F. Lay long slices and asparagus or carrots crosswise over the grates so they don’t fall through. Close the grill lid and cook the vegetables undisturbed, flipping after 3-5 minutes.
5. Close the lid. Closing the lid of your grill creates the same environment as an oven, baking the vegetables as they lightly char. Remember to check the progress of your cooking half-way through cook times.
Grilled Pizza with Red Onion & Feta
1. Prepare a hot grill. Place the onions in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place a perforated grill pan on the grill and let it get hot, then add the onions and cook, tossing in the pan or stirring with tongs, for about 3 to 5 minutes, just until they soften slightly and begin to char. Remove from the grill and return the onions to the bowl.
2. Oil the hot grill rack with olive oil, either by brushing with a grill brush or by dipping a folded wad of paper towels in olive oil and using tongs to rub the rack with it. Place a round of dough on a lightly dusted baker’s peel or rimless baking sheet. Slide the pizza dough from the peel or baking sheet onto the grill rack. If the dough has just come from the freezer and is easy to handle, you can just place it on the rack without bothering with the peel. Close the lid of the grill – the vents should be closed —-- and set the timer for 2 minutes.
3. Lift up the grill lid. The surface of the dough should display some big air bubbles. Using tongs, lift the dough to see if it is evenly browning on the bottom. Rotate the dough to assure even browning. Keep it on the grill, moving it around as necessary, until it is nicely browned, with grill marks. Watch closely so that it doesn’t burn. When it is nicely browned on the bottom (it may be blackened in spots), use tongs or a spatula to slide the dough onto the baking sheet or peel, and remove from the grill. Cover the grill again.
4. Make sure that there is still some flour on the peel or baking sheet and flip the dough over so that the uncooked side is now on the bottom. Brush the top lightly with oil, then top with a thin layer of tomato sauce (no more than 1/4¼ cup) and a layer of grilled sliced onions. Sprinkle with thyme and feta, and drizzle on a little more olive oil. Slide the pizza back onto the grill. If using a gas grill, reduce the heat to medium-high. Close the lid and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes, until the bottom is brown. Open the grill and check the pizza. The top should be hot and the bottom nicely browned. If the bottom is getting too dark but the pizza still needs a little more time, move it to a cooler part of the grill and close the top. Use a spatula or tongs to remove the pizza to a cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve. Repeat with the other two crusts.