September Cooking Tool of the Month – Grill
Hope you had a fantastic day off from work! With a new month comes a new cooking tool! This month we are featuring the grill. If you missed it on Monday, see how I made grilled cauliflower with my grill pan and my new favorite seasoning mix. Today’s guest post is from Kim and she gives us great tips on how to grill veggies so you can get the most out of your vegan grilling experience! Add your tips in the comments.
How To Grill the Vegan Way by Kim Kash
The barbecue grills are cookin’ up and down the block this time of year. It’s fun to make dinner on the deck or in the backyard, enjoying the weather and visiting with the neighbors. It almost feels like a party. However, just because the Joneses next door are charring up the usual burgers and dogs, doesn’t mean you need to toss the same junk on your barbie. No, I’m not talkin’ veggie burgers and Tofu Pups. I mean fresh, whole vegetables, grilled to perfection quickly and easily.
Of course, as is the case with meat, there’s an art to properly grilling veggies. Here are a few tricks to making everything you grill into a masterpiece.
Making the cut
How you chop or don’t chop the vegetables for cooking makes a big difference when grilling. The rule of thumb is to prepare the vegetables in big, meaty chunks or slabs so that they don’t dry out with the intense heat and so that they don’t fall through! Squash should be sliced into thick steaks. Onions should be peeled and cut in half at the equator. Carrots should be chopped into 3-4 inch length pieces. Eggplant should be cut into 1 inch “steaks”, Portobello mushrooms should be brushed clean and left whole. Likewise, small tomatoes, not cherry tomatoes (but not monster beefsteaks either) should also be left whole. Scrubbed potatoes can be halved or chopped into chunks, depending on their size.
Righteous rubs and masterful marinades
Next, you’ll take the chopped or otherwise prepared vegetables and either marinate them, give them a dry rub, or simply brush them with a bit of oil and sprinkle on salt and freshly ground pepper.
My favorite marinade is a homemade, delicious variation on the old bottled Italian dressing. Stay away from the store-bought stuff since you can make your own far superior dressing in about two minutes flat. Simply take a glass jar with a tight lid and add to it the following ingredients: 1 part lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, 2 parts olive oil, salt and pepper and an optional spoonful of Dijon mustard (Dijon is tasty if you’re using lemon juice.) Close up the jar and shake!
An exotic, Asian-inspired marinade is just as easy. Pour into the jar 2 generous tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil, a teaspoon of soy sauce, and a dash of salt. Shake it up! You can optionally add 2 tablespoons of fresh orange juice. That citrus taste works especially well with carrots.
Sometimes, simplicity works wonders. A light brushing (and I mean light) of olive oil across an eggplant steak does wonders for its flavor.
Dry rubs are another choice to add punch to veggies on the grill. A specialty in our house is a rub made with “the C spices”: cumin, coriander, cardamom, and chili powder (mild or hot, as you wish), along with turmeric and paprika. Dump a spoonful of each onto a plate, adjusting the amounts to your taste. I like more cumin and turmeric, less cardamom and chili powder. Mix them together, and dredge the vegetables in the mix. Depending on the type of vegetables you have, you may need to lightly oil them first to get the mixture to stick.
The art of arrangement
Timing and placement on the grill are both critical to success. Some vegetables take longer to cook than others. In fact, carrots, potatoes, and other root vegetables do best if they are parboiled before they hit the grill. First, place firmer, longer-cooking vegetables (carrots, potatoes, eggplant, onions) on the upper rack of the grill, or around the relatively cooler edges. After several minutes, add mushrooms to the grill. Next in line are the summer squashes, and finally tomatoes. In this way, the veggies should all be finished cooking around the same time. Take care when you remove the tomatoes, as the skins split and they become very fragile and soft.
And now for the final step in a successful veggie barbeque: pile your plate high and enjoy! When your neighbors see the healthful, delicious bounty you’ve grilled, the Joneses will be struggling to keep up with you!
We’d love to hear from you! What advice do you have to share about grilling? Any special tips or tricks when doing vegan grilling? What are your favorite things to grill?
Kim Kash has been a writer and editor for over 20 years, many of those in the book trade with Daedalus Books. Topics she covers as a freelance writer for range from federal government policy to yoga, food and travel. She often writes for beachbody.com which provides home fitness video programs and recently launched P90X2, which delivers an even more advanced fitness workout.
The author of the bestselling Ocean City: A Guide to Marylandís Seaside Resort (Channel Lake, 2009), Kim is a founder of the Greenbelt Farmers Market near Washington, D.C. Two years ago at age 40, Kim and her husband sold everything and moved to the Middle East. Since then, she has traveled to twelve new countries and has taken up sailing, diving, and rock climbing.