Grilled vegetables can simplify summer meals
Grilling summer vegetables can bring out seasonal flavors, but there's more good news. It also can simplify meal preparation, reduce utility bills and make short work of clean-up!
Grilling veggies is easy!
"Learning to grill vegetables isn't difficult," says Sandy Procter, Kansas State University nutrition educator. Procter, who serves as coordinator of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program in Kansas, recommends using heavy-duty foil or a reusable foil baking pan with an edge to prevent smaller vegetables from slipping through the grill grid. She also recommends spraying the foil or pan surface with vegetable cooking spray before placing it on the grill.
"Vegetable cooking spray or a small amount of vegetable oil prevents sticking and makes grilled vegetables easier to turn. Avoid spraying surfaces near a lighted grill," she says.
"Marinating vegetables in an oil-based salad dressing or marinade also can make them easier to handle and less likely to stick to the pan, foil or grill surface. Marinades should, however, be reserved for that purpose and not reused after they have been used for marinating meat or other foods," Procter says.
Since not all vegetables cook at the same rate, the nutrition educator also recommends lightly steaming root vegetables like potatoes or carrots in the microwave before adding them to a summer vegetable mixture or kebab.
"Kebabs can be difficult to turn, but may be easier to manage when foods are similar in size and skewered in the center," she syas. She recommends using inexpensive bamboo skewers (available at the supermarket) for making kebabs.
Get the kids to chip in
"Allowing children to make their own kebab or choose the vegetables they would like to grill increases the likelihood that they will eat the vegetables," Proctor says. Grilled vegetables -- like summer squash -- often retain more texture than steamed vegetables. Grilling also can enhance flavor -- for example, it highlights the sweetness and natural flavor of peppers.
Fresh-grilled vegetables will be hot and should be handled with a long-handled spatula or tongs. Grilled vegetables also should not come in contact with raw meat, poultry or fish, says Procter, who recommends placing vegetable grill pans to the side of the grill.
Fruits such as apple, mango or nectarine slices can be grilled as accompaniments for grilled meat, poultry or fish; or for dessert.
"Fire-roasted food products and flavoring mixes are becoming more common in supermarkets. The same great flavors can be achieved at home, particularly when backyard chefs are willing to be a little adventuresome," Procter says.
Easy Grilled Potatoes
Scrub potatoes and slice them about twice as thick as a potato chip and place them in a resealable plastic bag. Add herbs and a little vegetable oil or seasoned, Italian-style salad dressing. Reseal the bag, and turn gently to coat potatoes before placing them on the grill pan. Turn once during grilling. Cooking time will vary with the type of grill, potato variety and size of slice. To test doneness, prick with a fork, the potatoes should be fork tender.
While special utensils and equipment are not necessary for grilling vegetables and most other foods, Procter reports success using a non-stick pan with paper-punch like holes. She said it simplifies grilling delicate foods like fish, or more fragile fruits and vegetables.
Placing the more fragile foods in the pan allows fats and juices to drain, and also makes foods easier to turn or remove from the grill grid. Look for grill gadgets and pans in hardware, kitchenware and department stores. Now get grilling!