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Everybody enjoys a barbecue! There are few things better than being outdoors with family and friends, enjoying the warm weather, while a grill full of delicious food cooks in the background. A healthy, and often overlooked, cookout alternative is to try grilled vegetables along with, or instead of, more traditional barbecue options. It turns out that, when properly prepared, grilled vegetables can be among the tastiest things you or your family and guests have tasted. The best part is that preparing vegetables for grilling couldn’t be easier.
The first step in preparing grilled vegetables is learning which types of vegetables are best suited for the barbecue. While nearly every variety of vegetable is capable of being grilled, some are better than others. In general, larger vegetables cook evenly and are easier to manage on the grill than smaller vegetables. Also, sturdier vegetables tend to handle the grilling process better than their more fragile counterparts. This means, for example, that bell peppers are a perfect choice for the barbecue, while broccoli is not. Other good choices include onions, zucchini or summer squash, and corn on the cob. Don’t forget to experiment, however. Sometimes, more exotic, lesser known, vegetables are perfect candidates for the grill. Radicchio and endive are delicious when grilled, as is fennel. In each case, the bitterness found in the raw plant is tempered by exposure to the flames.
The next step in making grilled vegetables is proper preparation. Start by slicing the vegetables to provide maximum exposure to the heat from the grill. You first want to remove all end pieces, pulp and seeds and then halve or quarter the vegetable in question. A rule of thumb is larger, regular sized pieces work better than smaller, irregular sized pieces. In addition, some vegetables, onions and mushrooms in particular, benefit from the use of a skewer. Always use stainless steel skewers. They are reusable and easier to manage. Stay away from bamboo skewers which tend to burn. Once the vegetables have been cleaned and sliced, place them in a large bowl of cold water for 30 minutes or so. This allows them to soak up a bit of water which will help prevent burning once they are on the grill.
While the vegetables are soaking, fire up your grill. Vegetables grill best over medium heat, so the key here is to prevent the grill from getting too hot. If you can hold your hand several inches off the grill for for three or four seconds, you’ve got the temperature just right. Take your vegetables out of the water, pat them dry, give them a quick brush of olive oil and place them on the grill. Not all of the vegetables will cook at the same rate, so be prepared to take different vegetables off the fire at different times. You want to lightly char the vegetables, but not burn them. When the side of the vegetable closest to the fire has browned and is marked by the grill, it’s time to turn it over. Only turn the vegetables once. When the other side is also browned and marked by the grill, that vegetable is done and it’s time to take it off. Grilled vegetables taste best at or just above room temperature, so serving is easy. Simply place all the grilled vegetables in the same bowl or on the same plate and let them cool for ten or fifteen minutes.
Grilled vegetables are easy once you know the tricks. Remember, when you’re grilling vegetables, you’re grilling smart.