Grilling and smoking fruits and vegetables
Once you start getting a feel for your grill or smoker, you immediately get more adventurous. You may start scouring the Internet or magazines for new recipes to try; at least that is how I am. Once I gain the confidence on one item or dish I want to top it the next time I hit the grill.
For the longest time I just grilled meat, every time. I was one dimensional and getting bored of just steaks or beer can chicken, etc… I mean, I had thrown some things on the grill with minimal vegetation, like a kabob…but that was the extent of it. To be honest, I was a bit of a meatatarian during my early grilling years. Not that there is anything wrong with that. 🙂
Like a lot of folks, side dishes seem to always be prepared in the house. Then I met grilled asparagus. That single-handedly changed not only my viewpoint, but also gave me the confidence to try anything on the grill. I was bound and determined to find ways to prepare the whole meal at, on, or around the grill.
Not every veggie is great on the grill, but most are. Furthermore, they require only a minimalist approach to season or marinade. Sometimes just olive oil, salt and pepper, sometimes just some quality Italian dressing will do the trick. Either way, the best grilled or smoked veggies are generally easy. Grilling thick slices of onion and peppers, along with skewered baby bella mushrooms makes the most amazing aroma, the kind you smell outside the ball park.
As a side note, experiment with all kinds of vegetables based upon your tastes. Heavy duty aluminum foil is a vegetable dish’s best friend. I make foil pouches for things like broccoli and cauliflower and steam them on the grill. A little butter, garlic and spice are generally all you need to spruce them up quite nicely. Try soaking several rosemary sprigs in water from 30-60 minutes, then put those on your top grill rack or over indirect heat on your grill. Next put some halved baby potatoes on top of the rosemary. The rosemary smoke will infuse your potatoes with subtle flavor (tip: parboil potatoes for a couple of minutes to soften their texture first). If you want to wow your friends and family, you can spear the rosemary through the potato for a killer presentation.
Next, I have to say is my favorite…grilled fruit. I just started this within the past couple of years. Man, was I missing out! If you’re a follower of this blog, you may have seen the grilled pears I posted before. Tip of the iceberg…because just about every fruit is ridiculously awesome grilled. I have made grilled lemonade, grilled peaches, pears, apples and pineapple. Super simple; just like veggies, they require little attention beforehand: a little brush of oil or melted butter with a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon will make any fruit pop as an amazing dessert or appetizer. Throw some vanilla bean ice cream on a grilled peach and you’ll experience a sweet nirvana. They can even co-star with a main dish. Experiencing a grilled apple with grilled pork is FLAVOR-TASTIC!
You can also make fruit savory with ease. Oil, salt, and fresh herbs are simple additions that give the food a complex taste. And don’t get me started on cheese…oh man! Pears and apples are my favorites to add cheese to. I will halve them and cut slots on the bottom to keep them stable, then scoop out a small divot to put the cheese in and melt away. Grill the flat side first, flip, and add cheese to melt.
Fruit is full of natural sugars, so be very attentive while cooking, especially over direct heat or flame. I tend to grill my fruit and veggies on low or medium heat, sometimes completely indirect to prevent burning.
Experiment; play with your food because it’s fun and rewarding. You’ll get better with practice, I promise. I know I have found a new love of grilling and even smoking my fruits and vegetables. What an easy, fun way to get these into your diet!