This week I would like to introduce our customers to a great summertime treat that many people miss out on because they simply haven’t been exposed to it. I don’t want to take anything away from Prisco’s great fresh meat department, and there is no question that outdoor grilling is a time when that department really shines, but there are more things worth grilling than just meat. You don’t need to be a vegetarian to enjoy the great taste of grilled fruits and vegetables, all part of a well balanced summer diet. Grilling gives fruits and veggies a smoky-sweet flavor, and it's amazingly easy.
Here are a few tips that you will find helpful when considering what and how to grill fresh produce:
To avoid messy grilling, you will want to make use of skewers or a grill basket to prevent small chunks of vegetables from falling through the grate. Using two skewers will help prevent vegetables from spinning while turning on the grill. It’s ok to use bamboo skewers but be certain to soak them in water for 30 or more minutes before using to prevent them from burning.
Use a light brushing of oil on vegetables and fruits to prevent sticking. The vegetables must be dry before applying oil or the oil will not stick.
Don't peel vegetables before grilling — you'll get more nutrients and enjoy a smokier flavor. Leave the husk on corn to act as a natural insulator, keeping the steam in and preventing the corn from drying out.
Vegetables should be grilled over a medium heat or use the indirect heat method. Rotate or move them to a cooler part of the grill during cooking as necessary to ensure that the outside isn't cooking too quickly.
The length of cooking time will vary depending on the type of vegetable and how it has been prepared. When grilling harder vegetables, such as potatoes with other vegetables, they may need to be par-cooked before grilling to ensure that all the vegetables are done at the same time. Vegetables like eggplant, fennel, onions, mushrooms, peppers, sweet potatoes, summer squash, and tomatoes should be raw when placed on the grill.
Vegetables should have browned grill marks and be tender when pierced with a fork or the tip of a knife.
Cut vegetables into uniform size pieces so they will cook evenly. The larger and thicker the pieces the longer the grilling time.
Prevent vegetables from drying out on the grill by soaking them in cold water before cooking.
Seasoning the vegetables with a coarse salt, such as sea salt or kosher salt, before grilling will draw out extra moisture from the vegetables, which will intensify its sweetness and flavor.
Experiment by sprinkling different herbs and spices over vegetables while grilling.
Some veggies (including artichokes, beets, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and winter squash) can be pre-cooked to shorten grilling time and ensure that the inside and outside cook evenly. To pre-cook: Steam or blanch until just barely tender. Pat dry, brush lightly with oil, then grill until completely tender and lightly browned.
Ideal grilling fruits are firm and barely ripe. Watermelon, pineapple, plums and peaches can all take the heat. Soak them in liquor or drizzle with honey before grilling for an added burst of flavor.
To enhance the flavor of the fruit, try brushing cut fruits with melted butter and sprinkling with sugar, cinnamon, brown sugar, or lemon juice while grilling. Sugar tends to burn so it is best to apply it toward the end of cooking time.
Caution, most fruits contain a high level of water which will get extremely hot when grilling. Be certain to allow the fruit to cool slightly after removing it from the grill, or the fruit may cause serious burns to the mouth.
Okay, so much for the do & do not do's. How about some suggestions for great foods to grill.
Eggplant When grilled, eggplant becomes crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside—no breading or cheese necessary. Slice your eggplant in 1-inch thick slices and coat with extra-virgin olive oil. Place on your grill rack, cooking for 6 minutes per side or until eggplant is tender.
Peaches, nectarines or apricots Grilling these summer fruits deepens their natural sweetness, and it’s oh-so-easy to do: simply slice them in half, remove the pits, and put them facedown on a grill that’s been preheated to high. Remove when golden brown, about 5 minutes. Try brushing them with honey, sprinkling them with cinnamon, or topping them with Greek yogurt.
Pineapple Grilling pineapple cuts the fruit’s acidity and turns it into a treat that’s as sweet as candy. Cut your pineapple into wedges or rings and place it on the grill for about 3 minutes per side.
Asparagus Lightly charred asparagus tossed in a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper makes for an incredibly easy and nutritious summer side dish. Place directly on the grill over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
Watermelon Sure we all know how delicious a cold slice of fresh watermelon can taste but grilled watermelon brings a whole new dimension to this fruit. To grill, cut your watermelon into big wedges or 1-inch-thick rounds. Place the fruit on a very hot grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Tomatoes Add a smoky flavor to pasta dishes and salads by grilling your tomatoes over high heat. Just slice the tomatoes in half, brush the cut sides with olive oil, and place on a grill heated to high for about 3 minutes.
Portobello mushrooms Vegans and vegetarians have discovered that a giant portabella makes a great meatless burger. So go ahead you carnivores. swap out your usual ground-beef patty for a Portobello cap and save on saturated fat and calories. Just brush them lightly with olive oil, place them gill-side down for 4 minutes, and then flip and cook for an additional 7 minutes.
Zucchini This easy to grill vegetable is abundant throughout the summer months. Thinly slice the squash lengthwise, coat lightly with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and place on the grill for about a minute, or until marked and tender.
Carrots If you enjoy oven roasted carrots in the cooler months grilling is a great option for carrots. Peel them and put them on the grill over moderately high heat in a perforated grill pan for about 5 minutes.
Romaine Grilling romaine gives your salad a unique smoky flavor. Preheat your grill to medium-high, lightly oil the grates, and grill the lettuce, turning often, until charred in spots (about 2 minutes).
Corn on the cob You can grill the cobs in their husks or brush them with olive oil and place them directly on the grill. Either way, grilling your corn takes this summer staple to a new level.
Sweet potatoes Make grilled sweet potato fries by first pre-cooking the potatoes in a microwave for about 6 minutes. Then, cut them lengthwise into wedges, drizzle them with olive oil, and transfer them to the grill for 3 minutes per side.
Kale This super food is also adaptable to the grill. Blanche the kale before you grill to tenderize the leaves and prevent it from burning. Grill 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3 minutes.
Bananas Give your banana split a summery twist: slice banana in half lengthwise, coat with cooking spray, then grill over medium heat for 2 minutes per side.
I do hope that this will get you thinking about grilling lots of fresh fruits and vegetables this summer. I’d love to hear you comments about the new world grilled produce has opened for you and your family.
Bill Vella – Produce Manager