By Murray Schulman
Oh, my! Short-sleeve shirts, sunglasses, boat shoes and my solar panels are pumping out that electricity making my meter run in reverse. Life is good. Grilling season is in full swing although I grill year-round. If I could, I would be grilling breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t worry; I will get around to meats, poultry, seafood and all of the other items that go on my grill or in the smoker. I do some of my best outdoor cooking and the writing that goes with it all through the summer months.
This year is very special to me in that the team from the Herald has asked that I contribute a wine column in addition to the column that you are reading right now. I call it “Here’s To Sharing Wine.” Check it out in this issue of the Herald. I hope that you will enjoy reading my columns as much as I enjoy writing them. Now, back to grilling.
There is a staple dish that is always on hand at my home all summer long. This dish is simple to prepare, loves the grill and is phenomenally versatile and absolutely scrumptious. I grill up huge batches of veggies that I use all week long in a variety of meals that will dazzle your taste buds. There are so many reasons for you to make this part of your regular grilling repertoire. Set aside the reduction in calories and the health factors. They are a given. At this time of year, everything is in or coming into season. There is nothing better than going to your local farm market and picking out those fresh veggies. I am a strong proponent of working closely with the local farmers that bring their produce to their own family run market stand. This is how it has been done all over the world for centuries. It is the right thing to do and the rewards in flavor, texture and presentation are nothing short of amazing.
I am going to give you the base recipe that I use when grilling veggies in just a bit. The variety of dishes that you can create from this simple recipe is almost limitless. The key is to grill your lightly marinated veggies al dente. I use all different varieties of veggies. Most often, you will find zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant (I switch up the varieties to keep it interesting), thick meaty mushrooms, fennel, sweet or Bermuda onion, all sorts of peppers, artichokes and Brussels sprouts. Then there is Bok Choy and a wide variety from the lettuce family. You have to try big heavy local tomato slices on the grill. The list goes on and on. Just think about it, my friends. On a hot day, cool down with these grilled delicacies as part
of a salad made with a fresh berry dressing, pecans and goat cheese. Cut the veggies up small and make an omelet or a frittata. Prepare a light stir-fry sauce, toss in pieces of your veggies and serve over brown rice. Or for a lighter version, how about a vegetarian moo shoo dish? Maybe a cool lunch could be rolling those veggies inside a wrap or as a sandwich on a nice roll. My personal favorite is tossing the full variety of veggies (heavy on the grilled tomatoes) quickly heated with garlic and olive oil with your favorite pasta. Add a sprinkle of good cheese and you have achieved nirvana.
You know, I failed to mention that long beans such as local green beans and wax beans work well on the grill. I do blanch my asparagus and long beans quickly in salted water before grilling them. You need to shock the vegetable in ice water as soon as they reach that beautiful rich color that you are looking for. By blanching these vegetables, your textures will work with your other vegetables. Remember, do not overcook your veggies. That way they will be perfect for any dish that you choose to make. The additional advantage to having grilled vegetables on hand is that even the meat and potato eaters in your family will try them in one dish or another. The trick is to know your guests. I don’t serve mushrooms to some members of the family. That is fine as there are plenty of other options that they will enjoy.
I love grilling veggies. You get that grill fired up and get those marinated vegetables in a grill basket, on a grill sheet or directly on the grates. You will have all of the neighbors licking their lips as those aromas hit the air. It’s summer and life is good.
1. Combine oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic cloves in a large marinating container.
2. Reserve a quantity of the marinade for the sliced tomatoes.
3. Toss the cut vegetables minus the tomato slices into the marinade. Marinate for one hour.
4. Tomato slices should be lined up on a lined sheet pan and marinated with the reserved marinade flat on that pan.
5. Prepare your grill to medium-high heat.
6. Prepare grill baskets and grates with nonstick spray. Do not spray nonstick spray directly into flames.
7. Place marinated veggies onto your grate, sheet or baskets after draining off excess marinade.
8. Place over the fire and allow to cook until grill marks form.
9. Remove from grill and chill immediately.