Some might call vegetarian barbecue an oxymoron, but truly there are lots of great vegetarian options when it comes to grilling. Grilled vegetables and fruit make great side dishes, and many veggie dishes can be a satisfying main dish. They are also quick and easy to prepare. In general, vegetables should be cut to expose the maximum surface area to the grill, which in addition to adding maximum flavor, helps them cook quickly and thorougly. The following are five basic vegetable grilling principles:
1.) Build a medium-hot fire. Most vegetables respond better to moderate heat than a blazing fire. To test the temperature of your grill, hold your hand five inches above the grill grate. You should be able to hold your hand there for three or four seconds.
2) Make the (right) cut. Preparing vegetables for the grill is all about maximizing their surface area to increase the flavorful browning and sear marks, and prevent them from falling apart or slipping through the grill grates.
3) Brush wih oil. Applying a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil before grilling encourages even browning and helps prevent them from sticking to the grill grates. For minimum mess, lay the vegetables on a sheet pan,and use a basting brush. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper before cooking.
4) Go easy on the char. Browning vegetables is one thing, incinerating them is another. For best results, keep the pieces moving to avoid hot spots, and grill until they’re just tender and streaked with grill marks.
5) Grill meat first. When grilling vegetables to accompany steak, chicken or pork, cook the meat first, while the fire is at its hottest. By the time the meat is done, the heat has subsided a bit, and the vegetables can cook at a more moderate temperature while the meat rests. (Most important with a charcoal grill, but works well with gas too, and waiting for the heat to subside is not an issue.)
Below is a very simple and delicious recipe which will delight any vegetarians (and even carnivores) you might know. It is one of my favorite grilled veg dishes.
GRILLED VEGETABLE RATATOUILLE
1 red onion
1 kilo aubergine
3/4 kilo courgette or summer squash
2 bell peppers (red and yellow)
1/2 kilo tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon sherry (or flavored) vinegar
1/4 cup chopped (or torn) fresh basil
1 tablespoon frenh minced thyme
one garlic clove, peeled and grated to fine paste on rasp style grater
1) Prepare the vegetables by slicing into roughly 1/4 inch pieces. I n the case of courgettes and aubergines, cut diagonally (on the ‘bias’) to maximize surface area to be in contact with the grill. Aubergine need not be pre-salted, as is common in many recipes. Brush both sides with oil and season with salt and pepper. Whisk 120 ml. (4 oz.) oil, vinegar, basil,thyme and garlic together in large bowl.
2) Grill vegetables over medium-hot fire, turning once, until tender and streaked with grill marks, 10 to 12 minutes for onion, 8 to 10 minutes for aubergine and courgette, 7 to 9 mminutes for peppers, and 4 to 5 minutes for tomatoes. Remove vegetables from the grill as they are done, and cool slightly.
3) When cool enough to handle,chop vegetables into 1/2 inch pieces and add to oil mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm or at room temperature.