The summer is heating up, a prime time to heat up the grill instead of the kitchen.
I used to think of the grill as the place where you cooked meat. I made myself start using it for other things, and now there’s not much I don’t grill, especially vegetables. The smoky flavor is unmatched.
I have a gas grill, but you can certainly grill almost anything on charcoal. It just takes a little more planning to get the coals ready.
I’ve managed to pick up a few grilling baskets and trays at secondhand stores, although you can also buy new ones from garden and hardware stores.
Whatever utensils or cookware you use, make sure it’s not your best because it will show wear from the grill.
I have set aside a couple of older cast iron pans for use on the grill and I love how they cook outside almost as much as inside.
A visit to the farmers market or my garden brings in tomatoes, summer squash, spring onions, early carrots, fresh garlic, maybe some late asparagus, bok choi, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and a myriad of other good eats — all of which can be simply grilled.
The essence of grilling is to use a high-quality oil to help the vegetables caramelize. My go-to is fruity olive oil, but you can use grapeseed, walnut or even toasted sesame oil for a slightly Asian taste.
Fresh herbs lose their flavor quickly when grilled, so if using them, chop an add them after the vegetables come off the grill.
I also like to wait to salt vegetables until they come in to the table. Salt them while they are still warm so the salt dissolves, but not while on the grill, which tends to make it necessary to use more salt.
You can marinate the vegetables before cooking if you choose, but because vegetables don’t soak up oil and vinegars like meats do, it really isn’t necessary. You can toss them with whatever you like after they come off the grill for delicious flavors.
Vegetables don’t take long to cook, so cook any meats or other main courses first.
Heat the grill to high and then turn it back to medium. Oil your pan (cooking spray works fine), and then add the vegetables.
Some that are tougher, like carrots or beets, should be steamed or blanched briefly in boiling water to start the cooking process.
Don’t cook until they are soft, though or they won’t hold up on the grill.
Toss the vegetables frequently while they cook so all sides get equally caramelized.
Asparagus: Trim off tough ends, roll in olive oil and grill on a flat grill pan for around ten minutes, shaking the pan part-way through or using tongs to roll them around. Serve with a yogurt or mustard sauce.
Carrots: Steam or blanch about 2 minutes and then dress with olive oil. Grill in a basket about 10 minutes until easily pierced with a fork. Toss with fresh mint and maple syrup if desired or simply dressed with salt.
Cabbage and cauliflower: Cut into “steaks,” drizzle with oil and cook on a grill tray until it is just crisp tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with garlic powder and drizzle with balsamic vinegar to serve.
Broccoli: Cut into small florets, toss with oil and toss in a grill basket about 10 minutes. Toss with fresh Parmesan and lots of fresh ground pepper to serve.
Summer squash, zucchini, patty pans: Cut into half-inch-thick coins and toss with garlic powder and oil. Toss in a grill basket about 10 to 15 minutes until crisp tender. A sauce made with Dijon mustard and yogurt is delicious drizzled over the top.
Kate Jerome, a Kenosha writer and teacher, holds a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and is the former Urban Farm director at Gateway Technical College. She is the owner of the consulting business Kate Jerome’s Garden to Kitchen. Her website is www.kjerome.com.