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Cooking on the Grill: Grilled Vegetables

Cooking on the grill in summer is an American pastime, and you can make it a healthy part of your life. By grilling vegetables and even fruits that taste great off the grill, you can even help supplant some of the unhealthier items that so often take up most of the plate at summertime picnics and lunch and dinner grilling events.

The great thing is, simple recipes work so well for grilling, because something about cooking over an open flame brings out the natural flavor of all foods, including fruits and vegetables. In fact, in many cases no recipe is needed. But we think we can help make your summer grilling tastier and healthier by introducing you to some grilled veggies and fruits you might not have thought of before.

For instance, have you ever had grilled plantains or grilled peaches? Your friends and neighbors will probably be surprised at first, and then delighted at the delicious flavors of such simple fare.

And while certain vegetables seem to end up on every grill, we think grilled parsnips, yams, and even carrots deserve equal billing. Read on for original ideas that will give your grill new life!

Traditional Grilled Veggies Marinade Recipe

Ingredients: 
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely minced>
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
Rosemary, thyme, oregano, savory, or basil

Directions:
Mix together, crushing the herbs into the oil. If prepared well in advance, the aromatic herbs are better able to permeate the oil.

Grilling Parsnips, Carrots, Yams & Other Root Vegetables

Cut the veggies lengthwise, creating long strips about 3/4" thickness. Grilling hard vegetables such as carrots or parsnips takes longer than softer ones such as eggplant, mushrooms, or yams. Baste both sides of the veggies with the marinade before grilling; repeat if the vegetables appear to be drying out. Grill until evenly brown on both sides and a fork penetrates through easily and fully.

Grilled Peaches

Grilled peaches make a wonderful summer dessert, and making them couldn’t be easier. Simply split the peaches and place face down on the grill. Because of their high sugar content, relative to vegetables, peaches will cook and brown quickly, so they need to be flipped more often. If the pit is hard to separate from the flesh, you can leave it in and grill them with the pit left in. Grill until they are completely soft; as long as you don’t blacken the skin, a peach can’t really be overcooked.

Grilled peaches taste great plain but are also excellent served with a little cinnamon; topped with yogurt or ice cream; a little lemon juice; or alongside other seasonal fruit such as blueberries.

Grilled Plantains

If there’s an ethnic section in your local grocery store, or perhaps an ethnic market near you, you’ll want to try this Caribbean favorite the next time you break out the barbeque. Although plantains may be unfamiliar, you’ll see they’re a kind of banana, and can be eaten in three different phases of ripeness: green, yellow, and black. The black variety may look spoiled to most people, but black plantains are fully ripe and sweet, whereas yellow and green plantains are more starchy. Purchase black, or yellow and black, plantains for grilling. Try to avoid ones with obvious hard spots, as these areas need to be cut out.

After cutting out any hard spots, you can grill plantains in two different ways: either cut them lengthwise and place face down on the grill, which crisps the surface slightly, and cooks a little more quickly. Or, you can simply put the whole unpeeled plantain on the grill, and cook it in its skin. This will give you a moister finished product.

When the plantain is very soft all the way through and both sides of the plantain are cooked, take it off the grill and peel back the skin after it has cooled to the touch. You can serve plain, or with a little cinnamon, and even a little butter. It’s a super tasty change of pace.

Variations:
You can experiment with different vegetable marinades. A teriyaki vegetable marinade using soy sauce, ginger, and sesame or sunflower oil is delicious and simple. You can use a mandolin vegetable cutter to create a ruffled texture, and to experiment more easily with different thicknesses of sliced veggies. Cinnamon can be sprinkled on plantains that have been split open, before you grill them, which cooks in the cinnamon flavor.

Benefits:
Any time you’re eating from the grill and you have something in addition to, or besides, hot dogs, hamburgers, steak, or chicken slathered in sweet sauce, we’d say there’s a benefit. Of course, there’s also a benefit to finding new and delicious ways to prepare vegetables and fruits—and these grilling recipes can be a great way to get children interested in trying new foods.

Of course, parsnips are high in minerals; carrots and yams are excellent sources of beta-carotene and Vitamin A; peaches are a healthy summer fruit; and plantains are as high in potassium as bananas.

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Principal Author: Daniel J. Heller, N.D.
Last Modified: August 21, 2012

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