Grilling vegetables is an easy way to cook them… yet many cooks are intimidated by them… even my Grill Master was wary…. he had a million excuses until we bought a grilling basket… then to get him to use skewers was another story… and so it goes. You should have seen the look on his face the other night when I asked him to just grill vegetables … no meat… sacrilege!
I decided to write this post to take some of the mystery out of it… actually there really isn’t any mystery at all… honest!
Please Note: The prices given for some examples are subject to change and are listed for illustration purposes only. Please check the websites for the most up-to-date prices.
Charcoal Grill… just as with grilling meat … using a charcoal grill is a personal preference … prepare and heat it as you would if you were grilling meat… the coals are ready when they are mostly covered in ash.
The coal fire will give the vegetables a really nice smoky flavor as it does meat.
Gas Grill … again.. some people prefer a gas grill for meat… and the same will go for vegetables. The gas grill has the advantage of getting the grill up to grilling temperature faster and you can control the temperature better and easier.
You lose the charcoal taste.. although you can purchase special gas grill coals and wood to give your foods flavor. Still, even if all you use is the gas grill and no additives.. you do have the fire to give your foods that crusty charred flavor.
Grill Pan… I added this method simply because foods cooked in a grill pan are technically grilled vegetables… usually made of cast iron.. they will char your foods and make those sought after grill marks.
By no means is this a second rate method… I use a grill pan when I don’t have the opportunity to use the charcoal grill.. obviously you lose the charcoal taste.. or the taste a true fire will give foods.
The Grill Pan shown is a 10 inch pan made of cast iron and is by Emerilware. It is available at Casa.com and retails currently for $27.49
Pan, Basket, Skewer or Direct
BBQ Grill Pan… there are special pans that come in all sizes and shapes.
Choose a size and shape that will work well with your BBQ Grill. Also take into account whether you intend to grill the meat at the same time as your vegetables… make sure you have enough room for both if that is your intention.
We have a typical grill pan we bought .. found a great price and grabbed it. It wasn’t until we began using it did we think of things we didn’t like about it. Great price doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting your money’s worth.
Who thinks of handles when buying them? …. The Grill Master did.. and just figured he’d use a mitt to move it around and remove it from the grill… it was awkward.. while he would still use a mitt.. a long handle would be better to help grip it… a few extra bucks for one with a handle would have been smarter.
Not all are non-stick… and as with pots and pans.. some are better at non-stick than others..as in everything else in life.. you get what you pay for...buy a pan by a quality manufacturer if you can... the price range is not all that wide.. it's not worth pinching a few pennies. The Grill Master complained about how hard it was to get all the pieces of vegetable stuck on it… especially in the corners.
Which brings me back to the shape… a BBQ Grill Pan.. with rounded sides.. like an omelet pan…. and non-stick.. with a handle will probably be our next purchase.
Baskets … these also work well… and unless you plan on getting a variety of baskets… choose wisely.
These come in all sizes and shapes as well. As with the BBQ Grill Pan.. keep in mind the same things as you would for them… size of your grill… and if you plan on the grill doing double duty ..grilling the meat and the veggies at the same time.
Let’s talk about the structure of the basket first. Some come as wire baskets.. again.. we purchased without thinking how we would use it.
Wire with its grill-like structure is okay for larger cut vegetables.. but for medium and smaller cut vegetables …. as the veggies cook they get soft and shrink and will tend to fall out… not good.
Mesh baskets work better for smaller cut vegetables. Also since the veggies are more exposed to the heat or flame, they will pick up more flavor in these kinds of baskets.
Rectangular thin “baskets” with a top grid to snap in place is excellent for flat cut slices such as eggplant. While you can lay the eggplant slices on the BBQ’s grill.. it is easier to use this kind of basket… quicker, easier and safer to flip the slices.. and no chance of it being dropped or falling into the coals… this also can be used for burgers and fish… sliced onions are particularly good this way…. as well as a host of other foods.. a good purchase to make.
Shape and size are things to consider, as well. As I mentioned earlier… think about the size and how it will fit on your grill. Also think about just how many vegetables you will be grilling for the number of people you normally feed… make sure the size of the pan is adequate.
Shape is something people rarely think about until they go to use it.. we didn’t. After just one use… my Grill Master complained about cleaning the corners of the square pan… and truth be told.. a rounded pan with sloped sides would have worked better.
Skewers are great for grilling a variety of vegetables that are different in size and density.
The biggest problem grillers face when grilling mixed vegetables is that they don’t cook at the same rate, so you either cook them by adding the ones that take the longest to the pan first and adding the rest little by little … or adding them all at once and simply having some softer than others…
The best solution is to use skewers.. load up each skewer with the same vegetable or ones that cook at the same rate and remove them when they’re done.
This method is good also … if you load your grill up with all the veggies skewers… and begin removing them as they’re done.. you have space to add the meat… while not everything is done at once.. it really is an acceptable solution for those with a relatively small grill.
TIP: I lay them on a baking sheet with sides… keeps them from rolling off and the oil from getting all over the place.. a good place for one last baste before putting them on the grill. Another nice thing is .. as they finish cooking you can put them back on it.. it’s not like raw meat that contaminates a surface.
Direct… what I mean by direct is that you lay the slices of vegetables directly on your BBQ grill.
As I mentioned before… it certainly works and works well for larger pieces of vegetable… but it isn’t your best option… it requires more watching and work… while it doesn’t sound like much to flip each individual piece… and food network chefs make it look easy.. you don’t have a staff taking care of all the other details going into a meal… baskets and pans are relatively inexpensive.. and well worth the purchase… why sweat over a hot grill?
The price of grill pans, baskets, skewers and accessories varies widely. The choice to make is truly an individual decision, just as the decisions you make when purchasing pots and pans.
I just urge you to make the decision wisely based on your needs and means… keep in mind the advantages of some of the “extras”… such as handles. Size and shapes are just what you prefer using and you should be able to find one in your price range. Prices are relatively reasonable overall.
What to Grill?
The possibilities are virtually limitless… if you cook it .. you can grill it.
Popular combinations are mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, peppers (red, green, yellow…even jalapeno), onions, eggplant, potatoes, green beans, asparagus and cherry tomatoes… I’m sure you can think of even more.
I know we’re talking about veggies here.. but keep in mind.. fruits grill nicely too… and pound cake (I had to throw that in too).
Prep the veggies as you normally would.. you can peel them or leave the skin on them.. whichever you prefer… when cutting or slicing them.. keep in mind what they will be grilled in.. as previously discussed.. you don’t want them falling into the fire as they cook.
Marinate them for extra flavor. I use oil based marinades… or I toss or brush them in olive oil and seasonings…
If using skewers… brush them with marinade or your seasoned oil during cooking to keep them from drying out (not always necessary).
Cooking times vary depending on the density of the vegetable, the size of the pieces and the hotness of the grill.
Tomatoes and mushrooms are probably the fastest to grill with potatoes being the longest… figure the shortest time for about 5 minutes and 15 minutes as an average for the rest… you want them charred to your liking and also soft to your preference… whole potatoes will take longer… they can be wrapped in foil and placed right on the grill… follow your recipes instructions for prep and grilling times.
Give it a try… baskets and pans are not expensive… keep an eye on them until you get used to grilling them.. after a couple of times .. you will have it down to a science as to how hot you like your grill and how long to grill them to your liking.
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Red white and Blue Desserts are a terrific way to tie in the Patriotic theme into your celebration....
Here are just a few simple dessert ideas ...
Very Berry Tart
Red White and Blue Amaretto Mascarpone Trifle
Patriotic Star Pound Cake Dessert
Easy Triple Berry Trifle
Red White and Blue Berry Fruit Salad
With the official start of this year's grilling season about to start ... I thought it would be a good opportunity to re-post some Food Safety Grilling Tips… these are courtesy of the Partnership for Food Safety Education.
A true "Grill Master" always knows to clean, separate, cook and chill to ensure a pleasant cookout for all.
Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
*Always marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter or outdoors. Don't use sauce that was used to marinate raw meat or poultry on cooked food. Boil used marinade before applying to cooked food or reserve a portion of the unused marinade to use as a sauce.
*When grilling foods, preheat the coals on your grill for 20 or 30 minutes, or until the coals are lightly coated with ash.
*If you partially cook food in the microwave, oven or stove to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill.
*When it's time to grill the food, cook it to a safe internal temperature. Use a food thermometer to be sure. The food thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the meat and should not be touching bone, fat, or gristle. Check the temperature in several places to make sure the food is evenly heated.
Beef, veal and lamb steaks and roasts: 145 °F for medium rare and 160 °F for medium.
Ground pork and ground beef: 160 °F.
Poultry: to at least 165 °F.
Fin fish: 145 °F or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.
Shrimp, lobster and crabs: The meat should be pearly and opaque.
Clams, oysters and mussels: Until the shells are open.
*Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs. Be sure to have plenty of clean utensils and platters on hand.
*Grilled food can be kept hot until serving by moving it to the side of the grill rack, just away from the coals to avoid overcooking.
*Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature for more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer (one hour when the temperature is above 90 °F).
Have a wonderful and safe holiday…
Information and illustration from the Partnership for Food Safety Education.
However you like your burger... plain.... with cheese .. loaded with toppings... doesn't matter ... the most important part is making the burger... and grilling season is here... so here are some burger basics for grilling a perfect burger.
Warren is the Grill Master in our house…. when we first got together.. I was a gas grill kinda gal… and being a widow/single mom… I learned to make … what I thought was the perfect burger… then I met Warren.. and only then did I get to know what the perfect burger really is.
He insisted on a charcoal grill… I wrinkled my nose and wanted a gas grill… I did not get my way.. and I’m glad I didn’t… I love a burger made on a charcoal grill.
It’s easy to grill burgers… just follow a few basic tips…
1) Get good quality meat… quality meat is important… poor quality meat will just not taste as good… also fat content is personal preference… some people believe that a higher fat content makes a juicier burger… I disagree… we use lean ground beef and the burgers are moist and delicious.
2) Make sure the meat is fresh.. free of discolorations and if it smells bad.. it is.. don’t use it.
3) My Mother always mixed chopped onions and seasonings in her ground beef… again it’s personal preference… we don’t
4) Use two hands to gently make your patties… make them all the same relative size and shape.. about ¾ inch thick is a good thickness…. grilling time will be uniform then.. with the exception of preferences for medium, medium well and well done.
5) You want high heat… this will sear the outside and keep those juices in. If using a charcoal grill heat the grill until the coals are white around the edges, then your grill is ready.
6) Put them on and leave them alone.. only flip them once.
7) Don’t press down on them with a spatula.. that will press the juices out and will dry your burger out.
8) We make 1/3 pound burgers… he grills them 5 minutes a side for a slight pink center and 7 for no pink in the center (he says the thicker the burger the closer to 7 minutes a side he makes them… if he makes them flatter … it’s closer to 5 minutes for that pink center)
9) If adding cheese.. put it on just before they’re ready to come off the grill… 1-2 minutes before.
10) Have buns and condiments ready… and
Recipe: Beef Tostadas
Recipe: Mini Dutch Babies
Recipe: Dark Cherry Sauce
It's the season to make salads... for that Backyard BBQ, Family Reunion, Graduation Party, Showers... or maybe just a family get-together...
The wonderful thing about salads... they go with just about everything and they're well loved by all. From the classic potato and macaroni salads to the healthy fruit salads... and everything in between.. there is a salad for everyone for sure..
Try one... try them all... all season long...
Fruit Salad - Sweet, refreshing and healthy... Fruit Salad is perfect for almost every menu
Egg Potato Salad - Always fit for a party.. this classic is sure to please
Classic Potato Salad
More terrific Potato Salads...
New York Deli Style Potato Salad
Potato Salad with Sweet Pickle Relish
German Potato Salad
Classic Macaroni Salad - Macaroni salad can be made a million ways... let's just say I never met a Macaroni Salad I didn't like
Coleslaw - Another classic salad... wonderful with BBQ meats, fried chicken and sandwiches alike
New York Deli Style Cucumber Salad - Quick, easy and delicious!
Another great Cucumber Salad you'll want to try...
Hungarian Cucumber Salad - crisp cucumber slices and sweet onions in a creamy sour cream sauce seasoned with Hungarian paprika..so good!
Italian Salads always are welcome at BBQs and parties...
Insalata Caprese - Sliced tomatoes, thin sliced mozzarella cheese ... a little basil... with or without a light drizzle of olive oil .. so refreshing and beautiful.. quick and easy ... a compliment to whatever else your serving.. can't ask for more from a salad
Antipasto Salad - This salad can be a meal in itself... chock full of flavorful ingredients.. a great addition to any menu
Salami and Provolone Pasta Salad - This quick and easy recipe combines Pasta, Genoa Salami and Provolone... add some cherry tomatoes and black olives .. toss with your favorite Italian dressing and you have one delicious salad. You can even use a non-fat dressing to cut the fat and calories.
More Pasta Salads...
Creamy Italian Pasta Salad
Simple Pasta Salad
Italian Rice Salad - a little spin on a pasta salad... for a change...use rice instead
Tomato and Mozzarella Salad - You don't always need pasta, potatoes or rice for a really good salad... and this is one of those.. just a wonderful blend of flavors
Even more salads...
Pea Salad - A salad that's just a little different but delicious just the same
Three Bean Salad
Recipe: Smokey Onion and Red Potato Frittata
Paprika for dusting
Recipe: Sloppy Joe and Mac Skillet
White Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Filling and White Chocolate Coconut Frosting
Sweet Potato Pancakes with Pecan Butter