Most of the year, our go-to way to cook vegetables is to pop them in a scorching-hot oven and roast away until they're caramelized. During peak Summer months, not so much; we practically break into a sweat just thinking of cranking up our ovens to 400°F and higher heats. Instead, we turn to our backyard buddy: the grill. Here's how we get 'em done:
- Prep the grill and tools: Veggies are prone to sticking to the grill, so rub an oil-dampened paper towel over the grates with a pair of tongs. Most vegetables do well over medium-high heat.
- Match the tools to the vegetable: Larger vegetables like whole or halved bell peppers, corn, eggplant and zucchini steaks, and halved tomatoes can be grilled directly on the grate; a pair of long grilling tongs will come in handy. When grilling narrow vegetables like asparagus and broccolini, a grill basket prevents the veggies from falling through the grates while still allowing them to get smoky and charred. (If you don't have a grill basket, cook them perpendicular to the grill grates.) Chunks of vegetables or smaller vegetables like cherry tomatoes can also be cooked in a grill basket; alternatively, plan to thread them onto stainless steel skewers (unlike wooden skewers, they don't need soaking).
- Prep the vegetables: Give the vegetables a good rinse, and thoroughly pat them dry. For large vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, and Summer squash, cut the vegetables lengthwise into steaks to allow for maximum surface area exposure on the grill. For narrow vegetable stalks like asparagus and broccolini, snap off (or cut) the woody, dried-out ends. For skewers, cut the vegetables into similar sized pieces and thread them evenly so that they cook in the same amount of time. Also, don't thread them onto the skewers until seasoned.
- Season the vegetables: Tossing the vegetables with a good dose of high-heat oil adds flavor, prevents them from sticking to the grill, and promotes caramelization; don't skip this step! Add the vegetables to a large mixing bowl with a glug or two of vegetable, grapeseed, or rice bran oil, a generous sprinkling of salt, and sturdy seasonings (if desired) like black pepper, red pepper flakes, chopped rosemary or thyme, dried oregano, or crushed cumin seeds. Save delicate seasonings like citrus zest, chopped leafy green herbs (like parsley or cilantro), and citrus juice until after grilling. Toss the vegetables to coat evenly. If threading the vegetables onto skewers, this is the time to do it, now that they are seasoned.
- Grill away: Grill until the vegetables have caramelized in spots and are tender throughout, flipping halfway through the cook time. Resist the urge to frequently rearrange the vegetables as they won't properly char. For juicier vegetables like tomatoes, this may take as little as a few minutes. Broccolini and asparagus should be cooked until bright green and al dente; these both overcook easily. Leafy greens like halved romaine hearts or kale should be cooked until just charred or they'll turn mushy and bitter (this can be as little as 30 seconds on each side).
- Finish them: Arrange the vegetables on a platter, and serve hot or at room temperature. Now's the time to drizzle your vegetables with extra-virgin olive oil, give them a spritz of lemon juice, or sprinkle them with a generous handful of chopped parsley, if using.