Memorial Day is this coming Monday, May 29th, and for many it marks the official start of the late spring/summer grilling season. The chill of winter is long behind us and while the weather may remain on the cooler side for a couple more weeks, it's plenty warm enough to bust out the grill and start honing our outdoor cooking skills.
This year, Brookhaven Marketplace would like to encourage our customers to try something a little bit different: Instead of just cooking the usual steaks, hot dogs and burgers on the grill, try expanding your repertoire to other foods -- particularly fruits and vegetables. It's unfortunate, but most folks have not given grilled vegetables and fruits a chance (with the possible exception of many peoples' favorite, corn-on-the-cob). The fact is, grilling is suitable -- and even encouraged -- for a variety of produce, including eggplant, peaches, asparagus, and watermelon. It's just a matter of learning the process and complementing with the right proteins. You really can create a delicious meal, including the main course and all the sides, using just your grill!
Produce grilling recommendations
[info courtesy of seriouseats.com & food.com]
Eggplant, while common, doesn't tend to be seen much at cookouts or picnics during the summertime. But the fact is, eggplant is perfectly suited to being grilled. Just peel the eggplant and slice into 1 inch pieces lengthwise. Baste with a bit of olive oil and cook over medium heat until tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve with a nice grilled steak or fish, such as salmon.
Want a a more advanced take on grilled eggplant? Try this recipe for Grilled Eggplant Salad.
Asparagus is one of the easier vegetables to grill. Like eggplant, only a little prep is required; just trim the tough end of each piece and coat in olive oil. Asparagus can be placed directly on the grill – no foil required.
Asparagus is great served with grilled steaks, fish, burgers, and pork chops. It's a very versatile vegetable! For a good beginner's recipe for grilled asparagus, check here.
Sweet potatoes can be cooked in a couple different ways on your grill. You have the option of slicing them into wedges and cooking directly on the grate with a bit of oil, or you can slice and wrap each 'tater in foil and set the packet off to the side of the cooking surface until they are cooked through (turning every 10 minutes for about half an hour).
Sweet potatoes go best with red meat, such as steaks, but grilled chicken or a nice pork loin would work too.
Rather than serving as a side, this mushroom variety actually makes for a great meat patty substitution. If you are trying to limit your intake of red meat but you don't want to give up your burgers, portobello mushroom caps are the perfect stand-in. Portobellos are known for the meaty texture, and virtually anything you might find on an all beef burger would go well with a portobello. Interested? Here's a recipe for Portobello Burgers.
Unlike some of these other options, zucchini is frequently found at cookouts. However, most people tend to incorporate zucchini into over-baked casseroles rather than cooking them on the grill. Like sweet potatoes, however, zucchini holds up very well on the cooking grate, so long as the pieces are large enough to avoid falling through. The best method is to simply slice smaller zucchinis in half lengthwise and lay them across the grate horizontally. Here is a recipe for delicious Grilled Zucchini.
Serve your grilled zucchini with steaks, or fish such as salmon or tuna.
While not typically used as a side, watermelon – grilled watermelon, in particular -- is a great accompaniment for pretty much anything you're likely to make on the grill. Believe it or not, it tastes less sweet when grilled, which is why it can be served as part of the main course rather than just dessert. Simply slice the watermelon, grill until just softened, and cube (optional). Serve with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Much like grilling watermelon, cooking peaches on the grill reduces their sweetness factor. This makes them ideal for some types of salsas or chutney where other savory and spicy ingredients are used. However, grilled peaches are truly exceptional when used as part of a dessert. They can be grilled and served with ice cream or custard, or incorporated into a delicious topping for other confections. Grilled peaches are also exquisite on their own drizzled with a bit of honey or maple syrup, or sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar.
Try this recipe for Glazed Grilled Peaches and see what the fuss is about!
Grilled pineapple is one of summer's best treats and is becoming increasingly popular at cookouts and barbecues here in the States. It can be found on the grill alongside pork chops or chicken breasts, and frequently makes an appearance as one of the elements of sweet and savory summertime shish kabobs. Just core and slice your pineapple, and cook for a few minutes per side. The type is seasoning you choose should contrast the pineapples' native sweetness; try something spicy like hot pepper sauce for a rich, tangy flavor. If sweetness is your preference, try this recipe for basic Grilled Pineapple Slices, and serve with jumbo shrimp or pork chops.