It’s officially the season for cooking and eating outside — which coincides perfectly with all of the summer produce coming into our stores. The best way to make the most of it all? Grill any vegetable you can. Start with these:
Grilling brings out vegetables’ natural sweetness, and in-season summer Vidalias (one type of sweet onion that, by law, can only be grown in 20 south Georgia counties) bring a lot of sweetness to the table. There’s a subtle transformation that happens with smoke and caramelization to coax out their amazing flavor.
The flowery tops of broccoli spears are perfect for catching marinades and getting perfectly crispy while the stems turn soft and sweet. Make sure to keep florets big so they don’t drop through grill grates, or use a grilling basket. Grilled broccoli holds its own as a veggie side, and it’s a welcome addition to pizza and summer pasta salads, too.
Try it: Grilled Vegetable Pizza
Summer sweet corn turns nutty and roast-y when grilled. It also turns tender without going mushy for the perfect corn texture. Make sure you rotate ears of corn frequently so it cooks evenly and doesn’t char or dry out.
Try it: Grilled Mexican Street Corn
The grill turns eggplant sweet, smoky and meltingly tender. Sliced, halved or whole small eggplants don’t need much more than a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. They also make a great canvas for other flavors, like salty feta cheese, sweet grilled peppers and fresh tomatoes.
Super crisp and anise-flavored when raw, fennel turns tender, sweet and mellow once it’s grilled. Pair it with heartier flavors, like grilled meat or seafood.
Try it: Grilled Rack of Lamb and Fennel
Yes, lettuce. You’ll get deep flavor, and crisp varieties like romaine will stay crunchy when grilled briefly at higher heat. Slice heads in half and grill them just long enough to get a kiss of char on each side. Lettuce relatives like radicchio and endive grill well too.
Try it: Grilled Tomato and Romaine Salad
Hearty umami-packed mushrooms are one of the best meat substitutes for grilling. White button or cremini mushrooms are great in kabobs, big portobellos are hearty and satisfying — and they’re a ringer for your usual burger patties.
There’s squash everywhere this time of year, and your grill is one of the best places for it. Grill halves, thread onto skewers for kabobs or cook in foil packets (this method is particularly handy if you’re camping).
Available year-round, these potatoes get a great toasty-sweet flavor from the grill. Like other very dense vegetables, potatoes benefit from a short pre-cooking before grilling.
Try it: Spiced Grilled Sweet Potatoes
From cherry tomatoes skewered on kabobs to full-size heirlooms, the warm juiciness and complex smoky flavors from grilled tomatoes is one of summer’s greatest flavors. Keep a close eye on them at the grill so that they don’t overcook — they can go from plump to deflated quickly.
Helpful Tips for Grilling Vegetables
- A little oil on your veggies or brushed on your grill grates will help prevent sticking. You can use a grill basket if you don’t want to use oil.
- Most vegetables grill best over moderate heat. Rotate them and move them to a cooler part of the grill if they begin to char before they’re heated all the way through.
- Precooking dense vegetables like potatoes, beets, parsnips and winter squash will shorten their grilling time and ensure they’re tender before they char. This is important when combining them with meat or softer vegetables in kabobs. Precook by blanching them in boiling water until just barely tender, then cool them briefly in cold water.
- Need a quick marinade? Try using any vinaigrette you have on hand, or simply toss or brush veggies with an easy combo of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Remember that the oil in marinades can cause flare-ups, so keep your coating light.
- Grill extras for meals later. Leftover grilled veggies are great in summer sandwiches, grain bowls, tacos and salads.