From the Garden/Farm to the Grill

Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Kitchen Gardener Cook


Grilled veggies–everyone finds pleasure in lightly smoky, caramelized vegetables. Numerous varieties – squash, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, eggplant and fennel, to name a few – take extraordinarily well to this method of cooking. Don’t leave out the fruits of the season as that sweet caramelized juicy fruit works wonders in a salsa, relish or simply topping ice cream or gelato.

Start with a salad course. Lettuces like endive and radicchio hold their own on a hot grill, caramelizing just enough to lose a little bit of their natural bitterness. Add your best homemade dressing enhanced with cheese or toasted chopped nuts.

Some vegetables, such as leeks, carrots and potatoes, need do-ahead prep before preceding to the grill. By lightly boiling potatoes or carrots the night before, then slicing and holding them in the fridge, they can be popped on the grates 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat. They’ll come out tender inside and crisp on the edges. Serve them with an herby fresh green vinaigrette, but they’ll go with just about anything.

Corn on the cob, too, is more about the method than the added flavors To protect the corn from burning, remove the entire husk, except for the innermost layer, which sticks to the corn with the help of a little softened butter. As it grills, the butter melts into the kernels, and the leaves peel back just enough to allow a few random spots of char on the cob. It’s a side dish that will go with anything from beef to seafood.

Eggplant, fennel, squash and tomatoes can turn into a light vegetarian main course when grilled and tossed with sweet-tart sherry vinaigrette, and served over quinoa or couscous. Add whatever you like to bulk it up and give it some added protein – feta cheese, garbanzo beans or even grilled tofu. Though the cherries seem a surprise addition, they pick up some smoky flavors and add bursts of sweet juice when cooked in a hand-folded aluminum foil basket.

‘Creative grillers’ at home and restaurant kitchens are playing with all kinds of grilled fruits, which can be served in either the savory or sweet part of the meal.

With an arsenal of new harvest recipes – and a lot of respect for the process – we’re all about turning produce into the hero.

Grilling Vegetable Guide

A large platter of grilled mixed vegetables is a welcome addition to any summer menu, but it will require some extra attention – some vegetables will cook longer than others, so they’ll need to be pulled off at different times. That’s just fine as they’re just as good served cold or at room temperature.

Vegetables should be cut to expose as much surface area to the grill as possible, then brushed with olive oil and seasoned generously with salt and pepper. Add infused oils or extra seasonings like garlic or chile oils, oregano or rosemary as you like. Build the platter your way – in addition to the vegetables listed below, you can also add lettuces like endive and radicchio, corn on the cob or potatoes to the platter.

Grilling temperature should be medium to medium-high. Depending on how well you like your vegetables cooked, you can leave them longer on the grill or pull them when they’re still crisp.

Follow these simple basic guidelines for best results, including those good-looking grill marks.

Bell peppers

Preparation: Core and seed, and cut into four equal-size pieces.

Grill: About 4-6 minutes per side.

Fennel

Preparation: Cut off the fronds and stems of the fennel. Trim a thin slice from the bottom, leaving the rest of the core intact. Remove any bruised or brown outer layers. Cut fennel lengthwise into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices through the core, so that they resemble  fans.

Grill: About 6 minutes per side.

Leeks

Preparation: Cut off the dark green tops and remove all of the tough outer layers, leaving only the tender light green and white insides. Cut in half lengthwise through the core, and rinse well with cold water. Boil for about 2-3 minutes in well-salted water, then plunge into ice water to stop the cooking (can be done a day in advance).

Grill: About 3 minutes per side.

Mushrooms

Preparation: These need to be skewered so that they don’t fall through the grates. Slice portobello mushrooms into 1/2-inch-thick slices through the stem, then skewer from the bottom of the stem through the cap of the mushroom, or skewer smaller button mushrooms through the stem and cap.

Grill: About 4-5 minutes per side.

Onions

Preparation: Trim both ends of the onion, then peel. Cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch slices crosswise, then thread thin skewers all the way through the onion, so that they will lay flat on the grill.

Grill: About 6 minutes per side.

Zucchini and summer squash

Preparation: Trim ends of the vegetable, then cut lengthwise, 1/2-inch wide. If the squash is too long, cut it in half through the middle before slicing into strips.

Grill: About 4 minutes per side.

Grilling Fruit Guide

Grilling fruit caramelizes the natural sugars, concentrating the flavors and releasing some of the juices. Here are some tips:

Apricots and plums: Cut in half, pit fruit and brush with oil. Grill, cut side down, about 1 1/2 minutes (apricots should be golden brown). Turn over and continue grilling for 1-2 minutes.

To serve:

  • Top with vanilla ice cream and crumbled amaretti cookies. Layer over sponge or pound cake, sprinkle with toasted, slivered almonds and top with whipped cream.
  • Skewer between chunks of chicken and red onions. Dice and make a fruit salsa to serve over grilled pork chops. Serve between shortcakes with whipped cream.

Cherries and grapes: Make an aluminum foil bowl by folding a large sheet in half, then crimping the sides all the way around into a bowl shape. Place grapes into the bowl. For cherries, pit before placing into the bowl. Grill over medium-high heat, stirring or shaking occasionally, until they soften and begin to release some juice.

To serve

  • Pour over pork chops or chicken in a savory dish. Spoon cherries and juice over ice cream. Place in a bowl and drizzle with melted bittersweet chocolate.
  • Toss into savory salads or side dishes with other vegetables. Serve over vanilla ice cream.

Peaches and nectarines: Cut in half, pit fruit and brush with oil. Grill, cut side down, until golden brown, about 1 1/2-2 minutes. Turn over and continue grilling for 1-2 minutes.

To serve

  • Top with ice cream. Fill halves with sweetened mascarpone cheese and drizzle with melted chocolate. Dice and toss into a fruit salsa to serve over fish, pork or chicken.

Pineapple: Slice pineapple, brush with a little bit of melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Grill for about 3 minutes on each side until grill marks are visible.

To serve:

  • Eat plain.
  • Drizzle with coconut milk and squeeze of lime juice.
  • Dice into a fruit salsa with jalapenos to serve over fish or chicken.
  • Top slices with vanilla ice cream and caramel or rum sauce.

Grilled Potatoes With Green Goddess Dressing

Serves 6-8

This is a great make-ahead recipe – the dressing can sit in the fridge for 4 or 5 days, and the potatoes need to be par-cooked the day before you’re ready to grill, so all that’s left the day of is to season the potatoes and grill them for 8-10 minutes.

The dressing:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 anchovies
  • 2 green onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped chives
  • 1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed parsley leaves
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

The potatoes:

  • 3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes (about 5 large)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

For the dressing: Puree the mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon juice, anchovies, green onions and herbs in a food processor fitted with a metal blade or in a blender, until it is mostly smooth and green in color with flecks of herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the potatoes: The day before serving, place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water by 1-2 inches. Season the water with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a slow boil over medium heat, then lower to a simmer and cook until potatoes can be pierced with a knife but still hold their shape, about 45 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. Remove from heat, drain and rinse with cold water. Let cool slightly, then peel and slice potatoes into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place on a baking sheet in one flat layer and refrigerate overnight.

About 30 minutes before cooking, preheat a grill until it reads about 425° on a thermometer. Oil the grate and set over the heat. Meanwhile, mix the garlic with the olive oil, and let steep for at least 20 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the fridge, brush with the garlic oil and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides.

Place on the grill and cook for about 4-5 minutes, until the bottom edges turn golden and crisp. Flip carefully and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Serve immediately with the dressing on the side for dipping.

Source: The Globe and Mail

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