I spend all year dreaming about summer. More precisely, I dream of throwing the products of an entire farmers’ market onto a burning grill. I know what you’re thinking: what about burgers and hot dogs? Unfortunately, thanks to legions of soggy red pepper and zucchini skewers and uncooked eggplant slices, grilled vegetables are a hard seller among meat eaters – woe to the marinated portobello who dares to rival a rack of pork ribs. And that’s a shame, because with a few clever techniques you can make the charred cabbage just as longing as a juicy burger.
“The smell of smoke when you eat a vegetable that comes off the grill stimulates the little ones,” says Lara Lee, author of Coconut and Sambal Sam. “Grilling also offers a wonderful structural contrast: flaky, crispy skin and a soft interior. It just tastes like summer. ”
So consider the following guide to grilled vegetables as a friendly invitation to gild all your favorite products with a bit of char, from classic corn on the cob to juicy watermelon. Don’t forget to stock up on charcoal. It’s going to be a smoky, delicious summer.
Compound butter is the fastest way to upgrade the classic corn on the cob. Lee channels the popular Indonesian street food Jagung Bakar for her, mixing a few tablespoons of butter with half a chopped red chilli pepper, palm sugar (or brown sugar), and a dash of kec manis. “There’s smoke from the fire, heat from chili, sweetness from palm sugar, and kec manis adds a hearty-sweet umami stickiness that helps the corn char along with the sugar,” she says. As soon as the flasks are peppered with black seeds, start pouring chili butter until you have achieved your ideal char. Then finish with a pinch of salt and a dash of citrus to underline the fullness. And why not? – Also add a little more chili butter.
If you have dipped pita after pita in a plate of Baba Ghanoush, you will know the wonderfully smoky-sweet charms of grilled eggplants. Make a silky dip by piercing a few small eggplants with a knife (to prevent any, um, explosions) before throwing them whole on the grill to char. Rotate them regularly until they’re charred and tender all over, then let them cool enough for you to peel off the blackened skin and mash it into the dip.
“Zucchini is full of water and will basically steam on its own if you don’t cook it on a hot grill. A lot of people salt their pumpkin before cooking and let it release some of that water, but if I’m honest I usually can’t bother with it, ”says Heidi Swanson, author of Super easy, of course. Instead, she takes a page out of the Dishoom cookbook and marinade with a salty Indian cucumber to remove some moisture and level out the taste. Swanson also opts for smaller, firm pumpkins, which she cuts lengthwise into quarters and cuts away the watery central “seed zone”.
Spring onions / spring onions
Grilling spring onions softens their characteristic sharpness and adds tenderness. Leave them whole for easy flip and maximum aesthetics. A grill basket can help prevent them from falling through the grate. Top off the grill with a couple of lemon halves (cut side down!) Serve with any protein you grill, cut into a salad, or borrow a side from the popular LA taqueria Sonoratown‘s playbook and add a spring onion to a platter of tacos.
Do you need a quick but beefy summer site? Grill a few heads of cabbage until they are equally charred and caramelized, with tips, crispy edges, and a soft center. Start by cutting the cabbage in half through the core so it doesn’t fall through the grid, then cut each third into wedges and brush with olive oil, salt and pepper. Leave it on the grill for about 10 minutes, then let sit for a few more minutes to make sure the center is completely tender. Refine the char with something creamy and greasy: shredded mozzarella, blobs of tzatziki or a dash of lemon-tipped tahini would be excellent.
“Mushrooms are hearty and substantial and love to be grilled. They’re pretty easy if you keep a few things in mind. If your mushrooms are a little dirty, first gently wipe them with a damp cloth. Never soak them, ”says Swanson, noting that absorbent mushrooms can quickly absorb too much water. “Second, always prepare and grill more mushrooms than you think you want. They get remarkably smaller when you cook, and I always wish I had made more. “
Almost every sandwich is enhanced with a pile of grilled peppers. A relatively thick shell acts as a protective layer on the grill so peppers can essentially steam in their own juice (a bit like frying). for pilots, aka wrapped in parchment), which concentrates the taste and gives a hint of smoke. Rotate the skin to char the skin, then peel it a la eggplant to reveal plump, tender peppers with a concentrated smoky-sweet flavor.
Don’t forget the fruit! Staring at a bowl of slightly underripe peaches that you can no longer devour? You know what I’m about to say: throw them on the grill. Halve each peach vertically, remove the stone and coat the cut side with a little olive oil so that the pulp does not stick to the grate. Wait until you see heavy grill marks to make sure the sugar is completely caramelized. Serve with labneh, vanilla ice cream or add to the best fruit salad ever.
High heat will encourage most of the water in the watermelon to unfold, distill the flavor, and add a little smoke. Cut into thick wedges (as bulky plates tend to break when turned over) and brush with a little olive oil, then grill until each slice is barely soft but has thick grill marks. Top up with plenty of lime juice and tagin and add corn nuts for a crispy note.
Aliza Abarbanel is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. This summer she plans to eat her weight in stone fruits.