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Summer surprise with grilled veggies

Grilling is a great American pastime. Every summer hundreds of thousands of people break out the barbecue to join in a chorus of charcoal smoke and fire. If you follow a plant-based diet, maybe your grill has gotten a little dusty over the years, but don’t forget that grilled veggies can benefit tremendously from the flame and smoky flavor of the grill. So load up on charcoal, put on your “kiss the cook” apron, and get grilling! We’ll help you get started with these five tips for a plant-based barbecue.

 

  1. Be a basket case. A grill basket is an essential grilling tool for the vegan set. Smaller chunks of vegetables are likely to slip through a grill grate, and skewers can be tricky to maneuver. With a grill basket, you can simply chop up your veggies the way you want them, throw them in the basket, and wait for char-grilled perfection. Just be sure to oil the grilled veggies basket before you get started to prevent sticking.
  1. Steak your claim. Try cutting larger vegetables into steak-like slabs. Cauliflower, eggplant, and zucchini are good examples of vegetables that take very well to the steak treatment. Simply cut them into thick slices, brush with oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and your favorite seasonings, and grill. This method helps you achieve those coveted grill-marks that are the hallmark of a successful barbecue session.
  1. Grill for flavor. Turn grilled veggies into flavor boosting components for other dishes. Chop up grilled zucchini and eggplant, mix with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and chopped fresh basil to serve on thick slices of grilled baguette. Or throw grilled cauliflower and tomatoes on top of pasta with olives for a simple main course. You can also make a grilled salsa—simply grill halved avocados, slices of mango, and red onion, then chop them up and combine with a little minced habañero, garlic, lime juice, and salt for a superb tortilla chip topping.
  1. Go all in. You’ve got the grill fired up, you’re outside, and you’re in a grilling frame of mind. So you might as well make your whole meal on the grill. Make this vegan sausage and pepper hoagie, where all the components are grilled. Or buy prepared polenta, cut it into slices, and grill alongside lots of veggies—asparagus spears, scallions, halved tomatoes, and portobello mushrooms. Then simply chop up the veggies and serve atop the polenta with a nice drizzle of olive oil and plenty of fresh herbs. You can even make grilled flatbread pizza with an endless variety of toppings. The only downside: you may never want to set foot in your kitchen again.
  1. Save room for dessert. Grilling isn’t for savory foods alone. Sweet things can benefit just as much from a little char. Grill halved peaches until soft and warmed through, then top with your favorite vegan ice cream. Or brush pineapple spears with pure maple syrup and grill until caramelized, then top with toasted coconut. Or here’s a wild idea: As soon as you finish grilling your main course, take a banana still in its peel and cut a slit lengthwise down into it. Stuff the banana with peanut butter and chunks of vegan chocolate, then wrap the whole thing in foil and throw it on the grill. By the time you finish dinner, the banana should be soft and the chocolate melted. You’re welcome.

Mollie Dickson, MS, focuses on Nutrition Science and Health Writing as the CEO and Education Director of The Heart’s Kitchen. She develops healthy recipes and curriculum for K-12 coursework and maternal education classes at Oregon Health & Science University.

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