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Veggies get their due on the grill

Published: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 8:28 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Bill Hoganfor the Chicago Tribune)
The grill isn't just for burgers and steaks, vegetables can be transformed by the heat of a grill in dishes like a lemon, garlic grilled portbello mushroom.

Of all the foods we grill on perfect summer days, vegetables rank among the most exciting.

Perhaps it’s because the grill so thoroughly transforms everything from bland eggplant to plain-old potatoes and squash into new, richly flavored, smoky treats. Suddenly, they morph from boring must-eat sides to interesting creations.

Our family tip: Cook plenty. We always eat more grilled veggies than we ever do of the steamed or boiled counterpart. Plus, any leftover grilled vegetables happily metamorphose into yet another treat for the next day’s meals.

Two secrets come to mind for successful veggie grilling: Keep ’em moist; season highly.

BARBECUE SWEET

POTATO SLICESPrep: 15 minutesCook: 20 minutesMakes: 4 to 6 servingsMake extra; these potato planks taste great the next day.

2 tablespoons chili powder1 tablespoon sugar4 to 6 large sweet potatoes (3 to 4 pounds total), peeled if desired4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oilCoarse (kosher) salt

1. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium heat. Mix chili powder and sugar together in a small dish.

2. Cut potatoes lengthwise into slabs about 1⁄2 inch thick. Place in a single layer on 1 large or 2 smaller well-oiled baking sheet(s). Turn potatoes to coat with the oil.

3. Sprinkle the potatoes generously on all sides with the chili mixture; sprinkle lightly with salt.

4. Arrange potatoes on the grill in a single uncrowded layer. Cover grill; cook 10 minutes. Use a pancake flipper to carefully turn potato slices over. Grill the second side until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork and edges are slightly charred, 8-10 minutes. Serve hot.

LEMON GARLIC GRILLED PORTOBELLOS WITH

BURRATA AND TOMATOESPrep: 25 minutesCook: 15 minutesMakes: 6 servingsRicotta makes a nice substitute for the burrata; you’ll need 2 tablespoons per mushroom cap.

1⁄4 cup olive oilGrated zest and juice from 1 small lemon2 teaspoons Dijon mustard1⁄2 teaspoon salt6 large (about 11⁄2 pounds total) portobello mushrooms, each 4 inches in diameter1 medium red onion, cut into 4 thick slices6 small ripe tomatoes or 3 mediumHalf of an 8-ounce container burrata cheese3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil and fresh chives

1. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium heat. Mix oil, lemon zest and juice, mustard and salt in a small bowl.

2. Gently twist the mushroom stems off the caps. Lightly brush the caps, stems and onion slices with the oil mixture. Grill stems and onion slices directly over the heat, turning once, until golden and tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.

3. Add caps to a cooler section of the grill, gill side down. Cook 2 minutes. Flip; brush with oil mixture. Add tomatoes to grill. Grill until smooth side of mushroom caps are golden and tomatoes are warmed and softened a bit, about 3 minutes. Remove from grill; place mushroom caps on a serving platter. Use a small serrated knife to cut the tomatoes in half or slices.

4. Chop grilled stems and onion; put into a small bowl. Season with a teaspoon or two of the remaining oil mixture. Divide the filling among the mushrooms caps. Top with a portion of the burrata and two tomato halves or slices. Sprinkle generously with fresh basil and chives. Serve while warm or at room temperature.

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