Labor Day is Monday, which means we're heading into the unofficial last weekend of summer.
Daylight hours are growing shorter, the weather is starting to cool off, and it's almost time to put away the grill.
But before you do, why not enjoy some of your garden's summer bounty on the grill? Many cooks shy away from grilling vegetables because they often fall between the grates, or they're too soft or delicate, and they stick when placed directly on the grill. But there are just as many reasons to give them a try.
Large, firm vegetables such as halved potatoes, thick slices of onion, large portobello mushrooms and whole sweet bell peppers can be cooked just like a piece of meat.
For smaller, softer vegetables, use a vegetable basket, which has holes or slits for heat and smoke to circulate. If placed over high direct heat, you can get the nice caramelization and smoky flavors of grilled foods. You also can place the grill basket off to the side to cook more slowly, especially if you close the lid.
Foil wrapping is an easy way to grill vegetables, although it doesn't add much smoky flavor. Also, a cast-iron skillet can be placed directly on the grill to stir-fry or sauté all kinds of vegetables.
Before you light the grill, rinse, trim and cut up the vegetables. If the recipe calls for pre-cooking, bring a small amount of water in a saucepan to boiling. Add vegetables and simmer, covered, for the time specified in the recipe. Drain well, then generously brush vegetables with olive oil, margarine or butter before grilling to prevent them from sticking to the grill rack. Grill over medium or medium-hot coals. You'll need long-handled stainless steel tongs to move vegetables on, off and around the grill.
Here are some grilling tips from Good Housekeeping and Bon Appetit magazines:
Fresh baby carrots: Cut off carrot tops. Wash and peel. Precooking time: 3 to 5 minutes. Grilling time: 3 to 5 minutes.
Eggplant: Cut off top and blossom ends. Slice 1/2 inch thick crosswise (globe) or lengthwise (Japanese). Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Do not precook. Grilling time: 8 minutes. They're done when slightly charred and tender. They're great for a meatless burger, baked mozzarella and tomato sauce, or a quick dip (mashed with fresh lemon juice, cumin and chopped garlic).
Fennel: Snip off feathery leaves. Cut off stems. Precook whole bulbs for 10 minutes. Cut bulbs into 6 to 8 wedges. Grilling time: 8 minutes.
Sweet peppers: Remove stem. Quarter peppers. Remove seeds and membranes. Cut peppers into 1-inch-wide strips. Do not precook. Grilling time: 8 to 10 minutes. Done when skin is charred or blackened and blistered. Great for pizza topping, sandwiches, scrambled eggs.
Leeks: Cut off green tops; trim bulb roots and remove 1 or 2 layers of white skin. Precooking time: 10 minutes or until tender. Halve lengthwise. Grilling time: 5 minutes.
New potatoes: Halve potatoes. Precooking time: 10 minutes or until almost tender. Grilling time: 10 to 12 minutes.
Zucchini: Wash; cut off ends. Quarter lengthwise into long strips. Do not precook. Grilling time: 5 to 6 minutes. Done when slightly charred and tender. Great for quesadillas, pasta with pesto, and goat cheese.
Crookneck squash: Rinse, trim and slice 1 inch thick. Do not precook. Grilling time: 5 to 6 minutes.
Plum tomato: Wash. Grilling time: 5 minutes: Done when skin is blistered and charred. Also great for polenta with basil and balsamic vinegar, and burgers.
Vine-ripened tomato: Wash. Grilling time: 12 minutes. Down when skin is charred and split. Great for a gratin with bread crumbs and salsa.
Corn: Remove husk and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grilling time: 15 minutes. Done when slightly charred and tender. Also great for a sauté of lima beans and green beans, and puréed corn soup.
Red onion: Peel; halve through root end. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grilling time: 5 minutes. Done when slightly charred and tender. Great for tuna salad and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Grilled Mexican corn
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 ears corn
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
6 lime wedges
Prepare grill. Combine first 3 ingredients. Place corn on a grill rack that's coated with cooking spray; cook 12 minutes or until corn is lightly browned, turning frequently. Place corn on a platter; drizzle with sour cream. Sprinkle with chipotle mixture. Garnish with lime wedges.
Makes 6 servings.
from Cooking Light
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 4-inch portobello mushroom caps
1 small red bell pepper
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1⁄8 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 2-ounce onion sandwich buns
4 slices tomato, 1/4-inch-thick
4 curly leaf lettuce leaves
Combine first 4 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; add mushrooms to bag. Seal and marinate at room temperature for 2 hours, turning bag occasionally. Remove mushrooms from bag; discard marinade.
Prepare grill to medium heat. Cut bell pepper in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 15 minutes or until blackened, turning occasionally. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel. Reserve 1 pepper half for another use. Finely chop 1 pepper half; place in a small bowl. Add mayonnaise, oil and ground red pepper; stir well.
Place mushrooms, gill sides down, on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 4 minutes on each side. Place buns, cut sides down, on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 30 seconds on each side or until toasted. Spread 2 tablespoons mayonnaise mixture on top half of each bun. Place 1 mushroom on bottom half of each bun. Top each mushroom with 1 tomato slice and 1 lettuce leaf; cover with top halves of buns.
Makes 4 servings.
From Cooking Light
Grilled eggplant Parmesan sandwich
1 large eggplant, (11/4 to 11/2 pounds), cut into 12 1/4-inch-thick rounds
Canola or olive oil cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons finely shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
4 small pieces focaccia or rustic Italian bread
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 ounces baby spinach
1 cup crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided
Preheat grill to medium-high. Place eggplant rounds on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Coat both sides lightly with cooking spray. Combine Parmesan (or Asiago) and mozzarella in a small bowl. Brush both sides of focaccia (or bread) with olive oil.
Place spinach in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and punch several holes in the wrap. Microwave on high until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Combine tomatoes and 2 tablespoons basil in a separate small microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave until bubbling, about 2 minutes.
Place bowls and bread on the baking sheet with the eggplant and take it to the grill. Grill the eggplant slices until brown and soft on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes a side. Grill bread until toasted, about 1 minute a side. Return eggplant and bread to the baking sheet. Reduce grill heat to medium.
Place 1 eggplant round on top of each slice of bread. Layer 1 tablespoon tomatoes, 1 tablespoon wilted spinach and 1 tablespoon cheese on each slice of eggplant. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, sauce, spinach and cheese. Sprinkle each stack with some of the remaining basil. Place the baking sheet on the grill, close the lid and grill until the eggplant stack is hot and the cheese is melted, 5 to 7 minutes.
Makes 4 servings.
Packet-roasted balsamic green beans and peppers
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces green and/or yellow beans
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced lengthwise
1⁄3 cup toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Start with eight 20- to 24-inch-long pieces of foil. Layer two sheets for each of four packets (the double layers will help protect the contents from burning). Arrange ingredients on one half of each double layer. Fold foil over ingredients and tightly seal the packets by crimping and folding the edges together. Grill over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating packets to another spot on the grill about halfway through to ensure even cooking. Let packets rest unopened for 5 minutes. Drizzle vegetables with a little extra vinegar just before serving.
Note: To toast pine nuts, place in a small dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.
From Eating Well