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Get your veggies on the grill

April 27, 2005|BY DANA CARPENTER

Spring has sprung, and I'm betting that you've dragged the grill back out onto the patio. We all know that grilling is a great way to cook a steak, burgers, chicken or ribs. But if you're not grilling your vegetables, you're missing out on one of the tastiest trends in cooking.

The flavor of some vegetables improves so much with grilling that often kids who won't eat your typical boiled or steamed vegetables will enjoy them grilled. Besides, who wants to leave the party on the patio and schlep back into the kitchen to cook part of the meal?

For vegetables, it's nice to use a small-holed grill rack - mine has 1/4-inch square holes - that keeps smaller choices like asparagus and sliced onions from sliding through. Small-holed grill racks are usually available wherever barbecuing supplies are sold. Still can't think of vegetables you'd want to grill? Here's a handful of suggestions.

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ONIONS: Grilled sweet onions are astonishingly luscious. Peel Vidalia or Bermuda onions, then skewer them across the rings with bamboo skewers you've soaked in water. Then slice in front and behind the skewers, about half-inch deep. (This trick keeps your slices from falling apart into rings. If you don't care, don't bother with the skewers.) For a marinade, mix together 1/4 cup soy sauce, a clove of garlic, crushed, and 2 teaspoons of Splenda. Baste your onions with this mixture as they grill. With a steak and a salad, this flavor is pure ambrosia. Share two big Vidalias between 6 people, each will get 4 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of fiber, for a usable-carb count of 3 grams.

BUTTON MUSHROOMS: Cut strips of bacon in half, and wrap each half around a standard button mushroom. Hold with wooden toothpicks you've soaked in water for at least an hour, and then grill until the bacon is crisp. We call these "Mushroom Bombs," and they're guaranteed to make a big hit at your next barbecue. For 1 pound of mushrooms, you'll need approximately 2 pounds of thin-sliced bacon. Share these between 8 people, and each will get about 3 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of fiber, for a usable-carb count of 2 grams. You also get 35 grams of protein each, which makes this great for when you want substantial pick-up food instead of cooking a main course.

PORTABELLA MUSHROOMS: Briefly marinate big Portabella mushroom caps in balsamic vinaigrette dressing, and then grill. Put these under grilled fillets mignon for an elegant entree that stretches those expensive little steaks. Approximately 3.5 ounces Portabella mushrooms (raw weight) contain just 5 grams of carbohydrates, with 1.5 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 3.5 grams. Read the labels in the salad dressing aisle to find your lowest-carb options - I like Paul Newman's.

RADDICCHIO: Quarter a head of radicchio, leaving the core in it to hold the leaves' four wedges together. Drizzle some of that balsamic vinaigrette between the leaves, and grill it until it starts to go limp and brown. Serve with a little more balsamic vinaigrette on top. This treatment mellows the bitter edge of radicchio's flavor, making it enchantingly bittersweet. Approximately 3.5 ounces of radicchio has 4.5 grams of carb, with 0.9 grams of fiber, for a usable-carb count of 3.6 grams.

ZUCCHINIS: Little zucchinis or yellow summer squash are perfect for grilling. Whack off the stem, split them lengthwise, and marinate them for a few hours in Italian dressing, or, alternately, in 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, mixed. Drain, then grill them, cut-side down, until they're getting soft, with brown stripes, and serve. One small zucchini (about 4 ounces) has 4 grams of carb, with 1.3 grams of fiber, for a usable-carb count of 2.7 grams.

EGGPLANT: Need a low-carb vegetarian main course at your patio party? Slice eggplant 1/2-inch thick. Lay the slices on paper towels, sprinkle lightly with salt, cover with more towels, and place a heavy plate on top and let sit for a few hours. Grill, basting with vinaigrette or Italian dressing. After 8-10 minutes, turn, grill for another few minutes. Then top each slice with a slice of mozzarella cheese, and grill for another couple of minutes until the cheese is melted, and serve.

ASPARAGUS: Grilled asparagus is wonderful. Try basting it with Chipotle Garlic Butter (just run a stick of softened butter through your food processor with a clove of garlic and a couple of canned chipotle peppers). This is enough to baste 2-3 pounds of asparagus (that should satisfy a crowd). Assuming 2 pounds of asparagus and 6 people, each serving will have 4 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber, for a usable-carb count of 2 grams.




Dana Carpender is the editor of the bi-weekly online newsletter "Lowcarbezine" and you can contact her online at www.holdthetoast.com.

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