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Grilling veggies, fruits, adds flavor

July 15, 2009|By LYNN LITTLE

With an abundance of fruits and vegetables available now, it's easy to get your recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Grilling fruits and vegetable will enhance their flavors and add interest to any meal.

Grilled fruits and vegetables add color, texture, flavor and nutrition without adding many calories. Grilling enhances the unique flavors of the fruits and vegetables and caramelizes the natural sugars, giving them a more complex flavor.

Grilling fruits and vegetables is easy. Start with a clean grill and washed fruits and vegetables. Cut fruits and vegetables into sizes that won't slip through a grill grate. You can cook the produce on the grill, on a kabob stick or on a special grilling pan or make your own version with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil and turn up the edges to prevent food from rolling off the grill or into coals.

Allow the grill surface to get hot before placing the fruits and vegetables on to cook. If using a charcoal grill, allow 30 to 40 minutes for coals to get a light coating of ash.

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Avoid cooking over flames. Fire will typically burn or char produce.

Vegetables and fruits will cook better and are less likely to stick if brushed with cooking oil before placing them on the grill. This will enhance their color and prevent sticking. An oil-based Italian-style dressing, which will introduce Italian seasoning, also can be used.

Firm vegetables, such as peppers, corn, eggplant and onions, need to be basted as they cook. Season them with herbs and place on a hot grill until they are tender and brown, usually about 10 to 15 minutes. When finished, vegetables should be fork tender.

Place softer vegetables, such as zucchini, and tomatoes on heavy-duty aluminum foil and sprinkle with a little water and seasonings. Wrap the vegetables in the foil and grill six to eight minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Corn on the cob is a classic grill favorite for summer meals, and it's easy to prepare. There are three recommended methods -- grill with husks on, grill with husks off or steam in foil.

If leaving corn husks on, remove the silks, and then soak the corn (with the husks) in water at least 20 minutes. Drain excess water before grilling. During grilling, turn the corn frequently to prevent the husks from burning.

Or remove the husks and brush the ear of corn lightly with oil or butter before placing it on the grill.

To steam corn, sprinkle the ear of corn with water and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil before placing it on the grill. Turn a quarter turn every three minutes. It should be done in about 12 minutes.

Make kabobs of fruits and grill on low heat until the fruits are hot and slightly softened. Fresh nectarines, peach or pear halves lend themselves to grilling.

Be sure to use separate tongs, plates and platters when grilling meats and produce or toasting breads to avoid cross contamination.

Visit www.fruitsandvegetablesmatter.gov for grilling recipes. Also visit www.buy-local-challenge.com and learn about Buy Local Week, July 18 to 26. You will find creative tips, recipes and sample menus to get you started.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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