Griling? Don't forget the veggies

June 14, 2011|Lynn Little

The outdoor grill is not just for meats, poultry and fish. Grilling also works well for an assortment of fruits and vegetables.

The next time you're wondering what to serve with barbecued hamburgers, steaks, chicken or fish, look no further than your own garden.

Grilling fruits and vegetables is an easy way to add color and variety, as well as nutrition, to any grilled meal.

All kinds of vegetables can be grilled. Beets become sweet. Potatoes get crispy on the outside and stay sweet and moist on the inside. Carrots and onions caramelize.

For best results, choose fruits and vegetables that are ripe and ready to eat. Always wash and dry produce before grilling.

When preparing vegetables for the grill, cut them into half-inch slices or medium-sized chunks. Small pieces can easily fall through the grill grid and into the fire.

If you are preparing a recipe that calls for small pieces, try grilling on skewers or making small foil packets. You can use heavy-duty foil or a reusable foil baking pan with an edge to prevent smaller fruits and vegetables from slipping through the grill grid.  

Use inexpensive bamboo skewers for making vegetable kebabs. Be certain to soak the bamboo skewers in water before using them on the grill. This will prevent the skewers from burning.

Kebabs can be difficult to turn, but may be easier to manage when foods are similar in size and skewered in the center.  

Because vegetables lack fat, they need oil, liquid or a marinade to prevent them from burning and sticking and also to keep them moist. When grilling produce, it's preferable to use low heat.

Vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli, baby carrots, okra, onion slices, pepper chunks, summer squash and tomatoes usually cook in about five to seven minutes.

Root vegetables, including potatoes, beets and winter squash may take 20 to 45 minutes to cook, depending on whether they are whole, sliced or in chunks.

Lightly steaming root vegetables like potatoes and carrots in the microwave before adding them to a vegetable mixture or kebab will help all the vegetables be ready to eat at the same time.

When grilling fruits, slice the fruit in half and remove any pits and/or cores.

Begin by grilling the pulp side down, turning as needed.

 In general, fruits take three to five minutes to cook. Keep in mind that fruit can easily burn because of its high sugar content, so watch it closely.

Grilling fruits and vegetables can bring out seasonal flavors. It also can simplify meal preparation, reduce utility bills and make short work of clean-up.

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

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