My favorite farmers’ market is finally in full swing, and there’s nothing better than spending a weekend morning, coffee in hand, strolling from booth to booth.
Sometimes I go with a plan, other times I go looking for inspiration. I always come home with what looks good that day – and it’s fun to see how the offerings change as the season progresses. No matter what I pick up, there’s a good chance it’s going on the grill!
Grilling vegetables brings out their natural sweetness. Other than a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper, they don’t need anything else. One of the great things about a platter of grilled veggies is that it’s an easy make-ahead buffet item or side dish that is wonderful served at room temperature. If I’m asked to bring a dish to a picnic or summer dinner with friends, this is it — I’m not taking up their oven space, and it’s ready when they are! And isn’t it gorgeous?!
The grilling can be done a few hours before, leaving the grill free for burgers, and you free to enjoy your guests.
Added bonus: a big batch of grilled veggies can be used in a number of other simple summer dishes.
Here’s what you’ll need to create the platter above, but you can easily substitute other veggies.
- 1 eggplant, sliced thin (use a mandoline if you have one)
- 1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), ends snapped off
- 3 white onions, cut into ½" slices
- 4 medium zucchini, cut in half, then quartered
- ½ pound cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed
- 3 medium yellow squash, cut into ½ " slices
- 1 red onion, quartered
- ½ pound sweet peppers
- Prepare vegetables. Toss each (in a bowl, or Ziploc bag) with a bit of olive oil to coat lightly. Preheat grill to medium high.
- Working in batches, grill vegetables until tender and and lightly charred. Don't move the vegetables too much, otherwise you won't get those great grill marks. The onion slices will take the longest - about 9 minutes, peppers about 7 minutes, zucchini and squash about 5 minutes and asparagus, about 4. Place a perforated grill pan on the grill grate and let it heat up for about 2 minutes. Place mushrooms in pan and toss occasionally until they release moisture and begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Note: cooking times vary depending on your grill. Just pour yourself a beverage and keep a watchful eye!
- Arrange vegetables on platter and serve. Garnish with fresh basil, or other fresh herbs.
- Can be made 2-3 hours ahead. Cool slightly, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.
I promised 10 things you can do with these vegetables, but really, the list is endless. If you grill your veggies on the weekend, you’ll have lots leftover for weekday lunches or quick weeknight meals.
Here are just a few ideas in addition to the platter, above.
- Pasta Primavera :: Stir chopped grilled veggies into your favorite cooked pasta and toss with a bit of olive oil, or purchased pesto. (Or for goodness sake, if you’re at the farmers’ market, grab a big bunch of basil and make your own!) Sprinkle with fresh grated parmesan.
- Pizza :: Slice into smaller pieces to use as toppings on your favorite pizza crust
- Fajitas :: Add grilled onions and peppers to grilled chicken or steak, wrap in a tortilla and top with sour cream, salsa and cilantro.
- Bruschetta :: Finely dice vegetables. Serve atop crostini spread with a little flavored cream cheese for an easy summer apped’ouevre
- Summer Soup :: Stir chopped grilled vegetables into vegetable stock and add some orzo or pasta for a light but satisfying soup
- Hearty Salad :: Place vegetables atop your favorite salad greens or cooked quinoa, and toss with your favorite dressing and shaved parmesan cheese
- Amped up Meatloaf :: Finely dice onion, zucchini and peppers, and mix with into your favorite meatloaf recipe.
- Breakfast frittata :: Gently heat chopped vegetables in a large skillet on the stove. Add baby spinach and stir until wilted. Mix 8 eggs with a dash of Tabasco, a handful of grated cheese and a splash of cream and pour over vegetables. Stir briefly, then move skillet to oven to finish cooking. (Frittata is done when knife inserted in center comes out clean.)
- Veggie Sandwich :: Thinly slice onion, zucchini and peppers and place on ciabatta bread spread with pesto and a slice of cheese
There was eggplant in the basket of veggies I brought home, but it didn’t make it onto the platter. Instead, the grilled eggplant (and a few of the peppers) went into a delicious sformato I posted awhile back.
I freeze batches of the onions so that I always have some on hand for whatever recipe calls for them. The peppers freeze nicely too (though there will some liquid to drain when they thaw) and we use these for pizza toppings and in some of the cooked recipes, above.
Looking for inspiration near you? Find a farmers’ market through Local Harvest.
What would YOU add to the list of things to do with grilled veggies!?