By: Jennifer Fisher, The Fit Fork
As a visitor to Beef Loving Texans, we’d bet our last fork full of flat iron steak that you’re already a fan of beef. Beeflovingtexans.com has all the techniques and tricks you need to grill up perfect steaks, ribs or roasts in the backyard – but what about the side dishes?! While some of us may like to live on beef alone, filling our plates half full with vegetables is the goal in an optimal diet.
Vegetables cook quickly and are super mouthwatering with just a hint of the smoky goodness and caramelization that comes from the grill. Nothing says summer more than a platter full of seasonal veggies grilled up and presented family-style on the patio table. Today, we’re serving up tips on how to grill the summer’s best vegetables, fruits and other side dishes to pair with your meal along with two of my favorite side dish recipes that are great off the grates – Balsamic Marinated Grilled Vegetable Salad and Grilled Sweet Potatoes and Scallion Salad (we’ll get to those at the end of the post).
Coat with oil, but sparingly
Fresh vegetables can wither up when exposed to dry heat without oil. Before tossing produce on the grates, lightly coat with heart-healthy oil like olive oil. But don’t use too much of a good thing – over oiling will add excess calories and create grill flare ups which causes charring. Another benefit of oiling – it helps herbs, spices and other seasonings adhere more uniformly to the food’s surface.
Know your produce to prevent burning
Plan the timing and grouping of your vegetables by their type. Vegetables like cherry tomatoes and lettuces only take a minute or two to grill while others like onions, corn and squashes can take longer. The densest vegetables like potatoes will take the longest to cook. To avoid the common mistake of charring on the outside with rawness on the inside, sear vegetables over high heat and then transfer to a cooler zone of the grill to finish. Another technique is to par-cook dense vegetables and then give them a few minutes on the grill for taste and color.
Use skewers or a grill basket
To keep small vegetables or cut-up chunks from falling though the grate, skewer them up on a metal rod or bamboo stick. While it looks pretty to have a variety of vegetables threaded on a single skewer, it’s much more practical (and promotes even cooking) to have each skewer hold a single type of vegetable. Grill baskets are also great for corralling up a herd of little veggies – in a pinch you can fold edges around the perimeter of a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Consider size and surface area
How you prep your vegetables has a direct effect on how they will perform on the grill. Small pieces cook quickly, big chunks take longer – that just makes sense. Also, consider slicing vegetables into “planks” or “rounds” to take advantage of crisping up and creating those gorgeous grill marks on the larger surface area. Vegetables like potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and onions are perfect for this technique.
Now, on to the side dish recipes – add Balsamic Marinated Grilled Vegetable Salad (below) and Grilled Sweet Potatoes and Scallion Salad to the menu and friends and family will be impressed. Not only is there a ton of great nutrition going on here to balance out a steak, but these dishes can be cooked outdoors (no need to heat up the kitchen) and can also be served cold as well as warm.
My Balsamic Grilled Vegetable Salad is so simple and versatile — toss grilled veggies atop spinach and served warm or chill them overnight for a cold platter of garden goodness. The next day, wrap up any left over steak and some of this salad in a tortilla or mix up in an egg scramble. Also, feel free to swap out produce with your favorite seasonal favorites — the rules are loose!
Balsamic Grilled Vegetable Salad