7 things you never thought you could grill (but should)

Unless you’ve been vacationing on the moon all summer, you’ve no doubt noticed that it’s been a tad hot this summer. And I don’t know about you, but when it feels like an oven outside, the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven or boil water when cooking in our tiny kitchen.

As a result, we’ve been using our grill even more than usual to prepare dinner, and that’s led to a lot of experimentation with grilled vegetables and different grilled food recipes.

While they aren’t always associated with grilling, vegetables are delicious when cooked on the grill, acquiring new layers of sweetness, that incomparable chargrilled goodness and sometimes, something altogether new and unexpected. Often all you need to do is apply a coating of oil and sprinkle some salt and ground pepper.

Here are seven things you might never have considered grilling, but should:

  1. Eggplant — I love eggplant for the silken texture it acquires when cooked, and grilling is a great way to maximize this quality and add a little smokiness. To prepare, cut the eggplant into cross-section rounds, or slice it thinly lengthwise. Then make sure you brush it with plenty of olive oil, as they really suck up whatever fat you coat them with. Grill some extra pieces and save for your sandwiches for a real treat.
  2. Onions — These bulb vegetables have a lot of natural sugars that aren’t apparent in their raw form. In my opinion, the best varieties to grill are green onions or the small onions with edible stalks that you grow in your backyard or buy from the farmers market. If you use a large onion, slice it into small pieces.
  3. Raddichio — Usually found in raw form in field green mixes that have become popular at restaurants in recent years, this bitter red lettuce mellows in flavor from being grilled while retaining most of its crunch. To grill it, quarter it through its core end so it stays together. Try this recipe for balsamic-grilled raddichio with shaved Pecorino cheese.
  4. Fennel — This anise-flavored bulb isn’t terribly common in American cooking, but try it on the grill and you’ll wonder why not. Grilling a piece of fennel brushed in oil (I like olive oil, but other chefs have told me they’re fans of grapeseed oil because it doesn’t burn as easily) makes it more tender and emphasizes its sweetness, a profile that balances fascinatingly with its licorice-like qualities.
  5. Root vegetables — Carrots, parsnips, turnips and even radishes (here’s a grilled radish recipe) are fantastic on the grill. But keep in mind that the thicker the root veg, the longer it’s going to take to cook. So when in doubt, slice your thick carrots or parsnips into small pieces, or wrap ‘em in foil and cook long over low heat, turning often so they don’t burn.
  6. Asparagus — This harbinger of spring is amazing grilled, picking up the blackened, not-quite-burnt chargrilled flavor and making the shoots oh so tender. I like to simply toss the asparagus in olive oil, some good salt and freshly ground pepper, grill them briefly, then top with some grated lemon zest. Simple and delicious.
  7. Fruit — Years ago I discovered while experimenting at a party that strawberries, briefly brushed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, taste amazing on the grill. Pineapple is pretty amazing too, especially on kabobs with onion, peppers and lamb or chicken. And peaches, pitted, brushed with a neutral-flavored oil and grilled flesh-side down, are amazing off the grill in a salad or topping ice cream for dessert.

What do you like to throw on the barbecue? Leave us a comment below.

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Photo credit: Another Pint Please

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