Easy Veggie Grilling Guide
What: Any vegetable you love
Just ask Elizabeth Karmel, author of the St. Francis Girls' Guide to Grilling whose motto is, "If you can eat it, you can grill it." Some of her favorites include asparagus, summer squash, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, corn and green beans.
Why: It's healthy and delicious
Throwing veggies on the grill not only gives you healthy side dishes, but it enhances their flavor. Grilling brings out their natural sugars, so you get a delicious, caramelized flavor.
Where: Over direct or indirect heat
Depending on their size and density, vegetables can be cooked over direct or indirect heat. Larger, denser vegetables such as sweet potatoes take longer to cook (30 to 60 minutes); smaller ones like asparagus don't take much time at all (6 to 8 minutes). Karmel uses this rule of thumb when deciding where to put a vegetable on the grill: "If it cooks for 20 minutes or less, put it on the grate directly over the flames. If you need to cook it for 20 minutes or more, keep the veggies away from direct heat."
When: About 6 to 10 minutes
Cooking times will vary depending on the vegetable's density and how you cut each one. But you can use these times as a guide:
6 to 8 minutes for aparagus, bell pepper halves or quarters, tomato halves and zucchini cut into half-inch slices. 8 to 10 minutes for corn on the cob, eggplant (cut in half-inch slices), green beans, mushrooms and onion (cut in half-inch slices).
For a complete chart of vegetable grilling times check out Karmel's book Taming the Flame.
How: Well oiled.
Karmel recommends covering all of the veggies' exposed surfaces with olive oil and sprinkling with kosher salt. The oil locks in moisture, which helps break down fibers and prevents veggies from drying out. Because it is more viscous than other oils, olive oil sticks to the vegetables best, so you'll have less fire flare ups. It also gives the salt something to stick to. Turn veggies only once halfway through cooking: This prevents sticking and allows for caramelization.