Yes, you can get great results from grilling fruits and vegetables. No, you can’t treat them the same way you do a big cut of meat. That’s the advice from Robin Asbell, a chef and author of many cookbooks, most recently Great Bowls of Food: Grain Bowls, Buddha Bowls, Broth Bowls, and More. As someone who frequently teaches classes on vegetarian-friendly grilling, she often finds that cooks aren’t aware they need to alter their techniques when grilling a cauliflower steak instead of a porterhouse.
“It’s important to shift your thinking to include the step of pre-cooking, whether you blanch or boil,” she says. “Then you can finish on the grill, adding grill marks and imparting a smoky flavor and some char.” Pre-cooking will keep vegetables more moist, and will allow you to do most of the labor in advance, not at the last minute.
Smoke is here to stay
“Smoked flavor is a trend that will only grow in popularity,” Asbell predicts. “Use your grill to amp up flavor in ways you do for meat. Don’t forget to try rubs, marinades and brines, in your prep, too.”
If you’d like a veggie-forward option, consider pizza or flatbread on the grill. “You can even grill and/or smoke pizza sauce ingredients, too,” she says. “A big batch of veggies can go on the grill and help you get that smoky goodness in sauces and salsas.” Grilled greens are another go-to trend for many summer menus, too (see recipes below), with Romaine and kale as the most popular grilling options.
Don’t forget dessert
Another non-meat option Asbell recommends is brie grilled on a cedar plank. “Pile fruit and honey on top of a round of brie, then grill until the cheese is liquid,” she says. “Serve right from the grill with gingersnaps or bread as an accompaniment. Customers love the dramatic presentation and the unique taste.”
If you’re grilling fruit for dessert, be sure to select firmer pieces, not overly ripe ones. “Peaches are one of my go-to grill favorites,” Asbell says. “Baste halves with neutral oil or butter, place cut side down to mark, then turn over and allow the peach itself to act as a cup to collect juices.”
Marzetti® Dressings or Sauces make terrific accompaniments to your vegetarian grilled specials.
Flatout® Flatbreads can serve as bases for veggie-centric grilled flatbreads.
Vegetable Forward by Flavor & the Menu
Looking for more recipe ideas and menu inspiration? Make sure to check out our recipe section.