Grilling the Garden

If grilling conjures up images of thick steaks and fattening hot dogs consider something a little healthier…say, vegetables. Grilling vegetables requires few other ingredients yet yields tasty results that are delicious on their own or a superb addition to salads, sandwiches and wraps.

Sadly, all too often grilled vegetables are served blackened, bitter and unappealing. But with the right information, it’s easy to prepare mouth watering, juicy vegetables that are perfectly tender and never over done.

When grilling veggies, size and shape matters. Vegetable kabobs look nice before they go on the grill, but once cooked they may lose their appeal. The problem is the shape of the pieces, and the fact that they are packed together on a skewer.

The best way to achieve perfectly grilled vegetables is to cut them into large flat pieces of the same thickness. Onions should be cut into 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch thick rounds, in the width. The best way to do that is by placing toothpicks or skewers in the onion at 1/2 inch intervals, then cutting between the skewers to achieve perfect rings. The picks will hold the rings together and keep them from falling between the grates.

Bell peppers are most versatile because they can be cut and skewered or grilled whole. To grill peppers simply cut off the top and bottom of the pepper, remove the core, then cut the pepper in half from top to bottom. This way you end up with two flat rectangles that are grilled skin side down.

Tough vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes should be sliced very thin — 1/4 inch — to ensure even cooking throughout, before the outside is charred.

Because vegetables contain no fat they must be brushed with oil before grilling. Use a flavorful olive oil or make your own flavored oil by steeping garlic or herbs in a bottle of oil for a few days.

Don’t forget the salt and pepper! Make sure to season them before they go on the grill and taste and adjust the seasoning once they have finished cooking. Freshly ground pepper and kosher salt along with a sprinkling of dried herbs will enhance your veggies every time.

The best way to oil and season vegetables is to lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, brush them with olive oil and season them with herbs, salt and pepper. Turn them over and repeat on the other side. You can also drop them into a zip lock bag, add the oil and seasonings and toss them.

Grilled Vegetable Salad

  • 1 orange bell pepper, seeded, and cut lengthwise into 4 or 5 pieces
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 medium yellow squash, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, checked and thinly sliced or 3 teaspoons dried basil

Preheat your grill to medium-high. Arrange the peppers, onions, zucchini and squash in a single layer on a tray or work surface. Brush both sides of the vegetables with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Grill the vegetables in batches, flipping once, until both sides are nicely charred and the vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes total for the pepper, and 6 minutes total for the onion and squash. When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, cut them into 1/2-inch dice and transfer to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the vinegar, 1/4 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoons pepper. Toss the vegetables with the dressing. Gently stir in the tomatoes, and basil. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Serves 4.

Many ingredients are prone to infestation. Please consult a local Rav for specific guidelines on how to avoid transgressions related to insects.

Readers may submit questions to the Culinary Connoisseur, c/o Hamodia, 207 Foster Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11230 or via e-mail to This weekly column has been brought to you by The Peppermill, the world’s first kosher kitchenware store, located at 5015 16th Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. (718) 871-4022. You can also read a selection of previous columns in their comprehensive cookbook, The Culinary Connoisseur, available now at your local Judaica and kitchenware stores. Jam-packed with delicious recipes, insightful food information and helpful cooking tips, this book is certain to become your constant companion in the kitchen.