Grilling summer vegetables
Adding vegetables to the grill is one way to keep heat out of the kitchen. Doing so also allows the cook to be outside with family and friends.
"Fresh asparagus, mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, squash, eggplant and corn-on-the-cob are good candidates for the grill," said Sandy Procter, Kansas State University Research and Extension nutrition specialist.
Grilling vegetables is an easy way to bring out natural flavors, said Procter, who provided tips cooking vegetables safely and easily on the grill:
--Start with a clean grill.
--Scrub vegetables before cutting or slicing them uniformly. Pieces should be large enough so as not to fall through the grill, and similar in size, so that all will cook in about the same amount of time.
--Pre-soak vegetables in cold water for 10 to 15 minutes before grilling to help retain moisture, and/or brush the surface of vegetables lightly with olive oil (before grilling) to help seal in moisture, protect skin and add sheen.
--Use tongs or spatula, rather than a fork, which can pierce the vegetable and allow juices to escape, to turn vegetables. Utensils used to grill vegetables should be reserved for that purpose and not used to turn other raw or cooked foods.
--If using a foil packet to grill vegetables, use heavy duty foil or a double layer of a lighter weight foil or a grill pan.
--Place vegetables to the side of the grill--not over direct heat. Most will be tender and lightly browned in 12 to 15 minutes.
If a marinade is preferred, Procter suggested blending one-half cup of olive oil with one-fourth cup of red wine vinegar. If marinating kabobs, thread the meat and prepared vegetables on skewers before brushing with marinade; allow marinated kabobs to stand 15 minutes before grilling.
If meats and vegetables are to be grilled separately, cover and marinate separately in the refrigerator; marinade used on raw foods should be discarded, rather than eaten.
Oil-based salad dressings (such as an Italian-flavored dressing) can be used as a marinade. Be creative: Wrap a steak or chop in a strip of zucchini, rather than strip of bacon, or add grilled asparagus to a summer soup or veggie pizza.
Procter is Kansas' Coordinator of the United States Department of Agriculture's Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. More tips for preparing healthy meals is available at K-State Research and Extension offices and online: www.ksre.ksu.edu; www.ksre.ksu.edu/humannutrition/ and www.rrc.ksu.edu.