By grilling one or two vegetables with your main course, you can cook an entire meal on the grill. Who doesn't love that kind of efficiency? And you won't have pans to wash, either. If you grill several kinds of vegetables--and serve them with a few cheeses, some olives, and good bread--you'll have a fine vegetarian main course. And leftover grilled vegetables are great in salad.
So, which vegetables work best on the grill? Over the years at Sunset magazine, and especially while working on our Great Outdoors Cookbook, we've discovered that you can successfully grill just about any of them, as long as you keep a few basic principles in mind.
A Quick Guide to Grilling Vegetables
1) Dense vegetables need to be precooked. Otherwise they'll be hard and chewy, and will take ages to grill. Parboil whole potatoes or carrots, large or small, just until tender. Do the same for artichokes, which are especially delicious when grilled--they take on a meaty character.
Sunset Recipe: Grilled Artichokes
2) Small, fragile, or slender vegetables should be cooked on a grill pan. Cherry tomatoes, for instance, tend to fall through the grates, and so do onion rings, which come apart when heated. To avoid sacrificing them to the fire, grill these kinds of foods on a sturdy perforated grill pan or a cast-iron skillet.
Sunset Recipe: Caramelized Tomato Bruschetta
3) Season and oil vegetables before you grill. Besides imbuing them with flavor, this step also helps keep them from sticking to the cooking grate. This can be as straightforward as salt, pepper, and olive oil, or you can brush them all over with your favorite marinade.
Let the vegetable marinate for 15 minutes or so--about the time it takes for a grill to heat.
4) Oil the cooking grate (or the grill pan). This is extra anti-sticking insurance. Preheat the grill and then oil the grate with a wad of oiled paper towels, using long tongs. If you're using a grill pan, oil the pan instead.
5) Grill over direct medium heat (350° to 400°). Grill the vegetables, turning or stirring every now and then, until they're streaked with brown, crisp-edged, and tender when pierced. If you're grilling vegetable kebabs using wooden skewers, soak them in hot water for 30 minutes first so they won't burn on the grill.