I’ve never had much of a green thumb—more like a brown one. Although it’s my mission to inspire others to eat more plants, I’m much more comfortable in the kitchen than in the garden.
This year, a friend planted a small garden for my husband and me. Perhaps now I’ll grow a green thumb. We’ve been able to harvest kale and are anxiously waiting for the brussels sprouts, tomatoes and zucchini to come in.
We are also back to grilling more often. For some reason, we abandoned our grill for a time, but we’re back to firing it up regularly now, and I look forward to grilling our harvests from our little garden one day soon.
The truth is most of us are not grilling enough vegetables. Throwing veggies on the barbie is one of the best ways to cook them. The high, dry heat means less cooking time, or nutrients lost in water, preserving more of the good stuff that makes them so healthy.
Grilled vegetables, unlike meat, don’t become toxic from the cooking process. When meat is grilled, a chemical reaction occurs and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are released. HCAs form when amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, sugars, and creatine (substances found in muscle) react at high temperatures. When we eat meat cooked at high temperatures, this chemical reaction can cause mutation in our DNA and can increase the risk of cancer. This chemical reaction does not occur when grilling fruits and vegetables. Not only can we cook plants on the grill without concern about carcinogens, but also grilling is a healthier way to cook veggies as most of the vitamins and nutrients are preserved in the cooking process.
Many kinds of vegetables can be cooked on the grill. For a general rule of thumb, the lower the water content, the better. Plants can be cooked directly on the grill, in a basket, or on a grill mat. They are delicious plain, without seasonings or sauces. If “sauce is boss” for you, skip the oily marinades. Oils are not needed for flavor or nutrition, and they add unnecessary, unhealthy fats.
My go-to marinade is smoky and light, using ingredients you probably have in your pantry. However, you can use your favorite recipe, grab a store-bought brand, or opt for simple seasonings
EASY SMOKY MARINADE
Marinade time: 1-3 hours
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup low sodium vegetable broth
¼ cup aquafaba (juice from a can of chickpeas)
2 tablespoons tamari, liquid aminos or low sodium soy sauce
Liquid smoke to taste (optional)
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Pepper to taste
Guide for veggie grilling:
Preheat clean grill to medium-high heat. Lightly coat rack with cooking spray, unless using grill mat or basket. If desired, you can lightly coat your veggies with cooking spray, too.
Now, throw them on the heat and listen for the sizzle when the veggies hit the grate. Don’t move them for three to four minutes, or half of the cooking time, to get good marks and that signature grilled flavor.
Asparagus: Trim away the bottom inch. Grill time 3-4 minutes
Peppers: Seed and cut into quarters. Grill time 8-9 minutes
Onion: Peel and quarter. Grill time 8-9 minutes
Eggplant, squash and zucchini: Cut lengthwise into long strips, about one-quarter inch thick. Grill time 7-8 minutes.
Portobello mushrooms: Remove dirt and stem. Grill 3-4 minutes on each side.
GRILLED PEACHES WITH SWEET BALSAMIC GLAZE
Makes 4 Servings
We are now in peach season. Sometimes, my eyes are bigger than my stomach, and I end up with a bushel or two. There are so many ways to enjoy peaches. You can eat them plain, use them in smoothies, oatmeal, pies, or make preserves. But have you ever grilled one? If not, try this delicious dessert recipe from the Physicians Committee. It’s doctor approved.
4 ripe peaches, halved and pitted
Butter-flavored vegetable oil cooking spray (to taste)
½ cup good quality balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
Fresh mint sprigs (to garnish)
Heat gas grill to medium-high. Coat peach halves with cooking spray (use about two sprays per peach half).
Place peaches cut side down on the grill and grill for about four to five minutes per side, until grill marks appear and peaches are slightly softened.
While peaches are grilling, prepare the glaze. Add vinegar to a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil vinegar until it is reduced by half and looks thick.
Add sugar, lemon juice, and almond extract.
Remove peaches from the grill and place cut side up on a dessert dish. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and garnish with a mint sprig.