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Warm weather and good friends: Grilling summer vegetables

Aug 1st, 2015 | Category: Cooking

by Carol Frey

“So…what are you doing on this lovely day?” the elderly store clerk asked my son.

“Building a trebuchet,” was the reply.

The clerk smiled quizzically.

“Like a catapult.We’re going to throw pumpkins really far!”

“Oh,” the gentleman brightened. “That sounds like fun! Can I come too?” He winked as he handed us our bags.

The summer frittata includes zucchini, tomato, basil, and eggs. PHOTO BY CAROL FREY

The summer frittata includes zucchini, tomato, basil, and eggs. PHOTO BY CAROL FREY

Joseph, who was eager to get the afternoon’s project underway, nodded happily as we headed home. Our 4-H club would soon arrive for a session of siege weapon construction and a potluck feast. Unlike its medieval forebears, our trebuchet isn’t destined for storming the castle, but for a pumpkin-tossing contest in the fall. It was going to be a long day; I wanted to be sure that everyone would have a well-rounded meal. I also wanted to stay outside enjoying good company rather than puttering around the kitchen, far from the action. I wasn’t sure what anyone preferred, so I settled on grilling a variety of vegetables in a few different ways. As it turned out, even the more unusual ones like grilled lettuce were a hit with all the ages present.

Grilled vegetables are equally simple to prepare at home, on a campfire, or a park grill and they make wonderfully versatile leftovers. Toss the leftovers with freshly cooked pasta or couscous and your favorite herbs for a light main course, or saute them in a hot pan with fajita seasonings and serve on warm tortillas. If there are not enough leftovers to make another meal, chop them into small pieces, spoon onto slices of good bread with a sprinkling of your favorite cheese and toast under the broiler for bruschetta. In fact, I recommend making extra vegetables one night, in order to simplify the frittata recipe (below) for another night.

Grilled romaine lettuce. PHOTO BY CAROL FREY

Grilled romaine lettuce. PHOTO BY CAROL FREY

There are two keys to grilling vegetables successfully. First, keep the grill quite hot; on a gas grill, that means at least medium-high.A charcoal grill should be hot enough that you can comfortably hold your hand over the coals for only four to five seconds. Vegetables are full of water. If the grill isn’t hot enough to quickly char the outsides and roast the insides, they will steam instead of roasting, leading to limp, soggy food. The second key is to brush the vegetables liberally with olive or other oil. This means that you will have to watch for flare-ups, since dripping fat can cause the fire to spurt suddenly but even at high heat, the vegetables will get soft. Without oil, they will be hard to remove. When using a marinade, I also find it helpful to divide any herbs, using half in the marinade but reserving the other half to sprinkle on top after they come off the grill.

Whether you grill dinner on the beach, next to a tent, or in your backyard, I hope that you find yourself outdoors and in good company. There’s no better way I know to enjoy the summer’s abundance.


Fire-roasted Tomatoes and Basil

Fire roasted tomatoes and basil. PHOTO BY CAROL FREY

Fire roasted tomatoes and basil. PHOTO BY CAROL FREY


6 vine-fresh tomatoes, any variety

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

¾ cup whole, fresh basil leaves



Preheat grill to medium-high.

Remove blossom end of tomatoes with a sharp knife. Slice each tomato in half. Brush or drizzle the cut sides with olive oil. Salt and pepper, to taste.

Roll up basil leaves into a cigar shape. Slice thinly across the roll, then chop the slices once or twice.

Grill first on cut side, then uncut side, watching carefully for flare-ups or burning. This will take anywhere from 3 to 6 minutes, depending on the heat of your grill.

Remove carefully with a metal spatula and sprinkle liberally with chopped basil. Serve immediately or allow tomatoes to cool, then refrigerate for later use.


Summer Frittata


1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil

8-10 eggs

¾ cup zucchini

¾ cup tomato

7-10 fresh, whole basil leaves

salt and pepper



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat large, oven-safe frying pan or saute pan with olive oil.

If vegetables are already grilled, proceed with whisking eggs. If fresh, then preheat grill to medium-high heat. Cut zucchini into coins and brush with oil. Remove blossom ends of tomatoes and cut in half, again brushing cut ends with oil. Grill approximately 3 minutes, then flip and grill opposite sides. Monitor carefully for flare-ups or burning. Remove from grill.

Roll basil leaves into cigar shape and slice.

Whisk eggs in a medium bowl. Add basil, whisk briefly. Add grilled vegetables, then pour into prepared pan. Cover tightly. Bake for 15 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese, continue to bake until eggs are set and golden. Cheese should brown slightly.  Depending on the type of pan and individual oven, this can take 5 to 15 more minutes. Upon removing from oven, allow to cool for 1 minute, then loosen with knife or metal spatula and serve.


Grilled Romaine Lettuce


4 tight heads of fresh romaine lettuce

3 tablespoons olive oil or Lemony Marinade (recipe below)

3 tablespoons shaved Parmesan, Romano or other dry cheese

salt and pepper



Preheat grill to medium-high or high heat.

If lettuce needs to be washed, ensure that the heads are well dried before proceeding.

Slice heads longways. Peel off loose outer leaves, usually two to four per head.

Drizzle with olive oil or marinade. Salt and pepper, to taste. (If using marinade, adjust salt and pepper accordingly.)

Grill heads on cut side first, then uncut side. Watch carefully for flare-ups or burning.

Remove from heat, sprinkle immediately with shaved cheese and serve.


Lemon-Rosemary Marinade


4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 scant tablespoon lemon zest

1 large clove minced garlic

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste



Combine ingredients in a small bowl, brush or drizzle over lettuce before grilling.

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