Fire Up the Grill

There is nothing so self-effacing as a vegetable. Happy to sit on the sidelines — letting a grilled steak or burger get all the attention — vegetables are equally able to take center stage. All they need is a turn on the grill. The intense heat of charcoal lends any vegetable a smoky redolence that no other cooking technique can match. The only caveat is making sure your ingredients are prepped correctly so that they cook through without scorching, and that they have sufficient fat to keep from sticking or drying out.
Veggie Burger With the Wo​rks
There are two styles of veggie burger — one tries to imitate the flavor and texture of meat, the other is unabashedly laden with shards of vegetables and lots of grain. Either is perfect for this preparation, which glorifies the veggie burger in classic hamburger style.
    nonstick spray oil
    1/4 cup tartar sauce or mayonnaise
    2 Tbsps. mild salsa
    2 tsps. spicy brown mustard
    4 "flame-grilled" veggie burgers
    4 slices Monterey Jack cheese
    4 burger buns, split
    lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes, pickle slices, onion slices or other favorite toppings
Preheat a grill, and spray the grill rack with oil.
Combine the mayonnaise, salsa and mustard.
Brown the veggie burgers on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Top each burger with a slice of cheese, cover the grill, and cook until the cheese melts, about 1 minute.
Spread the sauce on the buns, place a burger on each bun, and add desired toppings.
Makes 4 servings.
Grilled Summer-Squash Vinaigrette
Summer squash grills effortlessly. They are porous enough to readily absorb the flavors of a marinade, soft enough to grill in minutes, and moist enough so that there's no chance of them drying out. The only aspect that may be unusual is that you must slice the squash lengthwise to get pieces long enough to rest across the rack of the grill without falling through its slots. Make your slices hefty, at least one-quarter-inch thick; otherwise, they'll become overly soft before browning.
    nonstick spray oil
    2 zucchini, stemmed and sliced lengthwise
    2 yellow summer squash, stemmed and sliced lengthwise
    1/2 cup Italian or garlic-vinaigrette salad dressing
Preheat a grill and spray the grill rack with oil.
Toss the zucchini and yellow squash with half the vinaigrette.
Grill for 2 to 4 minutes per side over a hot fire until browned and barely softened. Transfer to a platter and dress with the remaining vinaigrette.
Makes 4 servings.
Grilled Hoisin ​Eggplant
Asian eggplants are smaller and sweeter than Mediterranean varieties. I prefer Chinese, which are thinner than the Japanese, their skin a lighter purple and their flesh paler. Here, lengths of Asian eggplant are tossed with a marinade of hoisin sauce, Asian seasoning and sweet vinegar, grilled until tender, and dressed in a sauce made from some of the marinade mixed with salsa.
    2 Tbsps. hoisin sauce
    2 Tbsps. sake or vodka
    1/2 tsp. minced garlic, jarred or fresh
    1/2 tsp. minced ginger, jarred or fresh
    1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
    1 lb. Chinese or Japanese eggplants
    nonstick oil spray
    1/4 cup chunky salsa, any heat level
Combine the hoisin sauce, sake, garlic, ginger and balsamic vinegar.
Cut the stems from the eggplants, split them in half lengthwise, and cut the halves into 2-inch lengths. Toss them in the hoisin mixture.
Preheat a grill and spray the grill rack with oil.
Grill or broil eggplant pieces 2 inches from the fire for about 5 minutes per side, until the eggplant is browned and tender. While eggplant is cooking, add the salsa to any marinade remaining in bowl.
When the eggplant is done, toss it with the sauce.
Makes 4 servings.
Grilled Ratatouille
Ratatouille is a marinated vegetable salad from Provençe in which vegetables are painstakingly sautéed individually, and sauced with garlic vinaigrette. But this recipe is pain-free, augmenting tradition with the flavors of the grill, and streamlining the process by cooking all the vegetables at once.
    nonstick olive-oil spray
    1 medium eggplant, cut in 3/4-inch-thick rounds
    1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise in 3/4-inch slices
    1 red bell pepper, cut in strips
    1 large onion, peeled and cut in wedges
    6 oz. sliced portobello mushrooms
    2 tsps. chopped garlic, jarred or fresh
    salt and pepper to taste
    1 can (15 oz.) Italian-style diced tomatoes
    2 Tbsps. basil pesto, jarred or fresh
    grated imported Parmesan cheese 
Preheat a grill, and spray the grill rack with oil.
Spray the vegetables with oil, and toss the with half the garlic, and the salt and pepper.
Grill until browned and tender, about 5 minutes per side. (Watch carefully. Different vegetables grill at different rates, depending on the heat of the fire. Turn as needed.)
Toss the grilled vegetables with the tomatoes and pesto, and adjust the salt and pepper.
Serve with Parmesan.
Makes 6 servings.
Grilled Corn With Tomato B​utter
Don't husk your corn before you grill it. Just lay the unpeeled ears right over a fire, close the lid and cook. Although many recipes instruct you to soak the ears to keep the husk from igniting, I've never found that necessary. Yes, the silk flares a bit, but all that gets through to the corn is a delicious smokiness. When ears are done, the husks will be scorched in spots and you'll hear the corn bubbling inside its wrapper. Set it aside while you grill the rest of your meal. The corn will stay warm in its leaves for at least 20 minutes. Peel it just before serving. Slather it with some of the spicy tomato butter that follows.
    4 ears unhusked corn
    4 Tbsps. unsalted butter
    1 Tbsp. tomato paste, in a tube
    1/4 tsp. Chinese chili purée with garlic
    1/8 tsp. garlic salt
Preheat a grill to medium, place the corn on the rack of the grill, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, turning every 3 to 4 minutes.
Let cool for 2 minutes and remove the husks and silks.
While the corn is grilling, combine the butter, tomato paste, chili purée and garlic salt. Serve the corn with the tomato butter on the side.
Makes 4 servings.
Andrew Schloss is a food-industry consultant and a cookbook author. His current book is Almost From Scratch: 600 Recipes for the New Convenience Cuisine.


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