Like meat, fish and chicken, veggies take on a completely different character when cooked over charcoal or on any type of grill. The natural sugars in some vegetables – onions, tomatoes and peppers – caramelize when grilled, imparting a depth and richness no amount of sautéing could ever accomplish.
Other vegetables, such as eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms, acquire the same woodsy smokiness as any good grilled piece of meat. Keeping this in mind, I hoped the meat eaters in this party would never even notice the absence of the proverbial hamburger, hot dog, steak and ribs.
Almost any vegetable can be cooked on the grill, using a few general guidelines.
• Because they have no fat, vegetables must be brushed with oil or marinated in an oil-based marinade before grilling.
• Never use butter in place of the oil – it will burn.
• The grill chef must turn the vegetables and regulate the heat carefully.
• Most veggies do best when set directly on an oiled grill.
The following recipes may be used as accompaniments in a traditional barbecue (except for the herbed tomatoes, since it's a dairy dish) or stand on their own for a complete vegetarian meal.
Grilled Minted Zucchini With Bruschetta
8 small zucchini
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbsps. chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
16 slices baguette
Trim ends of the zucchini and cut lengthwise into three-eighth-inch slices.
Brush each slice on both sides with some of the olive oil, using about one-quarter cup. Grill on both sides until zucchini is golden-brown.
Remove to platter, and while still hot, sprinkle with garlic, mint and vinegar. Let cool; taste for salt and pepper.
For the Bruschetta: Brush remaining olive oil on both sides of baguette slices. Cook bread on both sides over medium-hot grill until golden.
To Serve: Top each bruschetta with a few zucchini slices or pass bruschetta with platter of zucchini.
Grilled Green Beans, Sweet Peppers and Leeks in Papillote With Linguini
1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
4 Tbsps. olive oil
4 Tbsps. kosher white wine
3 tsps. fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried
1 lb. freshly cooked linguini
Cut 2 large squares of heavy duty aluminum foil.
Place half the vegetables in the center of each square.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons wine and half the oregano over each portion. Toss lightly with hands.
Bring the four corners of each piece of foil together and crimp to make tightly sealed packages. Place packages, seam-side up on hot grill.
Cook 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
Place linguini in serving bowl and open packages over linguini.
Toss well; taste for salt and pepper.
Serve hot or room temperature.
Serves 6 to 8.
Portobello Mushroom Burgers With Basil-Mustard Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsps. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 portobello mushrooms (4-inches to 5-inches in diameter), stems discarded
8 hamburger rolls
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise with basil, mustard and lemon juice. In another bowl, combine oil and garlic.
Preheat grill. Brush mushroom caps on both sides with garlic oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Grill mushrooms until golden-brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to platter and keep warm by covering with foil.
Place mushroom on one half of bun, topped by the lettuce and the tomato slice.
Spread basil-mustard sauce on top and cover with remaining bun half.
Grilled Corn on the Cob With Sage
8 Tbsps. olive oil
3 Tbsps. chopped sage
8 ears corn, husked
salt and pepper
Combine oil and sage.
Rub each ear of corn with the sage mixture and wrap in aluminum foil.
Place on hot grill and cook, turning often, about 10 minutes.
Unwrap; season with salt and pepper.
Herbed Tomato Halves With Parmesan Cheese
4 ripe, but not soft, tomatoes halved
8 Tbsps. butter, at room temperature
3 Tbsps. chopped basil
2 Tbsps. grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Squeeze tomato halves gently, upside-down, to remove excess juice and seeds.
Combine the butter with the basil and cheese.
Place tomatoes, cut-side down, on hot grill. Cook for 2 minutes.
Turn tomatoes over and place 1 tablespoon of basil-butter on top of each half. Grill for another 2 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. Among the six books she's co-authored is Jewish Holiday Feasts.