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Mar 4, 2010 05:56 PM

Grilling vegetables over charcoal

I enjoy the taste of food cooked over charcoal and started grilling vegetables over a fire with a grill-basket. They came out ok, but I still think there is something missing. They need more flavor. Either additional ingredients or improvements to my method.

My veggies were garlic cloves, asparagus tips, carrot, sweet potato, slices of corn on the cob, and red peppers. I put everything in a bowl with some light olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary leaves. I let the ingredients sit for about an hour in the refrigerator and tossed every 20 minutes. I cooked over charcoal until there was decent black roasted color on the outside of the veggies.

I would appreciate some advice.

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  1. I think you have a good start on the seasoning but maybe need to ramp it up a bit. Try a combo of herbs with the rosemary, such as thyme, cilantro, oregano or marjoram, basil, flat leaf parsley, a little ancho or pasilla chile powder, a pinch a cumin if you like it, some good fruity olive oil, citrus juice such as lemon or lime, soy sauce, or a good vinegar like balsamic, red wine or an herb-flavored vinegar. I'm not trying to go a Mexican or Tex-Mex route here but some of those flavors are great with grilled vegetables. Asian style marinades are also great for grilled food.

    I use a Cajun seasoning mix like Tony Cachere's Creole Seasoning, or make my own blackened seasoning, also good on veggies. Create your own special veggie "rub."

    Asparagus stalks can be grilled whole but you have a basket so smaller pieces are fine.
    Try grilling zucchini and yellow summer squash, fingerling potatoes, beets, eggplant, mushroom caps like portobello, brussels sprouts, onions halves or scallions, too. Whole ears of corn grilled and topped with cojita or parmesan and a spritz of lime juice is amazingly tasty.

    So zip it up a bit but remember that the taste of the grilled vegetables should shine through.

    Here's a link with some ideas:
    EDIT: I don't use a basket, either.

    1. I like rosemary with grilled potatoes, and that's about it. It doesn't add brightness to other veggies when you grill them, IMHO. Also, I do not love the grill baskets. I believe the veggies are better caramelized when they come into contact with the hot preheated grill. (Think of the difference when you are cooking a scallop on the stove. Method one: put it in a cool pan and then put the pan on the fire. Method two: put the scallop in a preheated hot pan. See the difference?) So this is what I really like with asparagus, whole carrots sliced once the long way, broccoli, and green beans. In a gallon ziplock bag, place a good amount of finely chopped garlic (at least a Tbsp), about 1 1/2t salt, about 2t pepper and about 3/8-1/2c evoo. Mix. Fill the bag with veggies and squish it around so all veggie surface area is oiled. Let sit at room temp for 15 minutes. Place on medium grill until you get decent grill marks (maybe 4 minutes), flip and grill til done (3-5 minutes). The little cooked bits of garlic are delicious, and the flavor of these veggies shines through.

      Corn on the cob I grill the same way, usually without garlic, but I do it whole because the kernels need to have direct contact with the grill. If I want pieces I cut it after cooking. Corn takes longer, mostly because you turn it 2 or 3 times, not just once.

      Red peppers I cook with a weed burner, every girl's friend.

      The sweet potatoes are harder. I like them in the oven better. On the grill you need to actively paint big slices with oil to keep them from drying out.

      So--make sure your fire isn't too hot. If it's too hot you just char (burn) the veggies. You want to sear, caramelize and soften them. That's done with a fire no hotter than medium.

      1 Reply
      1. re: runwestierun

        I concur. Skip the basket and grill them directly on the hot grate. Try kebabs if you'd rather keep small pieces. Also try re-seasoning while they're on the grill or right after you pull them off.