Many people are cutting their meat consumption down, or entirely out, but that definitely doesn't mean our barbeques have to be destined for rust and neglect! Fruits and vegetables are fabulous grilled, and it's absolutely worth doing a bit of research and prep to make sure you're getting the most out of your plant-based grilling sessions! From combining fabulous flavours to finding the perfect degree of 'done', here are some quick and simple tips to get you started.
When you’re prepping fruit and veg for grilling in the kitchen it can be tempting to think ‘bite-size’, but it’s important to make sure your food isn’t going to fall through the grill and into the flames, so it’s actually better to err on having a slightly bigger size for each slice. Vegetables can be a little prone to drying out over an open flame, so soaking them in water for a little while before you cook them (and before you oil and season them) can help keep them tender. Fruit, on the other hand, is generally really juicy, so it’s best to select pieces that are very slightly on the under-ripe side, as they’ll hold together much better as they cook than overripe fruit will. Both fruit and veg will benefit from the addition of some fat—butter or plant-based oil—which helps keep them from sticking to the grill, and also enhances the taste. Your fat of choice is also the perfect carrier for seasonings!
For vegetables, a bit of salt and pepper are baseline flavour enhancers. But you can get more creative and start pairing certain veg with great seasoning combos: corn on the cob, peppers and eggplant are particularly delicious with spicy, smoky notes like paprika and smoked chili, while squash, mushrooms and root veg can be really enhanced with a fresh herb blend of finely chopped rosemary, sage and thyme. Meanwhile, fruits can be nudged more towards dessert with the addition of honey and cinnamon, or pulled more into being a fabulous side for a savoury meal by using some fresh, tart lime juice and salt. But there are no rules! Have fun and try a bunch of different seasoning and blends until you find your favourites.
Both fruits and vegetables are best cooked over medium heat—just make sure your grill is up to temperature before you put the prepped food on, to ensure consistent results. When cooked directly on the grill, fruit and softer vegetables like mushrooms, onions and peppers will rarely take more than 10 mins, and sometimes might only need 3-4 minutes. Because foods like these are often enjoyed raw, it’s really a matter of taste how cooked you want them to be—sometimes a couple of smoky charred grill marks and a bit of warmth is all you want. But you can always cut into a piece to make sure the insides are nice and hot, if that’s what you’re after, or look for steam, because that’s a great indicator of something being cooked through. More substantial veg like squash halves, corn in the husk, and full potatoes are often wrapped in foil and generally take 20-30 mins. But again, the great thing about grilling fruit and vegetables is it’s a very forgiving process and there are many versions of deliciousness! We hope you get to try lots of them over the summer :)