|Fresh off the grill|
By Cara Rosenbloom, RD
Posted: August 2012
Burgers and chicken may be staples of the summer grill, but don’t forget about fresh vegetables and fruits.
Barbecue heat can bring out the best in produce from apples to zucchini. Plus, they’re low in calories and chock-full of heart-healthy vitamins, minerals and fibre. Here are some tips for creative summer grilling.
What to grill
The first rule of grilling vegetables: Avoid options with high water content. (There’s a reason why you’ve never had grilled cucumbers.) Your best bets:
- sweet potatoes
Try some of these top picks in our Grilled veggies and chicken or Summery vegetable and spaghetti salad.
Barbecue heat caramelizes the naturally occurring sugars in fruit to create luscious flavour. Here are some that grill well and hold their shape:
Try a salad like our Grilled peaches and greens with yogurt dressing.
This array of fresh produce offers a variety of heart-healthy nutrients. Sweet potatoes, mushrooms, nectarines and bananas are high in potassium – important in managing blood pressure levels. Eggplant, apples and pears are loaded with cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre. Peppers, asparagus and apricots contain vitamin C, a protective antioxidant.
Barbecue like a pro
My first experience trying to grill vegetables was, well, a disaster. The pieces were cut too small and most of them dropped through the grill. The one Portobello mushroom that I salvaged was burned to a crisp – I had the heat turned up too high.
After some thorough research (and checking with my dad, the barbecue expert), I learned these tips:
- Use a grill basket. You can pick one up at any department store and they are not expensive. They make sure your fruits and vegetables stay put.
- No basket? Try making kebabs with metal or wooden skewers. (If you use wood, soak the skewers for 20-30 minutes first so they won’t ignite.) They won’t fall through the grill and are fun to eat – especially for kids.
- To keep vegetables from sticking to the grill, brush them lightly with oil or marinate them in oil, herbs and spices before grilling.
- Grilling time for vegetables depends on their water content – and your preference. Unlike meat, which must be fully cooked for food safety reasons, vegetables can be enjoyed at any stage. Most vegetables cook in two to five minutes and need to be watched to avoid burning.
- When cooking fruit on the barbecue, make sure you are working on a clean grill. Nothing ruins the taste of grilled bananas like bits of leftover fish!
- Soak fruit in a cold water bath for about 30 minutes before grilling – this keep it juicy.
- Spray fruit with non-stick cooking spray or brush with a mild cooking oil – but don’t use extra virgin olive oil because the flavour is too strong.
Succulent, summer-ripe fruits make a perfect dessert fresh from the gril, especially when topped with thick lower-fat Greek yogurt or vanilla frozen yogurt and a touch of cinnamon.