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Grill-Roasted Vegetables with Basil Pesto

Bell peppers, eggplant and zucchini are staples in the Mediterranean garden. Here, they are roasted on a grill, along with sweet corn, until their textures are yielding and the flesh is lightly perfumed with smoke. Combined with classic Italian pesto, the grill-roasted vegetables make a delicious and colorful summer salad. The pesto can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in a container in the refrigerator with a thin layer of olive oil poured over the top. If you like, make a double batch of the pesto, which can be tossed with pasta or served with grilled chicken or fish. 

Ingredients:

For the pesto: 

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted 
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped 
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste 
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste 
  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves 
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 
  •   
  • 1 large eggplant, about 1 lb., trimmed and cut lengthwise into slices 1/2 inch thick 
  • 3 zucchini, about 1 lb. total, trimmed and cut lengthwise into slices 1/2 inch thick 
  • 2 ears of corn, shucked 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 2 red bell peppers, each about 1/2 lb., seeded and cut lengthwise into quarters 

Directions:

To make the pesto, in a food processor, combine the pine nuts, garlic, the 1/4 tsp. salt and the 1/4 tsp. pepper. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped. Add the basil leaves. With the motor running, pour the olive oil through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream and process until the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lemon juice and cheese. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over high heat (400°F). Generously oil the grill rack.

Brush the eggplant and zucchini slices and the corn with olive oil. Season the vegetables all over with salt and pepper.

Place the bell peppers, skin side down, on the grill rack directly over the heat source. Place the eggplant, zucchini and corn on the grill rack away from the heat source and cover the grill. Roast the peppers until the skins are blistered and charred, 5 to 7 minutes. Roast the corn, turning 1 or 2 times, until lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Roast the eggplant and zucchini, turning once, until lightly charred and softened, 3 to 5 minutes per side. As the vegetables are done, transfer them to a cutting board, tenting the peppers with aluminum foil.

Cut the corn kernels from the cobs and transfer to a serving bowl. Cut the eggplant and zucchini into 1/2-inch dice and add to the bowl. Peel away the skins from the bell peppers, cut the peppers into 1/2-inch dice and add to the bowl. Add 2 to 4 Tbs. of the pesto and toss gently to coat the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately and pass the remaining pesto at the table. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Roasting, by Rick Rodgers, Melanie Barnard, Bob & Coleen Simmons, Tori Ritchie & Amanda Haas (Oxmoor House, 2009).