Grilling is an excellent way to cook most vegetables. The high heat of the fire brings out their natural sugars while infusing them with delicious smoky flavor. For optimum flavor and freshness, buy vegetables that are in season, preferably from a farmers' market, and cook them briefly and simply.
The key to grilling vegetables successfully is to get the grill nice and hot, and then to coat both the grill rack and the vegetables with oil to prevent sticking and add flavor. A vegetable-grilling basket is handy for cooking small vegetables, such as asparagus, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, that may fall through the grill rack.
To test for doneness, you can pierce a vegetable with a skewer or the tip of a knife. The best way, however, is to cut off a piece and eat it. Some vegetables, such as asparagus and fennel, taste best when tender-crisp. Others, such as eggplant and mushrooms, should be cooked until soft throughout.
Grilled vegetables can be eaten as is, or seasoned simply with salt, pepper and fresh herbs, or perhaps a little citrus juice or minced garlic. As you'll discover with the recipes featured here, grilled vegetables can star in a variety of rolesas side dishes, salads and main courses.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Grilling, by Denis Kelly, Melanie Barnard, Barbara Grunes & Michael McLaughlin (Oxmoor House, 2003)
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