Originally from the Midwest, summer meant biting into beefsteak tomatoes and shucking fresh corn. Tom’s Vegetable stand on Highway 20 in Bartlett, Illinois had the best sweet corn and produce. Right now, sweet corn, tomatoes, beans, and hot/sweet peppers are at the peak of deliciousness as well as peaches and other stone fruit. How can that be when it is over one hundred degrees in the Phoenix area? The altitude in Southeastern Arizona is the key and the farms near the vineyard are bursting with incredible bounty.
There are great spots near the vineyard like Apple Annie’s Orchard where you can pick your own produce. On a recent visit we got the juiciest peaches ever. They were the “stand over the kitchen sink kind of good.” Here are five tips for grilling this summer’s freshest vegetables.
Know your vegetables. Some vegetables are denser (e.g., potatoes) than others (e.g., tomatoes) and require different temperatures and time on the grill. You might put the potatoes on first or even par-boil them before you put the slices on to the grill. Move them off direct heat once they get some grill color.
Oil and season generously. Toss your vegetables with olive oil or other cooking oil and season generously with your favorite spices before putting them on the grill.
Try a marinade. Vegetables can act like little sponges soaking up incredible flavors. Like tip #1 be careful how long you put some of the vegetables in the marinade as acids can quickly break down the tissues and make the veggies mushy. Sometimes less is more.
Prep properly. You do not want to dice onions and then try to grill them. A round vegetable like an onion does best cut into rounds so it has more surface area with the grill creating more caramelized grilled flavors. Use skewers or grill baskets for vegetables that might be too difficult to manage on the grill grates.
Do not over-grill. People tend to over-cook their vegetables. Do not ruin your fresh bounty by charring them beyond recognition. Watch over them while on the grill and move them around to ensure that they are still crisp and al dente.
Most grilled vegetables pair beautifully with wines. Like pairing wine with proteins, match intensity of vegetable flavors and seasonings used with your wine’s intensity. Bold flavors need bold wines. Next time you light the grill, think vegetables instead of a steak.