Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Grilled Vegetables—No Matter the Weather

Grilling season is never over at my house. It’s is one of my favorite methods of cooking, and I don’t let a little cold, rain, sleet, ice, or snow deprive me of that pleasure. While I don’t encourage cooking out every day, I’m often reminded of a week just over three years ago when it became more necessity than choice. And it was a good time.

Cooking Through a Power Outage

On Sunday, September 14, 2008, Hurricane Ike blew through land-locked central Ohio with wind gusts of 74-75 mph, toppling trees, ripping off roofs, and taking down power lines. Much of my city and surrounding areas were left in the dark—some homes and businesses for more than a week. My house was without power for six days, and I quickly adapted to a daily routine of foraging for ice, candles, and charcoal. Competition was fierce, and store shelves went bare quickly.

That Sunday afternoon, I was putting together a garden salad to go with grilled streaks and baked potatoes, when the breeze started picking up. By 4 p.m. the wind was so strong that I started having second thoughts about firing up the grill. A few minutes later, however, the power went out and my second thoughts did too. Not only would I be grilling dinner that evening, but the next five evenings as well.

Grilled Beef with Red Wine Reduction and Grilled Red Potatoes
If You Can Grow It, You Can Grill It

Being forced to cook out that week turned out to be a great opportunity to get creative on the grill, especially with vegetables. After all, we can grill nearly any vegetable we can grow—asparagus, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, peppers, bok choy, endive, onions, eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, fennel, and, of course, the ever-popular corn on the cob, to mention a few. On “Ike Sunday,” my half-baked potatoes finished cooking (foil-wrapped) on the grill before the steaks went on.

Tips on Grilling Vegetables—Try a Griddle

Some vegetables—the aforementioned corn, for instance—are large and hearty enough to grill directly on the rack over the flame. Large slices of eggplant brushed with olive oil are tasty when flame-grilled, as are large chunks of colorful bell peppers and Belgian endive. Keep an eye on everything—vegetables grill quickly, so be ready to remove them as soon as they get that wonderful smoky char going. Visual checks are often a better measurement of doneness than any specific times for grilling a variety of vegetables.

Eggplant and Bok Choy Ready to Grill

For smaller, more tender vegetables, or vegetables that you want to cut into bite-sized pieces before grilling, a grill-pan, cast-iron skillet, and cast-iron griddle work great. The griddle and cast-iron skillet are my favorites, and I prepared most of the power-outage dinners on them.

Pan-Grilled Paella Vegetables
With a griddle, you can cook the meat or fish and vegetables at the same time, if the meat is thin enough or cut into small strips. Or you can simply place the food that needs the longest cooking time on first and add the remainder of the items as you go. Just make sure your charcoal, or whatever heat source you’re using, heats the full length of the griddle to allow meat on one end and vegetables on the other.

Cast-Iron Griddle

Jalapenos and Onions on the Griddle

And don’t forget kebabs. A mix of meat, vegetable, and fruit skewers are fantastic on the grill, and the griddle is the perfect cooking vessel for them. You don’t have to worry about pieces of food sticking to the grate or falling through it, and the flat surface also make the kebabs easy to turn for even grilling on all sides.

Whatever you’re grilling, keep the seasonings simple. Usually a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, or a splash of fresh lemon juice are enough to highlight—without drowning out—the great smoky flavor of anything that comes off the grill.

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