Create summer meals with grilled veggies, fruit

Published 11:02 am Monday, July 18, 2011

By JENNIFER DUTTON / Guest Columnist

“If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Perhaps Mr. Truman was talking about cooking indoors on a hot summer day.

Luckily, you can keep your kitchen cool and save yourself the hassle of making summer side dishes indoors by cooking fruits and vegetables on the grill.

The dry heat from the grill caramelizes plant sugars, giving grilled fruits and veggies a deliciously sweet and smoky taste.

Vegetables high in water benefit most from grilling. Peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, fennel, summer squash, okra, tomatoes and corn do exceptionally well.

More dense vegetables such as potatoes and carrots can also be grilled, but it is best to slightly precook them so they soften or slice them so they have more surface area for cooking.

Large vegetables can be cooked directly on a clean grill grate. You may want to lightly brush the veggies with a flavorful oil such as extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil or hazelnut oil to give them great flavor and prevent sticking on the grill.

For smaller veggies, you may want to invest in a vegetable basket or a flat metal plate with small holes. Metal, wooden or bamboo skewers also can be used for kebabs.

The vegetable basket is helpful in that you only turn the basket, not individually chopped vegetables.

Slender veggies such as asparagus are best skewered crosswise in two places to make a “raft” that will not fall through the grate.

To grill veggies in aluminum foil, place a large sheet of aluminum foil on the counter and spray with cooking spray.

Spread veggies on top and cover with another sheet of aluminum foil.

Then roll the two pieces of aluminum foil into each other to make a pouch, which is great for steaming on the grill.

Veggies generally take 15-20 minutes to cook on the grill over medium heat depending on their density.

If you would like to make a healthier version of French fries, spray the inside of an old metal cake pan with cooking spray and scatter thinly sliced strips of potatoes in the pan and sprinkle with seasoning.

Simply place the pan over low flame and turn the potatoes until they can be pierced with a fork.

Jennifer Dutton is an extension agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. She can be reached by e-mail at