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Veggies get their due on the grill

Published: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST
Caption
(MCT News Service)
The grill isn’t just for burgers and steaks; vegetables can be transformed by the heat of a grill in dishes like a lemon, garlic grilled portobello mushroom.

Of all the foods we grill on perfect summer days, vegetables rank among the most exciting. Perhaps it’s because the grill so thoroughly transforms everything from bland eggplant to plain-old potatoes and squash into new, richly flavored, smoky treats. Suddenly, they morph from boring must-eat sides to interesting creations.

Our family tip: Cook plenty. We always eat more grilled veggies than we ever do of the steamed or boiled counterpart. Plus, any leftover grilled vegetables happily metamorphose into yet another treat for the next day’s meals. Grilled potatoes liven up potato salad as does grilled asparagus in a batch of scrambled eggs. I tuck slabs of grilled green and yellow summer squash along with tomato slices inside a pita for a terrific, unusual weekday sandwich.

Two secrets come to mind for successful veggie grilling: Keep ’em moist; season highly. Since grills offer dry heat, a light coating of oil seals in moisture when grilling cut vegetables. Alternatively, I trap moisture by wrapping firm veggies such as potatoes, beets, turnips and carrots in foil. Season sliced oiled vegetables with rubs, herbs and salt before grilling so the flavors penetrate. Likewise, season vegetables cooked in foil packets.

The grill and summer vegetables: a match made in heaven.

Barbecue Sweet Potato Slices

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Make extra; these potato planks taste great the next day.

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon sugar

4 to 6 large sweet potatoes (3 to 4 pounds total), peeled if desired

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse (kosher) salt

1. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium heat. Mix chili powder and sugar together in a small dish.

2. Cut potatoes lengthwise into slabs about ½-inch thick. Place in a single layer on 1 large or 2 smaller well-oiled baking sheet(s). Turn potatoes to coat with the oil.

3. Sprinkle the potatoes generously on all sides with the chili mixture; sprinkle lightly with salt.

4. Arrange potatoes on the grill in a single uncrowded layer. Cover grill; cook, 10 minutes. Use a pancake flipper to carefully turn potato slices over. Grill the second side until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork and edges are slightly charred, 8-10 minutes. Serve hot.

Nutrition information per serving: 219 calories, 10 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 32 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 174 mg sodium, 5 g fiber

Barbecue Sweet Potatoes with Chickpeas and Arugula

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 5 minutes

Makes: 4 main-course servings

Roasted and salted, smoked or candied pecans make a great substitute for the toasted pecans here. I love to top each portion of this dish with a poached or over-easy egg and a generous sprinkle of black pepper. Crumbled goat cheese tastes great in place of the sour cream, too.

¼ cup pecan halves

2 tablespoons smoky barbecue sauce

1 tablespoon each: olive oil, red wine vinegar

½ cup drained canned chickpeas

5 ounces baby arugula or baby kale or 4 cups roughly chopped frisee leaves

Salt, optional

Half recipe cooked BBQ sweet potato slices

A few tablespoons thin sour cream or plain yogurt, optional

Chopped fresh chives or very thinly sliced green onions

1. Place pecans in a small, nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 1-2 minutes. Cool, then chop roughly.

2. Mix barbecue sauce, oil and vinegar in a small bowl. Add chickpeas; toss to coat. Arrange greens on a large platter. Sprinkle lightly with salt if desired.

3. Cut potato slices into 1-inch chunks. Put into a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap vented at one corner. Microwave on high until potatoes are warm, 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Add warm potatoes and chickpea mixture to salad greens. Toss lightly to coat everything with the dressing. Sprinkle with pecans. Drizzle with sour cream if using. Serve sprinkled with chives.

Nutrition information per serving: 304 calories, 16 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 37 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 305 mg sodium, 5 g fiber

Lemon Garlic Grilled Portobellos with Burrata and Tomatoes

Prep: 25 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes

Makes: 6 servings

Ricotta makes a nice substitute for the burrata; you’ll need 2 tablespoons per mushroom cap.

¼ cup olive oil

Grated zest and juice from 1 small lemon

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon salt

6 large (about 1½ pounds total) portobello mushrooms, each 4 inches in diameter

1 medium red onion, cut into 4 thick slices

6 small ripe tomatoes or 3 medium

Half of an 8-ounce container burrata cheese

3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil and fresh chives

1. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium heat. Mix oil, lemon zest and juice, mustard and salt in a small bowl.

2. Gently twist the mushroom stems off the caps. Lightly brush the caps, stems and onion slices with the oil mixture. Grill stems and onion slices directly over the heat, turning once, until golden and tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.

3. Add caps to a cooler section of the grill, gill side down. Cook, 2 minutes. Flip; brush with oil mixture. Add tomatoes to grill. Grill until smooth side of mushroom caps are golden and tomatoes are warmed and softened a bit, about 3 minutes. Remove from grill; place mushroom caps on a serving platter. Use a small serrated knife to cut the tomatoes in half or slices.

4. Chop grilled stems and onion; put into a small bowl. Season with a teaspoon or two of the remaining oil mixture. Divide the filling among the mushrooms caps. Top with a portion of the burrata and two tomato halves or slices. Sprinkle generously with fresh basil and chives. Serve while warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition information per serving: 186 calories, 14 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 16 mg cholesterol, 12 g carbohydrates, 7 g protein, 275 mg sodium, 3 g fiber

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©2014 Chicago Tribune

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