Let’s face it, walking around the same old block every day can get a bit boring. Maybe it’s time to try a different side street, or in this case, a new side dish to serve with your entrée. It’s time to let your BBQ go VGQ, and to that end, here are three grilling options that should spice up your dinner repertoire.
You already know how the grill performs a smoke-and-char magic act on fish and meats, so give the same treatment to vegetables and reap the benefits. The grill’s dry heat concentrates everything that tastes good while adding the unmistakeable smoky essence of summer.
A recent dinner consisted of grilled lamb loin chops, accompanied by the grilled onions and asparagus sides. The lamb benefited from the balsamic vinaigrette and gremolata.
Grilled Onions with Balsamic Vinaigrette
If you’re an allium fan, you’ll adore these onions (recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated). Keep in mind, the size will affect the cooking time, so it’s important to choose onions that weigh between 7 and 8 ounces each and measure about 3 inches in diameter.
In step 3, be sure to err on the side of achieving darker charring, as the steaming step will soften the char’s appearance and flavor. The onions can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature which alleviates some stress when throwing a meal together.
Grilled Onions with Balsamic Vinaigrette
- ½ Cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 4 Onions
- 1 (13 Bx 9″) disposable aluminum roasting pan
- 1 Tbsp. minced fresh chives
- Whisk 6 tablespoons oil, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper together in bowl; set aside.
- Trim stem end of onions and halve onions from root end to stem end, leaving skin intact. (Root end can be trimmed, but don’t remove it.) Brush cut sides of onions with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle each half with 1/8 teaspoon salt.
- Arrange onions cut side down on grill over medium heat and cook (covered if using gas) until well charred, 10 to 15 minutes, moving onions as needed to ensure even cooking. Flip onions and cook cut side up until light charring develops on skin side, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer onions cut side up to disposable pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Return disposable pan to grill and cook over medium heat (covered if using gas) until onions are tender and easily pierced with paring knife, 10 to 15 minutes.
- When onions are cool enough to handle, remove and discard charred outer skin; arrange onions cut side up on large platter. Rewhisk vinaigrette and drizzle evenly over onions. Sprinkle with chives, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Grilled Summer Squash with Lemon, Mint and Pine Nuts
Here, a fresh vinaigrette lends a bright contrast to the sweetness of summer squash (which gets extra caramelized from the heat of the grill).
Of course Mother Nature can throw you a curve ball as she did the night we made our dinner. Thunderstorms had been raging through the area for days and more was on the way. Luckily, our Plan B was “Grilliam” our cast-iron Staub grill pan. In fact, it was even quicker than a grill because it took less time to heat up, while providing the caramelized char in under 15 minutes—a Win, Win! The downside of course, was having to cook the main entrée in another skillet.
Grilled Summer Squash with Mint Vinaigrette and Pine Nuts
- 2 to 3 lb. zucchini and yellow squash, trimmed and sliced lengthwise about 1/4 inch thick
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Vegetable oil, for the grill
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest
- 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- 5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint, more for garnish
- 2 Tbs. toasted pine nuts
- Prepare a hot gas or charcoal grill fire. Or in the case of inclement weather, a grill pan.
- Lightly brush both sides of the squash strips and season with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Oil the grill, then grill the squash, turning once, until tender and grill marks appear on both sides, about 15 minutes total. Transfer to a medium bowl.
- Meanwhile, smash the garlic with 1/4 tsp. salt to make a paste.
- Transfer to a small bowl, and add the lemon zest and 1/4 tsp. salt. Whisk in the lemon juice, and then slowly add the oil, whisking until blended. Stir in the mint.
- Toss the squash with enough of the vinaigrette to coat well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and additional chopped mint.
Grilled Asparagus with Cilantro-Lime Gremolata
Not moving the spears during cooking allows them to get a rich sear on one side and remain vibrant green on the other, which helps them retain their freshness and tender snap. This riff on gremolata enhances the stalks’ vibrancy. And you seriously can’t get much easier than this 3-ingredient topping.
Grilled Asparagus with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette
- 1 bunch asparagus, trim the base of the spears with a knife and peeled away their tough skin.
- 4 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
- 2 tsp. grated lime zest
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- Combine all ingredients in bowl.
To avoid harsh garlic flavor, don’t mince the garlic until you’re ready to mix the gremolata.
- Brush asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Heat on a hot grill without moving until the spears achieve a nice char on the underside.
- Remove to a platter and sprinkle with gremolata. Serve hot or warm.