OTHER SUMMER GRILL FAVORITES: Grilled Eggplant Salad; Grilled Mushroom Cheddar Melts; Grilled Eggplant Salad; Merguez Grill Breads with Fennel-Arugula Salad; Grilled Salmon Sandwiches with Heirloom Tomatoes and Chive-Cashew Pesto;
My mom has always been a big believer in indoor grilling. Even though we have a perfectly capable Weber in the backyard on Martha’s Vineyard, she seems to break out her two-burner cast iron grill pan even more so during the summertime.
The reason, I guess, is the same as any cook’s who loves the grill but doesn’t readily have access to one; the smoky, charred appearance, even when not produced by actual charcoal, just feels appropriate during the hot months. And when the vegetables are as beautiful as they are at Morning Glory Farm, you need little else than some well-placed grill marks and a few fresh herbs to compose a dish.
The unnecessarily large variety of grilled vegetables my mother tends to grill—portobello mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, squash, onions, and radicchio, to name a few–is as much a staple of my family’s summer entertaining as mom’s seared salmon or fish tagines. And now that my dad has finally manned up and learned how to put that Weber in the backyard to good use, I can only imagine the great grilled vegetables to come as he takes the show outdoors.
While I was on the island during the 4th of July weekend, I was leafing through Cooks Illustrated and came across a guide to grilling vegetables with an accompanying recipe for grilled veggie ratatouille. Somehow, even though we’d been grilling these exact vegetables together for years, it had never occurred to me to chop them up afterwards and create the ultimate warm salad side dish. It’s an extra step, but as I soon discovered, well worth it.
The kicker for this grilled ratatouille is the tomatoes. Though it feels like we’ve grilled every veg in sight, we’ve never given tomatoes a try. For the ratatouille, I used plump little cherry tomatoes which, when strung together on a skewer, brown, shrivel, and blister in no time at all. When tossed together with the other grilled vegetables, they pop open and release all their warm juices. Instead of the rich saucy texture of traditional ratatouille (a recipe you can find in our book!), the grilled tomatoes create a light refreshing dressing with their mildly acidic juices that add sweetness to every smoky bite.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend making a grill martyr of yourself indoors, as my mom seems to enjoy doing. But if you are lucky enough to escape the city for the weekend and settle into a backyard with a Weber of your own, I would highly recommend giving this ratatouille a test drive—especially if you can find a ready and willing grill master to trade the burgers for eggplant on his range (thanks, Dad).
From my kitchen, grilling all the veggies under the sun (literally), to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Makes 2 servings
This can be executed on an indoor grill pan, but it will take forever. If that’s all you have at your disposal, save yourself the trouble, and just make regular ratatouille from our book! Additional instructions on grilling veggies can be found in the July/August issue of Cooks Illustrated.
1 small eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/3 inch thick
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
1 yellow squash, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
1 orange or yellow pepper, cored and sliced into rings
1 red pepper, cored and sliced into rings
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into rings
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
¼ cup roughly chopped basil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic
¼ cup olive oil
Heat a charcoal grill.
In a shallow dish, place half of the olive oil. Brush the eggplant, squash, zucchini, and peppers with oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper. String the tomatoes onto skewers and brush with oil. Arrange the veggies on the grill.
Grill on both sides until nice char marks form and each vegetable becomes tender (about 10 minutes for eggplant, 8 for zucchini/squash, 8 for peppers, 5 for tomatoes, 10 for onions).
Remove the veggies to a cutting board and roughly chop. Combine the basil, balsamic, and remaining oil in a mixing bowl. Add the chopped veggies and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt as necessary.
Enjoy alongside grilled meat or fish, or as a topping for pasta, hot or at room temperature.