Hotter temperatures and longer days mean grilling season is here. This summer, why not slide the hamburgers, steaks, brats and hot dogs over, and make room for fruits and vegetables?
Grilling provides another opportunity to prepare healthy fruits and vegetables in a quick and different way. Many people think everything tastes better on the grill, which can hold true for both fruits and vegetables. Don't like eggplant, zucchini or asparagus? Try it grilled!
Better yet, why not Moroccan-Style Grilled Vegetables using the recipe below?
Taste is not the only benefit of grilling. Vegetables and fruit cook so quickly on the grill that they retain much of their vitamins and nutrients.
For vegetables, it is best to have the grill warm, but not as hot as you would for grilling meat. Lightly brush the vegetables with olive oil and put directly on the grill, turning until tender.
Try larger hunks, like a half a green pepper, large slices of squash or portabella mushroom caps, which are large enough to sit on the grates without falling through. A grill basket, aluminum foil pan or kabobs also can be used.
If you prefer steamed veggies, wrap the vegetables in aluminum foil with a little olive oil and your favorite marinade or spices. Seal and place on the grill. Turn them occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes or until veggies are tender.
Experiment with different spices, marinades and sauces when preparing fruits and vegetables. Don't be afraid to try various flavors. Store-bought mixes and marinades can have extra sodium, sugar and calories compared to a specialized homemade version. Balsamic vinegar or other flavored vinegars are great for drizzling over grilled vegetables or using in a marinade.
Let's not forget about dessert. Fruits on the grill make a sweet treat. Firmer fruits like apples, pears and pineapples are perfect for grilling. Fruits like peaches and mangoes also can be delicious, but they need to be monitored more closely to prevent overcooking, which causes them to be mushy.
Try cutting a fresh peach in half, removing the pit, brushing lightly with olive oil and grilling for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with cinnamon and add a dollop of light whipped topping or low-fat frozen yogurt for a yummy treat.
In addition, remember to always practice safe grilling techniques and food safety when preparing any food. The next time you plan to fire up the grill, remember to invite some vegetables and fruits to the party.
Try this flavorful recipe for Moroccan-Style Grilled Vegetables at your next family or holiday gathering!
MOROCCAN-STYLE GRILLED VEGETABLES
12 crimini or button mushrooms, stems removed
3 small Globe or purple eggplants, sliced into rounds, cut lengthwise into quarters, then into slices about 1/2 inch thick
1 zucchini, cut into 1-inch thick rounds
1 yellow squash, cut into 1-inch thick rounds
1/2 large red bell pepper, seeded, cut into chunks
3 fresh pineapples, 1-inch thick rings, cut into quarters
12 asparagus, cut into 3-inch lengths
1/4 small red onion, halved, pieces separated
8 cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Juice of 1 lemon
Cooking oil spray
1. Preheat grill to medium-high; spray grates with nonstick spray. If using a gas grill, turn off one side; on charcoal grill, push the coals to one side. Soak (16 to 18) 12-inch wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes, or use metal skewers.
2. To make marinade: In large bowl, mix together parsley, olive oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, turmeric and lemon juice. Mix well to combine.
3. Add vegetables and fruit to marinade in bowl or use a large resealable bag and pour in marinade and add fruit and vegetables. Mix well to coat all the ingredients. Let the ingredients marinate at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour before skewering.
4. Thread vegetables and pineapple onto soaked skewers. Wrap ends of wooden skewers with foil to prevent burning. Lightly coat both sides of the vegetables with nonstick spray.
5. Using long-handled tongs, moisten a paper towel with cooking oil spray. Lightly coat grill rack with oil-soaked paper towel to prevent sticking. Lay skewers on grate with the vegetables over the hot side, and foil-covered handles over the cooler side. Grill vegetables, covered, over medium heat, until vegetables are cooked and lightly charred, about 4 minutes. Turn, baste with any remaining marinade, and grill 4 to 5 minutes more, or until vegetables are tender, turning frequently.
Serves 4 to 6 (3 to 4 skewers per person)
*** Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children's author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is "The Kitchen Diva's Diabetic Cookbook." Her website is www.divapro.com. For how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva!, on Facebook and go to Hulu.com. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis. (c) 2012 King Features Synd., Inc., and Angela Shelf Medearis
(Additional information from Kelli Wilmes, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Nodaway County, University of Missouri Extension.)