It may officially be fall, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up grilling just yet. Grilling outdoors is one of my favorite ways to cook. While nothing beats a juicy burger or a sizzling filet with those gorgeous grill marks embedded in the meat, the grill is anything but a one-trick pony. Beyond protein, there are many delicious fruit and veggie sides you can whip up on the grill, and while we all know that a slice of watermelon and corn on the cob are easy grill companions, I bet you haven’t thought about throwing Brussel sprouts or peaches over the flames. Here are some of my favorite produce picks for the grill.
By Jennifer Tuohy
Fire Up Those Fruits
The natural sugars in fruit caramelize from all the glorious heat the grill throws off, whether you’re using gas, electric or coal. The high temperatures turn those sugars a rich golden color, bringing out some sumptuous fiery flavor without turning the flesh to mush (as long as you’re careful). Grilled fruits pair well with frozen yogurt for a treat on a hot day or as an inventive side dish with any meat or fish.
- Peaches: Slice them in half, remove the pit and brush on some olive oil or melted butter before placing them face down on the grill for two or three minutes. Flip them over, sprinkle toppings like cinnamon and honey and leave them for a minute or so more. For a savory taste, basil and black pepper are great additions.
- Strawberries: Add a touch of balsamic dressing to some strawberries, greenery and all, then skewer them before throwing them on the grill for a couple of minutes per side. Sprinkle with brown sugar or black pepper and rosemary beforehand for some added flavor.
- Cantaloupes: This firm melon is actually my favorite to grill. It holds together better than watermelon, and its super sweetness makes it an excellent sweet and spicy side dish. Slice it, sprinkle a little smoked paprika on it before grilling it for about 5 minutes on each side, and you’ve got a taste explosion! It pairs wonderfully with a salad and some grilled chicken.
- Grapes: This is so simple you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it years ago. Simply toss a bunch of grapes (still on their stems) in your favorite vinaigrette, and then throw on the grill for a minute (about 30 seconds each side). Serve with a small amount of gooey cheese and some grilled whole grain bread. Delissimo!
Crisp Up Your Veggies
Grilling transforms what can sometimes be watery, dull mouthfuls into crisp bursts of flavor. In the same way as fruits, grilling brings out the sugars in vegetables, turning them into crunchy delights.
- Kale: Yes, the superfood goes great on the grill, too! For a quicker version of kale chips, just coat some clean, dry leaves in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper before popping them on the grill for a couple of minutes on each side. The heat breaks down the tough stem, turning it soft but still a little crunchy.
- Brussel Sprouts: This once maligned veggie is now all the rage at high-end restaurants across the country. Simple, satisfying and notoriously hard to cook correctly, Brussel sprouts are best when fired over high heat and allowed to naturally crisp up and release their goodness. Balsamic vinegar is a great way to bring out this veggie’s flavors, but add it after you’ve grilled them. Just coat the sprouts in some olive oil with a dash of salt and pepper before skewering and letting them roast over the grill for about 30 minutes, turning frequently.
- Avocado: Almost 60 percent of Americans eat salad at least once a week. If you’re in the mood for one, try this twist on the traditional Caprese salad by adding hot avocado. Simply cut your avocados in half, remove the pit, brush some olive oil on the flesh and place face down on the grill until heated through. Top with a slice of fresh mozzarella, some cherry tomato halves, a sprinkle of basil and freshly ground pepper.
- Potatoes: As an Englishwoman, roast potatoes are my favorite food of all time. But my, they are a pain to make! Peeling, steaming, coating in fat, roasting for almost an hour—it’s a production. So I was thrilled to find a way to achieve almost the same results in half the time with the grill. Just chop up some potatoes into bite-sized chunks and toss in a mixture of olive oil, garlic and some herbs. (Rosemary is my personal favorite.) Then, package them in a loose tinfoil parcel and place on the grill over high heat for about 40 minutes. The steam in the foil softens them, and the heat crisps them up perfectly—just be sure to spread them out over the foil and not bunch them up.
Now you have no excuse not to enjoy some healthy fruit and veggies during your next cookout! The best thing about the grill is that it invites experimentation. Let us know your top produce picks for throwing on the grill.
Get more ideas for grilled choices at your favorite restaurants. Dishes like the ones below can be a great way to find inspiration for your next meal or simply a smart choice for busy days.
Jennifer Tuohy is both an enthusiastic gardener and a grilling aficionado, who creates DIY tips and projects for her home in Charleston, S.C. Jennifer also writes online for The Home Depot, which has a large selection of grills that you can research here.