Woodside’s Executive Chef, Nick Janner, recently discussed healthy alternatives to throw on the grill to complement – or substitute – proteins this summer. Read on for some healthy recipes using vegetables in your fridge that taste great with a little char.
As the Summer season hits full swing, so does outdoor grilling. Time to load up the grill with burgers, dogs, steaks, and romaine lettuce. Wait, what?! Lettuce on the grill? Yup.
Everyone is aware that grilling, as a cooking technique, can highlight healthier ways of eating. You use less fat to cook with and generally fresher items, it’s a win-win situation. But I think grilling vegetables often gets overshadowed by T-bones and bratwurst. We forget how easy (and delicious) it can be to grill squash, corn, eggplant, and even certain types of lettuce.
The first grilling technique I wanted to highlight is what I call a ‘post-marinade’, or grilling your vegetable of choice and as it comes off the grill, drizzling or tossing the veggie in the sauce or marinade that you already made. This is how we’ve come to enjoy the grilled Caesar salad.
- Simply take the romaine heart and split it in half. Rub it with a little oil and seasoning with salt like you would a steak. *Easy on the salt though, remember that your sauce will be seasoned as well.
- Place the lettuce on the grill and cook until it is lightly charred.
- Remove it from the grill and either toss or drizzle it with dressing.
- Top with fresh tomatoes, Parmigiano cheese, and a few croutons.
You could easily turn this into a grilled wedge salad. (Blue cheese, bacon, candied walnuts, fresh diced tomatoes). Don’t get me started on the endless ingredient possibilities.
One tip with grilled lettuce: Rinse it first, but leave some of that water in the leaves. This will help steam the lettuce so it doesn’t turn out too dry.
The second technique I wanted to touch on is grilling certain items in their natural skin or husk. The first that comes to mind is corn, still in the husk. Once again, the natural moisture from the husk will help steam the corn.
- Just clean off some of the silk so it doesn’t flare up
- Place the corn on the grill and rotate it from time to time.
- It’ll be done when the husks are slightly charred. Don’t be afraid to peek inside and see if the corn kernels are cooked.
You can also do this with eggplant. I prefer the Japanese eggplant for this technique due to it being thinner, therefore cooking faster and more even.
- Place the eggplant directly on the hot part of the grill and allow the eggplant to char all over, and become soft.
- Remove it from the grill and let cool so you can handle it.
- Split it open and scrape out all the cooked flesh. At this point you can use it as a spread (baba ganoush) or eat it as is.
The grill is an easy way to get creative and maintain a healthy diet this summer. Next time you fire up the grill, see what vegetables you have in the fridge and test out a new recipe.
Happy, healthy grilling season! – Executive Chef, Nick Janner