Sweep that meat off your grill! This summer, farmer’s markets are bursting with fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables that are perfect for grilling at your Memorial Day blast. But don’t reach for the normal culprits. This holiday sear up some off-road options like charred romaine or grilled kale; they’ll make excellent salad starters. All you’ll need is a simple oil-based dressing. Or, try grilling up some fresh cucumbers; they’ll remain just as crunchy as they are fresh, but perhaps a bit denser. Or, try charred avocados—a delicious standout either alone or with fillings. Sure, you can always grill up old fruit standards like peaches, but why not go nouveau with our recipe for grilled grapes? And for a real Summer crowd-pleaser, char up our delicious watermelon salsa!
Avocado. Sear some tracks in this baby! Start with large ripe Haas avocados, cut in half and remove seeds. With a spoon drizzle with fresh lime or lemon juice and brush lightly with olive oil. Gently place cut side down on grill over hot coals and grill 2-3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Fill with chopped veggies or salsa (see our “Watermelon Salsa” below).
Artichoke. A smoky alternative to steamed. Steam and cook artichoke the day before, until fully tender, but not overly soft. (Cool on rack or prepare the day before and cool in fridge, covered.) When ready, prepare grill for direct, high heat. Brush artichoke with herb-infused oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then place halves cut side down on the grates. Cover and grill for 5-10 minutes, until char mark appear on cut side.
Romaine lettuce. Versatile for salads or as sandwich filler. Wash and cut romaine halves. Start with medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat on gas grill to medium-high. Place halves cut side down on grill, and cook about 4 minutes, turning once, until charred and slightly wilted. Transfer lettuce cut side up to a serving platter, and season with salt and pepper; drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.
Red, orange, and/or yellow peppers. Make a tri-color array. Prepare outdoor grill for covered direct grilling on medium. Cut each pepper lengthwise into quarters; discard stems and seeds. In medium bowl, toss peppers with oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper. Place peppers, skin side up, on hot grill rack. Cover grill and cook peppers 4-5 minutes or until beginning to soften. Turn peppers over; cover and cook 3-4 minutes longer or until slightly charred. When done, return to same bowl. Add parsley and toss to coat. Add to salads, or eat as a side dish tossed with onions and chickpeas.
Cucumbers. Still crispy, but with a dense bite. Slice English (seedless) cucumbers lengthwise in half, scoop out centers, then cut into spears. Place on a plate and sprinkle with salt; let stand for 10 minutes. Rinse, drain, and pat dry, then toss with a bit of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Grill the spears, alongside a green onion or two, over medium heat about 2 minutes per side. Toss with rice vinegar, sliced green onions, thinly sliced red or green jalapeño, and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Top with sesame seeds.
Grilled Kale. Crisp, smoky, and addictively delicious. Remove stems, leaving large leaves. In a large bowl, toss leaves with 2 Tbs. olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Using tongs, place leaves on grill, cover, and cook until bottom sides are lightly charred, about 2 minutes. Flip leaves, cover grill, and cook until other side is lightly charred, about 1 minute longer. Remove kale from grill and set aside to cool. Add feta cheese crumbles or pine nuts, if desired
Portobello Mushrooms. Plush and filling—a delicious alternative to meat. Wash, remove the stems, then brush with 1 tsp. oil. Grill 15 minutes per side. Eat alone or use as sandwich filler.
Grapes. Healthy alternative to traditional sides. Prepare outdoor grills for covered, direct grilling on medium. Wash, then place grapes, broken into clusters (for ease of handling) on hot grill grate. Cover grill and cook 4-5 minutes until grapes begin to char and soften, turning occasionally.
Watermelon. Bring out the hidden caramel flavor. For Watermelon Salsa, brush wedges (keep rind on for easier handling) with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium heat, about 2 minutes per side, until grill marks appear. Cut off and discard rinds, then dice into small pieces. Toss gently with minced red onion, some fresh lime juice, finely chopped mint, and a pinch of cayenne. Serve, topped with crumbled feta cheese, if desired, with pita chips.