Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Perfect Grilled Veggies

Grilled veggies are the perfect side for your Memorial Day Picnic
Do you have a distinct memory of the first time that you thought you were an adult? My first memory of feeling like an adult centered around food.

When I was about seven or eight years old, my family hosted an exchange student from Thailand. When we hosted her, my mom started cooking tons of stir fries. It seems like we ate stir fry every night that Tum lived with us, and after that, my mom didn't throw in the towel with the stir fries because she rightly thought that stir fry is pretty much the most delicious weekday meal that you can make.

I didn't mind the stir fry craze that was sweeping the kitchen, but there was one part that I didn't like... the vegetables. I tried really hard to be a good healthy kid, but I didn't like how the vegetables tasted in the sauce. Now this is not to say that my mom did a poor job cooking vegetables.  No, my mom is one of the most wonderful vegetable chefs that I know.  I simply did not like the vegetables in stir fry; I only liked vegetables raw.

This distaste persisted for years, mostly as a repressed feeling as I sadly ate an appropriate serving of vegetables, so I could guiltlessly indulge in the delicious meat, rice and sauce.  If I complained about the vegetables, I apologize.

Then in eighth grade, my friend Laura broke her femur.  She was regulated to a wheel chair for the entire summer, so I biked over to her house every day and we hung out.  We made caramel corn, did puzzles, read Gone with the Wind, and otherwise passed the time doing not that active of activities.

One afternoon, she asked me to pick a few snap peas from her parents garden, which I did, and then she decided that I would make stir fry for our lunch.  It would be a vegetarian stir fry since the internet told us horror stories about Salmonella poisoning and E. Coli, so we were terrified of touching chicken lest we kill ourselves in the process.

I wasn't overly fond of the idea, but I didn't have any better one (no pizza in the freezer), so I went with it.  I don't remember the exact ingredients, but it was pretty basic. Maybe just a little sweet and sour sauce and some soy sauce in a frying pan with a few vegetables, but the aroma was enticing.

I remember watching the vegetables cook and thinking, "I want to eat this. I actually want to eat vegetables."

I felt so responsible, cooking a nutritious meal for me and my friend, and when we sat down to eat, I downed that plate of vegetables, and I liked it!  Right then and there, I felt like and adult because I liked vegetables.

That day was a turning point for me, and since then, I've started to love vegetables, and I enjoy making them the star of my meal especially when I don't have to sacrifice flavor.

These grilled vegetables are my quintessential example where the vegetables are the star.  Sure, we will eat rice or chicken or something else with these vegetables, but honestly a plate groaning with these vegetables is just about the perfect summer meal for me.  The balsamic vinaigrette marinade imparts an almost meaty quality to the mushrooms, and it brings out the natural sweetness of the others, and a charcoal grill gives these veggies a smoky flavor.  

The peppers end up smoky, sweet and acidic; the mushrooms are tender and meaty, and the strength of the onions gets neutralized by the marinade and the grill resulting in a sweet, mildly pungent side.  I can't quite find the word to describe the squash and zucchini, so I am going to say that grilling them brings out the planty flavor that I couldn't quite get enough of, so I kept coming back for more and more and more.

My recipe has been adapted from Julie and Charles Mayfields' book Paleo Comfort Foods which is one of the best cookbooks in my arsenal, and I don't even pretend to eat Paleo. (Link is an Amazon Affiliate).

When you make these veggies, make more than you can possibly eat, because they make the best leftovers.  For example tomorrow I will share a chicken and veggie wrap, or you can make a seriously awesome omelette with any remaining veggies.

You know who else loves vegetables? My little man.

He looks like such a little man now.

Do you have any food=adulthood moments? If so let me know in the comments.

print recipe

Grilled Veggies
These perfect grilled veggies are the perfect side for your summertime picnics
  • 3 Small Zucchini - Thinly slice lengthwise
  • 4 Small Summer Squash - Thinly slice lengthwise
  • 1 Red Onion - Thickly Sliced
  • 5-6 Mini Sweet Red Peppers - Sliced
  • 12 Mushrooms- Sliced
  • 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1. Place mushrooms and peppers in a small bowl, and squash, zucchini and onions in a larger bowl.2. Whisk balsamic, oil, and spices thoroughly.3. Pour 2/3 of marinade on squash and onion mixture, and pour the rest onto the mushroom and pepper marinade4. Let veggies marinade for at least 30 minutes.5. Lay zucchini, squash and onions on open grill with a low flame.6. Place Onions and peppers on foil or a grill pan also over a low flame.7. After about 8-10 minutes flip zucchini, squash and onions.8. After another 5-7 minutes begin removing vegetables. They should be tender but not limp.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 Generous Servings

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