Grilled fruits and vegetables enhance their flavor | Lifestyles
“Mom, this fruit tastes very sweet!” remarked my daughter, tasting a slice of grilled pineapple with a piece of grilled ham. She was about 11 years old at the time.
I tasted a piece of pineapple and nodded.
“Why does pineapple taste so sweet?” she asked.
“Fruits naturally contain sugar,” I explained. “The heat of the grill caramelizes the sugar and gives us an even sweeter taste.”
“Grilling also adds a smoky flavor to the fruit,” I added.
I appreciated his interest.
I thought she was trying to inspire a column. Turns out I was right.
“I think you should write a column about cooking fruits and vegetables,” she suggested, reaching for another pineapple slice.
“It’s a good idea,” I said.
Unfortunately, we cannot grow fresh pineapple in the Midwest for our grill menu. In many grocery stores, pineapple experiences its peak season in spring and summer.
Most people eat fruits and vegetables on their own, especially dark green and gold / dark orange ones. Eating more fruits and vegetables can lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, and can help manage your weight.
Fruits and vegetables are bulky but low in calories, as most types of fruits and vegetables contain more than 90% water. Consuming enough water whether through food or drink is essential for maintaining the function of our body.
Adding fruits and vegetables to your grill is a good idea on many levels. Fruits and vegetables add color, texture, flavor, and nutrition without adding a lot of calories.
Fruits and vegetables add fiber to your diet, a component that many adults and children lack. Many fruits and vegetables are notable sources of vitamins A and C, as well as phytochemicals (natural chemicals in plants).
As we move through the summer months, different vegetables and fruits come into season. When fresh fruits and vegetables are in season, they are at their best quality and usually at the lowest price in grocery stores.
Adding variety to your meal prep options can inspire your family to try new foods. Add vegetables to your grill menu with these food preparation and safety tips:
- Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water.
- Preheat your grill. Cook small dishes using a grill pan with slits or small holes.
- Cut the vegetables into large, flat pieces of even thickness on each slice. You can cut them into small pieces after cooking.
- Prepare the peppers by cutting off the top and bottom of the pepper. Remove the core and cut the pepper in half from top to bottom. (This way you end up with two flat rectangles that are toasted skin side down.)
- Add flavor to vegetables with olive oil (or another type of oil) and your favorite seasonings. Arrange them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, brush with oil and season. Turn them over and repeat on the other side.
- Use marinades to add flavor. Be aware that marinades made with sugar will darken the outside of vegetables.
- Use moist and dry heat to cook your vegetables. Grill the vegetables until they have grill marks on both sides. Remove them from the grill and place them in a bowl or saucepan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap to prevent steam from escaping for five to 10 minutes. This will complete the process of cooking the vegetables without drying them out.
- Maintain food safety. It is not necessary to control the temperature of the vegetables after cooking; however, fresh cut and cooked vegetables are perishable. Keep cooked foods warm (above 140 F) and serve cut products in nested containers over containers filled with ice.
- If you are making kebabs with meat and vegetables, make sure the meat reaches a safe internal temperature. Cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 165 F. If you are serving burgers with your grilled vegetables, make sure the ground beef reaches 160 F.
Instead of a recipe, this week I’m offering approximate cooking times for vegetables. You might be surprised that romaine lettuce can be toasted briefly to give it a smoky flavor. Many of these vegetables can be grown in your garden, so keep that in mind for your locally grown vegetables or other locally grown vegetables later this summer.
Remember that the cooking time will depend on the heat of your grill.
- Asparagus: six to eight minutes
- Peppers: whole, 10 to 12 minutes; halved or quartered, six to eight minutes
- Corn on the cob: peeled, 10 to 12 minutes; in shell, 25 to 30 minutes
- Green beans: eight to 10 minutes
- Green onions: whole, three to four minutes
- Onions: whole, 45 to 50 minutes; halved, 35 to 40 minutes
- Mushrooms: shitake or button, eight to 10 minutes; portobello, 12 to 15 minutes
- Potatoes: new, halved, 20 to 25 minutes; whole potatoes, 45 minutes
- Romaine lettuce: whole head, one to two minutes
- Summer squash (yellow squash, zucchini): 1/2-inch slices, six to eight minutes
- Sweet potatoes: 1/4 inch slides, eight to 10 minutes
See the NDSU Extension publications “Try Adding Fruits and Vegetables to Your Grill Menu” (FN1856) and “Grill Something Different” (FN1420) for more tips. Visit https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food and view information on food preparation.
Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., RD, LRD, is a Diet and Nutrition Specialist at North Dakota State University Extension and Professor in the Department of Health, Nutritional and Exercise Sciences . Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson