Add some adventure and nutrition to your grilled meals by grilling vegetables and fruits.
Grilling vegetables isn't an exact science. Veggies don't all cook for the same length of time. Experiment with settings on your grill as vegetables and fruits generally cook at a lower temperature than you would use to grill meat. Watch the veggies closely so they don't overcook or burn. Smaller pieces will cook more quickly than larger ones. An added bonus is that potentially dangerous carcinogens don't form when grilling fruits and vegetables, which can happen can when grilling meat.
When grilling vegetables, avoid cross contamination with raw meat. Use separate tongs and plates and temper the grill surface to medium to medium-high heat before adding raw produce.
Drizzle low-water content veggies such as baby or whole carrots, mushrooms, asparagus and summer squash with oil so they won't stick before laying them directly on the grill. If you're cooking smaller chunks, use a grilling tray or thread a colorful combo on skewers.
If eggplant, pepper or zucchini aren't some of your favorite vegetables, try grilling them. Grilling them might change their taste enough that you will enjoy them. Drizzle these fresh grilled veggies with balsamic vinegar. It tastes great with the smoky flavor from the grill.
Combine corn on the cob cut into 2-inch chunks, sweet potato slices and onion wedges brushed with oil on a perforated grilling pan and grill until the veggies are tender. Use the grill to steam white or sweet potatoes in thick slices sprinkled with olive oil, your favorite herbs and a dash of salt in foil packets. Cook on the grill for 15 minutes, then flip the packets.
Lightly score the cap of portabella mushrooms in the shape of an "x" to permit some of the moisture to escape. Turn upside down and drizzle the underside with a little olive oil and herbs. Grill them cap side down on foil for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle them with cheese to add protein and flavor and eat as a sandwich or part of a meal.
Use leftover grilled veggies, which keep well for up to three days when wrapped and refrigerated, in sandwiches, over cooked rice or couscous, or mixed into a green or pasta salad.
Desserts are easy on the grill. The grill caramelizes sugar in fruit and releases juices. Firm fruits like apples, pineapple and pears require less monitoring than softer fruits such as nectarines, peaches and bananas, which cook quickly. Cut stone fruits and seeded fruits in half, remove the pit or core and brush them with oil so they won't stick to the grill. Grill them until they are heated through and a golden color. After grilling fruits, sprinkle them with cinnamon or add low fat ice cream or yogurt.
Visit Maryland's Best, marylandsbest.net/tips.php, to learn what fruits and vegetables are currently in season. This site will also give you a list of local markets where you purchase locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables.
Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.