As summer’s bounty of peak-season vegetables draws to a depressing close, I find myself cramming every nook and cranny of the refrigerator with the last of the warm-weather produce like heirloom tomatoes, corn, canteloupe, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, and raspberries in a vain attempt to save their final crops from dying in the autumn chill. But frankly, when I need to wrench the over-stuffed vegetable crisper open using the entirety of my upper-body strength, the good ol’ fridge is begging for a tidying. Inexplicably, the sheer fresh simplicity of grilled vegetables often escapes my dinner repertoire, though I offer tremendous gratitude to my mother for reintroducing the smoky, juicy notion to our table late this summer.
Grilled Summer Vegetables Two Ways (Gluten Free, Soy Free, Nut Free)
Serving sizes vary with amount of vegetables used (amounts listed in parantheses serve 4-6 people).
Ingredients for savory variation:
- Eggplant, quartered and sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds (1 very large)
- Zucchini or summer squash, sliced 1/4-inch thick (6 small)
- Shallots, quartered (4 large)
- Garlic, thinly sliced (1 large)
- Olive oil and balsamic vinegar to coat (2 tbsp each)
Ingredients for spicy variation:
- Japanese eggplant, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- Red bell pepper, large diced
- Poblano pepper, large diced
- Sweet red onion, large diced
- Garlic, thinly sliced
- Olive oil and balsamic vinegar to coat
Heat an outdoor grill over high heat (about 500°F if your grill has a temperature gauge).
Combine all ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag, squeeze all the air out of the bag, and slosh around the veggies until sufficiently coated with olive oil and vinegar. (It’s fun and squishy—get your kids involved! Or your easily pleased teenagers.)
Spread the veggies IN A SINGLE EVEN LAYER on a grill pan and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring after 10, or until the veggies are tender and lightly charred (my mother swears that cooking the vegetables in a single layer ensures their perfect doneness). Serve to rave reviewers who will demand your complex recipe, to which you will reply that you let the already perfect summer vegetables speak for themselves (with the minute aid of some oil, vinegar, and a grill).
Local Ingredients: Eggplant and zephyr squash from Luna Circle Farm, shallots from Ridgeland Harvest, garlic from JenEhr Family Farm, japanese eggplant from Dana’s garden, red bell and poblano peppers from Happy Valley Farm, Tuscan red onion from Jones Valley Farm.
Continuing my vegan lunchbox series (read installments 1 and 2 here), I’ll happily respond yet again to the never-ending inquiry of “What do vegans eat?” often heard by my school lunchtime buddies. Due to an AP Government essay put off by a notorious procrastinator (aka, yours truly) until mid-afternoon Sunday (inner monologue: “Hmm. It’s 3:00. Perhaps I should start that paper now.), I couldn’t whirl around the kitchen preparing ready-made vegan lunchbox goodies. Luckily, a vegan thinks quick on her feet: a task much ameliorated by a well-stocked refrigerator.
Leftover chickpea-kale curry (inspired by a recipe from Teniesha), last week’s batch of sundried tomato hummus, and the pulpy by-product from a tall glass of Saturday’s green juice greatly benefitted Monday’s lunch-making endeavors. Two brown rice cakes topped with sundried tomato hummus, baby lettuce, and juice pulp accompanied the last serving of curry for a brown-bagged delight. Well, not brown-bagged. More like black neoprene-bagged.
Meal Checklist: Protein–chickpeas and hummus. Whole Grain–brown rice cakes. Vegetables–carrots, leeks, onions, tomatoes (all in curry, carrots also in juice pulp). Leafy Greens–mixed greens, kale (in curry and juice pulp).
Monday’s dinner cooking hour offered a patch of spare time to whip up a quick, simple quinoa salad (recipe follows) for the rest of the week. Thus, Tuesday and Wednesday’s identical lunches (I know, I know! How uninspired of me.) comprise of juice pulp mashed with avocado, a serving of quinoa salad, and a small container of sauerkraut. (Aids the digestion, dontcha know?)
Meal Checklist: Protein–kidney beans. Whole Grain–quinoa. Vegetables–carrots, tomatoes, onions. Leafy Greens–kale (in juice pulp), cabbage (sauerkraut).
Obviously, quinoa salad sparks endless variations that you can suit to fit your taste preferences and seasonal availability of produce. A vaguely Spanish notion invades this particular version.
Basic Quinoa Salad (Gluten Free, Soy Free, Nut Free)
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 1 can organic, BPA-free kidney beans, drained and rinsed (as always, I love my Eden beans!)
- 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup tomatoes, diced or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup Liquid Gold Dressing (or other dressing of choice. I prefer my favorite golden nectar for its plethora of both vitamin B12 and omega-3’s.)
- Pepper to taste
Combine quinoa and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, decrease heat to lowest setting, and simmer for 20 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 10 minutes before removing lid and fluffing with a fork. Allow to slightly cool before adding to rest of ingredients.
While the quinoa cooks, combine all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Once quinoa has sufficiently cooled, stir everything together until well mixed and evenly coated with dressing. Keeps well in an air-tight container for up to a week. Ergo, perfect for take-away lunches!
Comment Provoking Questions: What are your favorite vegetables to grill? What do you usually pack for lunch? How do you like your quinoa salads?
Until next time, Ali.