Meat, meat, meat, occasionally corn, and more meat. That’s the dedicated job of many a grill, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The surprising items listed here can become the components of a vegetarian barbecue dinner, or can be grilled alongside meat as accompaniments.
1. Grilled Salad
Grilled salad, yum, the antithesis of a big slab of meat on the grill. You can grill many kinds of lettuce, but the heartier varieties hold up better to the char. Use romaine, endive, or cabbage–you can separate leaves, use clusters of leaves, or cut the head in two and grill the halves face down. Brush them lightly with oil and grill over medium heat until just charred and not yet wilting into smithereens. There are many recipes online for caesar salad using grilled romaine, but you can make just about any salad you like.
2. Grilled Pizza
Cooking pizza on the grill imparts some crispy charred parts of the crust akin to pizza cooked in a brick oven. Brush the grill with oil, stretch out the dough on the grill, brush the top with oil, and grill over medium-low heat. Flip the dough, add your toppings, and continue to grill until the crust is fully cooked. I really like how Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks handles her grilled pizza.
3. Grilled Fruit
I am a huge fan of caramelized fruit, and cooking fruit on the grill does just that. You can use pineapple, peaches, mangos, bananas–I can hardly think of a fruit that wouldn’t work. Use large chunks or make fruit kabobs, brush with oil, and grill over medium-high heat. You can also marinate the fruit first with a sweet marinade to make a glaze–play around with maple syrup and lemon or honey and orange juice. Grilled fruit can be eaten on its own, as a side for meats, used in a salad, or for dessert served with ice cream. Grilled Fruit Kabobs recipe below
4. Cheese on the Grill
Salty, yummy halloumi, a traditional cheese from Cyprus, is a wonder on the grill. It stands up to high heat without melting, rather it just gets smoky and creamy and mellow and perfect. You can also use thick slices of aged provolone if you prefer. Brush the cheese with oil, and grill over medium-high heat until golden, flip, and grill the other side. My favorite way to eat grilled cheese is on (grilled!) bread with chopped raw tomatoes, sea salt, and whatever fresh herbs you may have on hand. (Oregano is especially good.) Or, for the salty-sweet combination that weakens knees, halloumi is amazing with grilled fruit.
5. Cake on the Grill
Cake? Cake! Angel food cake, pound cake, and any other firm cake love a little trip to the grill for some toasting and caramelized edges. Loaf cakes, like banana bread or cornbread, work well too. Brush with butter and toast over medium heat until golden with grill marks–serve with grilled fruit. Add Greek yogurt, ice cream, or creme fraiche too.
6. Grilled Avocados
I thought grilled avocados sounded kind of strange–counterintuitive–but I thought deep-fried avocados sounded strange too until I tried them. Grilling slices of avocado give the creamy fruit a lovely smoky edge that lends depth to whatever they are added to. Brush them with oil and cook over medium heat–use grilled avocados in guacamole, salads, sandwiches, or alongside whatever else you are grilling.
Grilled Fruit Kebabs Recipe
Most of us don’t think of grilling fruit for dessert: Usually, the barbecue is retired for the night once the main meal is done. But grilling fresh fruits intensifies their flavors, caramelizing their sugars and turning their flesh soft, lush, and warm.
These kabobs are irresistible, whether you serve them as is, with ice cream, or with the syrup recipe we include, flavored with a haunting medley of exotic spices. Make your dessert a real sensual experience!
- 6 firm, ripe peaches, pitted and cut into 8 wedges per peach
- 5 firm, ripe plums, pitted and cut into 8 wedges per plum
- 10 firm, ripe apricots, halved and pitted
- One 20-ounce can pineapple chunks, in their own juice, drained; or about 1/3 ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 36 bamboo skewers, soaked in cold water 30 minutes or more
- Bangkok-to-Bali Sweet Syrup (optional, see below)
- Preheat an outdoor grill, or preheat a grill pan for 3 to 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Brush the grill rack or pan lightly with vegetable oil. Thread 4 assorted pieces of fruit onto each skewer.
- Grill the kebabs in batches, turning once, until lightly browned and slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a platter and serve with the sweet syrup on the side and/or your choice of ice cream.
Bangkok-to-Bali Sweet Syrup
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- Grated zest of 1 lime
- 1 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 1/3 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- Place the lemon juice, lime zest, star anise, cinnamon, and cardamom in a small bowl.
- With a small sharp knife, cut the vanilla bean pod in half lengthwise. Scrape out the beans and add them to the bowl, along with the pod halves.
- Place the water and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
- Add the spice mixture to the saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened slightly 12 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and set it aside to cool. Pour the cooled syrup into a container with a tight-fitting lid, cover, and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. It will keep for up to 2 weeks.