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Prairie Fare: Grilled Fruits and Vegetables Add Flair to Your Menu

Remember food safety first when grilling.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

When I was in high school, my brother gave my parents a charcoal barbecue grill.

I don’t think they were impressed with it. I took a liking to the grill, though. I liked to cook, so I would make burgers and potato-vegetable packets for the family.

My dad preferred to cook on a camp stove on the picnic table using a cast-iron frying pan with lots of added fat. He made the world’s greatest fried potatoes.

When I got married, one of our gifts was a gas grill. We have had numerous meals from that grill, and my husband has somehow kept the grill going for almost 24 years. He frequently swaps out parts, just like tinkering with an old car.

It looks like the weathered grills on boulevards during clean-up week, but it still works.

I bought him a fancy grill for our 20th anniversary, but yes, we still have our “old standby” grill on our patio.

Has the aroma of grilled food wafted in your direction? Now’s the time when grills come out of storage, unless you have an indoor grill or you brave the winter cold for a grilled burger.

We have a variety of grills available to us that differ in price and function. They include gas grills, charcoal grills and infrared or electric grills. My best advice: Be sure to read the owners manual for tips on cooking, cleaning and maintaining your grill.

Grilling uses direct or indirect heat. Direct heat means food is grilled directly above heat. Indirect heat means the food is not directly above heat but still is being heated.

Be sure to take your time and be patient when waiting for charcoal grills to heat. You may think you are burning something and remove it before it is done. Follow recipes and remember, grilling can be trial and error.

Also remember food safety first. Bring a clean plate to the grill to retrieve the cooked food. You don’t want the bacterial juices from raw meat contaminating your delicious cooked food.

This season, expand your grilling menu with fruits and vegetables in addition to your favorite protein foods. Invest in a grilling basket to enjoy grilled veggies and fruits. When using skewers, choose vegetables and fruits of like thickness and water content. Cut them the same size to ensure even cooking.

Here are some additional tips to ensure a tasty grilling season:

  • Rinse produce and prepare for grilling. Remove the stems, seeds and cores from fruits and vegetables before grilling.
  • When preparing whole fruits or vegetables, cut them into slices unless otherwise specified.
  • Prepare bell peppers by cutting off the top and bottom of the pepper. Remove the core and then cut the pepper in half from top to bottom. (This way, you end up with two flat rectangles that are grilled skin side down.)
  • Sprinkle wedges of apple or pear with cinnamon and a touch of brown sugar. Grill for about five minutes per side.
  • Brush peeled, whole bananas with canola or sunflower oil and add to the grill just until the fruit turns golden and has grill marks, or about five minutes per side.
  • For a fun alternative to the summer classic s’mores, cut a 3/4-inch-deep slit down the length of an unpeeled banana. Pry the slit open and stuff with 2 tablespoons of chopped dark chocolate or your favorite candy bar. Wrap the banana in foil and grill for about five minutes on each side.
  • Grill peaches and nectarines for a side dish to go with steak or pork tenderloin. After cooking, the fruit can be diced and made into a salsa or relish by adding fresh herbs, chili peppers and lime juice or vinegar.

Because only 10 percent of adults meet the daily recommendation for fruits and vegetables (about 4 1/2 cups), here’s a recipe to get you started. The heat of the grill causes the natural sugars to caramelize, which adds flavor to your menu. Grilled red bell peppers are my favorite, by the way. Give them a try, along with a variety of produce items.

Simply Grilled Fresh Veggies

1 medium zucchini

1 medium yellow squash

1 medium red bell pepper

1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

Pinch of salt

Preheat grill to medium heat. Wash the pepper, zucchini and yellow squash thoroughly; cut lengthwise into halves. Remove the seeds and membrane from the pepper. In a large bowl or edged baking pan, lightly brush squash, zucchini and red pepper with 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil. Let stand for five to 10 minutes. Grill for six to eight minutes each side. Remove from grill; slice into 1/2-inch slices. Add a pinch of sea salt to taste.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 40 calories, 2 grams (g) fat, 2 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber and 10 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication - April 13, 2017

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, 701-231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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