As for most meals, timing is critical, so that all the elements of a meal are ready-serve at the same time. The time taken to grill meat on a barbecue is generally much less than that for cooking the vegetables. Also, it is very hard to ensure that the outside and inside of vegetables are perfectly cooked at the same time. When there are mixed vegetables involved producing a successful tasty meal can be a nightmare involving complex sequential timing issues for quick and slow cook vegetables.
The easy way to solve these problems is to pre-cook the vegetables beforehand and-finish them on the barbecue. One obvious example is potatoes. Par-cooked potatoes can be finished on the grill or barbecue is a similar time to that required-cook the meat. If you pre-cook other vegetables as well, all the elements of the meal can be finished cooking at the same time. All the food items will be perfectly cooked, and ready to serve when the meat is cooked. All the barbecued items should be served immediately they are cooked, not set aside as they lose their crispness and become soft and soggy.
Slice the vegetables evenly for various types in terms of how long the vegetables will take-cook. Use shapes that will expose more surfaces on the grill. Organise the vegetables in various groups in terms of how long they will take-pre-cook so that you can cook some of them together. Pair like vegetables with like in terms of their size and how long it will take to cook them. For example, potatoes, carrots and pumpkin pieces take a relatively long time, greens and zucchini do not require pre-cooking.
The table shown below, provides a guide for the pre-cooking times for most vegetables. They have been listed with the longest times at the top and shortest time at the bottom. This means that you can see which vegetables to group together for pre-cooking.
|Vegetable||Pre-Cook Times (minutes)|
|Corn, on cob||4|
► Evenly cooked vegetables right to the core - Boiling is the best way-evenly cook potatoes, carrots, turnips and other hard vegetables, so that they are cooked properly inside. So if you get them pre-cooked before they go on the grill, the potatoes only have to finish cooking for a little bit longer on the grill, and don't run the risk of drying them out, or burning them on the outside by staying on the grill for too long. Cooking both standard and sweet potatoes can take a long time-cook on the grill and it is very hard to cook inside without burning the outside. Par-boiling the vegetables will cut down on the cooking time on the barbecue and ensure the vegetables are cooked properly.
► If you par-boil the potatoes and other vegetables in salted water, or perhaps with other seasoning, such as herbs and spices, you can start the seasoning process early,in ways that you cannot do, by cooking on the barbecue or grill. In a sense it is like marinading the vegetables.
► Par-Boiling potatoes and other vegetables for grilling and barbecuing - Par-boiling is essentially a short period of boiling-partially cook the vegetables. Place potatoes and other vegetables, cut into pieces or whole, into a saucepan of cold water, seasoned with lots of salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat-a simmer and cook until the potatoes are almost cooked through. Check by inserting a knife into the center. But, you only want-partially cook the potatoes, not all the way through. Place the hot vegetables into a colander and drain so that the outside surfaces dry out. This helps to ensure they are crisp when grilled or barbecued. Toss the potatoes and other vegetables in some olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, salt, herbs or spices and set aside until you are ready the finish them on a grill or barbecue.
Use the following tips for grilling and barbecuing various vegetables, wrapped in foil, on a barbecue grate or on a hot plate.
Asparagus - Break off and discard tough bases of the asparagus stems. Precook for 3-4 minutes, then tie asparagus in bundles with strips of cooked green onion tops. Pre-cooking Time: 3-4 minutes; Grilling Time: 3-5 minutes
Fresh baby carrots - Remove the carrot tops. Then, wash, drain and peel the carrots. Pre-cooking Time: 3-5 minutes; Grilling Time: 3-5 minutes
Eggplant - Slice off the off tops. Slice the eggplant diagonally into 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick slices. No pre-cooking required; Grilling Time: 8 minutes
Fennel - Cut off the feathery leaves and stems. Pre-cooking time for whole bulbs: 10 minutes. Then, cut the bulbs into wedges. Grilling Time: 8 minutes
Sweet peppers - Cut off the stems, remove the seeds and membranes and then quarter the peppers. Cut the peppers into 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide strips. Do not precook. Grilling Time: 8-10 minutes
Leeks - Slice off the green tops; remove the bulb roots and remove the outer layers of white skin, and halve lengthwise. Pre-cooking Time: 10 minutes; Grilling Time: 5 minutes
New potatoes - Peel and cut the potatoes in half. Pre-cooking Time: 10 minutes or until almost tender, inside Grilling Time: 10-12 minutes
Zucchini - Wash the Zucchini and slice the ends off. Then, slice the zucchini into quarters lengthwise to make long strips. Do not precook; Grilling Time: about 5-6 minutes
Place a grill pan over moderate to high heat or heat your barbecue to moderate-high. Brush the vegetables with 1/4 cup of the oil, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill the vegetables in groups according to how long they will take to cook. If you stagger the times you add the vegetables they will call be ready to serve at the same time. Grill the vegetables until lightly charred all over. Allow 8-10 minutes to cook the bell peppers; 6-7 minutes for the zucchini, eggplant, yellow squash and mushrooms; 4 minutes for the asparagus and green onions. Serve immediately with the dressing described below.
Whisk 2 tablespoons of oil and balsamic vinegar with the parsley, basil, garlic and rosemary in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the dressing mixture over the vegetables and serve hot.
For the Balsamic Glaze
For the Vegetables
Preheat your grill or barbecue to moderate high. Make the dressing by adding vinegar, sugar, and honey to a small pan over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until half the liquid evaporates. Transfer to a jug and keep. Use a large resealable bag to marinade the vegetables. Add the olive oil, sea salt, pepper, garlic and balsamic vinegar, and stir to combine. Next, add the celery root, carrots and onions. Seal the bag and allow to marinate for 30 minutes. Then, add the squash and zucchini and marinate for an extra 10 minutes. Brush pre-heated grill or barbecue with oil. Add the carrots, onions and celery root and cook for 2-4 minutes, turning once and brushing with balsamic glaze. Add the squash and zucchini, brushing with the balsamic glaze and cook the vegetables for an additional 2 minutes per side. Drizzle the cooked vegetables with the remaining Balsamic glaze and serve hot on a warm platter.