This may seem like a basic dish …not too complicated. More of a guideline or suggestion, rather than a true recipe. But, I’m here to tell you that it is the number one requested contribution for our family celebrations. It never fails to please the crowd. I have used the basic ingredients on this one, but with the plentiful supplies during the summer season …anything goes. Feel free to add yellow squash or maybe some radicchio. On a recent visit to Hoboken, I found the most amazing red onions at the farmer’s market. Sweet Vidalia onions would have worked well in their place.
When choosing and preparing your veggies, keep this in mind …the more substantial the better. Try to find asparagus that’s on the thick side. When prepping the zucchini and eggplant, thickly slice them on the diagonal for heartier portions. For the portabellas, I find it easier to grill the large version, then slice them for the platter. There’s no reason you can’t grill baby portabellas instead …you’ll just need to be more cautious not to lose any of those little guys to the grill. I like to grill directly on the grate. If you prefer to use a grill basket, then you’ll have no worries of losing small pieces.
Once cleaned and sliced, coat the vegetables on all sides with olive oil. Season with coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
I find that it works well to load up my large roasting pan with the prepped veggies for easy transport to the backyard grill. Depending on the volume of vegetables being grilled, I carry one or two baking sheets outside along with about two-thirds cup extra virgin olive oil mixed with about one-third cup good balsamic vinegar …the amount really does depend on the amount of vegetables. Don’t forget your basting brush and some additional salt and pepper. And of course those long-handled tongs.
As you are grilling, brush the vegetables lightly with the oil & vinegar mix. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Be sure not to overcook …look for a nice char on the outside while retaining some ‘bite.’ It’s difficult to predict how much time is required to grill each variety. They will be finished in a matter of minutes so it’s best to hang close to the grill during the process.
As each variety is finished, transfer them to the clean baking sheet(s) by overlapping them in a single layer. Try not to overcrowd them too much so they don’t get soggy. The veggies can be grilled early in the day, or even the day before. Once cooled, cover loosely and store in the refrigerator until ready to prepare for serving.
I have an awesome ceramic platter that is huge and holds an enormous amount of prepared food. The downside is that it is very heavy. When I am traveling to someone else’s home with this dish, I choose to lighten the load a bit. This wood and plastic tray does the job. To prevent any possible drips, I line the bottom with parchment paper before adding a layer of curly edged lettuce. Adding the lettuce layer is a step you shouldn’t skip. It gives the veggies a nice foundation and adds to the beauty of the final dish.
Starting at the outer corners and working your way toward the center, artfully arrange the veggies on top of the lettuce. Since this is usually served as part of a buffet, it’s nice to add some additional components. Fresh mozzarella is always welcome. Shaved parmesan would be amazing. Maybe try adding some sun-dried tomatoes as I have here. Or you could layer in some sliced fresh heirloom tomatoes. Or how about some slow-roasted tomatoes? Whatever you think your family would enjoy.
These grilled vegetables are delicious enjoyed as a side dish or on their own. They also make for an amazing vegetarian sandwich when offered alongside a basket of crusty artisan rolls.
Healthy and flavorful, a welcome addition to your buffet table.
- 3 pounds asparagus, tough ends trimmed
- 3 medium red peppers, cut in wide strips
- 2 medium zucchini, cut in diagonal slices
- 2 small italian eggplant, cut in diagonal slices
- 8 large portabella mushrooms, stems removed
- 3 small red onions, thickly sliced
- extra virgin olive oil
- good quality aged balsamic vinegar
- coarse kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large head curly lettuce (if arranging on platter)
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced (optional)
- sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
- fresh basil, for garnish
Preheat grill to medium heat.
Rinse and dry all vegetables except the mushrooms before preparing. For the portabella mushrooms, wipe off excess dirt with a dampened paper towel. Spread the prepped veggies on a large rimmed baking sheet. Using a basting brush, coat all sides with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Mix 2 parts extra virgin olive oil with 1 part balsamic vinegar in a cup for grill-side brushing.
In batches, place the vegetables on the grill in a single layer. Once charring is noted, flip over to grill the other side. Brush lightly with the oil and vinegar mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The second side will require less time to achieve a good char. The exact timing will fluctuate with each variety.
When ready, remove from the grill and spread them out on a clean pan(s). Once cooled, cover lightly and place in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Can be served at room temperature or slightly warmed in a low oven for several minutes.
For presentation, cover a very large platter completely with curly-edged lettuce. Starting at each corner, arrange grilled vegetables artfully toward the center of the dish. If desired, add sliced fresh mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes. Garnish platter with fresh basil.
If adding sun-dried tomatoes to the platter, you can find the recipe here.