A Mixed Grill for Herbivores


By Kerri Conan

[Kerri launches the grilling season with creative treatments of a few different vegetables. Those of us who don’t live in her neighborhood are jealous. – mb]

After working in the garden all day Sunday I had cellulose on the brain. So I emptied out the produce bins in the fridge and headed to the grill. The plan was to serve everything room temperature over softened rice sticks, splashed with a lively nuoc cham-style sauce.

I had grilled tofu, asparagus, and onion before, but the rest of the stuff on the tray was novel territory. So I set up a two-tier fire with lump charcoal: hot one side, nothing on the other. Everything was started on the cool side and cooked covered for a few minutes—to ensure tenderness and smokiness—then seared. Or vice versa. And because there was too much for one grill load, I paused to add coals midway through, which gave me time to make the sauce. Brushed everything with grapeseed oil and sprinkled with a little salt. That’s it. Let’s work around the assortment in the photo clockwise; for more how-to shots of the process, flip through the slide show.

  • Red onion halves: don’t turn them too much or they’ll separate into rings.
  • Peeled blood oranges: they were too dry to eat raw but became chewy little rubies after grilling.
  • Parsnips: I thought it would be easiest to handle them on skewers, but a couple broke off; super yummy though.
  • Napa cabbage leaves: each contained a full spectrum of textures ranging from silky to papery; I cut them into wide ribbons for serving.
  • Tofu steaks: I cut them a little over ½-inch thick so they were crisp and charred on the outside, with a custardy interior
  • Asparagus: as big around as your thumb and grown nearby; I didn’t bother to peel the ends but I arranged them on the grill so the ends were toward the hottest part of the fire.
  • Thinly sliced jicama: wrap a delicious layer of carbonic flavor around their usual crunch and that’s what you get.
  • Celery heart: the big surprise, smoky and grassy and silky all at the same time.

The sauce was based on spearmint and chives from the garden, a dusting of last year’s ground chiles, some minced garlic, fish sauce, simple syrup, water, and lots of both lemon and lime juice. Fortunately there are lots of leftovers.

Posted in Produce


  1. sotirov said...

    Couldn’t resist pointing to some images of meatless grill from by blog:http://sotirov.com/2007/04/01/opening-the-2007-barbecue-season-meatless-in-boston/

  2. cynthiamckenna said...

    This looks delicious. Thanks for posting both directions and impressions of your efforts.

  3. LettuceLiveWell said...

    Advice for all: don’t put your veggies on the grill then walk away and forget about them. Charred brussel sprouts don’t taste that great.

  4. Anonymous said...

    Is that frozen tofu on the grill? It looks like what happens when you freeze and thaw it, all spongy and intact.

  5. Anonymous said...

    I think the brussels sprouts would need to be pre-cooked, perhaps in the microwave. And don’t the tofu steaks need some pre-treatment, as well?

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