Photo: Jelena Danilovic/iStock

Up Your Culinary Skills with Veggies on the Grill

By Julie Van Rosendaal

We’re often laser-focused on burgers, ribs, steak and other succulent meats during barbecue season. This year, you might want to readjust your culinary cues. Veggies of all kinds are ideal candidates for cooking on a grill. They cook quickly—with no need for grilling baskets or other special tools—and the intense direct heat caramelizes their natural sugars while adding an irresistible smoky flavour.

In general, sturdy veggies that contain small amounts of liquid are the best candidates for grilling. Any veggies with dense flesh—such as carrots, potatoes, rutabaga and winter squash—should be cooked over lower temperatures for a longer time, or cut into relatively thin slices or wedges so that they cook through.


Larger varieties like portobellos are great for grilling, and make a fantastic burger (or burger topping). Remove the stem and scrape out the gills with a spoon, brush with oil and sprinkle with salt or add your favourite marinade and grill just until tender, about three to five minutes per side.


Summer squashes like zucchini are popular candidates for the grill, and cook quicker than hardy winter squash. Zucchini can be sliced lengthwise or crosswise on a slight diagonal. Winter squash like butternut, acorn and Hubbard can be cut into slices or wedges. Toss in or brush with oil, sprinkle with salt and grill directly over medium-high heat, turning with tongs until tender.


If you’re a fan of roasted peppers, they’re even easier to grill whole. Toss whole bell peppers, pimentos, jalapeños or your favourite variety directly on a hot grill and turn with tongs until charred and blistered all over. Once they’re cool enough to handle, peel the skins off with your fingers, pull out the seeds inside, and freeze or store the roasted flesh in the fridge for up to a week to use in any recipe that calls for roasted peppers.

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Photo: Julie Van Rosendaal

Grilled Corn, Pepper and Black Bean Salad

Roasted peppers are delicious in a salad, and slightly smoky, charred jalapeños make a tasty addition to any dressing—finely chopped or blended in. While grilling, you can throw on whole cobs of corn along with roughly chopped zucchini, and once cool, they are a flavourful combo.

•2-3 ears of corn, husk and silk removed
•2 red, yellow or orange bell peppers or 3-4 pimento peppers
•as many jalapeños as you like (you’ll only need 1-2)
•1 cup cooked black beans or kidney beans (or about a 14 oz can, drained)
•1 avocado, pitted and diced (optional)
•a handful of chopped cilantro (if you like it)
•1/2 cup (about) crumbled feta, cotija or goat cheese
•crushed Hoops, corn chips or Doritos, for garnish

Preheat your grill to medium-high and grill the corn, peppers or pimentos and jalapeños directly on the grill, turning as necessary until charred. The peppers should be blistered and almost blackened.

Set the corn aside after grilling to let cool and put the peppers and jalapeño in a bowl, cover with a plate or piece of foil and set aside to also cool. Once cool enough to handle, peel off the skin with your fingers and discard along with the stems and seeds. Roughly chop the peppers and cut the kernels off the corn; put both into a wide bowl with the black beans, avocado, cilantro and feta.

Photo: Julie Van Rosendaal

Corn Ribs

For a vegetarian option that still looks the part, try corn ribs – a hit created in the U.K. by chef Yotam Ottolenghi. Whole corn cobs are cut lengthwise and grilled until charred, and the heat causes the pieces to curl and become a rib doppelgänger that you can eat with your hands.

Note: Corn cobs are tough to cut. It’s easier to cut them in half crosswise, use the thicker stem ends for another use (cook them on their own, or scrape off the kernels to use in a tomato-corn pie or other dish), and cut the thinner tapered ends lengthwise to make ribs.

•corn on the cob
•oil (optional)
•mayo or sour cream
•chili powder (or other seasonings)
•crumbled or grated feta, queso fresco or cotija cheese
•chopped chives or cilantro
•chili oil (optional)

Carefully cut the cobs in half crosswise, then lengthwise—you may find it easier to cut the thinner ends, and save the thicker ones for another use. Cook them in a hot skillet, in a drizzle of oil, or directly on the grill (no oil required) for roughly five minutes until the kernels are charred on the edges and the pieces of corn curl slightly.

In a small dish, stir some chili powder and a pinch of salt into a large spoonful of mayonnaise or sour cream, and use it to brush over the grilled corn. Sprinkle with crumbled feta, queso fresco or cotija cheese, chopped chives or cilantro, and a drizzle of chili oil, if you like.

Photo: Julie Van Rosendaal

Charred Corn & Quinoa Salad

When corn is in season, it’s delicious quickly grilled and tossed with quinoa, avocado, cilantro and a chili-lime vinaigrette.

•1/2 cup dry quinoa
•2 cobs of corn
•2 plum tomatoes, diced
•a chunk of purple onion, diced
•1 ripe avocado, diced
•1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
•1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (include stems)
•salt, to taste

Chili-lime Vinaigrette:

•1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
•3 Tbsp. lime juice
•1 garlic clove, finely crushed
•1/2 tsp. sugar or honey
•1/2 tsp. chili powder
•1/4 tsp. cumin
•pinch salt

In a medium pot of boiling water, cook the quinoa for 12 minutes, or until the germ separates and there’s barely a white dot left at the core. Drain through a sieve and return to the dry pan; remove from heat, cover with a tea towel and let steam for another 10 minutes. Transfer to a shallow bowl and set aside to cool.

Husk the corn while you preheat the barbecue to high. Place the cobs directly on the grill and cook, turning until charred all over, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then cut the kernels off the cob into a wide bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

To make the vinaigrette, shake all the ingredients up in a jar, then drizzle over the salad. Serves four to six people.

A comprehensive grilling guide on meats and veggies.