The high heat of the fire brings out the natural sugars in vegetables so they actually retain more of their flavor, vitamins and minerals than they do when cooked in water. From asparagus to corn, radicchio to sweet potatoes, vegetables are right at home over a bed of hot coals.
In-season vegetables grown close to home are best — they should also be plump, moist and unwrinkled. Follow these guidelines when buying summer produce, and click on the name of the veggie for a recipe to get you started.
Medium-sized and fat stalks grill better than very thin spears, which can be bitter. Peeling the bottom third of the spears with a vegetable peeler will help them cook evenly.
Look for firm ears with plump kernels and a lot of creamy colored silk; avoid ears with heavily soiled or slimy fringe. The husks should be bright green and appear moist, not dried out.
Look for evenly colored eggplants with shiny skin. Cut globe eggplants into slices for the grill; cook Asian eggplants whole or halved.
Look for peppers and chilies with smooth skin, as they will be easier to char on the grill than gnarled or grooved peppers. Thin-skinned varieties need a gentler touch so that they don’t develop holes while grilling from too-high heat.
Select zucchini, yellow crooknecks, pattypans and other summer squashes that are mature enough to have full flavor yet small enough to be tender and free of large seeds.
Select tomatoes only in season, and make sure they are firm but ripe. Heirloom varieties are particularly flavorful. Never store tomatoes in the refrigerator or they will become mealy. A sunny windowsill is a good place to store underripe tomatoes.
Prevent vegetables from sticking to the rack by coat both the rack and the vegetables with oil before grilling. A grilling basket or grill screen is handy for cooking small vegetables that may fall through the spaces in the rack.
Piercing a vegetable with a skewer or the tip of a knife will give you some idea of whether or not they are done. However, the best way to test a vegetable for doneness it to cut off a piece and eat it. Some vegetables, such as asparagus and fennel, are most satisfying when tender-crisp, which means tender when you first bite into them and crunchy at the center. Other vegetables, such as eggplants and mushrooms, should be cooked until soft throughout.