But it recently occurred to me that a number of the veggies I love roasting in the oven — broccoli, cauliflower and carrots — might also shine if cooked on the grill. Turns out, they do!
The first problem was to figure out how to cut these vegetables so they wouldn't fall through the slats of the grill grates. The solution was to keep them in big pieces; I cut the carrots in half lengthwise, left the broccoli attached at the stalk, and sliced the cauliflower head straight down into half-inch cutlets (or "steaks").
These precautions kept the vegetables from falling into the flames, which allowed me to discover that it took forever for them to become tender. To speed up the process, I started by blanching them. After this quick bath in boiling water, I popped the vegetables in ice water to stop the cooking, then made sure they were dry before oiling, seasoning and grilling.
Suddenly, these guys took no time at all to get tender. And they browned nicely along the way. Yay! Also, sure enough, their flavour became concentrated, just as it does when roasted. Indeed, it was assertive enough to pair up with a tahini sauce and spicy panko crumbs. When the vegetables are this robust, you may even decide you don't need the grilled steak.
GRILLED VEGETABLES WITH TAHINI SAUCE AND SPICY PANKO
Start to finish: 1 hour
1/4 cup tahini, well stirred
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 head broccoli, quartered down the centre
1 small head cauliflower, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick "steaks"
6 large carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
Vegetable or canola oil, for brushing the vegetables
Ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, stir together the tahini, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the water, lemon juice, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Add additional water if necessary to achieve a pourable consistency. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium, heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the red pepper flakes and a hefty pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until the breadcrumbs turn golden, about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Heat a grill to medium.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Set up a bowl of ice and water and place it next to the pot. Add the broccoli and cook for 2 minutes. Use tongs to remove the broccoli from the water and place in the ice water. Cool completely, then pat dry with paper towels. Repeat this process with the cauliflower and carrots, cooking the cauliflower for 2 minutes and the carrots for 3 minutes.
Brush all of the vegetables well on both sides with vegetable oil. Season with salt and pepper and, working in batches if necessary, grill them on direct medium heat, with the grill covered, until they have distinct grill marks on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Turn them over and grill on the second side until they have distinct grill marks on the second side and are tender, about another 5 minutes.
Arrange the vegetables on a platter, drizzle with the tahini sauce and sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top.
Nutrition information per serving: 180 calories; 90 calories from fat (50 per cent of total calories); 10 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 210 mg sodium; 19 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 6 g protein.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."