A New Twist on Summer Barbecuing
With summer right around the corner, I can’t stop thinking about entertaining and cooking on the grill. Because I grew up selling (and eating) lots of fruits and veggies, and because I recently became vegan, I don’t want to miss out on the BBQ fun. Everyone else has their secret burger or grilled chicken recipe — for me, it’s all about which new veggie side dish I can create on the grill.
When I have friends over for a barbecue, I like to start with a refreshing, welcoming cocktail. One of my favorite is a Passion Fruit Mojito (which I like to make zero proof so it’s kid-friendly).
Another of my new favorite appetizers is a fruit salsa! Hey mango salsa, move over — check out this eye-popping red Dragon Fruit salsa.
And instead of regular hummus, this Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato hummus is yummy, plus its colorful creaminess is a conversation starter!
My first go-to for grilled veggies is usually thick-sliced eggplant, zucchini squash, red and yellow peppers, and portobello mushrooms. Lately, I’ve added Shishito Peppers to my grilling mix. And when Hatch Chile season starts in early August, I always include Hatch Chiles. It’s become my signature dish. And it’s so easy!
After washing all the veggies, I thick slice the eggplant and squash, then halve (and de-seed) the peppers. I leave the mushrooms whole. I salt them all and let them sit for a couple of hours on baking trays. The salt removes both the bitterness and excess water. I then brush on some olive or peanut oil (so they don’t stick on the grill). I grill on medium-high heat on the outside grill (eight to 10 minutes on each side), then arrange the grilled veggies on a serving platter and cover with foil. I do this up to two to three hours before my guests arrive. This waiting time allows the veggies to rest and they actually become more flavorful. Right before serving, I drizzle with a balsamic vinegar or vinaigrette. The Shishito and Hatch Peppers are always the talk of the meal!
If anyone asked me what my favorite veggie is, I would say jicama (pronounced hee-ka-mah)! It looks like a brown turnip, but the inside is crunchy, white and sweet. And because it does not soften when cooked, it is awesome on the grill. Check out my Jicama Citrus Salad.
What about grilling heads of romaine lettuce? Talk about a fun twist on a summer salad. I got this idea from a local restaurant here in Southern California. Halve romaine heads (and rinse thoroughly). Spray grill with oil (so the lettuce doesn’t stick). Grill cut side of romaine head for a few minutes, until leaves are slightly blackened. Serve cut side up, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with feta cheese crumbles. Yum!
For dessert after a big barbecue meal, I usually opt for fresh fruit. Have you ever tried grilled fruit kabobs? I alternate chunks of Baby Pineapple, watermelon and goldenberries. A few minutes on the grill tenderizes the fruit and adds a nice rich flavor.
Hope you have a great grilling season!
Karen Caplan, CEO of Frieda’s Specialty Produce
Karen Caplan is the CEO and President of Frieda’s Specialty Produce, and is the eldest daughter of produce trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, founder of the company. Having been in the produce business for over 40 years, Karen has become an expert on what’s trending with consumers and suppliers alike.
Frieda’s Specialty Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families and food lovers everywhere since 1962.