Fresh vegetables and a hot grill play well together in summer. As the garden pumps out produce and outdoor temperatures climb to roasting, I happily stand over a grill for a few minutes to cook the day’s harvest. Many vegetables – and some fruits – can be grilled whole or in large pieces, simply tossed with a little oil. When I’m feeling more ambitious, I cut them in chunks, toss them in a marinade and slide them on skewers.
As I kid, I’d toast over a campfire just about anything I could spear on a stick. Perhaps that’s why I’m still drawn to skewers. But they’re practical too: it’s easier to turn small pieces when they’re strung together for even charring. At home, I load up long metal skewers handed down from my dad. Single-use bamboo skewers can suffice when camping or cruising, but you have to find the balance between thick sticks, which might split a raw mushroom rather than pierce it, and thin ones, which can char through and break unless presoaked.
From there, the choices are yours. Our skewers last week featured homegrown onions, peppers, zucchini and potatoes (which grill best when parboiled first), plus mushrooms, pineapple and lemon I can’t grow. Since I’m harvesting tart cherries but waiting for cherry tomatoes to ripen, I speared the pitted fruit too.
This marinade can also be used on shrimp, chicken and other meat, but I recommend building separate meat and vegetable skewers to ensure thorough cooking. Boil extra meat marinade for a couple of minutes before using it as a sauce.
Veggie Shish Kebabs with Garlicy Marinade
Serves 4-6 as a main, 8-10 as a side
4 pounds fresh vegetables, such as onion, bell pepper, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and parboiled fingerling potatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
3 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil
Cut larger vegetables into 1-inch pieces; leave small vegetables like cherry tomatoes whole. Place the vegetables in a large bowl and toss gently to mix.
In a small food processor or bowl, place the garlic, tomato paste, sugar, pepper, vinegar and soy sauce. Blend in the processor or whisk by hand until combined. Slowly pour in the oil, blending until emulsified. Fold the marinade into the vegetables, cover loosely and let sit for at least one hour.
If using thin bamboo skewers, submerge them in warm water for at least 20 minutes. Thread the medley of vegetables onto the skewers, leaving room at each end for turning; strain the remaining marinade and set aside. Place the skewers on a hot grill and cook for about 5 minutes, until lightly charred, before turning and cooking for another 5 minutes; work in batches as needed. Layer the grilled skewers in a large dish and serve immediately. Offer the reserved marinade as a dipping sauce or to pour over any accompanying grains or greens.
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