FOOD: Let veggies take center stage on the grill

Jalapeño chimichurri tops grilled summer squash for an easy crowd-pleaser.
Jalapeño chimichurri tops grilled summer squash for an easy crowd-pleaser. PHOTO BY EMILY RYAN
Lighten up the grill... with veggies.
Lighten up the grill... with veggies. PHOTO BY EMILY RYAN


Lighten up dessert too by grilling fruit like watermelon and pineapple. Another favorite: Frecon’s cinnamon-grilled peaches.

Frecon’s Cinnamon-Grilled Peaches


4 large ripe freestone peaches

8 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks

8 fresh mint leaves

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar

¼ cup dark rum

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch salt

Peach or vanilla ice cream, for serving


Rinse the peaches and blot them dry with paper towels. Cut each peach in half and discard the pit. Then cut each peach into quarters. Using a pointed chopstick or metal skewer, make a starter hole in the center of each peach quarter, working from the pit side to the skin side. Skewer two peach quarters on each cinnamon stick, placing a mint leaf between the two quarters.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, rum, cinnamon and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Let the glaze boil until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Prepare and preheat the grill to high. Brush and oil the grate. Next place the skewered peaches on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side, basting with the rum and butter glaze. Spoon any remaining glaze over the grilled peaches and serve at once. Peach or vanilla ice cream makes a great accompaniment.


In honor of Pennsylvania Produce Month, lighten up the grill and let veggies take “center flame.”

“I think, originally, people look at the term ‘grilling’ that they have to grill meat,” said Tim Smith, executive chef/owner of Twelves Grill & Cafe in West Grove. “We grill everything: haricots verts, asparagus, summer squash, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, portabella mushrooms, corn on the cob.”

Try his grilled summer squash with jalapeño chimichurri, “a versatile sauce” of onion, garlic, jalapeño, parsley, cilantro and red wine.

“It’s such a simple thing to do,” he explained. Plus, “it works on a lot of things,” including roasted potatoes, sandwiches, fish and lamb.


Another fresh option: green goddess dressing. Chef Rich Landau of Vedge in Philadelphia adds his garlic-and-herb version to heirloom tomatoes and grilled shiitake mushrooms for “a fun take on the flavors of a classic BLT.”

Planning to entertain? Serve a family-style spread of grilled vegetables and flatbread, and invite guests to build their own sandwiches – a favorite at Albertson Cooking School in Wynnewood.

“Vegetable-forward is a huge movement right now. Everyone’s trying to feature more and more vegetables,” said chef Ann-Michelle Albertson, culinary director. “You can’t get away from good produce right now, which is an awesome thing.”

Just remember, “get your grill hot.” And once the food’s on, “don’t play with it,” she advised. “You don’t have to keep popping open the lid to take a peek.”

Grilled Summer Squash with Jalapeño Chimichurri


1 onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 jalapeños, seeds removed, cut to small dice

½ cup red wine

1 cup flat-leaf parsley, minced

½ cup cilantro, minced

1 large summer squash

1 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


Mix ingredients for the chimichurri sauce together in a medium-sized bowl and let stand one hour before using to meld flavors. For the summer squash: Cut in half lengthwise and then into 4-inch-long pieces. Roll the cut squash in olive oil and then salt and pepper to taste. Grill squash on a high heat, so that they get a nice char. Plate the squash with a generous amount of chimichurri sauce spooned over it.


Summertime Grilled Veggie Sandwiches


1 medium eggplant, sliced oblong

2 medium zucchini, sliced oblong

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut in quarters

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut in quarters

1 medium red onion, sliced in ¼-inch rounds

2 portabella mushroom caps, destemmed and cleaned

3 Roma tomatoes, sliced

1 (6½-ounce) container Alouette cheese spread



5 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon herbs de Provence, divided

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Sea salt

Fresh cracked pepper


Vegetable preparation: Place the sliced eggplant on a sheet pan sprinkling both sides with salt; set aside. Place quartered bell peppers and sliced zucchini in a gallon-size Ziploc bag, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and ½ teaspoon herbs de Provence, salt and pepper. Close bag and gently shake to coat peppers.

Rinse off the eggplant slices, pat dry and return to a flat sheet pan. Place the onion slices on the pan also. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining herbs de Provence, salt and pepper. Using a pastry brush, coat the eggplant and onion slices. Season with salt and pepper. Place the mushroom caps in a gallon-size Ziploc bag; add the remaining olive oil and the balsamic vinegar.

Sandwich preparation: Arrange the sliced tomatoes on a platter with the arugula in the center. Have the cheese spread open and ready, preferably brought up to room temperature.

Grilling method: Grill all vegetables over medium heat, turning once. Be sure not to over-cook them or they will get too soft for the sandwiches. Arrange the grilled vegetables on a platter and set aside. Heat the flatbread on the grill over medium heat. Be careful not to burn the bread, just heat it gently.

Assembly: Spread the Alouette cheese on the flatbread, add your choice of the grilled vegetables, then add some sliced tomato and arugula. Roll the flatbread, or fold it in half. Yield: 4 or 5 sandwiches.

Chef’s notes: For variety, add some thinly sliced prosciutto, or even add some grilled salami. If grilling the salami, watch it CAREFULLY; it will burn very quickly. When done properly it crisps up just like bacon and adds a wonderful crunch to the sandwich. Feel free to use whatever summer vegetables you have on hand. The fun part about these sandwiches is that your guests get to create their own…making each sandwich just the way they like it!


Heirloom Tomatoes with Grilled Shiitakes and Green Goddess



10 large shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps wiped clean

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Green Goddess Dressing:

½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

½ cup vegan mayo

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves

2 teaspoons capers, drained

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 medium garlic clove

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1 pound heirloom tomatoes or other best-quality tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 ounces mixed baby salad greens


Toss the shiitake caps in a medium bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the shiitake caps and sear them, turning occasionally to prevent burning, until they are crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. If you prefer to use an outdoor grill, first adjust the grates as close together as possible, then grill the shiitake caps until you see clearly defined grill marks, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. In either preparation, remove the mushrooms from the heat, allow them to cool to the touch, then slice into thin strips. Set aside.

Combine all of the green goddess ingredients plus 1 tablespoon water in a blender. Blend until smooth. Slice the tomatoes into thick rounds. Arrange the slices on a serving dish or individual plates, then sprinkle with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spoon the dressing on top of the tomatoes. Top with the grilled shiitake slices and a nice handful of the baby salad greens. Serve immediately.