Cooking Class: Hot potatoes

Whether for Independence Day or for Lag Ba’omer, when you fire up your barbecue, don’t forget to grill some vegetables too.

May 10, 2011 00:54
Don’t forget to grill some vegetables too

grill some vegetables 311. (photo credit: MCT)

If you plan to make a barbecue party for Independence Day you may want to prepare some dishes for your vegetarian guests. The usual way to flame-cook vegetables is on a grill. John Ash, author of Cooking One on One, explains what makes grilled foods so enticing: grilling “helps foods develop a flavorful crust, the result of caramelization. When high heat is applied to foods, the natural sugar present in all living things begin to brown.” In addition, during the cooking process new compounds with distinctive tastes and aromas are produced.

In addition to potatoes, you can grill a great variety of vegetables, from artichokes to zucchini; some chefs go so far as to grill lettuce. We especially like to grill eggplant, onions, peppers and corn.

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Grilled vegetables are good on their own, with just a little olive oil and seasoning, but they are also wonderfully versatile for enhancing all sorts of dishes. Combine several grilled vegetables to make a flavorful salad or side dish or mix them with cooked pasta, rice or other grains.

Grilling eggplant whole gives it the smoky aroma and flavor that many prefer in the familiar eggplant with tehina and other dishes like Indian eggplant bharta.

You can also grill eggplant slices and marinate them in an herb and garlic dressing.

Zucchini is good the same way.

Corn on the cob can be delicious cooked on the grill and does not require pre-cooking.

When it is very fresh, we like to grill the ears without their husks; the kernels brown lightly and acquire a toasted flavor.

If you prefer more tender corn, grill it in its husks. First pull back the husks about halfway and pull out the silks. Then fold the husks back over the corn and soak the corn in water for 20 to 30 minutes so the husks don’t burn during grilling.

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Lourdes Castro, author of Latin Grilling, recommends grilling corn in the husks on medium- high heat in a closed grill for 5 minutes per side. She then lets the corn rest outside the grill for a few minutes, pulls back the husks and returns the corn to the grill on high heat to char the kernels.

To use grilled corn in a satisfying salad, she cuts the grilled kernels off the cob, combines them with sliced grilled green onions and cooked quinoa and adds tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and olive oil.

A tray of colorful charred vegetables is a favorite of Castro’s. To make it, she drizzles asparagus spears and quartered carrots, onions and peppers generously with olive oil, and seasons them with salt and pepper. She grills the vegetables about 4 to 6 minutes on each side, until they become charred in places and are marked by the grill, and squeezes the juice of grilled lemon halves over them just before serving.

John Ash uses grilled tomatoes to make a flavorful, light dressing. First he rubs tomatoes and garlic cloves with olive oil, chars them on the grill and then chops the tomatoes and the peeled garlic. He adds them to a vinaigrette with basil, mint and chopped black olives and uses it to dress roasted stuffed eggplant slices.

Ash uses grilled portabello mushrooms as the “meat” of a sandwich with roasted red peppers, arugula and artichoke aioli on focaccia bread. For a simpler dish, he sets the grilled mushrooms on a bed of greens, moistens them with grapefruit vinaigrette and tops them with aged goat cheese.


Makes 8 servings.

This recipe is from Latin Grilling by Lourdes Castro. She writes: “The inspiration for this dish comes from the vegetables that are charred on coals in Patagonian cookouts.

Small red potatoes and sweet shallots are roasted with rosemary and then charred on the grill. These are then tossed with fresh peppery arugula and drizzled with a tangy red wine vinaigrette. This salad disappears fast every time I serve it.”

If you don’t have shallots, use green onions and cut them in 3 or 4 pieces.

✔ 1.4 kg. small red potatoes, quartered
✔ 4 shallots, peeled and quartered through the root end
✔ 4 sprigs rosemary
✔ salt and black pepper
✔ 1⁄2 cup olive oil (to moisten the vegetables) plus 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (for the vinaigrette)
✔ 1⁄2 cup red wine vinegar
✔ 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
✔ 4 cups arugula, stemmed, washed, and dried Prepare foil packets: Cut a piece of foil about 36 cm. in length and place 1⁄4 of the potatoes and 4 shallot quarters in its center.

Sprinkle the leaves of one sprig of rosemary over the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil onto the vegetables and, using your hands, toss the vegetables gently to coat well.

Seal the packets by bringing the long sides of the foil up toward the center and folding the edges over a couple of times to create a seal. Bring the ends up toward the center and crimp the foil shut. Repeat the process three times to make a total of 4 packets.

Heat your grill to high (290ºC) and close the lid. Wait at least 15 minutes before lowering the heat to medium-high (230ºC) and continuing.

Place the potato packets on the grill shelf and close the lid. (If you do not have a grill shelf, lower the heat to medium and place the packets directly on the grates.) Allow the potatoes to roast for 40 minutes, or until tender. I test this by skewering the tip of a thin knife through the foil and into a potato. If I don’t meet resistance, the potatoes are ready.

Increase the grill heat to high (290ºC).

Place the packets directly on the grates, close the lid and allow to cook for 15 minutes to char the bottom of the potatoes.

Open the packets, being careful not to burn yourself with the steam, and transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl. You may need to peel off some of the potatoes that have become stuck and charred to the foil.

(If the potatoes have not developed charred crust, close the foil packet and return to the grill until they do.) Place the vinegar, mustard and 1⁄2 tsp. of salt in a small bowl and stir until the mustard has blended into the vinegar. While stirring, slowly drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil. Set aside.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and toss in the charred vegetables.

If you are planning on eating immediately after you set the salad out, toss the salad with the dressing. Otherwise, keep the dressing on the side to prevent the greens from wilting, and dress it right before you eat.


Makes 4 to 6 appetizer servings.

Serve this salad as an appetizer with fresh pita or crusty country bread, or spoon it onto a bed of greens for a light main dish. You can also serve it as a side dish with grilled chicken.

If you like hot peppers, grill one or two the same way as the sweet peppers but for just a few minutes, as they burn easily; peel them, cut them in very thin strips or small dice and add to the salad.

✔ 1 eggplant (about 570 gr.), unpeeled
✔ 3 to 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
✔ salt and freshly ground pepper
✔ 2 large green bell peppers
✔ 2 large red bell peppers
✔ 2 small garlic cloves, minced
✔ 1 to 2 tsp. fresh thyme or 1⁄2 tsp. dried
✔ 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil (optional)
✔ cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
✔ Lemon wedges, for serving

Cut eggplant in 1-cm. slices crosswise, discarding ends. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill or broil eggplant slices, without crowding them, at least 5 cm. from heat source for 3 minutes per side, or until eggplant is tender when pierced with a fork. Transfer to a shallow bowl.

Grill or broil whole peppers about 10 cm. from heat, turning every 4 or 5 minutes with tongs, for about 15 minutes or until pepper skin is blistered and charred. Transfer peppers to a bowl and cover tightly; or wrap in a plastic bag. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel with aid of a paring knife. Halve peppers and drain liquid from inside them. Remove cores. Quarter peppers lengthwise.

Mix oil with garlic, thyme, basil, salt, pepper and cayenne. Put eggplant and pepper slices in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle with oil-garlic mixture, then with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve at room temperature, with lemon wedges.

Faye Levy is the author of the awardwinning Faye Levy’s International Vegetable Cookbook."

We are interested to know how you plan on celebrating Yom Ha'atzmaut.
Please send us pictures of any barbecues, street parties or concerts that you will be attending to [email protected].

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