Whether you are looking for a unique grilled side dish to accompany a luxurious steak, or you or a family member has decided to eat a bit lighter and healthier, it's a good idea to understand how to grill leafy greens and vegetables. We've all steamed or roasted vegetables before, but adding the direct heat from a grill enhances the natural flavors and transforms the dish to something rather new and exciting. Grilling greens can seem counterintuitive because of the notion that they’ll wilt or fall apart once confronted with the high heat. But do not fear, these leafy greens are heartier than you think.
Grilled Romaine Chicken Caesar Salad
This is a classic salad and is usually made by only grilling the chicken. However, by grilling the romaine lettuce as well, you really upgrade the flavors and make an entire meal with a fun grilling experience. Add boneless skinless chicken breasts to a ziplock bag containing ¼ cup olive oil, ½ cup white wine vinegar, 4 tablespoons of chopped garlic, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and 2 tablespoons of black pepper. Let the chicken sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or up to about 8 hours). Use this time to make your Caesar salad dressing. Add 4 large cloves of garlic, 1½ tablespoons of Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper into a blender. Pulse the blender until the ingredients are mixed. Add 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise and continue to blend. Slowly drizzle ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil into the blender until the dressing is formed. Add ½ teaspoon of lime juice to the dressing, mix well, and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Prepare the grill for medium-high direct-heat grilling. Place the chicken breasts directly over the heat and close the grill lid. After about 3 minutes, flip the chicken breasts over and grill for another 3 minutes. Check the internal temperature of the chicken. If the chicken is not 165 degrees F, move the breast to a side of the grill away from the heat, close the dome, and keep cooking until the breast has reached 165 degrees. Once finished, remove the chicken; wrap in aluminum foil to keep warm while you grill the romaine lettuce.
Slice the romaine lettuce hearts in half lengthwise. Rinse them well under cold water. Brush the romaine hearts with olive oil and sprinkle some salt and pepper all over. Add the romaine hearts flat side down on the grill over the medium-high heat and close the lid. Check after 2 minutes. The goal is to have a nice grilled char on the flat face of the romaine lettuce heart. If the romaine hearts aren't charred after 2 minutes, grill for another 2 minutes, or until the heart has browned. Remove the romaine hearts from the grill. Slice the chicken and place on top of the romaine heart, drizzle with Caesar dressing, and top with freshly sliced Parmesan cheese and croutons.
Grilled Garlic Sesame Oil Bok Choy
You might not have considered grilling this vegetable, but it is surprisingly delicious with a smoky char. Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage that when brushed with flavored oil and grilled breaks down into an amazing vegetable with an extremely tender stalk and a crispy leaf. Cut the bok choy lengthwise and rinse under cold running water. Prepare the flavored oil by mixing together ¼ cup of peanut oil with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. Add 3 tablespoons of chopped garlic cloves to the oil, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Mix well and brush the cut bok choy with the flavored oil.
Prepare the grill for medium-high heat and grill the bok choy over direct heat for about 3 minutes or until the bok choy is nicely charred. Flip the bok choy over and grill the other side until it tenderizes and also becomes charred. Remove the bok choy from the grill and drizzle with any remaining flavored oil. Serve as a side dish with any grilled chicken or steak dish.
Grilled Garlic Pepper Parmesan Zucchini
Simply brushing zucchini with oil, grilling it, and topping it with salt and pepper will result in a wonderful side dish. However, this vegetable can be significantly upgraded by grilling and topping with garlic, fresh black pepper, and fresh shredded Parmesan cheese. Serving a side dish like this alongside a steak recreates the high-end steakhouse experience. Slice zucchini lengthwise into slices about ¼-inch thick. Each zucchini should give you about 3 or 4 slices. Lightly brush with oil. Prepare the grill for medium-high heat and add the oiled zucchini directly over the heat. Immediately sprinkle each slice with some chopped garlic and close the dome for about 3 minutes. Flip the sliced zucchini, add some more garlic, and top with shredded Parmesan cheese. Close the grill lid for another 3 minutes to melt the cheese and to finish tenderizing the zucchini. Remove from the grill and top with fresh black pepper. Serve as a side dish.
Grilled Garlic-Prosciutto Asparagus
Asparagus is a wonderful vegetable to grill and it becomes a fantastic side dish – especially when it's wrapped in prosciutto. Purchase one slice of thinly sliced prosciutto for each asparagus spear you want to serve. Rinse the asparagus under cold running water and then cut off the harder end on the opposite side of the leafy end of the spear. Usually asparagus spears are cut about 1-2 inches from the end. Lay out the thinly cut prosciutto and add chopped garlic all over.
For about 15 slices of prosciutto use about 4-5 chopped cloves of garlic. Lay the asparagus spear on top of the garlic and prosciutto and roll the thin meat around the asparagus. The prosciutto should easily cling to the asparagus making it rather easy to wrap and keep in place. Lightly brush the wrapped spear with olive oil.
Prepare the grill for medium-high heat. Add the wrapped asparagus spears over direct heat and close the grill lid. After about 2 minutes, roll the asparagus spears to evenly cook. For a softer asparagus spear, move the wrapped asparagus to a side of the grill where the heat isn't as harsh for another 4-5 minutes. Keeping the wrapped asparagus over direct heat this long would result in burned prosciutto, so keep an eye on it. Serve the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus as an appetizer or alongside another grilled dish such as steak or chicken.
Grilling vegetables is a great addition to your grilling repertoire. The key to grilling vegetables is to control your heat and start off with direct heat no hotter than medium-high. The goal is to char the vegetables and tenderize them. Too hot and too long will burn the vegetables, and too low and not long enough will result in undercooked, firm, and less-flavorful vegetables.