Do you ever feel like there might not be anything in the world better than a simple tray of fresh and healthy grilled vegetables? Especially after some loooong hours stuck in a car?
We had the most amazing couple of days in Mendocino, CA. Soaking up the ocean air, surrounded by birds, wind, and waves, we couldn’t have been happier or more at peace. It’s amazing how a trip to the ocean can create a sense of complete tranquility, content, and happiness.
We stayed at this gorgeous place the awesome dude found that had a corner porch overlooking miles and miles of ocean attached to a wonderful little room with huge windows on nearly every wall. We had incredible views of water, sky, and beautiful flowers scattered everywhere. Late at night, after an amazingly beautiful sunset over the water, you could see a tiny lighthouse way off in the distance with its cone of light circling around and around over the pitch black water.
Going into town for our meals, we ate at some of our favorite spots, having fantastic huevos rancheros at the Mendocino Cafe and seriously delicious burgers at Patterson’s Pub while we watched a little basketball. (The dude did have one eye firmly fixed on his phone, keeping an eye on the baseball game much of time.) We wandered, we shopped (Gallery Bookshop will always be one of our favorite places), and we simply relaxed.
It was amazing.
We weren’t in the mood to make a complicated meal after having lots of great Mendocino food and hours of sitting and driving, so the perfect meal for us was a simple (huge!) tray of grilled vegetables, roast sweet potatoes, and some spicy aioli with lots of bright lime flavor for dipping. Uncomplicated, but perfectly delicious. If you can spare it, roasting your potatoes on a layer of salt adds a wonderful degree of flavor to your meal. It’s totally optional, but salt-roasting any potato is always a fantastic way to go.
Nothing here needs more than a drizzle of olive oil and some generous salt and pepper, so the key to this dish is the cooking.
If you’re using a grill pan on your stove or a gas grill, you have lots of control over the heat. If you’re using a charcoal grill, you’ll want to have an area with some good direct heat where you can get solid color on your vegetables, and a fair amount of space with indirect heat where you can let your vegetables get as cooked as you want without them burning.
You want to wait until your grill pan or grates are hot, give them a quick wipe with some oil, and then add your vegetables in a single layer, adjusting the heat to a medium flame. Let them get some color on one side, flip them over, and then get a fair amount of color on the second side. If you feel that they aren’t done quite all the way at that point, you can either pull them away from direct heat and let them rest for a few minutes or set your oven to about 300° and give them a few minutes to cook to your desired doneness.
You’ll always get the nicest looking results if you can place your vegetables in a single layer and then not touch or move them for at least two minutes, allowing the color to deepen and also letting the food become unstuck from the grill pan or grates. (It’s the magic of science and chemical reactions!) If your grates are nice and hot and clean with a little oil wiped on them, you shouldn’t have any problems with sticking. The biggest reasons food sticks are because your grates or pan aren’t hot enough, there’s no fat between the food and the grill or pan, or simply because you couldn’t wait and started wiggling your food and playing with it before it was ready. Let that chemical reaction happen, and as a result, your grilled vegetables will be amazing!
Though this exact tray of grilled vegetables made me unbelievably happy, rather than tell you exactly what to make, I really just want to suggest that you get creative and pick foods that will appeal to you and your family. I’ve heard terrifying stories of people who don’t like eggplant or (gasp!) asparagus, so I’ll leave it entirely to you to decide what to make! This is one suggestion, but use the techniques below to make a meal that you’ll love. We’ve recently done big trays of grilled vegetables with fun additions like grilled avocado halves, scallions, and zucchini. You just can’t go wrong as long as you’re making the food you like to eat. Do you guys have favorite grilled vegetables that would be perfect for an amazing and easy dinner?
Total Perfection Healthy Grilled Vegetables with Salt-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Spicy Aioli
- 2-3 sweet potatoes (plus ½ cup salt, optional)
- 1 large or 2 small eggplant
- 1 large or 2 small red onions
- 1 bunch of asparagus
- Olive oil
- Salt, Pepper to taste
- 1 cup prepared mayo
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 Tbs sriracha
- 2-3 dashes Tapatillo or Tabasco, optional
- 1 tsp olive oil
- salt, pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 350
- If salt-roasting your potatoes, spread ½ cup salt on your sheet tray - totally optional.
- Poke holes on all sides of your sweet potato. Put on a sheet tray in the oven (on top of the salt, if using) and cook until soft, about 45 minutes depending on the size of your sweet potatoes. When cool enough to handle, slice.
- Combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and lime juice.
- Slice the eggplant in rounds, salt on all sides, and set in a colander for 10 minutes to draw out any bitterness. Rinse and pat dry before seasoning to cook.
- Peel the onion and slice in rings about ½" thick.
- Cut or break off the tough ends of the asparagus.
- Drizzle the onion, asparagus, and eggplant with a generous amount of olive oil (or your choice of oil), salt, and pepper.
- Get your grill nice and hot, clean off the grates, and wipe with a little oil.
- In a hot area near the warmest part of the coals, set your first slices of vegetables. After about 2 minutes, flip over and move them away from direct heat. Add the next vegetables and keep going. If you would like your vegetables more done, cover the grill for a few minutes with the food away from the direct heat (or place your vegetables in a 300 degree oven for 4 or more minutes, depending on your preferences).
- Sprinkle with a little more salt, pepper, and olive oil, and dig in!
Looking for more easy dinner ideas? You might like the Chickpeas with Intensity, the Vegetarian Black Bean Enchiladas, the Quick and Healthy Mushroom Tamales with Spicy Tomato Sauce, and the Spicy Citrus Chicken Breast with Arugula. All gluten-free, and all simple and amazing!