Grilling vegetables is great, but charring them is better. It intensifies the flavor and adds a layer of smoky aroma. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, are particularly good when charred as the high heat sweetens their bitterness; we brighten them with a citrusy vinaigrette and peppery radishes. The Catalonian dish escalivada, which means charred, includes grilled red pepper, eggplant, and onion, which we douse in sherry vinegar and honey. And grilling corn in the husk allows the kernels to steam so they’re plump and tender; a tamarind compound butter balances the toasty flavors from another turn on the grill.
Grilled Broccoli With Pistachio and Citrus Vinaigrette
Makes 4 to 6 servings
In his book Chasing Flavor, New York chef Dan Kluger adds multiple layers of big, bold flavors to broccoli that’s been deeply charred on a hot grill. This recipe is a simplified version of his dish that, for us, hits all the right notes. The bittersweetness of grilled broccoli paired with citrusy vinaigrette, spicy green chili, fresh mint, and peppery radishes results in a dish that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
When prepping the broccoli (a good time to do so is while the pistachio-oil mixture cools, before completing the vinaigrette), keep the pieces on the large side—1½-inch spears are ideal—so they’re easy to manage and won’t slip through the grill grate. If outdoor grilling isn’t an option, cook them in a ridged grill pan on the stove.
Add the vinaigrette to the spears immediately after removing them from the grill. As the broccoli cools, it will absorb flavors so each bite is seasoned throughout.
¾ cup roasted, salted pistachios, finely chopped
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated orange zest, plus 2 tablespoons orange juice
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1½ pounds broccoli, cut into 1½ -inch spears
1 small jalapeño chili, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
½ cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped
3 or 4 radishes, thinly sliced
In a small saucepan set over medium heat, toast the pistachios with 1 tablespoon of the oil, stirring, until the pistachios are lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
To the cooled pistachio-oil mixture, whisk in another 3 tablespoons oil, the lemon zest and juice, the orange zest and juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; set aside.
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. For a charcoal grill, spread a large chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents and the lid vent. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 minutes, then clean and oil the grate.
For a gas grill, turn all burners to high and heat, covered, for 15 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate.
In a large bowl, toss the broccoli with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place the broccoli on the grill (on the hot side if using charcoal); reserve the bowl. Cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until nicely charred and tender-crisp, 7 to 10 minutes. Return the broccoli to the bowl, immediately add the dressing (while the broccoli is still hot), and toss to coat. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the broccoli to a platter, then pour on any dressing remaining in the bowl. Sprinkle with the jalapeño, mint, and radishes.
Spanish Grilled Vegetables (Escalivada)
Makes 4 to 6 servings
For our version of escalivada, we grill vegetables over high and low heat: The hot side adds smoky char, while the cooler side allows longer-cooking vegetables to become tender without scorching. We toss the grilled vegetables with fresh tomatoes, garlic, and sherry vinegar to add bright, pleasantly sharp notes.
Be sure to get a good char on the vegetables—this adds smokiness as well as depth of flavor. Take care so the vegetables don’t fall through the grill grate. If necessary, cook them on foil set over the grate.
Japanese or Chinese eggplants are slender and cook quickly; if you cannot find either variety, use small globe eggplant (sometimes called Italian eggplant), but cut them lengthwise into quarters rather than halves.
Serve as an appetizer along with crusty grilled bread or as a side to grilled meats or seafood.
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2½ teaspoons sweet or hot paprika
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 small red onion, peeled, root end intact, cut into 8 wedges
1 medium red or yellow bell pepper
1 pound Japanese or Chinese eggplants (2 to 3 medium), stemmed and halved lengthwise
1 bunch scallions, trimmed
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon honey
In a large bowl, combine the oil, paprika, 2 teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. With a metal skewer, skewer the onion wedges, piercing through the layers to keep the wedges intact. Slice the sides off the bell pepper, leaving behind and discarding the stem and core; trim off any ribs inside. Add the bell pepper, eggplant, and scallions to the seasoned oil and toss.
In a small bowl, toss the tomatoes with ½ teaspoon salt, the garlic, vinegar, and honey; set aside.
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. For a charcoal grill, ignite a large chimney of coals, let burn until lightly ashed over, then distribute over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom vents.
For a gas grill, turn all burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the grate. Turn off 1 burner, leaving the remaining burner(s) on high.
Place the eggplant halves cut side down on the hot side of the grill, along with the bell pepper pieces and the scallions. Brush the onion wedges with some of the oil remaining in the bowl and place on the hot side of the grill; reserve the remaining oil and the bowl.
Cook the vegetables as follows, and as each finishes, remove from the grill: Cook the scallions, turning them once, until the white parts are tender and the greens are lightly charred, 2 to 4 minutes. Cook the eggplant, turning once, until browned, about 2 minutes per side, then move the eggplant, skin side down, to the cooler side of the grill and continue to cook until a skewer inserted into the center meets no resistance, another 5 to 10 minutes. Cook the onion wedges, turning them once or twice, until charred, about 5 minutes total, then move the onion to the cooler side of the grill and continue to cook until tender, another 5 to 10 minutes. Cook the bell pepper pieces, turning occasionally, until charred on all sides and softened, 8 to 12 minutes.
Chop the vegetables into bite-size pieces, then return to the bowl. Add the tomatoes and their liquid and toss. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Grilled Corn With Cilantro and Tamarind Chutney
Makes 6 servings
Few vegetables do as well on the grill as fresh, sweet corn. We char the ears in the husks, then strip them off and return the corn to the grill for a few minutes for a light charring, which adds smoky, toasty flavors. The seasonings are added after husking, when the ears are tossed with a compound butter and briefly returned to the heat. You need not remove the silk before grilling. It’s easy to pull off when stripping the husks from the grilled corn, and any residual silk will be burned off when the ears are returned to the grill to char.
6 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons tamarind chutney
2 tablespoons garam masala
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
6 ears of corn, husks on
1/3 cup unsweetened, toasted shredded coconut
1/3 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped
In a large bowl, mix together the butter, chutney, garam masala, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Remove only the outermost layer of husk from each ear of corn, leaving the inner layers intact. If needed, trim off the silk that extends past the tip.
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. For a charcoal grill, ignite a large chimney of coals, let burn until lightly ashed over, then distribute the coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom vents. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 minutes, then clean and oil the grate.
For a gas grill, turn all burners to high and heat, covered, for 15 minutes, then clean and oil the grate. Turn off 1 burner, leaving the remaining burner(s) on high.
Place the corn (still in the husks) on the hot side of the grill. Cover and cook until charred on all sides, about 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. When the corn is just cool enough to handle, remove and discard the husks and silk. Slather the butter onto the ears, then return the corn to the hot side of the grill. Cook, uncovered and turning occasionally, until lightly charred on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes; move the ears to the cool side if flare-ups become too intense. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with the coconut and cilantro.
Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to email@example.com.