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Grilling Your Greens

grilling your greens on a pellet smoker

Nothing quite compares to foods cooked on the grill. The smoky, charred flavor of grilling adds pizzazz to just about any food — from basic burgers to gourmet pizzas, veggies and even desserts. When you were a kid, your parents probably told you many times to eat your greens. But have you ever tried grilling vegetables? Take your salads and side dishes up a notch and add some wow factor with this simple idea. Grilled greens are easy and incredibly delicious.

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Why the Grill Isn’t Just for Meat

When you think of grilling, meats like steak, hot dogs and hamburgers may be the first thing that comes to mind. But grilling enhances more than meat. Grilling the same old meat products can get tired, and there are so many delicious vegetable dishes to try that become even more flavorful on the grill.

One of the best reasons to grill vegetables is that they often cook much faster than meat items, so you won’t have to spend all day tending to the grill. With veggies, there’s also no risk of getting sick from undercooked foods like there is with meats, and no need to use thermometers to check for doneness. With grilled veggie and greens recipes, your vegan and vegetarian friends will be thrilled to have something interesting to eat, and all your guests will be impressed with your new dishes.

Roasted vegetables, whether as a side dish or a main, are delicious on the grill. There’s no shortage of vegetables for the BBQ that make tasty and creative meals. Try grilling whole ears of corn, potatoes, mushrooms, peppers, eggplant and more. Make kabobs of chunky sliced veggies, or use a grill basket for smaller or thinner vegetables like green beans. You can also use the grill to whip up non-meat main dishes like pizza and quesadillas, as well as delicious meat substitutes like veggie burgers. Get creative with fresh fruits, too, like grilled peaches, plums or pineapple. They make a great dinner topping, or a sweet and smoky dessert.

And for an exciting twist on salads and greens, try grilling wedges of romaine, endive or butter lettuce. Chop it up after grilling, or leave it whole for a more unique presentation. Either way, you can infuse your salads with the flavor of the grill. You can also grill smaller, more delicate leafy greens like spinach and baby kale — just use a grill basket to keep the leaves from falling through the grates.

How to Grill Common Leafy Greens

If you’ve never tried grilling your greens before, the idea may sound a little strange. However, grilling leafy greens imparts a smoky, nutty flavor that will add a unique twist to your salads or side dishes and make them even more delicious.

how to grill common leafy greens

Follow these steps on how to grill greens like romaine, butter lettuce, endive, radicchio and other head lettuces.

1. Prep the lettuce: Starting with whole heads of greens, cut the head into quarter wedges, leaving the core alone. This method keeps the wedge intact during grilling, making the process easier. Depending on the size of the head of greens, you can also opt to grill in halves or even leave them whole.

2. Brush with oil and season: Use a brush to spread oil on both cut sides of the wedges. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, or your favorite seasoning blend.

3. Prep the grill: Before you start grilling your greens, get your grill up to medium-high heat. Make sure your grates are clean, and brush them with a little extra oil too. The grill needs to be hot for the greens to cook correctly.

4. Grill those greens: Place the wedges right on the grill, cut side down. When the lettuce looks slightly wilted and brown, flip the wedge over to the other side. The lettuces should cook very quickly, so keep an eye on them. Remove from the grill, sprinkle with additional seasoning if desired, and serve right away.

Wedges of head lettuces make a stunning presentation when served whole on the plate. Toss a few fresh cherry tomatoes or other toppings on the side and drizzle a balsamic glaze or favorite dressing right on top. You’ll want to make this salad again and again! Alternately, after grilling the lettuce wedges, you can chop them as usual and add them to a tossed salad. You’ll still have the delicious grilled flavor in a quick and easy serving style — best for buffets or larger parties.

Sturdy, large leafy greens like kale or chard can go directly on the grill as-is. Brush oil on both sides and grill the same as for the wedges. These will cook quickly — you’ll only need about one to two minutes on each side. Grilling kale gives it a unique crispy texture, much like when making kale chips.

To grill smaller, tender leaves, like spinach and baby kale, use a grill basket, or cover the grates with a piece of foil. Spray or brush the foil with some cooking oil, then add your spinach leaves. Spray a little more oil on top and add salt or favorite seasonings. Toss to coat, and cook the spinach on top of the foil, or fold over the foil to make a pouch for moist spinach. Grill until wilted — about 10 minutes — then top with seasonings and sesame seeds for a delicious and healthy side dish.

Do’s and Don’ts of Vegetable Grilling

dos an dont's of vegetable grilling

If you’re ready to try grilling up some leafy greens and other vegetables, you and your guests will soon be enjoying delicious and healthy meals. Grilling vegetables isn’t a challenge if you know a few straightforward do’s and don’ts. Be sure you follow these tips for the best grilled veggies.

  • Do choose the right greens: For direct grilling, pick sturdy greens with hearty cores or stems. Good examples include romaine, chard, cabbage, escarole, endive, bok choy, radicchio, kale and butter lettuce. Grilling more delicate greens is possible — just be sure to use a grilling basket or a foil pouch.
  • Don’t chop before grilling: It’s OK to halve or quarter large heads of greens, but otherwise, leave them alone for now. Keeping them in large chunks makes the grilling easier. You do want to cut larger heads like cabbage to allow the grill access to the insides, but you don’t want them to fall apart.
  • Do prep and preheat the grill: Use a grill brush before and after cooking to keep your grill clean. Get it good and hot before setting your greens on the grill. A hot grill will char the outsides of the greens, while leaving the insides still crisp. This balance of textures is key to great grilled romaine and other greens.
  • Do use marinades and seasonings: Feel free to marinate your greens before grilling — go ahead and use any of your favorite flavors. Try aged balsamic vinegar or other flavored vinegars, flavored oils, honey, lemon juice or whatever you prefer. Or brush with oil and shake on the seasoning. Go with simple salt and pepper or get creative with garlic, citrus zest or your favorite spice blend.

Add Some BBQ Flavor

  • Don’t leave your greens unattended: When you start grilling, watch your greens to make sure they don’t burn. They do cook quickly, so you don’t want to set them down and walk away. Be sure to flip the greens, so they cook evenly on all sides.
  • Do keep safety in mind: Grilling can be a fire hazard, so be sure to take safety precautions and have an extinguisher on hand. Keep small kids away from the grill when it’s on, and use your grill in a safe location.

Follow these easy tips, and you’ll soon be feasting on delicious grilled veggies and greens.

Recipes for Grilled Veggies and Greens

With all of these great grilling tips under your belt, you’re ready to try your hand at grilling veggies and greens. While many vegetables are delicious on their own, with oil, salt and pepper, there are a lot of ways to take your veggies to the next level with delicious recipes. A quick search online yields hundreds of exciting ideas. Here are just a few great ideas to try.

recipes for grilled veggies and greens
  • Grilled romaine hearts with fig, pear and manchego: Elevate simple romaine salad with this delicious dish that is quick and easy to make, but gives professional-looking gourmet results. Halve heads of romaine, brush them with a honey balsamic dressing and then grill them. For an extra pop of flavor, you will also grill the figs in this recipe before chopping them and adding them to the final salad. Serve with sliced pears, crumbled manchego cheese and the remaining dressing. The smoky grilled flavors and delicious toppings easily make this salad a meal, or a creative side dish for other grilled foods.
  • Corn with cilantro-lime butter: Another recipe that takes a simple vegetable to the next level is this delectable grilled dish you’ll want to make again and again. In this recipe, you’ll grill whole ears of corn, then prepare a special butter with minced cilantro and lime juice. Top the grilled corn with the flavored butter. You can add cojita cheese and more cilantro, if desired. With this phenomenal Mexican-inspired recipe, you’ll never go back to boring, plain corn on the cob.
  • Grilled bok choy and turnip rice bowls: Rice bowls are hugely popular right now, and a delicious customizable dinner, so why not up the flavor with grilled veggies? In this Asian-inspired recipe, both the bok choy and turnips get the grill treatment. Serve the grilled veggies over white rice, along with edamame, fresh sliced radishes and microgreens. Finish off the bowls with a deliciously sweet homemade soy-sesame sauce and sesame seeds. This family-friendly recipe is quick and easy to prepare and is full of fresh, summery flavor.
  • Lemon-garlic mushrooms: Mushrooms may be one of the most common vegetables to grill, but this recipe gives them an unexpected citrus twist. Coat fresh mushrooms with a dressing made from oil, garlic, parsley and lemon juice before grilling. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the grilled mushrooms for extra flavor just before serving. This easy side dish is ideal for accompanying whatever else you throw on the grill.
  • Grilled kale with ricotta and tomatoes: If you love kale chips and summer flavor, this is the dish for you. This colorful and vibrant recipe features grilled kale, giving this healthy powerhouse extra flavor. Fresh sliced tomatoes, ricotta cheese and a tasty dressing round out the dish, for a warm twist on a kale salad that makes a pretty presentation and a delicious dish.
  • Grilled vegetable platter: This platter, a delightful choice for family dinners and parties, has a little bit of everything to satisfy any taste. Asparagus, onion, summer squash, red pepper and carrots take center stage in this recipe, but you could sub in any of your favorite grillable vegetables. Soak the veggies in a delicious honey balsamic marinade before grilling, and use the remaining marinade as a finishing dressing for the platter. You can easily customize this vegetable barbecue classic to your family’s preferences.
  • Grilled vegetables and summer greens: In a perfect blend of chunky grilled veggies and fresh peppery greens, this recipe brings all the flavors together. It’s a salad hearty enough to be a meal, but makes a great side dish, too. Grill a unique mix of tomatoes, asparagus, zucchini and even avocado, then serve over a bed of fresh baby greens. Drizzle the entire dish with a sherry shallot vinaigrette to bring all the unique flavors together.

These ideas are only a taste of the many, many grilled veggie recipes to try. We hope these recipes inspire you to try grilled vegetables and greens, and get creative with your favorites. Which one will you try first?

Professional-Grade Grills and Smokers

To take your grilled veggie and greens recipes to the next level, consider upgrading your grill, too. Choose a pellet grill, kamado charcoal grill or pellet smoker from Grilla Grills for the ultimate in professional quality. Grilla Grills also offers the best value on the market — and you can even get free shipping. These beautiful grills are just what your backyard needs. You’ll want to grill all the time on your new Grilla Grill and try all these yummy recipes and ideas for grilled veggies and greens!

grilling vegetables on professional grade smoker grills
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