JeanMarie Brownson, Tribune content agency
A full fridge calms me down. Friends tease when they see all the filled storage containers neatly stacked inside. On any given day, the containers contain Cooked Cereals, Roasted Meat, Grilled Fish, Hard-Boiled Eggs, Crumbled Cheese, and Cooked Vegetables. As much as I love to cook, many days I’d rather put together a meal from these containers.
A medley of mixed grilled vegetables is one of my fall standards. I use the perfect specimens of eggplant, zucchini, and peppers on the market and stuff my grill with them. Thickly cut and lightly seasoned with olive oil, salt and herbs, the mix proves to be extremely versatile. Chopped ripe tomatoes, fresh lemon, and fennel leaves added at the last minute keep it from tasting heavy.
Serve warm as an accompaniment to grilled or roasted chicken or pork. For a meatless main course, fold feta cheese chunks and pitted green olives and Kalamata olives into the warm vegetables.
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For a rice bowl main course, pour the warm vegetable mixture over hot cooked brown rice and garnish with a fried egg. Or stir in 2 or 3 cups of cooked pasta for a warm pasta salad. Stir 1/2 to 1 cup of the vegetables into the eggs toward the end of the whisking. Stuff the warm veggies in warm pita pockets or wrap them in hot flour tortillas for a meatless lunch; Just add hot sauce and/or diced avocado.
If you don’t like eggplant, substitute more zucchini or yellow squash. Don’t feel like fresh fennel? Use an extra onion or bell pepper.
This recipe doubles easily, just be sure to grill everything in a single, non-crowded layer for a nice browning. The finished dish will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for several days.
Mixed grilled vegetables with fennel and lemon
- 1 medium eggplant, about 1 pound, trimmed, sliced into 3/4-inch rounds
- 1 medium zucchini, trimmed, 10 ounces, sliced into 1/2 inch thick
- 1 medium sweet onion, 8 ounces, sliced into 1 inch thick rounds
- 2 green chilies, such as Poblano or Anaheim
- 1 red or orange bell pepper
- 1 small fennel bulb, thickly sliced, optional
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 or 3 large ripe tomatoes, seeded, chopped, 1 lb
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh fennel leaves or 2 teaspoons dried herb dill
- Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. Preheat a gas grill to medium-high or prep a charcoal grill until the coals are covered with gray ash. Heat the grill grate for 5 minutes.
2. Place the aubergine, courgettes, onion slices, chili, peppers and fennel on a large baking sheet and brush with oil on all sides. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and about 1 teaspoon salt.
3. Arrange the vegetables on the grill in a single uncrowded layer. Cover the grill and cook, turning the vegetables occasionally, until golden brown on all sides. The timing is as follows: 8 to 10 minutes for sliced eggplant and zucchini, and 15 minutes for whole chillies, peppers, and sliced onions. Remove the vegetables while they are cooking on the baking sheet.
4. When cool enough to touch, roughly chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Add garlic and chopped tomatoes. Stir in chopped fresh fennel leaves, lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.
(JeanMarie Brownson is a James Beard Award-winning author and recipient of the IACP Cookbook Award for her latest cookbook, Dinner at Home. She is a founding partner of Frontera Foods and has co-authored three cookbooks with Chef Rick Bayless, including Mexico: One Plate at a time.” JeanMarie has enjoyed creating recipes and writing about food, travel and eating for more than four decades.)