The barbecue grill doesn’t have to be a carnivore’s domain. Here are four ways to flame up some veggies—as well as where to find ’em in restaurants, if it’s just too hot out to bother.
Romaine and chicory
Stumped by romaine? Chef Curt Martin of THR & Co. says that grilling can help turn that tough heart tender. “Also, chicory can be quite assertively bitter, but grilling mellows the flavours,” he adds. Slice the greens in half, leaving the root intact to hold the leaves together, and very lightly brush them with oil. Lettuce is mostly water, so don’t leave them grilling too long, or else you’ll end up with ash.
Screw it—too hot to cook!: Martin dresses his grilled romaine and chicory with cured tomato, shaved toscano cheese, crispy pig’s ear, and a chopped-caper and anchovy dressing.
$11. 97 Harbord St. 647-748-7199.
“The biggest advantage to grilling is that it’s healthy,” says Tabülè chef Rony Goraichy. “The second is that it gives the eggplant a smoky flavor.” The whole eggplant is punctured (to keep it from exploding) and grilled until the outside skin turns black and a skewer can slide in easily. Goraichy peels off the skin, slices the eggplant up, then adds salt, pepper, lemon, and olive oil and tops it with tahini.
Screw it—too hot to cook!: Goraichy chills his grilled eggplant overnight to make Tabülè’s ultra creamy baba ganoush. It’s also available for takeout, if you want to pass it off as your own.
$5.50 (or $4.50 to go). 2009 Yonge St., 416-483-3747; 810 Queen St. E., 416-465-2500.
Hen o’ the woods
“They’re the most magical ingredient when cooked over a wood fire,” says Woodlot chef and owner David Haman of these mushrooms. He tears them into smaller pieces, throws in a bit of olive oil and salt, and drops the ’shrooms in a little metal grate over embers for three to five minutes, until they get toasty. “They absorb the flavor of wood smoke so well, it’s insane.” (The mushrooms are still fantastic grilled over charcoal or gas.)
Screw it—too hot to cook!: Haman serves hen o’ the woods over a salad of wild rice, black walnuts, mâche (a type of lettuce), and balsamic vinegar.
$13. 293 Palmerston Ave., 647-342-6307.
“Squash appreciates being grilled, but too many people marinate it first and it ends up with a burnt taste,” says Yours Truly chef Lachlan Culjak. “Char first, marinate second.” He also cautions against cutting up the squash beforehand; you’ll lose its natural juices during cooking. Culjak simply chars the entire squash on the grill—it’s covered for a few minutes, so the residual heat cooks the centre of the squash, then sliced up.
Screw it—too hot to cook!: Culjack pairs the squash with a medley of veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini flowers for one of the dishes on the restaurant’s four-course vegetarian tasting menu.
$55. 299 Ossington St., 416-533-2243.