Cook club: Move over meat

Vegetables take over the grilling grate in this month's recipe for produce-packed sandwich

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Summer is the season of the backyard grill.

And no day is more popular for grilling than the Fourth of July.

According to the 24th annual Weber Grillwatch Survey, a whopping 86 percent of grill owners fire up the coals (or gas burners) for an Independence Day meal.

While burgers are the undisputed king of the cookout, more and more outdoor chefs (30 percent) are adding veggies to the grate, according to the survey. That certainly fits with our Cook Club goal to follow the spirit of the Blue Zones initiative to eat more plant-based foods.

Iowans are no strangers to grilled vegetables — an ear of buttered farm-fresh sweet corn just off the grill is a summer classic — but this month we are challenging you to stretch your idea of grillable produce with a grilled vegetable sandwich.

In fact, grilling expert Steven Raichlen argues grilled vegetables taste better than those prepared any other way.

“Grilling evaporates some of the water in a vegetable, concentrating the flavor. High, dry heat caramelizes natural plant sugars, heightening a vegetable’s sweetness. Unlike boiling, which removes flavor from vegetables, grilling seems to intensify their natural taste,” he explains in “The Barbecue Bible,” (Workman, 2008). “Add a whiff of smoke (from wood chips) and you’ll have vegetables with an astonishing depth of flavor.”

Add even more flavor with a savory marinade, like the one featured in this recipe. Or try your own favorite marinade — the same one you love for steak or chicken may be just as tasty with whatever summer vegetables you have growing in your garden or stashed in your fridge.

To make handling such a large number of vegetables easier, thread them onto skewers (if you’re using wood skewers, let them soak in warm water for about 30 minutes before threading on the food) or use a grill basket.

As always, we encourage you to try your own variations, then tell us about it. Join us on Facebook (, post a photo to Instagram with the tag #GazetteKCRGCookClub, or email us your feedback, recipe tips and snapshots at

Pump up meals with grilled vegetables

•As long as you’ve got the grill going, cook a double batch of veggies and use them in meals for the next couple of days. Here are a few of our favorite ways to use leftover grilled veggies. What are yours?

•Tortilla lover: Use as a filling in a quesadilla or burrito.

•Pasta power: Add to marinara sauce (puree them first if you want to be a little sneaky) and enjoy over pasta.

•Breakfast boost: Fold into an omelet or bake into a quiche or frittata.

•Lunchtime lift: Toss with cooked quinoa and feta or goat cheese crumbles for an easy lunch salad.

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