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Grilling is not just for carnivores

What could be better than a thick, well-marbled ribeye, seasoned and seared to juicy perfection on a ripping hot grill? Grilled planks of yellow squash? Well, maybe not.

But if you’re barbecuing only meat and seafood, you’re not using your grill to its full potential. When you put your favorite veggies and fruits to the fire, you’ll find the natural sweetness of summer’s best enhanced in each smoky bite.

Following are some easy recipes and tips to help you show off your grilling chops and build your cred around the barbecue. And, yes, there’s even a yellow squash recipe tucked into the list.

Forget the grilling basket for these. Just plunk them on the hot grill and make some magic.

Grilled Romaine Salad with Shrimp

1/2 head medium-sized romaine per person

Balsamic dressing

Crumbles of goat cheese

Dried cranberries

Chopped walnuts

6 large shrimp per person

Lemon juice

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat grill on medium high. Slice romaine heads in half, lengthwise. Grill cut side down for 3 to 5 minutes on one side or until grill marks appear.

Plate the romaine cut side up, a half head per plate. Sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles, dried cranberries and walnuts and a couple grinds of fresh black pepper and a little salt if you like. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or use a store-bought balsamic dressing.

Peel shrimp, tails on. Skewer, brush with olive oil and lemon juice, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until just opaque.

Remove shrimp from skewers and scatter six per plate beside the romaine heads. Garnish with a lemon wedge for spritzing.

Grilled Zucchini

2 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into half-inch strips

Extra-virgin olive oil

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat grill on medium high. On a baking sheet, toss zucchini with oil, red pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper.

Using tongs, place zucchini on the grill, cover and cook for three minutes, flip, and continue cooking, covered, for a couple minutes more.

NOTE: Zucchini is a blank canvas. Simply salted and peppered is delicious, but you can dress it up, too. I like to add some crunch with toasted sesame seeds (nuts work, too) and spritz with lemon juice. Or you can load them up with chopped herbs — basil is my favorite. You can brighten the flavor with a few drained capers instead of lemon juice, or try topping with chopped dried tomatoes preserved in oil.

Southwestern Style Grilled Yellow Squash

2 medium or 4 small yellow squash

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Garlic powder

Chili powder

Cumin

Chives, chopped

Preheat the grill on high. Cut squash in half-inch rounds and half-inch planks (to mix it up). Brush cut sides with olive oil and liberally season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle both sides with garlic powder, chili powder and cumin. Cook uncovered on hot grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until slightly charred. Serve warm, garnished with chopped chives. It’s a great steak side, with the nuttiness of the squash pairing nicely with the steak’s charred crust.

Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus Spears

Asparagus spears to feed four

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

2 slices of thin bacon

Preheat grill on medium high. Plan on 3-4 medium spears per person, or 8-10 of the very slender spears. Trim the asparagus by cutting off the tough ends, an inch or two up the stem. Rinse and pat dry. Place on a dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roll them around to make sure all surfaces are coated.

Bundle spears as noted above for individual portions. Cut bacon slices in half and wrap the center of each asparagus bundle with the bacon, stretching it as you wrap. Don’t overlap the bacon. Secure with toothpicks, which you can remove after cooking.

Place the bundles on the grill and cook for about five minutes per side until asparagus is tender and bacon is crisp. The smoky note of the bacon complements the earthy, grassy flavor of the asparagus.

NOTE: Use thin bacon so it gets cooked through.

Grilled Onions

2 large sweet onions

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

A handful of parsley, chopped

4-6 thin wooden skewers

Preheat grill on medium. Peel onions but do not cut off ends. On a wooden cutting board, pierce the onion about a half inch from the end with a skewer. When the point of the skewer reaches the other side, break off the skewer flush with the onion. With a sharp knife, slice through the onion on both sides of the skewer and lay the slice aside. Repeat until you have several half-inch slices, all skewered, which prevents the onions from coming apart on the grill.

Toss skewered slices in olive oil and liberally salt and pepper both sides.

Grill the slices for 12 minutes, covered, flipping once. Serve garnished with chopped parsley. You’ll love the caramelization and the light char. Don’t remove the skewers when serving.

NOTE: The skewers do not need to be soaked, because while the onion slices are grilling, the skewers are not exposed to the flame. These go well with grilled potato slices (recipe follows) and they can be cooked at the same time. Serve a platter heaped with onion and potato slices, garnished with chopped parsley. Great by themselves, or a great accompaniment for burgers, fish or chicken.

Grilled Spud Slices

4 large potatoes — 1 russet, 2 reds, 1 Yukon

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Handful of chopped parsley

Preheat grill on medium. Cut potatoes in half-inch slices. For variety, include both rounds and slices cut lengthwise.

Par boil the slices for three minutes. Drain and let cool. Toss in olive oil and liberally salt and pepper both sides.

Cook on grill for 12 minutes, covered, turning once. They’ll be crispy and golden on the outside, creamy on the inside.

NOTE: The mix of different kinds of potatoes makes for a nice presentation, but you can use just one variety.

Grilled Husked Sweet Corn

Buy enough ears of sweet corn to feed your crowd. For the freshest, look for golden silk. If the silk is dry or has black spots in it, it’s not fresh. The ears should smell sweet and be firm when pressed with your thumb.

Preheat the grill on medium high. Prep the corn by peeling back the husks, but leave them attached. Remove the silk, then wrap the ears back up in their husks.

Some people like to soak the ears in cold water when grilling with husks on, but it isn’t necessary.

Grill for 15 to 20 minutes, covered, depending on size of the ears. Turn frequently to avoid burning. Don’t overcook or the corn will become chewy. Your eyes and nose will tell you when they’re ready. You want a light char on all sides of the husks and when you smell the corn’s sweet aroma, it’s probably done.

To serve, you can either remove the husks entirely, or just peel them back, leaving them attached. Place on a platter and brush with your favorite compound butter before serving.

Compound butter is made with softened, unsalted butter, mixed with flavorings. You can create your own blends.

Mix butter with minced basil, lime zest, salt and pepper for a Thai taste. Add a pinch of cayenne for a little heat.

For a salty-sweet taste, mix butter with a small amount of brown sugar (experiment to get the level of sweetness you like) and a good sprinkling of flaky sea salt.

Another good compound butter can be made with chopped chives and minced garlic.

NOTE: If you insist on grilling your corn naked (not you, the corn), cut the cook time to 8 to 12 minutes, turning frequently.

Grilled Peaches

Peaches, halved and pitted (1 or 2 halves per person)

Canola oil

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1 tablespoon sugar

Scant teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mint leaves for garnish

Choose ripe but firm peaches, but not overly ripe.

Preheat grill on medium high. Halve peaches, remove pits, leaving skin on. Dab canola oil on surface of cut sides.

Stir butter in a small bowl until smooth, add sugar and cinnamon and mix well.

Grill peaches covered, cut side down, 4 to 5 minutes. Resist the temptation to reposition the peaches on the grill and you’ll get good grill marks.

Turn peaches over and fill the center of each with a dollop of cinnamon-sugar butter. Cover and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more.

Serve grilled peaches with a splash of heavy cream, crème fraiche, whipped cream or ice cream (butter pecan or vanilla). Garnish with torn mint leaves.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

Grilled yellow squash and zucchini become flavor bombs when paired with spices and topped with toasted seeds or nuts. Spritz with lemon juice or top with capers or chopped dried tomatoes in oil for additional tasty variations.
Grilling elevates peaches from an over-the-sink snack to ambrosia, topped with cinnamon-sugar butter and served with cream or ice cream.