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There's a lot of room for improvisation when cooking vegetables on the grill. Tender, quick-cooking vegetables are the easiest to work with, and they yield the most satisfying results because you can be sure they'll cook thoroughly. For example, leeks develop wonderful pink colors and sweet flavors, baby onions lined up on a skewer explode and caramelize, and red onion rings tossed with olive oil and rosemary are a delicious accompaniment to grilled chicken.
Since vegetables are virtually fat-free, they need to be brushed with oil to prevent them from sticking to the grill. Use a good quality olive oil, along with some fresh thyme, rosemary or oregano, and plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
There are three methods of coating vegetables with oil: : The simplest and neatest is to put the vegetables in a bowl, : drizzle with oil, season, and toss to coat.
: You can put the vegetables on a tray and brush them with lightly
: with oil that's already seasoned.
: For long, thin vegetables, such as asparagus and scallions, pour a
: bit of oil into the palms of your hands and rub each stalk to : lightly coat it.
Skewering vegetables makes it much easier to move them around and turn them on the grill. Also, small vegetables won't fall through the grill bars and into the fire. If you use bamboo skewers, soak them first in water for about 20 minutes to keep the tips from burning.
For round vegetables, like button mushrooms or small onions, try inserting two thin parallel skewers so the vegetables won't spin when you turn them. A good tip for onion rounds is to insert a toothpick or short skewer through the center to keep the rings together during cooking.
Your fire should be medium hot; the coals should be covered with gray ash but still have a red glow. Cook vegetables over direct heat, but don't crowd them or they'll cook unevenly. If the vegetables are done too soon push them off to the side and bunch them together. This slows the cooking but keeps the vegetables moist and warm.
Vegetables are cooked properly when they're soft enough to be pierced easily with a fork or the tip of a knife but still have some "bite" to them.
Submitted By DIANE LAZARUS On 11-07-95