With the weather cooling, Fall is a great time to get outside and grill out with family and friends. Whatever your main meal of choice, vegetables can be a perfect side dish to add some color and flavor to your meal.
In Italy, a grilled vegetable “contorno”, or side dish, is a delicious, not to mention healthy, complement to any meal. It is among the most common side dishes you will find in homes and restaurants.
Grilled vegetables appear on menus everywhere, and while you might not be as excited about them as your Bistecca Fiorentina, or your pasta with fresh truffles shaved on top, you will almost certainly be amazed at how great the flavors are when fresh vegetables are done well.
Some of the most common vegetables to grill are yellow squash, zucchini, and eggplant (my personal favorite). Often the three are served together, and there can be a few others mixed in as well.
These three are usually thinly sliced length wise. That allows them not to slip through the grill too easily, and the presentation is beautiful.
I sometimes struggle with watery vegetable dishes, and if you’re like me, grilling is a much more appetizing way to enjoy them.
In Italy, the vegetables are lightly coated in extra virgin olive oil and put straight onto the grill. No other frills as they know the natural flavors in each vegetable will shine this way.
Of the many Italian dishes that we can prepare at home, grilled vegetables are among the easiest, and the best for our health.
You not only get the vitamins and nutrients from the vegetables, but also the health benefits of the EVOO.
You know those special meals you have every so often in life? The ones where all the stars align and the food is great, the presentation is gorgeous, the wine pairing is perfect, and your waiter treats you like an old friend? It was a meal like that in Florence where I first decided to order “verdure fresche alla griglia”, grilled fresh vegetables. Our waiter recommended them as our side dish that evening at the restaurant appropriately named, “Alla Griglia”.
We felt like we had really tasted each vegetable for the first time. So flavorful, and such a nice texture. When grilled, they have none of the wateriness that’s such a turn off to me, but instead they are perfectly tender, crisp on the outside, and sweet on the inside. Delicious!
Since that meal in Florence realizing how flavorful vegetables can be, we have discovered verdure alla griglia is one dish we can quite easily replicate here. It’s so nice to eat and enjoy something healthy when it tastes that good.
This time of year, it is wonderful to be out grilling, and the experience itself is to me, a very Italian way to cook and eat. Focused on having fun together and never rushed, it’s about the experience as much as the food.
Whatever your main dish for the cook out, why not also throw on some vegetables for your friends and family? With the added health (and taste!) benefits of a great EVOO from Italy, you all might start looking forward to veggies in a whole new way!
To do this, choose the vegetables you’d like to use. I love the yellow squash, zucchini, and eggplant combination, but you can also use peppers, tomatoes, onions, or whatever you like.
Slice them thinly, and if you’re using the longer veggies like squash and eggplant, slice length wise so they don’t slip through the slats of the grill.
Toss the slices lightly in your favorite Mia Emilia extra virgin olive oil.
Grill for a few minutes on each side, until both sides are a golden brown and cooked to your liking.
When you serve, you can add another drizzle of EVOO for some extra flavor and enjoy!