We checked in with Sam Zien, better known as Sam the Cooking Guy, about his new book, Just Grill This. Sam’s message is basically, If I can make it, anyone can. After years of trial and error and no formal training he’s become a trusted source for guys across the country when it comes to the kitchen, and now the grill. So we thought we’d get his take on grilling veggies.
What we didn’t know was that Zien had recently attended a dinner party where the vegetarian hosts had served him overcooked, mushy okra, something that really pissed him off.
Let’s talk grilling veggies.
Vegetarians can really f- up vegetables.
Any vegetables you wouldn’t grill?
If you can do it inside, you can cook it outside. But I guess I’d skip cippolini onions and go for big red onions. I love cauliflower; broccoli even is amazing on the grill. Ummm, potatoes — not a real fan of grilling these. I just think there are way more interesting things to grill.
Couldn’t you wrap those little onions in foil?
NOT a fan of foil. Takes away from why you’re out there grilling in the first place.
The history that comes before on a grill helps with what you’re making right now. You don’t get that with a foil barrier. But if you want to grill smaller items, get some skewers. That way you still get exposure to those fabulous bits of char.
What’s your favorite vegetable to grill?
Peppers on the grill, the texture is amazing and I love their grilled flavor. LOOOOVE asparagus on the grill. I mean steamed asparagus, why bother? Eggplant on the grill—ooooh, grilled eggplant parmesan sandwich… thick slices of tomatoes on the grill… hearts of palm… ahh, they are like white asparagus when grilled… and everyone, EVERYONE should be obligated to grill corn at least once a week when it is in season….
The thought of veggie burgers is barely palatable to some of us, so what’s your trick?
Nuts, grains, beans, twigs rocks, and sand that have been knocked out of the bottom of Birkenstock shoes* does not a burger make. Remember that commercial: Where’s the beef? It’s like, Where’s the veg? You gotta make it great and use vegetables, not filler. Elevate the bun — go for ciabatta, sourdough, or thick rye bread. Make a big thick veggie burger full of veggies and nobody is gonna go “What the hell?” Give it some bite, some texture, and a burger-lover will be satisfied.
What are your top seasonings when grilling?
Throw away your iodized salt and get some kosher salt instead. Cumin, chili flakes, dried rosemary, cayenne, garlic powder. I also love McCormick Chipotle Chili Powder and Montreal Steak Seasoning.
*there are many BTW’s in Sam’s book, and the BTW on this reads: Attention Vegan Activists: Please do not contact my publisher and rip on me for my “unfair” characterization of veggie burgers and for making fun of your shoes of choice. But really, have you guys tried some of the veggie burgers out there? I was actually being kind…
Got your own favorite vegetable grilling trick or technique? Let us know in the comments.