Grillers in our midst
I have no idea where this recipe came from, but there’s no reason not to have a vegetarian barbecue. I say this as a man who recently opened a butcher’s shop.
The effort of lighting a barbecue and burning down the coals for an hour should not be reserved just for steaks. My preferred way to cook asparagus, for instance, is quickly and over hot coals. I like the way the skin blisters and the fibres are broken down by the intensity of the heat while at the same time leaving a crunch to the middle of the spear.
This recipe for barbecued vegetables with basil and orange zest began as a grilled ratatouille. But by the time I had fired up the barbecue, I had decided to make it a more considered and seasonal arrangement. The base notes of the ratatouille are all still there, but what I realised as I waited for the barbecue was that ratatouille is not really my favourite thing to eat. It’s basically just boiled, and a lot of the individual ingredients don’t represent themselves well. Texturally I find it quite difficult, too – half-cooked tomatoes and soggy eggplant and capsicum with its skin still on.
As I was considering how much I disliked ratatouille, I decided to make this more of a salad. Once I’d grilled the vegetables, I decided to marinate them for a few hours, which I like to do with any vegetables I grill. The longer I had them marinating in front of me, the longer I had to tinker.
I wanted to add some vinegar, and the closest vinegar to hand was sherry vinegar. I’ve always liked adding orange zest to sherry vinegar, so I threw in some of that. There were broad bean leaves in the garden, so I grabbed some of them to add another texture and lift the dish a bit.
I also used some small broad beans, which could be grilled as a whole pod. If you couldn’t get small broad bean pods, butter or green beans would be a good substitute.
The only thing that’s missing from a standard ratatouille is the tomatoes. But tomatoes weren’t in season the day I was cooking this, and grilled tomatoes are something I could live without. Frankly, it’s poor form to treat a tomato that way. As ever, I blame the British.
Grilled broccolini, yoghurt dressing and hazelnuts
– 100g raw hazelnuts
– 2 bunches broccolini
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– ½ cup thick natural yoghurt
– ½ clove garlic
– ¼ tsp salt
Toast the hazelnuts on a tray in a 160ºC oven until they are pale gold. Wrap the hot nuts in a tea towel and rub them vigorously to remove most of the skins. Chop the nuts coarsely and set aside.
Trim any tough ends off the broccolini and blanch in a large saucepan of boiling water for 10 seconds. This brightens and softens the vegetable just enough for it to cook nicely on the barbecue. Drain the broccolini and toss it in a little oil.
To prepare the dressing, chop the garlic and sprinkle the salt over it. Use the flat side of your knife to crush the garlic into a paste. Whisk the garlic and salt paste into the yoghurt and set aside.
Grill the broccolini on a very hot barbecue until it is tender and a little charry. Place the broccolini on a serving dish and spoon over the yoghurt dressing and sprinkle the hazelnuts on top.
Barbecued vegetables, orange zest and basil
– 10 baby zucchini (with flowers attached, if possible)
– 1 eggplant
– 1 red onion
– 1 capsicum
– handful young broad bean pods (finger length)
– 3 tbsp olive oil
– handful basil leaves
– 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
– zest of ½ orange
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1 tbsp lemon juice
– pinch salt
– pinch dried chilli
Preheat your barbecue.
Cut the zucchini in half lengthways. Cut the eggplant and onion into wedges about two centimetres thick. Cut the capsicum into strips and keep the broad bean pods whole. Toss the vegetables gently through three tablespoons of olive oil and season with a little salt before cooking them on the barbecue until they are tender and blistered but not mushy or burnt.
While the vegetables are cooking, whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
Place the grilled vegetables in a bowl and toss them gently with the dressing and a handful of torn basil leaves.
2014 Ruggabellus Sallio riesling blend, Eden Valley ($27) – Liam O’Brien, head sommelier, Cutler & Co.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 12, 2016 as "Grilled broccolini, yoghurt dressing and hazelnuts". Subscribe here.