In spite of occasional days of rain and cold, Spring is finally settling into the Midwest. Trees once bare are now laden with blossoms or sprouting leaves. The days are longer and on some days sitting out on the balcony is a downright pleasure. This all makes grilling out much more enjoyable. We are ardent year round grillers, but it is nice to be able to actually attend to it without having to put on a winter coat.
It was just such a recent (Meatless) Monday night that gave life to these vegetable stacks. The weather was perfect for a grill meal that needed a little attention but still allowed time to sip a glass of wine. It was also necessary to have time to admire the beauty of our park like courtyard complete with the sounds of children chasing balls and bubbles. A light breeze sent the blossom scents wafting through the air and made for an almost perfect evening.
While this does qualify as a quick weeknight supper, there is a bit of earlier in the day prep involved. The vegetables need to be cleaned, cut, and marinated. I started with Portobello mushrooms. These were an interesting size, labeled “Mini” Portobello, they were more like “Giant” Crimini. Whatever the nomenclature, they were the perfect size to create a base for the veggie stacks once the were stripped of their gills and given a little wipe down. The rest of the veggies were cut in thick chunks to fit nicely in the caps. Everything got popped into zip top bags and marinated in a Balsamic Vinaigrette. Any marinade of your choosing will be perfect.
When the time came to grill , I reached for my trusty Grill Mat. This is possibly one of the greatest inventions of the millennium. This mat allows you to grill the gooiest marinated food, the smallest pieces of anything edible, and anything that is likely to stick, come apart, or fall through. While possessing all the above attributes, what I find the most amazing is that food still comes out tasting smokey and for lack of a better word, grilled. There is an infomercial that offers these, but I know that mine came from a Groupon offer (thank you Loren) that is unfortunately no longer available. If you don’t have these mats, I would strongly recommend a grill pan.
I started with the mushrooms which take the longest time. Once they were almost done I moved them to the top rack. They finished cooking and the mushroom drippings found their way onto the vegetables below. This was a very good thing. Put the veggies on the grill in order from the longest cooking time to the shortest.This is where the time to sip wine and tend to the grill come into the picture. The veggies seem to require almost constant moving, turning, and otherwise attending too, but on a beautiful spring evening it’s a perfect excuse to spend time outside. You may notice that the onions are sporting the latest in toothpick accessories. This isn’t just for show, the picks help keep the onions together, the better for them to be a stable layer in the stack. Just remember to take them out before assembling.
Once everything was perfect, I took them inside and began the assembly. While this was happening, I put the tomatoes on the grill. Opt for Roma Tomatoes or any other firm fleshy variety. These will hold together and keep their tomato integrity.Toothpicks again came to the rescue again. Once the stacks were assembled complete with their lovely mozzarella hats, I used the picks to give them and me an extra level of security. It was worth the effort and use of wood, not a single stack was lost. They were beautiful and ever so tasty.
As always, feel free to use any vegetables that you like. Think of the possibilities when the Farmer’s Markets really get rolling. A light and delicious dinner will be stacked in your favor.