There’s something about grilling that’s kind of sexy. Maybe it’s the fire aspect that gives it an element of danger. Or maybe it’s because it’s the rare form of cooking that is an event in and of itself.
“What are you doing this weekend?”
It’s like meeting up with friends for coffee or going out for a drink. It’s not just a way to hydrate; it’s a pastime. Same with grilling. It’s not just a way to cook. It’s a call to linger in the pleasure of the cooking.
Or maybe grilling is sexy, because it’s all tied up in the best parts of summer – the sundresses and shorts, hanging out by the pool, and summer romance. It’s also a form of cooking that just feels more “right” with a drink in your hand – an icy cold gin and tonic or a Mexican beer with a squeeze of lime. It seems to say, “I’m not stressed out about making dinner. This isn’t a chore. It’s recreation.”
While grilling often gets associated with big, warm weather gatherings, our grill is in regular rotation as soon as the weather edges above 50 degrees. Many nights we fill out our evening meal with grilled garlic sourdough. (I mean, could anything elevate a dinner salad from ho-hum to fun more than having it with a piece of hot, crisp garlic bread?) We’ll grill kebabs, marinated tofu, seitan, and the occasional veggie burger.
The fire itself gives the food so much flavor, not much else is required. That smoky taste immediately makes anything taste better.
Not only is grilling sexy, it’s also one of the fastest ways to cook. Vegetables cook quickly on the grill and when cooking vegetables you don’t have to worry about getting up to a certain temperature for safety like one would with animal-based options. Even if a bell pepper chunk isn’t “well done,” it would still be safe to eat. Dinner can be hot and on the table in no time at all.
One of my favorite less-than-30-minute meals is grilled vegetable fajitas. The vegetable options are wide open, depending on what you have in your refrigerator. Now that asparagus is coming into season, I am a big fan of that. (Plus, it makes my cat, Jezebel, happy. She loves asparagus more than anyone I’ve ever met.)
Just cut all of the vegetables, so that they’re roughly the same size and will cook in the same amount of time. Depending on the size of your grill pan and how close the vegetables can get to the grill itself, and depending on how your grill is maintaining heat, cooking times may vary. But regardless, it will be no problem getting fajitas to the table in less than 30 minutes, and that includes chopping vegetables and even making homemade guacamole. While the mushroom and asparagus fajitas are a full meal all on their own, they’re also great with boozy black beans, refried beans, or rice.
Before grilling, I tossed the mushrooms, asparagus, onions, and bell pepper in spices, freshly squeezed lime juice, oil, and salt for an added hit of Tex-Mex flavors. Then when the vegetables were getting close to done, I warmed small corn tortillas on the grill until they had some nice brown grill marks on both sides. Add a dollop of guacamole, salsa, and a splash of hot sauce. I don’t know that it gets much better than that.
(If it isn’t grilling season where you live, I also gave the option in the recipe for roasting in the oven. You’ll still get a short cooking time and the deepened flavors that come from cooking with a high heat. And if a frosty gin and tonic with muddled mint and a squeeze of lime would make the experience come together for you, by all means, go for it.)