Memorial Day is opening day for the grilling season. Many people grill hot dogs, burgers and chicken. But it doesn't have to stop there. With all the health protection they provide, vegetables should have an important place on the grill. Grilled vegetables can be served many ways - over brown rice, in pita sandwiches, as appetizers, or side dishes.

Vegetables are a low-fat, low-calorie source of nutrients, dietary fiber and other health-protective substances. When grilled or cooked over an open flame, their natural sugars and flavors intensify into a wonderful eating experience. Unlike meat and chicken, most vegetables cook quickly, so make sure to watch them closely.

To help keep vegetables from sticking to the grill, lightly coat the rack with cooking spray and place it over hot coals for five to 10 minutes before adding the food. Vegetables also can be lightly coated with either olive or canola oil spray.

Onions and tomatoes can be grilled whole, or in large chunks and skewered so turning and serving is easy. Use metal skewers, or soak wooden skewers in water until thoroughly damp to keep them from catching fire. Or, use a "grill tray" which will prevent falling onto the coals. To grill corn on the cob, first, carefully peel back the husks, remove the silk, and put the husks back in place; then, soak the corn in water for 45 minutes. Grill corn, turning occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes.

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The only limit to what vegetables you can grill is your imagination. Be creative. Thread chunks of zucchini, yellow or orange bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes on skewers. Coat lightly with cooking oil spray, then season with basil, parsley, onion and garlic. Grill until they are tender, turning them often to avoid charring.

Grilled Vegetables with Basil

Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 small eggplant, cut in half lengthwise, then into thick chunks
  • 1 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, then in thick chunks
  • 1 yellow summer squash, cut into thick, diagonal slices
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into eighths
  • 1 small red onion, sliced and cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. minced fresh basil (or 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. dried), divided
  • 1/4 cup non-fat plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. non-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions

  • Thread 8 skewers with alternating pieces of the vegetables. Place vegetables in a shallow pan large enough to hold the skewers.
  • Make marinade by whisking together in a small bowl the vinegar, oil and all but 1 tablespoon fresh basil (or all but 1 teaspoon dried). Pour over vegetables. Let stand 10 minutes, occasionally turning skewers so marinade coats all sides.
  • Meanwhile, make dressing. Place yogurt, mayonnaise, the remaining 1 tablespoon fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried) and lemon juice in a blender and mix at low speed until smooth. Transfer to small pitcher.
  • Grill vegetables, adjusting height of rack to avoid charring. Serve vegetables as a side dish, as a sandwich filling in pita halves, or on sliced French bread or bruschetta. Pass basil-yogurt dressing to use as a topping.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
99 calories,
7 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat),
8 g. carbohydrate,
2 g. protein,
1 g. dietary fiber,
39 mg. sodium.

Diabetic Exchanges: 2 Vegetable, 1 Fat


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