The Fourth of July barbecue doesn't always have to be about hot dogs and burgers. The holiday is a great excuse to fire up the grill and throw on some tasty veggies that will make you forget about the standard fair.
Even if you're a meat lover, check out some greener grilling ideas below:
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For British celebrity chef and restaurateur, Jamie Oliver, the secret to delicious grilled vegetables is bare-bones simplicity. "Never, ever, ever, in my personal opinion, have I seen a good reason to brush any veg with oil before your grill it," Oliver said. All he recommends is to grill them over wood or charcoal for better flavor, get a good char on them, and to immediately "kiss them with quality extra virgin olive oil" after they're off the heat. Season the vegetables with some salt and pepper and from there they can be used for all types of dishes.
Food blogger and "Today" food contributor, Siri Daly, adds grilled vegetables to whole wheat spaghetti to make a light, summertime main course. Her recipe uses corn and green beans but you can use any vegetable you like. The recipe also works with grilled squash, zucchini, asparagus, or broccoli, she said. The key to bringing it all together though is a ladle of starchy pasta water, which "creates its own sauce" for the dish.
Cara Mangini, author of "The Vegetable Butcher" and the executive chef and owner of Little Eater in Ohio, uses eggplant as the foundation for her grilled eggplant stacks. As much building as it is cooking, the main course is simply stacked layers of grilled eggplant, heirloom tomato, and fresh mozzarella. A walnut basil pesto sauce and balsamic vinegar reduction bring the entire dish together. While on the "Today" show, Mangini offered a tip on how to cut the tomatoes for the dish. She recommends using a serrated knife which helps to keep the vegetable from tearing.
Grilled corn on the cob is a summertime staple but chef Rick Bayless' favorite corn side dish is esquites, a lesser known Mexican street snack. "This is just the epitome of summer," Bayless said. Sweet corn kernels are simmered in a corn cob and corn husk broth along with serrano chiles and a Mexican herb called epazote. When done cooking, the Jame Beard award winner likes to serve the side in a little dessert dish with a dollop of mayo, some crumbled Mexican fresh cheese, and a lime wedge.
Let's not forget about dessert! "Hell's Kitchen" host Gordon Ramsay has a grilled pineapple dish that should satisfy every sweet tooth. The British chef quickly grills some pineapple wedges to bring out the fruit's natural sugars. He then tops it off with a simple spiced vanilla caramel for an elegant finish.