Grill Outside the Box

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By Steven Raichlen | Apr 23, 2021

Sear up savory vegetable and bread dishes that go beyond traditional grill grub.

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Adobe Stock/ZI3000

The rules for grilling vegetables are pretty much the same as those for grilling meat or seafood: Keep it hot, keep it clean, and keep it lubricated. In other words, you want to start with a hot, clean grate that you oil right before food goes on. Heat your grill grate well, and then scrub it with a stiff wire brush, or scrape it clean with a wooden scraper. Oil the grate with vegetable or olive oil. The following recipes call for smoking, direct grilling, indirect grilling, and ember grilling.

Indirect grilling is the process of grilling next to a fire rather than directly over one, as you would in direct grilling. On a charcoal grill, rake the coals into two mounds at opposite sides of the grill, and do your cooking in the center. On a two-burner gas grill, light one side and indirect grill on the other. On a gas grill with three or more burners, light the outside or front and rear burners, and do your grilling in the center. Always keep the grill lid lowered when indirect grilling.

For ember grilling, let a charcoal or wood fire burn down to glowing coals. Fan them with a folded newspaper to dislodge any loose ash, and then place the vegetables (or bread) directly on the embers.

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Image Adobe Stock/Marysckin

Smoke-Roasted German-Style Potato Salad

Smoke-Roasted German-Style Potato Salad

When it comes to potato salad, two basic schools exist: German-style (flavored with vinegar and bacon) and American-style (mayonnaise- and mustard-based). Both get a Raichlen makeover by smoke-roasting the spuds instead of boiling them. Here’s the German version…–…sweet with sugar, tart with vinegar, and smoky with bacon…–…and you can find the American style below. For a meatless version, leave out the bacon, or substitute it with smoked shiitake mushrooms.

I like to make this salad with white or yellow fingerling potatoes. Three incredibly flavorful options are ‘Ratte,’ ‘Bintje,’ and ‘Baby Dutch Yellow.’ Alternatively, use ‘Yukon Gold.’

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.


  • 2 pounds unpeeled fingerling potatoes or ‘Yukon Gold’ potatoes
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1-1⁄2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed to finish the salad
  • Coarse salt (sea or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 strips thick-cut bacon (about 6 ounces), cut crosswise into 1⁄4-inch slivers
  • 1⁄4 cup white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Düsseldorf-style mustard or Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish


  1. Scrub potatoes under running water with a stiff vegetable brush. Blot them dry. Cut any large potatoes in quarters or halves so all pieces are about 1 inch in size.
  2. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and heat it to medium-high.
  3. Arrange potatoes and onion in an aluminum foil pan. Toss with olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Place pan with potatoes and onion on the grill grate away from the heat. If enhancing a charcoal fire, add wood chunks or chips to the coals; if enhancing a gas fire, place chunks or chips in your grill’s smoker box, or place chunks under the grate directly over one or more burners. Close the grill lid.
  5. Smoke-roast potatoes and onion until just tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Stir a few times so they cook evenly.
  6. Move pan directly over the fire, and direct-grill vegetables until browned and crusty, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Transfer potatoes to a large heatproof mixing bowl, and cover to keep warm. Dice onion, and add to potatoes; cover bowl.
  7. Place bacon in a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat on the grill’s side burner (or on a stovetop) until browned and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (The bacon will stick less and crisp better if you start it in a cool pan.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to bowl holding potato and onion mixture. (Leave bacon fat in pan.) Cover bowl to keep mixture warm.
  8. Add vinegar and sugar to bacon fat in pan, and bring to a boil, whisking to dissolve sugar. Remove pan from heat, and stir in mustard, horseradish, salt, and pepper to make dressing.
  9. Pour hot dressing over warm potatoes and onion, and toss to mix. Add salt, pepper, olive oil, or more vinegar to taste. The salad should be highly seasoned and moist…–…add more olive oil if needed. Transfer salad to a serving bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Smoke-Roasted Creamy Potato Salad with Olives, Capers, and Pickles

Here’s a mayonnaise- and mustard-based, American-style potato salad, transformed by the power of wood smoke.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.


  • 2 pounds fingerling potatoes or ‘Yukon Gold’ potatoes
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1-1⁄2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed to finish the salad
  • Coarse salt (sea or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1⁄4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pimento-stuffed olives
  • 2 tablespoons brined capers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill pickle
  • 1 scallion, trimmed, white and green parts thinly sliced


  1. Prepare potatoes, onion, olive oil, salt, and pepper the same way as in the Smoke-Roasted German-Style Potato Salad .
  2. Let potatoes and onions cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, olives, capers, dill pickle, and scallion in a large mixing bowl, and whisk to combine. Stir potatoes and onion into dressing, tossing to coat well. Add salt, pepper, and vinegar as needed…–…the salad should be highly seasoned. Transfer to a serving bowl, and keep refrigerated until serving. The salad will keep for at least 48 hours.
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Image Steve Randazzo

Nancy’s Salmorejo (Spanish Smoked and Chilled Tomato Soup)

Nancy’s Salmorejo (Spanish Smoked and Chilled Tomato Soup)

Think of salmorejo as gazpacho’s minimalist cousin. My assistant, Nancy Loseke, first tasted this chilled tomato soup in Córdoba, Andalusia, on one of her olive oil scouting trips. (Nancy was one of the founders of the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club, my personal source for premium extra-virgin olive oil.) Salmorejo acquires its velvety texture from the emulsification of bread and olive oil. Add more bread, and you’ll get a great dip for grilled bread and vegetables. Add more water, and you’ll have an intensely flavorful sauce for grilled poultry or seafood. Garnish with jamón serrano and smoked or hard-cooked eggs, and you could serve the soup as a light entrée.

Because there are only five key ingredients in this velvety soup, the quality of each is critically important: Luscious ripe red tomatoes, artisanal bread, and the best fruity olive oil you can afford…–…preferably Spanish. And you’re going to make the key ingredients even more extraordinary by adding the most primal flavor of all: wood smoke.

Yield: 4 servings.


  • 2-1⁄2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, stem ends removed, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced jamón serrano or prosciutto (optional)
  • 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing and drizzling
  • 1⁄4 cup cold water, plus extra as needed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus extra to taste
  • Coarse salt (sea or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 thick slices country-style bread (sliced about 3⁄4-inch-thick and 4 inches wide), crusts removed, torn into several pieces
  • 2 smoked or hard-cooked eggs, peeled and roughly chopped or quartered (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives


  1. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and heat it to medium-low. Alternatively, set up your smoker to 250 F.
  2. Place tomatoes…–…cut sides up­…–…and garlic in an aluminum foil drip pan on the grill grate away from the heat. If enhancing a charcoal fire, add wood chunks or chips to the coals; if enhancing a gas fire, place chunks or chips in your grill’s smoker box, or place chunks under the grate directly over one or more burners. Close the lid. Let tomatoes and garlic cook until tomatoes are bronzed with smoke but still raw in the center, about 15 to 20 minutes. If using a smoker, smoke low and slow, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer tomatoes and garlic to a wire rack to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, lightly brush ham with olive oil. Place ham in a single layer directly over the fire, and grill until sizzling and browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a wire rack. The ham will crisp as it cools. If you don’t use the ham right away, store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Let it warm to room temperature before serving.
  4. Cut tomatoes into 1-inch chunks, and roughly chop garlic. Place tomatoes and garlic in a blender with water, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Purée on high speed until mixture is smooth. Add bread to tomato purée, and use a wooden spoon to submerge it. Let bread soften for a few minutes, and then blend until smooth. With the blender running on medium speed, slowly add olive oil, starting with 1⁄2 cup, until mixture reaches the consistency of thin mayonnaise. Adjust the seasoning, adding vinegar or salt to taste…–…the soup should be highly seasoned. If soup is too thick, add 1 to 2 tablespoons cold water.
  5. Chill soup, covered, for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight. (For the smoothest texture, strain soup through a chinois or run it through a food mill before you chill it, discarding any tomato seeds or skin. I never bother with this step, however.)
  6. Ladle or pour salmorejo into four shallow soup bowls. Drizzle with olive oil. Crumble grilled ham over each serving, and sprinkle with eggs and chives.
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Image Steven Randazzo

Ember Flatbread

Ember Flatbread

I’ve always been fascinated by the notion of grilling bread…–…from India’s buttery naan (cooked in a charcoal-fired clay barbecue pit known as a “tandoor”) to the grilled pizza pioneered in the 1980s by Al Forno Restaurant in Rhode Island. This recipe takes you back even further…–……to the very dawn of bread-making, when flatbread was cooked on fire-heated stones around a campfire, or even directly on the embers. The latter produces a unique char, crust, and smoke flavor. The trick is to grill the bread long enough to make it puff and brown, but not so long it burns…–…an interval measured in seconds, not minutes. I give you the granddaddy of all flatbreads and pizzas. Serve it brushed with melted butter or dipped in salsa. I’ve given you three options for making the dough. You’ll find the food processor method in the recipe, and the stand mixer and hand method variations below.

This recipe calls for ember grilling, and the resulting char and smoke flavor produce a flatbread unlike any you’ve ever tasted. However, you can also make awesome flatbread on a gas grill. Set it up for direct grilling, and work over high heat.

Yield: 12 6-inch flatbreads.


  • 2 packages (5 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1-1⁄4 cups warm water
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt (sea or kosher), plus extra for topping
  • About 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus extra for rolling out flatbreads
  • 2⁄3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling the bowl and sheet pan
  • 4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) melted unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • Toasted sesame seeds, for topping (optional)


  1. Place yeast, sugar, and water in a bowl, and mix well with a fork. Let stand until bubbly, about 10 minutes.
  2. Place salt and 3-1⁄2 cups flour in a food processor fitted with a dough blade, and process to mix. Add yeast mixture, yogurt, and oil, and process in short bursts until a smooth dough forms, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Dough should be soft and moist, but not sticky…–…if too wet, add a little more flour.
  3. Oil a large bowl, and place dough inside, turning to coat all sides. Cover bowl. Place in a warm spot, and let dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1-1⁄2 hours. Punch dough down, and let it rise until doubled in bulk again, about 30 minutes. Do this a couple of hours before grilling, or make the dough the night before and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. Punch dough down and cut it into 12 equal pieces. Working on a floured surface, roll dough pieces into balls with your hands, and then use a rolling pin to roll each one into a flat 6-inch circle. Make sure each dough circle is well-floured on both sides to prevent it from sticking to the embers.
  5. Meanwhile, set up your grill for ember grilling. That is, light your charcoal in a chimney starter. When glowing red, pour the embers over the bottom grate of your grill and rake them out into an even layer. Fan off any loose ash.
  6. Lay two or three dough circles (you don’t want to crowd them) directly on the embers. Grill until browned and blistered on the bottom and puffed on the top, about 30 to 60 seconds. Turn bread with long-handled tongs, and grill the other side the same way.
  7. Transfer bread to a rimmed sheet pan. Brush off any ash or cinders with a pastry brush. Brush the top of each flatbread with melted butter. Sprinkle with coarse salt and sesame seeds. Serve at once. Repeat with remaining dough circles.

grilled veggies

Dough Variations

Stand Mixer Dough

Fit a stand mixer with a dough hook. Place yeast, sugar, and water in mixer bowl. Mix well, and then let mixture stand for 10 minutes. Add yogurt, salt, butter, and 3-1⁄2 cups flour. Mix at low speed to form a smooth dough, about 3 to 5 minutes. Dough should be soft and moist, but not sticky…–…if too wet, add a little more flour. Continue with Step 3.

Hand-Kneaded Dough

Place yeast, sugar, and water in a bowl, and mix well with a fork. Let mixture stand for about 10 minutes.

Mound 3-1/2 cups flour on your work surface and make a well in the center. Place yeast mixture, yogurt, salt, and butter in well. Mix dough with your fingertips, working from the center outward, gradually incorporating flour. Work dough into a ball, and then knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add flour as needed. Continue with Step 3.


Steven Raichlen is an author, journalist, lecturer, and television host specializing in barbecue cooking. This is excerpted from How to Grill Vegetables: New Bible for Barbecuing Vegetables over Live Fire (Workman Publishing).

how to grill vegetables cover

America’s favorite grilling guru, Steven Raichlen, is back with a primer for how to grill vegetables! With lots of creative flavors and techniques, you’re sure to find your new favorite recipe, whether you’re eating main dishes that highlight vegetables or you’re rounding out the barbecue menu with grilled garden-fresh sides.

This title is available at the Grit store or by calling 866-803-7096. Item #10594.

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