When the L.A. sun glints off the Weber and the aroma of hot, juicy, flavorful meat wafts through the air, these sides bring with them a refreshing dash of vinegar or the cool crunch of fresh summer vegetables — like sweet grilled green beans with their fantastic snap, topped with shallots marinated in red wine vinegar.
When vinegar brings its vibrancy to grilled foods, something fabulous happens. Sprinkle a dash on a tomato that's not quite ripe and it becomes sweeter, livelier, fresher tasting. The acidity adds brightness, giving vegetables a kick to balance the heady smokiness.
Green beans, which are overflowing from farmers market stalls right now, are terrific grilled for just a few minutes, until just softened and a bit charred, then simply dressed with olive oil and plenty of salt. With the zesty tang of the shallots, they complement the bold flavor of grilled meat, and the crisp of the green beans plays off the tenderness of the meat.
A first-rate, classic slaw with just enough tang keeps you wanting more, bite after bite. But it's elevated to a sophisticated salad when grilled radicchio is used instead of raw cabbage.
Quarter or halve the heads of radicchio (depending on their size), and grill them lightly — just long enough so that the outside is charred but the inside is still crunchy. Cut them into fine strips, punctuate with a bit of sliced red onion, and toss with a mustardy balsamic vinaigrette and sea salt. A hint of honey for an extra shot of sweetness in the dressing balances the flavors. This slaw can stand up to the heartiest grilled meats, but it's also great with milder ones, such as pork tenderloin.
Roasted eggplant and peppers are a classic, but the eggplant takes on a new dimension when done on the grill. Thickly slice a globe eggplant, brush the slices with olive oil and grill until charred and softened. They soak up that delicious smoky flavor.
Add another layer of flavor and texture with red and yellow peppers, slow-roasted until soft and sweet. This dish is substantial enough to serve on its own, or pair it with grilled chicken, lamb or beef.
Green beans with pickled shallots
Total time: 10 minutes, plus 1 hour standing time for shallots
Servings: 4 to 6
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 pound fresh green beans
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1. In a small bowl, combine the shallots and the vinegar and set aside for 1 hour.
2. Toss the green beans with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill over high heat until browned on both sides, about 8 to 10 minutes on an outdoor grill on the grill surface or in a grill basket.
3. Toss the grilled green beans with the lemon zest and arrange on a platter. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spoon the pickled shallots over the the beans. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons remaining olive oil.
Each of 6 servings: 103 calories; 1 gram protein; 5 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 9 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 98 mg. sodium.
Radicchio slaw with balsamic vinaigrette
Total time: 10 minutes
1 large ( 1/2 pound) head of radicchio
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for brushing on radicchio
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1. Cut the radicchio into quarters through the root end. Brush the cut side of the radicchio with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
2. Grill over medium heat, cut side down, for 3 to 6 minutes, until lightly charred on the outside but not cooked through. The center of the radicchio should be uncooked. Remove from heat.
3. Slice the radicchio crosswise into thin strips. Toss with the red onion.
4. Whisk the balsamic vinegar, mustard and honey in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook, at a medium boil, for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Whisk in remaining olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Pour the vinaigrette over the radicchio and onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve. Makes 6 cups.
Each serving: 118 calories; 1 gram protein; 4 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 11 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 31 mg. sodium.
Grilled eggplant with red and yellow peppers
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup olive oil plus 1/2 teaspoon, divided
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced shallot
Kosher salt, coarse black pepper
1 large globe eggplant, about 1 1/2 pounds
10 fresh basil leaves, torn
Fleur de sel
1. Coat the peppers with one-half teaspoon of olive oil. Roast on a baking pan, turning frequently until the peppers are vibrant in color with some char marks and the skin peels easily, about 35 minutes.
2. Remove the peppers from the oven and place them in a bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the peppers stand about 20 minutes or until cool. Peel the peppers, cut them into quarters and remove any seeds. Pat dry and cut into julienne strips.
3. Whisk the vinegar, garlic and shallot. Slowly whisk in 6 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste.
4. Pour the vinaigrette over the pepper strips and let stand while preparing the eggplant.
5. Cut both ends off the eggplant and slice crosswise into three-fourths-inch rounds and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Brush both sides of the sliced eggplant lightly with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
6. Grill the eggplant over medium heat. Cook until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until charred and softened. Remove from heat.
7. Arrange grilled eggplant on serving plates and spoon over marinated peppers. Garnish with torn basil. Season with fleur de sel and coarse cracked black pepper to taste.
Each of 6 servings: 199 calories; 2 grams protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 18 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 391 mg. sodium.