Wine Recommendations for Grilling Vegetables
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Don't know which wines to pair with your grilled vegetables? Here are our favorites
Some things in life come easily. Others, you have to wait for. After all, you can grill up a steak just about anytime you want (though December in New York probably does not offer optimal conditions). But when it comes to things like baby squash and farm-fresh eggplant, there’s a decidedly limited window. And that window is fast approaching.
Grilling adds wonderful depth of flavor and nuance to vegetables, and has the added bonus of drying them out, concentrating both flavor and sugars. I can honestly say that there’s no season during which I don’t love vegetables. But if there’s any season when I am happy to forgo meat, it’s the summertime, when grilled vegetable dishes meet my heartiness quotient and satisfy with their richness of flavors and textures. Grilled vegetables are also remarkably wine-friendly; and for those days when you still feel like a carnivore, they can round out a meaty meal in relatively healthy fashion. I tend to gravitate toward three familiar vegetables for grilling — eggplant, mushrooms, and squash — and I’ve included a pair of recipes for each here, to spark creativity on how to add diversity to the produce-deprived grilling repertoire.
Click here to find grilling recipes with wine pairing recommendations to go with them.
— Gregory Dal Piaz, Snooth
Perfect Match Recipe: Garlic-Rosemary Grilled Lamb Chops
More often than you might think, a culinary pro’s secret weapon comes from the O.G. executive chef: Mom. Case in point: Texas chef Michael Velardi and his killer five-ingredient lamb marinade. The longtime chef of the Pappas Bros. Steakhouse trifecta in Dallas and Houston has served a version of his mom’s lamb chops at the Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning Pappas flagship in Houston’s Galleria since its opening in 1995. Double-rib lamb chops are smothered in a perfectly proportioned mix of garlic, rosemary, olive oil, and black and red pepper, then left to marinate for a few hours before hitting the grill.
Growing up in Southern California, Velardi always looked forward to spring grilling season, and with it, the charry crust, juicy interior and haunting smokiness of his mom’s lamb chops. Decades later, in the mid-1990s, when he and Pappas co-owners Chris and Harris Pappas were developing the steak house menu, his mom’s recipe was “the first thing that came to my mind, and that’s what we use [now],” he says.
Velardi’s mother was a Calabrian immigrant and an avid home cook, and she taught her son well. But now that he’s the one running the show, he’s put his own stamp on the recipe. One tweak is the use of Greek olive oil—not just a nod to the Pappas family roots, but a stylistic decision. “Usually, the Greek olive oils are nice and smooth they’re very floral,” he describes, adding that they fit perfectly into the flavor profile he goes for at Pappas, which leans sweet, particularly in the meat department. The resulting marinade is herbaceous and almost honeyed.
For years, as with the restaurant’s famously secret beef dry-aging recipe, carnivores could only guess at what makes the Pappas Bros. lamb chops special, but Velardi has now been kind enough to share the recipe exclusively with Wine Spectator.
It’s about as simple as they come. But to elevate your lamb dish to near restaurant quality, Velardi suggests having the meat butchered to order. Pappas Bros. walks the walk in this regard it has always boasted an in-house butchering program. The less time that passes between when meat is cut and when it’s cooked, the better contact with the air oxidizes, or ages, almost any ingredient, dulling the flavor and texture—and this is particularly true of items like raw meat.
Though we can’t all buy primal cuts and carve them up in our own kitchen, resist the urge to simply scoop up the packaged lamb in the grocery display case and head for the checkout. Instead, it’s worth the effort to seek out a good butcher. Velardi suggests buying domestic lamb if possible, and asking for frenched, double-rib lamb chops with about a quarter-inch fat cap.
Once your lamb is on the grill (or in a pan), Velardi reminds us to cook the sides of the chops, which are double the usual thickness. Searing them will make the chops cook faster and deepen the overall flavor.
Cook the meat to your preferred doneness Velardi likes his lamb medium-rare, in the 140° F to 145° F range. “That’s the sweet spot for me,” he says.
Pairing Tip: Why Syrah Works with This Dish
For more tips on how to approach pairing this dish with wine, recommended bottlings and notes on chef Michael Velardi’s inspiration, read the companion article, "Lamb Chops With St.-Joseph," in the June 15, 2019, issue, via our online archives or by ordering a digital edition (Zinio or Google Play) or a back issue of the print magazine. For even more wine pairing options, WineSpectator.com members can find other recently rated St.-Joseph bottlings, more Northern Rhône reds and New World Syrahs in our Wine Ratings Search.
Grilled Lamb Chops with Garlic and Rosemary
Recipe courtesy of Michael Velardi and tested by Wine Spectator’s Julie Harans.
- 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, plus 4–6 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish
1 tablespoon freshly ground coarse black pepper, plus more
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil
Two to three racks of lamb, 1 3/4 to 2 pounds each, frenched and cut into double chops (preferably Colorado or other domestic lamb)
1 teaspoon chopped parsley, for garnish
Greek olive oil, for finishing
1. Place garlic, chopped rosemary, 1 tablespoon black pepper, red pepper flakes and 1/3 cup olive oil in a mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.
2. Rub marinade all over chops to coat. Place in an airtight container, cover and transfer to refrigerator. Marinate 6 to 8 hours.
3. Prepare a grill for high heat, preferably over oak charcoal or another mild wood charcoal (or for indoor cooking, see alternative, below). Transfer lamb to a cutting board and blot off any excess marinade. Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper. If desired, wrap the lamb bones in foil to prevent them from burning.
4. Grill chops, flipping every 2 to 3 minutes, until golden-brown on both sides. An instant-read thermometer inserted into a chop should register 145° F for medium-rare, 8 to 10 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest 5 minutes.
5. Place two chops on each serving plate. Top with chopped parsley and rosemary sprigs, and drizzle with Greek olive oil. Serves 4–6.
Alternative: For indoor cooking, set a cast-iron pan over high heat. Transfer lamb to a cutting board (no need to blot off excess marinade). Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, add half of the chops you should hear a loud sizzle. Sear each side until golden-brown, 1 or 2 minutes per side, then turn heat down to medium and cook, flipping every 2 to 3 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into a chop registers 145° F for medium-rare, 10 to 12 minutes more. Transfer lamb to a cutting board and tent with foil. Repeat with the remaining chops, and let second batch rest 5 minutes before serving, as per step 5.
Choose scallops that are “dry” (not stored in liquid preservatives). Larger is better small ones could overcook before browning. Make sure to coat them thoroughly in oil before grilling so they don’t stick to the grate.
Use whatever type of eggplant looks most appealing at the market they should be firm to the touch, with glossy skin. Small globe eggplants are easy to find, but this is also a terrific time to use long Asian types, small round white ones, or any of the cool-looking striped varieties.
Ask a Sommelier: How to Pair Vegetables With Red Wine
In chilly weather, many folks crave robust red wines, but not of us all eat a ton of meat. A nice juicy steak might be the perfect foil for Cabernet or Tempranillo, but what options do we have in the vegetarian zone? Are there certain red wines that are especially veggie-friendly? Certain ingredients that can help vegetarian dishes work well with bolder wines?
We spoke to sommeliers from across the country and asked what vegetable dishes work best with red wines. Here's their advice.
"Bringing vegetables to the party with big reds is all about upping the umami quotient of the dish. Mushrooms, dried tomatoes, beans, and aged cheeses are all naturally high in glutamic acids, the flavor components that make meat and other foods taste savory and intense. Add umami bomb seasonings like soy sauce, nutritional yeast, dried seaweed, miso, smoked paprika, or ume plum vinegar to those ingredients to give your vegetarian recipes to give them a red wine-friendly depth of flavor. Dishes like baked pumpkin stuffed with red quinoa in a miso vinaigrette or roast mushrooms with braised celery and smoked paprika would be beautiful alongside a juicy red on a cool day." —Steve Bowman (Fairsted Kitchen)
"When you prepare your vegetables, think about keeping them in a larger size instead of cutting them up into smaller pieces. You can grill a big plank of broccoli or cauliflower and the smokiness of the grill will impart a meatiness to it that will be wonderful with red wine." —Jessica Brown (The Breslin) and (The John Dory Oyster Bar)
"Cold weather stews with root veggies. Go to the farmers market and pick out some veggies. Start decanting wine. Simmer potatoes with onions in broth. Add veggies at the end. Serve with bread and a snuggie." —Josiah Baldivino (Michael Mina)
"One my favorite go-to dishes is Truffled Egg Toast. I totally follow the 'Ino recipe. The truffle and asparagus with gooey cheese, fatty brioche, runny yolk is so perfect with Dolcetto or Barbera D'Alba." —Sarah Egeland (Smallwares)
"Cabernet Franc has a natural 'green' characteristic that makes it very veggie-friendly. Whether it's part of a full-bodied blend from Bordeaux, or a medium bodied 100% style from the Loire, Cabernet Franc is usually a very safe bet when there's a lot of green on the plate. Tomatoes love Sangiovese, so bust out the Chianti when you have a tomato based stew or soup! Veggie chili, pizza, and baked pasta are all delicious with red wines, especially if you go heavy on the mushrooms and always add cheese when you can those are two ingredients that will bridge the gap between vegetables and red wine!" —Theresa Paopao (Ribelle)
"With a great woodsy Burgundy, one could really enjoy ingredients such as Matsutake mushrooms, celeriac, sunchoke, parsnips, etc. One could roast them, sauté them, make them into a really earthy soup." —Joe Camper (DB Bistro Moderne)
"If you're hosting a vegetarian, but would still like to serve a great red wine that people crave in the wintertime, I would recommend pairing it with a vegetarian Moussaka, a casserole layered with potatoes, peppers, eggplant, spiced wild mushrooms, rich red wine, cinnamon, clove and allspice, topped with yogurt and béchamel." —Kamal Kouiri (Molyvos)
"Stay away from some veggies that could just make the wine taste unpleasant. I think of Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green bell pepper or some leafy greens. It's not the end of the world if they're served anyway but with a big red wine, but I prefer the sweeter stuff. Butternut squash is my favorite. Chestnuts, red peppers, and sweet potatoes work well too." —Edouard Bourgeois (Café Boulud)
"Big red wine doesn't have to mean fruit bomb it can be tannic, structured, earthy and iron-y, and pair well with vegetarian meals. Dishes with beans, bitter greens like kale or rabe, cabbage or cauliflower create earthy flavors, while mushrooms most certainly can create complexity and interest. A few wines to complement those flavor profiles include Loire Cab Francs (Bourgueil, Anjou or Chinon) and most definitely the big Italians (Rosso di Montalcino to Brunello, Langhe Nebbiolo to Barolo and Barbaresco, Montefalco Rosso to Sagrantino.)" —Liz Vilardi (Belly), (The Blue Room), and (Central Bottle Wine + Provisions)
"Any red wine risotto (I like it with cranberry beans and grilled chicories) is a hearty winter entrée that is a natural pairing for a big red wine. For a winter celebratory meal, I often think of braised short ribs or oxtails with polenta. Substituting roasted wild mushrooms with winter greens and grana is a great vegetarian option that will stand up to a big red as well." —Corin Weihemuller (Comal)
"Rioja has classically been paired with asparagus, which can be one of the hardest vegetables to pair with. I've had Riojas hold up to things like pesto, where the dill flavors from the American Oak really help." —Brent Kroll (Neighborhood Restaurant Group)
"One of my favorite vegetable dishes to pair with a big red wine is a wild mushroom red wine risotto with shaved parmesan. The earthiness and full-flavors of mushrooms and the savory creaminess of the risotto match perfectly with a lot of full-bodied and hearty reds." —Eduardo Porto-Carreiro (DBGB Kitchen and Bar)
"The keys to vegetarian dishes that work well with red wine are texture and fat especially with something tannic like Barolo or Bordeaux, you need to give the tannins something to latch onto! Mushroom or caramelized onion risotto are absolutely fantastic with red. I also love caponata as a red wine pairing the warm spices and soft velvety texture of the eggplant work well with wines like Spanish Tempranillo from Rioja and Ribera del Duero." —Mia Van de Water (North End Grill)
"Vegetable dishes that pair well with big red wine include vegetable cassoulet with beans and spinach, risotto with mushrooms, or vegetable torta with grilled eggplant and zucchini wrapped in layers of puffed pastry. Think hearty mushrooms (like portobello or porcini), charred or stewed vegetables and tomatoes, as well as preparations that include cream or richer cheeses." —Chris Baggetta (Quince)
"Roasted sweet potatoes and beets are perfect with Spanish Rioja. Toss them in olive oil, cumin, coriander, black pepper, and fennel seed. Or try delicata squash—it's perfect with Beaujolais. Delicata squash has a hint of meatiness that plays perfectly with the overt fruitiness of a Beaujolais Nouveau. If you can find Bow and Arrow's Gamay Nouveau snatch it up and serve it with pan fried delicata squash. Crazy good." —Brent Braun (Levant)
"Our chef makes a pumpkin lasagna, with layers of roasted pumpkin, tofu, ricotta, savory herbs and fresh garlic-infused noodles and it's phenomenal with Sangiovese." —Angela Roman Aspito (The Signature Room at the 95th)
What's your favorite red wine and vegetable pairing?
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- ½ cup thickly sliced zucchini
- ½ cup sliced red bell pepper
- ½ cup sliced yellow bell pepper
- ½ cup sliced yellow squash
- ½ cup sliced red onion
- 16 large fresh button mushrooms
- 16 cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup lemon juice
- ½ clove garlic, crushed
Place the zucchini, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, squash, red onion, mushrooms, and tomatoes in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, and garlic. Pour over the vegetables. Cover bowl, and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat grill for medium heat.
Lightly oil grate. Remove vegetables from marinade, and place on preheated grill. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until tender.
How to Grill Fruit, Veggies, Pizza, Dessert & Everything That Isn’t Meat
Meat may be the star of the show at most BBQs, but there’s a whole lot else you can grill. Here’s how.
How to Grill Romaine Lettuce
Like to start your meal with a salad? You can grill that too. See our Guide to Grilling Romaine Lettuce.
How to Grill Corn on the Cob
Summer corn is essential, and summer corn on the grill is chef kiss-worthy—if you do it right. Here’s How to Cook Corn on the Grill.
How to Grill Watermelon
Another summer produce all-star, watermelon happens to take surprisingly well to the fire. See How to Make Grilled Watermelon.
How to Grill Fruit
Because watermelon is only the beginning open that gateway and you’ll want to throw everything on the grill, from cherries and peaches to strawberries—and you should. Learn How to Grill Summer Fruit.
How to Grill Avocados
One Chowhound likens a properly seared avocado to vegan foie gras, and you can use them in all kinds of ways, including grilled guac. See Grilled Avocado Recipes and Tips.
How to Grill Pizza
Unless you have a wood-fired pizza oven (in which case, can we come over?), your grill is actually the best place to cook your pizza at home. Learn all the fundamentals of Grilling Pizza.
How to Grill Bread
There are many other delicious carbs you can cook on the grill too, as these Grilled Bread Recipes prove.
How to Cook Cheese on the Grill
In case you want to ditch the crust—give “grilled cheese” a whole new meaning when you cook everyone’s favorite dairy product directly on the grill. Find out How to Grill Halloumi and Other Cheese.
How to Grill Lobster Tail, Shrimp, Oysters, Crabs, and Other Shellfish
Is fish meat? Sort of, but…sort of not—salmon steaks are in a whole ‘nother realm than porterhouses, at least. So when you’re in the mood for surf over turf, learn How to Grill Seafood. And check out some chef tips for the best fish to grill.
How to Grill Satisfying Meatless Meals
When meat is not on any part of the menu, there are still lots of meatless BBQ options, from tofu to veggie burgers. See some pointers on Grilling Meatless Meals Everyone Will Love.
6 Vegan Chefs Best Grilling Tips
From the most common mistake people make with plant-based meat to the one thing you should always do with your grilled veggies, these are the Best Vegan BBQ Tips from Chefs.
How to Grill Dessert
Fruit is not the only sweet treat you can grill (but it does appear in a lot of these desserts, because it’s seriously so. Good). When dinner’s done, see How to Grill Dessert.
Cancer Experts Issue Warning on Grilling Safety
WASHINGTON, DC – Cooking meat at high temperatures is known to produce cancer-causing chemicals. At the start of the grilling season, experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) are warning about the hidden health hazards of cookouts and campfires, and suggesting how grilling can be made safer.
“Research shows that diets high in red and processed meat increase risk for colon cancer,” said AICR’s Senior Director of Nutrition Programs, Alice Bender. “And grilling meat, red or white, at high temperatures forms potent cancer-causing substances. But by keeping five simple steps in mind, it is possible to make this summer’s backyard grilling both healthier and more flavorful.”
Step One: Mix Up the Meat
The first thing to understand is that the meat you choose to grill is just as important as how you grill it. Diets high in red meat (beef, pork and lamb), are linked to increased risk for colon cancer regardless of how you cook it. And even small amounts of processed meat (hot dogs, sausages) ramp up the risk.
So, don’t get stuck on steak, burgers and franks get creative with fish and chicken, using spices, herbs, hot peppers and sauces to liven up tender chunks of white meat. Remember, AICR recommends no more than modest quantities of red meat (12-18oz per week).
Step Two: Marinate, Marinate, Marinate
Charring and cooking meat, poultry and fish under high heat causes compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to form. These substances have shown the ability to damage our DNA in ways that make cancer more likely.
Studies have shown that marinating meat, poultry and fish for at least 30 minutes can reduce the formation of HCAs. Using a mixture that includes vinegar, lemon juice or wine along with oil, herbs and spices seems to be the key. Marinating the meat has a bigger impact on reducing HCA formation than reducing cooking temperature. Scientists are still investigating precisely how these marinades help lower HCAs, but it’s possible that compounds in these ingredients are responsible.
Step Three: Partially Pre-Cook
PAHs are deposited onto the meat by smoke. By reducing the amount of time meat spends exposed to flame by first partially cooking it in a microwave, oven or stove, you can reduce the amount of PAHs you generate and ingest.
(Be sure to place the partially cooked meat on the preheated grill immediately. This helps keep it safe from bacteria and other food pathogens that can cause illness.)
Step Four: Stay Low
Cook the meat over a low flame. Doing so can reduce the formation of both HCAs and PAHs, and help keep burning and charring to a minimum.
Reduce flare-ups by keeping fat and juices out of the fire: cut visible fat off the meat, move coals to the side of the grill and cook your meat in the center of the grill. Finally, cut off any charred portions of the meat before serving.
Step Five: Throw Some Color on the Grill
Grilled vegetables taste great! And by loading up on plant foods, you can cut back on red and processed meats. Colorful vegetables and fruits contain fiber, vitamins and naturally occurring compounds called phytochemicals. These substances add anti-cancer action to your backyard bash.
Try onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers or tomatoes in thick slices on the grill, in a grill basket or in chunks for kebabs. Another favorite: corn on the cob. Grilling brings out the sweetness in veggies, so even reluctant veggie eaters can find something to love.
The American Institute for Cancer Research helps the public understand the relationship between lifestyle, nutrition and cancer risk. We work to prevent cancer through innovative research, community programs and impactful public health initiatives.
This easy to make kimchi is a colorful, spicy variation of the more common cabbage kimchi. It is loaded with naturally good-for-you probiotics. Delicious served alongside Korean or other Asian-style dishes, it is also good mixed into rice and other cooked grains.
Easy Grilled Vegetables
Yield: 6 servings
prep time: 20 minutes
cook time: 10 minutes
total time: 30 minutes
Perfectly crisp-tender grilled veggies served with an amazing, tangy, garlicky basil sauce. You’ll want this sauce on everything!
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes, stemmed
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved
- 2 ears corn, each cut crosswise into 4 pieces
- 2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the basil garlic sauce
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons packed fresh parsley leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat grill to medium heat.
- To make the basil garlic sauce, combine olive oil, vinegar, Dijon, garlic, basil and parsley in the bowl of a food processor until smooth and vibrant green season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.
- Brush olive oil onto the asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms, corn and zucchini season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Add vegetables to grill, and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly charred all over, about 3-4 minutes for the asparagus, tomatoes and mushrooms and about 5-8 minutes for the corn and zucchini.
- Serve immediately with basil garlic sauce.
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More things to BBQ!
Here in Australia, the climate is so mild we pretty much cook on the BBQ all through the year. Here’s a little view preview of some of my favourite recipes!
And here are links to all the grilling recipes featured in the video above:
And if that’s not enough for you, have a browse through my entire BBQ Collection filled with all my favourite foods to cook up on the grill! – Nagi x