Sometimes the most simple dishes, like this platter of Grilled Vegetables with Herbed Cashew Ricotta, are the ones we crave the most. Every summer I look forward to making piles of grilled vegetables gathered from farmers markets so that I can add them to sandwiches, pasta, salads and pizza. But one of my favorite ways to eat them is to simply serve them on a beautiful platter for everyone to dig in. You can make large batches that are perfect for entertaining. Adding piles of creamy homemade vegan cashew cheese on top is an added bonus. It's rich, flavorful and a healthier alternative to regular cheese.
The Secret to Great Tasting Grilled Vegetables
Grilled vegetables, when prepared correctly, should be bursting with flavor. Believe it or not, I rarely (if ever) enjoy store-bought grilled vegetables because they lack just that, flavor. The problem basically boils down to 2 things (in my opinion).
- Vegetables must be seasoned BEFORE grilling. For whatever reason, most people don't do this. Vegetables need to be seasoned properly with salt! I know that advice may sound a little crazy coming from a dietitian. But, the purpose of salt isn't to make food salty. Its purpose is to enhance the natural flavor of food during the cooking process. Failure to do so is often what causes vegetables to taste bland and boring.
Kosher salt is the preferred salt used by most chefs. Its larger flakes make it less dense and more suitable than table salt or sea salt for salting food prior to cooking. Kosher salt does not contain iodine. That is another major advantage over table salt, because iodine has a tendency to leave food tasting bitter.
- Use a flavorful olive oil. I'm not saying you have to use the most expensive olive oil on the planet to get great tasting vegetables. What I would recommend though is to coat the vegetables before grilling with a good extra virgin olive oil. The flavors of the oil will permeate the vegetables and add a lot more depth. If you don't already have a favorite brand, Epicurious just did a comparison of some of the best extra virgin olive oils of 2021.
More Tips and Tricks
Eggplant, zucchini, peppers, cherry tomatoes and larger mushrooms are all great choices when it comes to grilling. Here are some more tips to get delicious tasting grilled veggies every time.
- Slice vegetables evenly. If you're not that great at grilling, then slicing vegetables (like zucchini and eggplant) evenly will help make things easier on you. Even slices will help ensure the vegetables cook together at the same rate. A mandolin slicer is a great kitchen tool that can help make this task a lot easier. Check out this article for a look at some of the best slicers for the job.
- Make sure your grill is very hot. I like to place my veggies onto the grill on high heat. You need to stay nearby as they won't need as much time to cook this way (but that will also depend on how thick the cuts are). With this method, the veggies get beautifully charred, yet still retain their bite.
- Allow the vegetables to get slightly charred. One of the benefits of cooking vegetables on the grill is that they develop that intense smoky flavor that makes them irresistible. Unlike beef, chicken and fish, vegetables do not produce any of the harmful chemicals associated with charring on the grill. This makes them an excellent choice for building a healthy meal. So don't be afraid to let them get those beautiful charred grill lines.
Making Vegan Cashew Ricotta
Vegan cashew ricotta is made with cashews that are either soaked overnight (6-12 hours) or soaked in very hot water (30 minutes). Softened cashews mimic the consistency of ricotta once they are blended together with some water. For this recipe I added garlic and fresh herbs for extra flavor. Many people like to add nutritional yeast to get that "cheesy" flavor. To be honest, I am not a fan. But, you have the option to add it if you like.
Plating & Serving Grilled Vegetables
Grilled vegetables look amazing served on a large platter garnished with fresh herbs and dollops of ricotta. I like to drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil for some added flavor.
Save leftover vegetables to add to sandwiches, pasta, salads or to enjoy as a snack!
Herbed Cashew Ricotta
- 2 cups raw cashews
- 4-6 tablespoon water
- 1 clove garlic
- handful favorite herbs (basil, thyme, chives)
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- Soak cashews in room temperature water overnight or in very hot water for about 30 minutes to about an hour.
- Rinse and drain cashews.
- Add cashews, garlic, herbs and a pinch of salt to blender and begin pulse adding 1 teaspoon of water at a time until a creamy ricotta consistency is achieved.
- Transfer to a bowl or container with an airtight lid.
- Refrigerate for up to 5-7 days.
Grilled Vegetables with Herbed Cashew Ricotta
- Mandolin slicer
- 2 zucchini (yellow and green) sliced about ¼ inch thick
- 2 eggplant sliced about ¼ inch thick
- mini sweet peppers left whole
- tomatoes, cherry tomatoes left whole
- 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Turn grill on high and allow to heat up (make sure grates on the grill are clean).
- Slice vegetables and place onto a large platter.
- Coat vegetables lightly with olive oil and season generously with salt.
- Add vegetables to grill and cook for about 4-5 minutes per side allowing vegetbales to get a nice deep grill mark.
- Return vegetables to platter and serve with vegan ricotta (optional) and extra fresh herbs like basil.