10 Fall Vegetables You Should Put on the Grill

Grilling

Fire up your grill and get ready for some serious smoke.

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With so many delicious seasonal vegetables that are begging to be cooked over a live fire, fall is no time to put the grill away. [Photographs: Joshua Bousel]

Fall is no time to put your grill in storage. The cooler season not only makes it more comfortable to stand by a sweltering fire, but it also provides a host of seasonal goodies to put over the flames. To give you plenty of ideas, here are ten fall vegetables that are great when grilled, along with instructions on how to prepare each one.

Sweet Potatoes

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Nothing in the fall harvest gets me as excited as sweet potatoes. Sure these tubers are available year-round, but their heartiness, sweetness, and deep orange color epitomize autumn. You can easily tell how much I love them by the number of grilling recipes I've developed for them over the years. I've done them roasted in the embers, cut into wedges, made into a salad, mashed, and even sliced in Hasselback fashion. Their versatility is matched by their deliciousness in every one of these recipes.

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Brussels Sprouts

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It took me a while to come around toBrussels sprouts. I never understood the appeal of these semi-bitter, tiny brassicas until I experienced them cooked until crisp on the outside. Luckily, the high, direct heat of the grill is perfect for achieving that effect. For the best texture, they can be softened on the inside either by parboiling them before grilling, or roasting them over indirect heat on the grill either before or after searing them over the coals.

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Pumpkin

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Is there anything more representative of fall than the pumpkin? While it's best to leave the big ones for carving, the smaller sugar pumpkins are great for roasting on the grill. Over indirect heat, halved sugar pumpkins take a good 45-60 minutes to completely soften. This gives them ample time to pick up a little smokiness, making the grill a more interesting choice over the oven. The soft, sweet flesh of the pumpkin can be scooped out and enjoyed as is, or turned into a whole variety of things—I've done both pumpkin ravioli and curried pumpkin soup with excellent results.

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Butternut Squash

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Similar to pumpkin, butternut squash takes a while to grill over indirect heat. But it comes out amazingly sweet and creamy, which is why I go back to this vegetable again and again. The only grilled butternut squash recipe I have on Serious Eats is this rich and creamy soup with fennel-seasoned Italian sausage, which pairs beautifully with the squash.

Butternut squash need not be pureed into a soup, though: it can be sliced about 1/2-inch thick, oiled and seasoned, grilled until tender over indirect heat, and finally seared over direct heat for a caramelized finish. Serve it as a simple side with a sprinkling of sage. It would go great with hearty grilled pork chops or steaks.

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Leeks

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When fall comes around, you're more likely to find leeks than green onions on my grill. While I prefer not to par-cook squash and sweet potatoes prior to grilling, I like to boil leeks before finishing them on the grill. To do it, I cook the leeks in boiling water until they just begin to become tender. Then I shock them in ice water to stop the cooking and set their color. These parboiled leeks can then be grilled over direct heat until they develop a nice char—about five minutes per side—and become completely tender throughout. The mild onion flavor of the leeks does well in salads, but I'm just as content eating them straight off the grill. They get even better though when paired with romesco—the sweet and creamy roasted red pepper and tomato sauce from Spain.

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Cabbage

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In preparation for this vegetable round-up, I tried out Kenji's recent method of grilling cabbage and it immediately became one of my favorites on this list. I just can't get over how great those crisp-tender cabbage leaves are once lightly charred on their edges. In the recipe I came up with, the cabbage's nutty flavor was paired with a ginger-miso sauce that seeped between the leaves, guaranteeing that eat bite was a well-dressed mixture of the crunchy cabbage with some mild ginger heat, mellow sweetness, and savory miso richness.

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Carrots

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Carrots transform from crisp and rigid when raw to soft, sweet, and slightly charred when grilled. The only hard part is preventing them from falling through the grates into the embers below. To make sure that doesn't happen, I choose larger carrots and cut them on the bias into 3/4-inch slices. You can place them straight on the grill, but to speed things up, they can be parboiled first. Since carrots can withstand—and benefit from—the high heat of a charcoal fire, I place them close to, but not directly over, a two-zone fire. This ensures a fair amount of caramelization without much fear of burning them. I like preparing my grilled carrots with a little extra flavor, either with an earthy spice rub and/or a finishing glaze. This sweet soy glaze is especially delicious.

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Cauliflower

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High heat is one of the best ways to cook cauliflower, and the grill can deliver it like nothing else. The name of the game is developing a deeply browned crust, crispy edges, and a tender interior. Cutting cauliflower into florets can make it difficult to grill though, since it can be a challenge to constantly watch over so many little pieces, not to mention how easily they can fall between the grates. Instead, I slice my cauliflower into large vertical slices with the stem intact. I then can easily grill these larger chunks over direct heat until they are nicely browned and lightly charred on the edges. At this point though, the cauliflower is usually not cooked all the way through, so I move them over to indirect heat, cover the grill, and let them continue to cook until tender throughout—about another 10-20 minutes depending on the size of your slices and heat of the fire.

This particular recipe coats the cauliflower in a Pakistani-inspired spice mixture that leaves it a beautiful yellow color with an earthy and slight spicy flavor.

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Fennel

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For the longest time fennel was forbidden in my house—my wife really hated it and I can't say I cared much for its strong anise flavor either. Then one dark and cold winter evening, a friend of ours served us a vegetable medley that included fennel that had been slow roasted below a couple chickens for a long time in the oven. My wife and I both marveled how it had been transformed into a sweet and complex vegetable...one that we both enjoyed.

Not long after that meal, I decided to try my hand at grilling some fennel, which I did by cutting it into 1/2-inch slices and grilling it over direct heat until it was nicely charred and crisp-tender. I then assembled it into a salad with almonds, orange slices, and mint that I dressed with an orange vinaigrette.

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Acorn Squash

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Acorn squash is a lot like pumpkin or butternut squash in terms of cooking method: the flesh needs a long time on the grill to completely soften. But the flavor more than pays off for the investment, coming out as a complex mixture of sweetness and nuttiness. Plus, the small size of acorn squash makes it perfect for serving in halves. To prep the squash for grilling, I just split it in half, scoop out the seeds, brush on a little butter, then roast them over indirect heat until tender, about 45 to 60 minutes.

A little extra seasoning goes a long way with acorn squash, and in this recipe I added brown sugar, sage, and maple syrup to the butter to deepen the sweetness and give it a nice herbal touch. Halfway through cooking, I sprinkle on Asiago cheese, which bumps up the squash's natural nuttiness.

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