Confession: I’ve baked, fried, roasted, steamed, simmered, and slow-cooked, but until this past weekend, I had never GRILLED. Ironic, because I love any and all foods tossed on the grill, char marks and all. But something about the thick metalwork, smell of gas, fire and sooty clean-up intimidated me until I decided that summer is too short not to enjoy sweet summer squash on the grill- at home. So I faced my fears.
Turns out, grilling is super easy. It took me all of twenty minutes to transform a batch of veggies into a healthy and satisfying early-evening dinner, plus I had time to flip through the latest issue of Los Angeles Magazine while waiting. This particular day I halved zucchini, yellow summer squash, red onion and lemons, coated them in olive oil, showered them with salt and pepper, and laid them flat on a hot gas grill. Ten minutes on either side, and they were ready to go. Even mundane vegetables become sweet, smoky, and decadent-tasting with some time over extra-high heat. Grilled red onion is particularly amazing- think “guilt-free onion rings”.
I thought this particular cooking breakthrough deserved a batch of my special sauce (not secret sauce, otherwise I wouldn’t share the recipe with you). I first came up with this recipe in Morocco, when I was craving an aioli dip I could use with some curried chicken I had sauteed. I had on hand raw cashews, chili pepper, garlic, salt and water- and this unbelievably creamy, flavorful vegan sauce was born. This sauce can verge on sweet or spicy, and makes anything taste like it’s just got to be bad for you (and yet, it’s NOT).
Grilled veggies drizzled or dipped in a creamy, garlicky, spicy-sweet sauce, and you have dinner made. Try grilling chicken breast to make the meal a little more substantial, and try to save some of the grilled vegetables for the next day to make the best cold summer salad you’ve ever had.
- 1 green zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise
- 1 yellow summer squash, sliced in half lengthwise
- 1 red onion, sliced in half lengthwise
- 1 yellow lemon, sliced in half lengthwise
- 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil
- coarse salt and pepper
- Coat all vegetables and lemon in olive oil. I laid them on a baking sheet lined with tin foil and then drizzled them with the oil. Season generously with coarse salt and pepper (i.e. the kind that comes out of a grinder).
- Light the grill and let it heat up for a few minutes, until veggies will sizzle when they hit the grill. Lay all the veggies flat on the grill, turn the heat to medium-high, cover, and let grill for ten minutes. After ten minutes, turn over with a pair of tongs and let the other side grill. Remove from heat.
Ingredients (special sauce)
- 1/2 cup cashews raw (IMPORTANT: they must be raw or else they won’t puree correctly)
- 1 small chili pepper, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, finely diced
- 2-4 tablespoons coconut milk (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Soak the cashews in 1/2 cup water for at least one hour (the longer they soak, the easier it will be to get them “saucy”).
- Add cashews with water to a blender or small food processor. Add the chili, garlic, and salt, and puree. Pour in 2 tablespoons coconut milk (or water). Add additional coconut milk or water, a tiny bit at a time, until you’ve reached desired consistency. Dip can be a little thick or more drizzly, depending on what you like, and what you’re using it for.
Try not to eat the sauce all out of the jar. It’s that good.