Fast, easy, delicious, and nutritious. Also, another beautiful item to add to your antipasto repertoire!
As far as I’m concerned, antipasto spreads should be dominated by vegetables and “some” cured meats and cheeses. I love putting antipasto spreads out with delicious, carefully seasoned, and prepared veggies!
When we talk about “grilled” veggies, typically cut veggies are seasoned and coated in some oil then put on top of the flame. The result is a nice-looking platter with your classic grill marks. I think this is a great way to prepare grilled veggies but I rather do it another way.
Have I ever mentioned cast iron? The thing I love about cast iron, aside from its infinite uses, control, and the relentless heat it gives off, is the color it puts on your vegetables. When grilling over a flame you are almost sure to “over-char” parts of your veggies, creating a very bitter burnt taste. Not to mention, as far as aesthetics go, you are a slave to the grill marks that we are all so familiar with.
When you put your perfectly cut veggies on piping hot castiron, the char takes on a pattern that is naturally ingrained in the surface area of the veggie which I feel gives a much more artful look and taste. And, when we are putting our veggies on cast iron, they are going on a piping hot surface completely dry. No oil, no seasoning. I like to season after they are grilled especially with the oil. This way you will be getting that beautiful fresh olive oil taste not a burnt one. Don’t worry. If you get your cast iron hot enough there is no way they will stick.
So let’s begin…
This particular platter contains, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and red bell peppers. But you can use whatever veggies you like. I love throwing asparagus in there but the day of the photo it did not look so good at the market so I omitted it.
Wash your vegetables well with cold water. We are cutting everything at approximately ¾ of an inch.
Fire up your cast iron with the largest surface area and let it get hot on high heat for a good ten minutes. While your cast iron is getting hot slice your veggies. I like to get the eggplant out the way first. It’s the most temperamental and there’s a very fine line regarding when you should take it off the heat and when you should not.
Place your eggplant on the cast iron and check the bottom in about two to three minutes. It should have a nice char on it and be ready to flip. By the way, use long metal tongs (not a spatula) when working with your items on cast iron. We want to stay away from scraping the bottom of the pan and adding “soot” to our food. Char the opposite side for about two minutes or so and that should be it. You want the eggplant to feel a little too firm for eating because when you take it off it will continue to cook. I don’t salt my eggplant prior to this. The heat is so extreme I feel having some water in the eggplant is beneficial but that’s just me. Set the eggplant pieces aside to cool on a wire rack. Avoid stacking things on top of each other. We want to maintain crispy veggies with a firm (but tender) feel.
Now continue with the rest of your veggies in the same fashion. The green and yellow squash, along with the red bell peppers are easier to deal with as opposed to the eggplant. It’s hard to put a time on how long your veggies should be on the cast iron because it all depends on the shape they are in when you purchase them. Just make sure you choose robust, firm-healthy veggies at the market for the best results, and they are cut at about ¾ inch.
Once the squash and peppers are done I like to slice a small red onion in thick rings and put that on the cast iron as well. I don’t go too far with the onion. Just soften it up a bit and mellow it out.
Once all your veggies are done they should be spread apart when cooling a bit (not on top of each other). While they are still relatively warm, arrange them on your favorite platter.
Season with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and just a splash of WHITE balsamic vinegar. Please do not use regular balsamic. It will destroy the look of those beautiful veggies you roasted so well. If you are not into balsamic then use a splash of white wine vinegar. I don’t put the veggies in a mixing bowl and toss them. I just arrange them on a platter with good surface area, slightly overlapping them, and season the top. Dry seasoning first, then vinegar, and last the oil. It will all seep in. No need to mangle up your veggies in a mixing bowl after we treated them so gently. Also, you will see in the ingredient break down we are using minimal seasoning. We want to taste the veggies first, nothing else.
Garnish with fresh chopped Italian parsley and the chopped grilled onion. If you prefer you could leave the onion in rings.
I hope you enjoyed this post! Thanks for visiting.
All veggies are cut across the width at ¾ inch thickness with skin on including the eggplant. Except for the peppers, cut lengthwise at ¾ inch width after cleaned of pith, seeds, and stem.
1 small globe/American eggplant
1 large zucchini
1 medium-size yellow squash
2 medium-size red, yellow, and/or orange bell peppers (avoid green)
Splash of white balsamic vinegar
¾ of a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of chopped Italian parsley
1 small chopped grilled red onion
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste