Grilled Peppers and Onions
Grilled peppers and onions are my answer to: “I’m grilling. What do I serve as a side dish?” I always have the ingredients in my pantry; when I’m at a loss, I turn to this recipe.
They are also a great way to learn how to grill vegetables. I learned the best way to grill most vegetables (medium to medium-low heat, cook until soft) by practicing this recipe.
Grilled peppers and onions are very versatile. I’m making them Italian style here, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. They become Asian with peanut oil and soy sauce; Mexican with vegetable oil and lime juice; Spanish with olive oil and sherry vinegar. In other words, this recipe crosses almost all cultures. It is a classic “what grows together, goes together” pairing. Peppers and onions come out of the garden at the same time; at some point in history, every cook has thought “hey, what if I combine those two…”
After grilling the onions and peppers, I serve them a few different ways:
- As a relish: I dice them, toss them with their sauce, and use them as a topping for sausages or burgers.
- As a vegetable side dish: I slice them crosswise into strips, and serve them on the side, or pile them on tortillas.
- As a sandwich: I leave them whole, put them in a bun, and top with some cheese and grainy mustard.
Finally, if you don’t eat them all, the leftovers will last for a few days. Leftover peppers and onions make a smoky topping for sandwiches and salads.
*As I said, this is a very versatile recipe. Try it out!
- Grill (I used a Weber Summit. Here is the current version of my grill.)
- 1 large onion, ends trimmed and cut into ½" thick slices
- 3 red bell peppers (or a mix of red, green and yellow) cut into planks
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare the peppers and onions: Trim the ends from the onion, and cut it into ½ inch rings, leaving the papery outer skin on the rings. Cut the peppers into planks by chopping the top off, turning it cut side down, and cutting along the sides of the pepper to remove the sides (the "planks") from the core. (See pictures below). Sprinkle the onions and peppers with the salt, and then brush with the olive oil.
- Prepare the grill: Set the grill up for direct heat cooking at medium-low. For my Weber Summit, this means preheating the grill for ten minutes with all burners on high. Then, I clean the grates with my grill brush, and turn the burners down to medium-low.
- Grill the peppers and onions: Put the onions and peppers over the medium-low heat. If you are cooking on a gas grill, keep the lid closed. Cook for three minutes, then flip the peppers and onions. Cook for another three minutes, then flip, rotating 90 degrees (to get diamond grill marks). Cook for another three minutes, then flip and cook for a final three minutes, or until the peppers and onions are softened. (Sometimes, smaller pieces of pepper will blacken before they start to soften. If there are pieces that need to cook more, but they're getting too black, stack them on top of each other and move to a cooler part of the grill.)
- Marinate the peppers and onions: Put the peppers and onions in a bowl, and pour the balsamic vinegar on top. Toss to coat, then let rest for at least five minutes. Ten to fifteen minutes would be better.
- Serve: Cut any overly blackened edges from the peppers. Dice the peppers and onions for a relish, or slice across into strips, or leave the peppers whole and break the onions into individual rings. Move them to a serving dish, and top with any remaining balsamic vinegar from the marinating bowl. Taste for seasoning, and add salt, pepper, and more vinegar if needed.
5. Serve: Cut any overly blackened edges from the peppers. Dice the peppers and onions for a relish, or slice across into strips, or leave the peppers whole and break the onions into individual rings. Move them to a serving dish, and top with any remaining balsamic vinegar from the marinating bowl. Taste for seasoning, and add salt, pepper, and more vinegar to taste.
*First, refer to the ideas I listed in the opening – this recipe can go a bunch of different directions based on the marinade.
*Fajita peppers: In the marinade, replace half the balsamic with Worcestershire sauce. Cut the peppers and onions into strips instead of dicing them.
*Grilled Rajas: For more heat in your peppers, replace one or more of the red peppers with poblano peppers. Cook them the same way as the red bell peppers.
*I like this as a side dish because I can make it on half the grill while my main course cooks on the other half.
*If the grill is too hot, and the skin of the peppers is overly blackened, don’t tell anyone! Pretend they were supposed to be roasted red peppers and peel the blackened skin off the peppers before cutting them up.
*I leave the skin on the onions. When I’m cutting, and putting them on the grill, it helps hold them together. After the onions have been on the grill for a few minutes, the skin dries up and pulls away from the onion. It is easy to remove at that point.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
I don’t remember, specifically. I think it was Cooks Illustrated and Steven Raichlen, but I’ve done this recipe for so long that I forgot who taught me the basic technique. I know Stephen and Cooks have both had good suggestions on how to grill vegetables, so I’m going with them.
Cook’s Illustrated MagazineSteven Raichlen: How to Grill
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