If you think about it, the Vineyard is a pretty veggie-friendly place. We’ve got farm stands and farmer’s markets and community-supported agriculture programs. We have vegetable gardens at every single one of our schools now (hurrah!), and if all the prize-winning veggies at the Ag Fair are any indication, hundreds of home vegetable gardens too. I’m pretty sure that most Vineyarders are about as pro-veggie as they are, say, pro–bay scallop, or pro–lobster roll. Heck, people even buy gnarly rutabagas and three-foot-long fennel bulbs at my tiny farm stand. Somebody’s cooking this stuff!

All this makes life pretty swell for a cookbook author like me who winds up developing about a hundred vegetable recipes a year. Whew, yes – that’s a lot. But here I can always find good veggies to cook with and plenty of friends willing to taste-test. And I have one other secret that lets me create an endless variety of vegetable recipes: a repertoire of good techniques. I always begin working on a recipe by thinking about what kind of technique – roasting, braising, sautéing, or stir-frying, for example – will work best with a particular vegetable. What will create the most delicious results, so that everyone will love the dish? Because my goal in life is to convert the veggie skeptics of the world (not you, of course!) into believers.

Putting the word “grilled” in front of “veggies” is a good place to start. Like roasted veggies, grilled veggies tend to feel a bit more ecumenical – and a lot more delicious – than say, steamed veggies or even raw veggies. The flavor factor is huge, because the high heat of grilling brings out the best in a vegetable. Grilled mushrooms taste meatier, grilled asparagus gets nuttier, grilled peppers go all sweet and fruity. Actually, I think grilled veggies are so delicious, so fun to cook, and so universally appealing, that I take them one step further and turn them into dinner – in the form of main-dish salads.

I am sneaky like that, I admit. In fact, my new cookbook, The Fresh & Green Table (from Chronicle Books this June), is all about turning vegetables into main events. But since I’m not a vegetarian (just a veggie lover), I try to think like an omnivore and create recipes for dishes everyone will like – things like pizzas, pastas, soups, stews, frittatas, gratins, pilafs, tarts, and, naturally, salads.

While I often use roasted vegetables in main-dish salads during the winter, it’s those grilled veggies that star during late spring and summer. Here on the Vineyard, this works out especially well since a day spent outdoors (which is where most of us are after the long winter) can easily segue into dinner when the grill comes on. Maybe you’re growing a few of your own salad greens and you have only to walk over to the garden to snip a few. Or perhaps you’ve just picked up a lovely bag of greens from Chilmark’s North Tabor Farm or Blackwater Farm in West Tisbury. Maybe you’ve snuck into Morning Glory’s greenhouse in Edgartown and bought a bundle of freshly cut asparagus, or you’ve lucked into one of those cute pints of tiny little new potatoes from Edgartown farmer Bob Daniels.

Even if you’ve only got a zucchini and a bell pepper from the grocery store, you can think about making a grilled veggie salad. My favorite recipe from The Fresh & Green Table is my Grilled Zucchini, Bell Pepper, Goat Cheese, and Grilled Bread Salad (see page 72). So yummy. But the Grilled Sesame Ginger Asparagus and Portobello Salad with Napa and Spinach Slaw (page 73) is delicious in a whole different kind of way. (Think Asian, not Italian.) And here’s the thing – any of these salads can stand up to a little meat on the side, so there’s no need to worry about the carnivores. Sometimes I even go ahead and include a little meat, fish, or shellfish in the salad, like in my Grilled Potato, Shrimp, Green Bean, and Summer Tomato Salad (page 70).

Now I hear you saying, “But, but, I’m not sure I know how to grill veggies!” Or, “I always burn them!” Don’t worry; I’ve given you a list of my favorite grilling tips in the sidebar below. And I have to tell you, there’s really only one important thing to know: Grilling is all about getting to know your grill, which means cooking on it a lot. It’s the old “practice makes perfect” thing, so just get started! I could stand here all day and give you detailed instructions (which, because I can’t help myself, I do in the recipes on the following pages), but what works on my grill might turn out slightly differently on yours. Your medium heat might be my medium-high.

These days, I’m a gas-grill girl. While I love a charcoal fire, for everyday cooking you can’t beat the convenience of a gas grill. Plus, since most vegetables are on the grill for such a short time, there’s hardly time for them to absorb the extra flavor they might get from a charcoal fire. That said, if you’re a charcoal griller, you can easily use my recipes, since you’ve probably already learned the first trick I mentioned (getting to know your grill – or in this case, your fire). I always find that building a two-level fire is smart when using charcoal. If you bank your coals to one side, you’ll have both a hotter area and a cooler area to cook over. The hottest area of any grill is great for searing, but not all vegetables will cook completely through with only direct heat. Stubborn vegetables like eggplant and onions can wind up undercooked – even if they’re well-browned on the outside – if they don’t get a little time to finish cooking off the direct heat (on a cooler part of the grill). Even on a gas grill, heating one area (like two out of three burners) slightly higher is a good idea.

Lastly, while these main-dish salads are impressive – and perfect if you’re, say, having another couple over for dinner – there are nights when you’d probably like to do something simpler with grilled veggies. To that end, I encourage you to try the different components within these recipes. Those grilled potatoes are real family-pleasers and they’re just as good with hamburgers as they are in a salad. If you’ve ever roasted a bell pepper under a broiler or over an open flame, you’ll be amazed at how much easier (and hands-off) this is on a covered grill. And grilled asparagus – wow, so fast, so easy. Even something like the quick-to-make Double Tomato Dressing (page 73) is so versatile that you could use it atop any grilled fare in the summertime. And grilled bread is just about the easiest, most delicious thing you can pull out of your grilling bag of tricks – any night, any time of the year.

My favorite veggie grilling tips

Like a boy scout, be prepared. Have a grilling kit: spring-loaded, long-handled (but not too long-handled) tongs (I like OXO’s 12-inch kitchen tongs, which are less bulky than grilling tongs), sheet pans on which to spread sliced vegetables, a timer, an old dish towel or potholder for handling hot stuff, a stiff wire-bristled brush for cleaning the grill before you start, and a grill basket if you like (see below).

Set up extra surface area near the grill. If your grill does not have a table extension, you’ll need to set up a little table nearby to hold sheet pans of veggies, grilling equipment, and plates or platters for finished veggies.

Make sure grill grates are hot and clean. Pre-heat a gas grill for 15 minutes, and make sure to scrape grill grates clean. Use tongs and a paper towel dabbed with oil to lightly oil the grates if possible. When cooking, keep a gas grill covered – it convects heat much better this way. And as I said, never be afraid to moderate your heat up or down once you get to know how hot your grill runs – and what kind of results you get from the suggested times in recipes.

Give your veggies their best shot with thin, even cuts. Slice or cut vegetables on the diagonal (so they don’t fall through the grates) and to a thickness (often between 3/8 inch and 1/2 inch) that will cook through in the same amount of time it takes to brown both sides. If you cut veggies too thick, they will still be unpleasantly raw on the inside when the outside looks done.

Finish some vegetables on lower heat or wrapped in foil. Even cut thinly, onion slices and eggplant slices can still be undercooked when browned on both sides. You can transfer them to lower heat to finish cooking (be sure the lid is down). Or you can use my favorite trick: Stack the veggies, wrap them in foil, and let them steam off the heat to finish cooking through. Grilled vegetables are not going to be “crisp” anyway, so the moist heat of the foil package simply allows for a much more tender, pleasant texture.

Spread veggies out in one layer and don’t disturb. Follow the recipe guidelines for timing and allow your veggies – especially potential “stickers” like summer squash – to cook undisturbed before flipping them once. (Veggies do not benefit from continual flipping.)

For some veggies, a grill basket works best. These handy wok- or bowl-shaped containers are available in most housewares and kitchen stores, and cooking in one is a little like having your stir-fry pan on the grill. The baskets allow you to cook vegetables (such as green beans and carrots) that would otherwise fall through the cracks.

No matter how you cook the veggies, make sure they’re well coated in olive oil (or vegetable oil if you prefer) first. Use a large bowl or large zip-top bag to mix and coat them thoroughly. The purpose of the oil is to carry the heat around and through the vegetable. Without it, you will have a dry, undercooked, crispy critter, so don’t skimp here. Be modestly generous with salt too.

The following grilled salads from The Fresh & Green Table by Susie Middleton were originally published along with this article.

Grilled Potato, Shrimp, Green Bean, and Summer Tomato Salad

Grilled Zucchini, Bell Pepper, Goat Cheese, and Grilled Bread Salad with Double Tomato Dressing

Grilled Sesame Ginger Asparagus and Portobello Salad with Napa and Spinach Slaw