Recently I fired up my charcoal grill to roast a bunch of vegetables. Rather than waste the coals, I used them to roast some extra vegetables to be used to make other items. When I grill vegetables I rarely add a lot of extra flavors since the grilling itself lends a lovely smokiness to whatever you’re cooking. I will typically toss what I plan to grill with olive oil or vegetable oil and a bit of salt and pepper and then let the grill do the rest. Once in a while, I’ll also add in some dried herbs or chili flakes. It can depend on my mood or if I have another use in mind where I don’t want to narrow down my options by pre-seasoning the vegetables.
This time I had two things in mind.
Idea One: Carrot Soup
I wanted to use up some carrots that I had in my veggie bin in the refrigerator. I had forgotten them and didn’t want them to go to waste. Like other root vegetables, unless you slice them very thin, you can’t really cook them directly on a grill. My solution for times I want to grill root vegetables is to first cook them in foil packs in which they’ll mostly steam and then put them on the grill once they’re mostly tender to add the charring and flavor of the grill.
For my small amount of carrots, I simply peeled them and put them into two small foil packs with olive oil, salt and pepper. While I was grilling other things, the two foil packs just hung out at the edges getting tender. After about 15 minutes or so, I checked on the carrots and they were pretty tender. At that point, I put them into my grill pan on the grill and cooked them until they were charred and tender. I was then able to just put them into a container for another day.
In a separate batch of veggies, I had put some char on some red onions. I pulled off the outside layer of the onions (the smokiest part) and put that in with my carrots. I knew I was going to want a little bit of something else to go in with my carrots for a soup.
On a night after work where I was getting home later and couldn’t face cooking anything that would take a while, I decided to use my carrots and that small amount of onion. I had a bit of chicken stock left over from some other cooking so I used my small countertop blender to blend together the carrot, onion, and chicken broth. I put the blended mixture into a small soup pot to heat and added more broth to get the thickness I desired. I left it pretty thick. Because I had seasoned both the carrot and the onion with salt and pepper, there wasn’t any extra seasoning required and the smokiness of the grill added a very nice note to the sweetness of the carrots and onion. It took seconds to blend and minutes to heat. I served it in a large bowl with a dollop of sour cream. It was a lot of flavor for very little effort.
Idea Two: Poblano “flavor bombs” for later
In our veggie delivery we received a fair number of poblana peppers and red “torpedo” onions. I didn’t have anything particular in mind to make so I decided to make some “flavor bombs” to throw into dishes later once poblanos would no longer be in season. Once you do the work to create a flavorful mixture, you simply freeze it in ice cube trays or muffin tins and then store them in the freezer for any time you need a little flavor. They can be good thrown into soups and sauces. If you get desperate, you could simply thaw them and use them as a salsa-like dip.
While the grill was hot, I threw in the poblanos, a couple small jalapenos, and onions that had been tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper. I wanted the peppers to get really black and charred. For the onions, I was looking for tenderness and some grill flavor. I moved the onions to less hot areas of the grill once they were as tender as I wanted, but I let the peppers go until they were extra charred.
Once blackened on all sides, I took off the peppers and put them into a covered bowl to steam. Once they were cool enough to handle, I peeled off the charred skin and removed the seeds from inside. I was left with tender poblano and jalapeno flesh without any toughness from the skin. I put the roasted peppers and onion into a container and put it in the fridge for another day. If I had thought of it, I would have grilled some garlic as well, but I didn’t think of it until later.
Like the carrot soup, I used my small counter top blender to mix the roasted poblanos, the cooked onion (the charred outsides went into my carrot soup), and just enough broth to make a smooth but still thick sauce. Years ago I bought some extra large silicone ice cube trays that work really well when making these frozen flavor blocks since you can push them out easily once frozen. I transferred my pureed pepper mixture to the tray into 6 evenly sized blocks and put it into the freezer to freeze.
The next day, I popped them out into a freezer bag for use later this fall or winter. They’d be great in a crock pot pork dish. Tossed in with pasta or rice. In a nice vegetable soup. It’s nice having things like this in the freezer so you are always ready to add flavor or to make pantry items a bit more special.
I made some “basil bombs” recently too. Just like making pesto, I mixed up fresh basil and olive oil in a food processor and then froze it in silicone muffin tins until solid. The silicone makes removing the discs easy since you can push from the bottom. Since I don’t know if pesto is what I’ll want to use them for, I left out the garlic, nuts and cheese. If you wanted pesto on demand, that would work too. Instead, I just wanted to have “bombs” of basil flavor at the ready later once the basil is all long gone for the season.
As someone who has issues with “losing” items in the freezer, these little flavor bombs never get lost. It’s easy to toss them into dishes whenever you need just a little more flavor.