Grilled Garden Veggies with Pasta

Anyone who has a garden knows that it can be a challenge this time of summer. The tomatoes are really starting to come into their own (a large bowl daily), the beans are continuing to produce every day or two, and yes, the zucchini is nearly at the nuisance stage.

But that’s the kind of challenge I relish because I like to can and freeze vegetables and love to cook them. There hasn’t been a day in the past two to three weeks that I haven’t been harvesting produce or putting up goodies for the winter. Some days, I’m doing both.

The tomatoes have been particularly hard to keep up with this year because I have two cherry tomato plants. That wasn’t my intention. It turns out one plant that was labeled Old German (a heirloom variety) wasn’t that at all. It was another cherry tomato plant.

One way I keep ahead of the game is to cook a meal with fresh vegetables at least three or four times a week. A favorite is to use cherry tomatoes in a marinara sauce along with eggplant, peppers, onion and a squash. (I’ve found that a food processor chops the tomatoes so nicely that even the skins are aren’t detectable in the sauce.) And it’s wonderful over pasta.

One way I haven’t tried to use the cherry tomatoes is on the grill. But I discovered the following recipe just a day or two ago that calls for the tasty little red orbs to be grilled along with other vegetables and to be served with pasta.

Grilled Veggies with Penne
1 pound penne pasta
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1/3 cup fruity olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium (about 6 to 8 inches) eggplant
2 medium red onions
2 medium zucchini
1 large red pepper
½ teaspoon favorite salt-free all-purpose seasoning, such as Mrs. Dash
1 7- to 8-ounce container cherry-size fresh mozzarella, drained
1/3 cup fresh sliced basil or oregano leaves for garnish
Preheat the grill to medium-high. When the grill is hot, oil the grates.
While the grill heats up, cook the pasta according to package directions and prepare the vegetables. When pasta is done, reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water, drain the pasta and keep it warm.
Place tomatoes on a double piece of foil. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Enclose the tomatoes in the foil and place on the grill while you prepare the other vegetables.
Use a serrated knife to cut the eggplant into ½-inch-thick slices. Slice the red onion into ½-inch-thick slices. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut the red pepper into eighths.
Place all vegetables on a sided baking sheet. Brush both sides of vegetables with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil (using more if needed), sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper and salt-free seasoning.
Place all the vegetables on the grill and grill about 5 minutes on each side or until they are tender. They should have nice grill marks on each side. If some vegetables get done before the others, move them to a cooler part of the grill.
Check the tomatoes; they should have burst open in the foil packet and be nice and juicy.
Remove all the vegetables from the grill, placing them on the same baking sheet. Cut the eggplant, zucchini and red pepper into 1-inch pieces. Separate the red onion into rings.
In a large serving bowl, toss the hot pasta with the grilled vegetables. Add the tomatoes with all the juices and toss to coat. If the mixture seems too dry, drizzle with some of the reserved pasta water or use a bit more olive oil. Add the mozzarella and toss again. Serve in pasta bowls garnished with basil or oregano.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 534 calories, 34 percent of calories from fat, 20 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 69 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein, 863 milligrams sodium, 30 milligrams cholesterol, 11 grams fiber.