Although the cellular structure of many fruits and vegetables is more difficult to penetrate than that of meat, it is still possible to marinate produce. As with marinating meat, typically, the longer the better so that the produce can absorb as much flavor as possible. My marinade formula could certainly be used for meat, but of course, I prefer it on virtually any vegetable and some fruits.
In American cooking, marinating usually leads to grilling (or roasting), and today’s asparagus dish is no exception! While I prefer to eat the majority of my produce raw, there are some items that are simply unpalatable in a raw state. For me, asparagus is one of those, in most preparations. I have had thin shavings of raw asparagus atop a salad before, but there’s quite a bit of work that goes into such a preparation and with the two littles always eat my feet, there isn’t always the time. 🙂
Thus, I’m using asparagus as the vehicle for my pre-grilling vegetable marinade. When prepared al dente, asparagus—which comes in green, white and purple—is just delightful. Too mushy and too raw = no bueno. This fibrous vegetable is high in vitamin K and most notably, folic acid, which may ring a bell if you’ve ever taken prenatal vitamins. Asparagus is a true super food!
Hands down the best part of this marinade is that it need not be tossed once your veggies hit the grill. Marinating meat leaves you with contaminated leftovers; marinating veggies leaves you with a delicious salad dressing. Waste not, want not.
Lastly, while I use this marinade primarily on vegetables, you could also soak hearty fruits like pineapple to add a little sweetness to your kabobs. Enjoy!
FORMULA BASE: VEGETABLE MARINADE
Yields 1 cup marinade
- 2 pounds raw vegetables (or fruit) –> I’m using green asparagus.
- ½ cup acid (i.e. freshly squeezed citrus juice, vinegar, mustard, etc.) –> I’m using the juice of three lemons and one heaping tablespoon of whole grain mustard.
- ¼ cup oil* –> I’m using extra virgin olive.
- ¼ cup liquid sweetener (i.e. agave syrup, maple syrup, etc.) –> I’m using pure maple syrup.
- ¼ fresh herbs** –> I’m using rosemary.
- Salt, pepper, spices, and/or dried herbs to taste –> I’m using several grinds of black pepper and ½ tsp each garlic powder, onion powder, and pink Himalayan sea salt.
*When it comes to heating, not all oils are created equal. Ideally, when grilling (or sautéing, frying, or roasting), you want to use an oil with a higher smoke point. This allows you to optimally maintain nutrients and flavor when the oil is subjected to heat. In addition, it is safer to cook with oils that contain primarily monounsaturated fats, although occasionally cooking with those primarily composed of polyunsaturated won’t hurt. Today is one of those days for me as olive oil is not preferred for grilling, but it has the deeper flavor that I want. Nine times out of ten, I use refined coconut or avocado oil.
**If you don’t plan to save excess marinade, it doesn’t really matter how finely your herbs are chopped. (The bulk of my rosemary fell away in the grilling process and any excess leaves in the leftover marinade were easy to pick out. Rosemary, in my opinion, does not have an enjoyable texture, even when finely chopped.) If you do want to save the excess, however, finely chop your herbs so that you’ve got a more texturally appealing salad dressing when all is said and done.
Prepare your vegetables (peel, chop, etc.) and line them up in a 9 x 13 baking dish. You can toss them right in or skewer them.
Mix together all marinade ingredients, starting with the wet. I like to layer the ingredients in a single measuring up so that I don’t have to dirty multiple measuring cups.
Pour the marinade over your veggies and let them soak for several hours, turning occasionally. Once your vegetables are on the grill, drain any excess marinade and save in the fridge for salads.