Updated on 09.07.14

Summer Meal Series #2: Grilled Vegetable Kabobs, Barbecued Beans, and Rice

Trent Hamm

What’s on the table this summer?

Summer Cookout: Vegetable Kabobs

Our meals are usually pretty heavy on the vegetables and fruits by default. Often, our main course is a meat of some sort – fish, beef, pork, and chicken are all game – but those are almost always paired by at least one vegetable side and at least one fruit side.

Sometimes, though, we go all the way and prepare fully vegetarian meals. This is one of those times.

Grilled vegetable kabobs are a tremendous summer dish because they can be assembled out of whatever vegetables happen to be on sale in your area at the time. Dozens of different kinds of vegetables work, from zucchini and cherry tomatoes to peppers and mushrooms. From squash and onions to potatoes and sweet corn. Broccoli and cauliflower work, too. The key isn’t some perfect medley of vegetables – the key is what’s on sale.

This time, we used these vegetables for our kabobs:

Vegetables and mushrooms

An onion (red ones are a bit more tasty, but the yellows were on sale). Button mushrooms. Cherry tomatoes. Bell peppers in a variety of colors. And a zucchini. These were the kabob-appropriate vegetables that were either on sale or are already pretty low in price around here.

An exact cost breakdown and an ingredient list is difficult here because the meal is so variable. Just use whatever vegetables are on sale and you’re good to go.

Grilled Vegetable Kabobs: Step by Step

1. Prep the vegetables.

Rinse off all of the vegetables and brush the mushrooms clean. Once that’s done, start slicing. I like to peel the zucchini, but that’s entirely up to you, and I also discarded the insides of the peppers and some parts of the onions.

The nice part about having a fully vegetarian meal is that any scraps that are left over from preparation can go straight in your composter. I wound up with a bowl full of scraps:


The contents of the bowl wound up straight in our composter. They’re now happily composting, turning slowly into perfect nutrients for future garden crops.

Anyway, back to the slicing. Sarah and I took turns slicing the vegetables for the kabobs. Here, Sarah is showing off her slicing technique on an orange bell pepper.

Sarah chops vegetables

We usually slice the peppers into sixteen equally sized pieces. We chop it into quarters, clean out the insides, then chop each of those quarters into four equal parts.

We do something similar with the onions, except I usually chop the onion into six equal pieces, then slice each of those wedges three times. This gives plenty of pieces for the kabob.

2. Assemble the kabobs

After everything is sliced, assembly begins:

Assembling kabobs

I simply pick up a bamboo skewer and push vegetables down on it, alternating vegetables as I go. Easy as can be.

This also makes it very easy to customize kabobs for specific people. Sarah doesn’t like mushrooms, for example, so it was easy to make two non-mushroom kabobs for her by just skipping that ingredient.

Also, if you want to include meat on the kabobs, you easily can – just slice up your beef or chicken into 3/4″ to 1″ cubes and mix them in with the vegetables.

Here’s what our seven vegetarian kabobs looked like when finished:

Seven kabobs

3. Take it to the grill

From here, they headed straight to the grill. After preheating the grill, I just put the kabobs over medium-to-low heat, then brushed the side facing up with olive oil. As soon as I brushed them, I flipped them over and brushed the other side. I then let them cook for about twenty minutes, flipping them about every four minutes or so.

What you’re looking for is just a bit of char on the edge of the vegetables and a bit of shrinking and wrinkling on the mushrooms and tomatoes. You don’t want everything burnt, but you do want everything cooked.

I intended to get some beautiful shots of the kabobs on the grill, but we had a sudden thunderstorm, so I wound up sprinting outside to flip the kabobs and running back into the house before getting too drenched. Photography wasn’t a big concern at that moment.

So what did we have with it?

Summer Sides: Barbecued Beans and Rice

I could give a long story about boiling beans overnight, baking them in the oven for hours with molasses and other ingredients, and producing some version of the “perfect” baked beans. And sometimes I do that, because freshly-boiled beans are just incredibly tasty.

But the truth is that most of us aren’t going to invest twenty four hours on beans as a side dish unless you’re hosting a fancy barbecue. Instead, I’m going to show you a very simple way to make barbecued beans on a grill.

All you need is one or two cans of beans, some barbecue sauce that you like, and some aluminum foil. If you happen to have some onions available (as we do), that’s good, too.


Take a can of beans, put the beans in a colander, and rinse them until the water runs clear through all of the beans – probably two minutes of rinsing per can. Put the beans in a bowl and put 1/4 cup barbecue sauce in with the beans. If you’d like, you can chop up a handful of onions and toss them in as well. Mix it up thoroughly, and add more sauce if you’d like.

Spread out a rectangle of aluminum foil – probably 50% longer than it is wide – and pour the mixture in the center. Wrap it up in a tight package, then wrap that package in a second rectangle of aluminum foil.

We made two packets – one with onions and one without:

Wrapped beans

Put these packets straight on the grill over medium-low heat (just like the kabobs) for about thirty minutes total, flipping them regularly. You’ll have steaming, delicious barbecued beans when you open the package.

In the interim, we also boiled some long grain rice to go along with the meal. Here’s what my dinner plate looked like:

Final meal

A delicious vegetarian meal, indeed. Even our four year old and our two year old loved the kabobs – my son particularly went wild over the mushrooms.

Next week, we’ll look at how to make some cheap skillet fajitas that are to die for.

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  1. Vicky says:

    Hrm. How about making all the beans in advance, and storing them in the freezer?

    I took a lot of your advice from previous posts and do this and it’s not much effort to make refried or barbecue beans or any other type when I just open up a can-sized serving from the freezer.

  2. Wesley says:

    WOAH!My and my SO make kabobs like this all the time. Only difference is that we replace the tomatoes (which neither of us like) with some nice steak. My parents raise cattle, so the steak is A. cheap and B. wonderfully delicious.

    Our only problem is when we tried to use bamboo skewers they burnt and broke apart, probably due to putting them on when the coals were too hot. We use charcoal or nothing, better taste.

  3. kreacsik istvan says:

    Never Eat A Concentrated Protein And A Concentrated Carbohydrate At The Same Meal.


  4. Tammy says:

    You’re missing out on some amazing vegetable broth by composting all of your veggie scraps. I keep a gallon sized ziplock in my freezer and put just about everything I trim from a vegetable (peels, ends, bits, extras, whatever, anything but pepper seeds) in there and, when it’s full, I put the contents in my biggest crockpot, fill with water, and let it cook all day. Free veggie broth. :)

  5. MikeTheRed says:

    Fantastic idea with the veggie kebobs. My soon-to-be-wife is a vegetarian and we’ve been struggling to build a list of easy go-to meals when we’re both tired after work but don’t want to just eat pasta again.

    The other great thing here is that you can mix in some meat skewers for the non-vegetarians (like myself) for some added variety.

  6. Marie says:

    Great idea re: veggie broth in the comments.

    Any ideas how to make kabobs without a grill? i.e. could they be cooked in the regular oven?

  7. Kristin says:

    @Wesley if you soak your bamboo skewers in water for about 15 minutes prior to putting veggies/meat on them, the skewers will not burn. :)

  8. cv says:

    Looks delicious. You can add tofu cubes to kebabs as well, if you like. With the protein from the tofu I’d do the kebabs and just coucous or quinoa on the side. The great thing about meals like this is how you can vary them depending on what you have in the house and what your mood is.

  9. Emily says:

    We make lots of kabobs and make sure if we use meat we marinade it after we cut it up – yummy!

    Secondly – I saw some kabob skewers that were way cool – they were metal and made out of flexible wire that actually connected into a circle. They never burn and are supposed to cook from the inside too. Supposed to be easier to girll with…that would be a want…not a need :) but they are reusable so some day might pay for themselves.

  10. Bella says:

    I use to do the Kabobs myself, and seasoned the oil with finely chopped/grated garlic and/or whatever spices I’d like before brushing the kabobs with it. Although, the oil would make the barbecue catch fire and burn the veggies. Now, I just cut the veggies (4 pieces for peppers, slice the zuchinis leinghtwise, put whole mushrooms, directly on the grill. As soon as they come out, I just put olive oil (spray or fine drops), and ground pepper, salt (we use “fleur de sel”), and whatever spices we wish. It’s even better and the oil at the bottom of the plate is delicious with bread! Plus: I save the hassle of making the kabobs and having some of the veggies fall into the barbecue… (big enough not to fall thrue the grill) And it quicker, too!

  11. Trent! Looks good but you forgot the grill shot!

    Food on the grill always looks good in photos :)

  12. margo says:

    Aluminum poisoning has some very nasty symptoms. It usually takes a long time before the symptoms are finally related to aluminum. Acids in tomatoes, barbecue sauces and other foods dissolve the alu-foil and the aluminum gets in your food. I never cook with alu-foil anymore, except with non-acidic foods (dough, cabbage), or with a protective sheet of oven paper.

  13. Holly says:

    @#8, Bella:
    Sounds like a great idea! We also do cut-up veggies w/out the bamboo sticks…we use a metal barbecue basket that sits on the grill to hold the vegetables.

  14. Johanna says:

    A couple of months ago Ezra Klein wrote a post about the “grilled vegetable plate.” This made me think of that. He said, in part:

    “Let’s get something straight: A vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat. It’s not someone who loves vegetables. Or dislikes composed meals. Or thinks food doesn’t benefit from seasoning, and saucing, and a variety of textures and grains and cooking methods.”

    He was talking about restaurant meals, not home cooking, but still.

  15. Rebecca says:

    Rather than making each kabob a medley, we prefer to put all the onions on one, the tomatoes on another, squash on a third etc. The different vegetables have different ideal grilling times, this allows for quick cooking of mushrooms while onions grill for longer.

  16. David says:

    Very good job. You’ll enjoy to visit Brazil. We have a bunch of different and healthy meals around here. This is a sample of the basic diary lunch of a common brazilian. Add some meat, and voilà.

  17. JJ says:

    All I could think, every time I read the word “kabob,” was “NO! It’s KEBAB!” I have no idea where I got that particular spelling — I’m a first-generation English transplant living in Texas, so my vocabulary tends to be eccentric.

    Also, I’ve been reading for a while, and I’m pretty darn sure that’s the first picture of Sarah I’ve ever seen! (I remember back when you still avoided using your family members’ names…) She is very pretty, Trent; you’re a lucky man!

    None of which says anything at all about the recipe, to which my response is simply: yum!

  18. z says:

    Here’s a tip maybe you could post– an hour spent taking a fun class or studying up on knife skills technique with online videos can shave a couple minutes off every chopping session for the rest of your life. It’s really great to be able to reduce a pile of veg to perfect little pieces, because not only does it save time and impress people, it makes you more likely to eat lots of vegetables.

  19. marta says:

    JJ, I also spell it “kebab” because that’s the spelling commonly used here. Kabob is also correct, though.

    Topic: this actually seems to be a good recipe, and perfectly healthy. Heh. Gotta try this one, as just today I stumbled across a pack of bamboo skewers in one of my kitchen drawers.

    Good timing!

  20. AndreaS says:

    I’m confused about what you said regarding it taking 24 hours to make beans from scratch, including “boiling” them overnight. Maybe this was a mistake. We “soak” beans overnight. In the morning we boil beans in water and a little baking soda, until they peel when you blow on them. Then put these in a bean pot with molasses and other ingredients, then bake for a few hours. But the actual time involved in making the beans surely is less than 30 minutes. I’m usually doing other things when I’m waiting for the beans to boil. We usually do two pots at a time to maximize the oven time, and freeze leftovers.
    We have grown dried beans, and have fun trying different varieties. Sometimes I use a little of many varieties when I bake beans. It makes them a little more interesting.

  21. brooke says:

    We have recently switched from rice to quinoa and wheat berries. The latter have many more nutrients than rice, and quinoa is a complete protein on its own. I find that we don’t even notice the difference, and in fact, my quinoa never gets mushy like the rice did! An excellent switch, and one i bet the kids wouldn’t even notice. This is especially true when we make burritos. Sometimes I add leftover quinoa or wheat berries to my egg burritos too in the morning, for a southwestern breakfast.Also good in soups (sub in a chicken and rice soup). An excellent way to boost any meal’s nutrient level!

  22. I notice you peel your courgettes and toss the peels in the composter, what a waste! The peel of the courgette has the most flavour! The Italians usually slice the center out of the courgettes and feed it to the pigs and use the outer parts themselves!
    Also most vitamins are usually centered in and right under the skin. If you peel your fruits and veggies you loose lots of them.

  23. Maureen says:

    I don’t use kabob skewers anymore. They now make these pans for the grills with holes in them. I cut up my vegetables and put them in a ziploc with some marinade and maybe some meat and let it sit. Then I just take the veggies and meat out of the marinade and place them in the grilling pan. I no longer have to sit there putting food on the skewers. Saves a ton of time. I used to have problems with my veggies falling off the skewers. Then I found this pan (available at any kitchen store or the grill section of Home Depot or Lowes) and I love it. I bought it several years ago and it’s still in great shape.

  24. Grilled veggies rock!!!

    Great pics

  25. Whenever I grill veggies, I make kabobs of only one type of vegetable, i.e. an onion kabob, a pepper kabob, and so on. This is because in my experience, onions take WAY longer to cook than peppers or mushrooms do. By separating the vegetables, I’m able to cook the onions until they’re soft without turning the tomatoes to mush.

  26. Brittany says:

    a) I can’t believe you peel the zucchini! Does zucchini even tast like anything without hte peel? How do you get it to stay on the skewers once cooked?
    b) @Johanna Agreed! (Can’t bring myself to be fussy enough to become an actual vegetarian, but I’ve stopped buying and cooking nearly all meat for myself.) But that’s no reason you couldn’t marinate these tasty looking thing.
    c) “Kebab” is the romanization of the persian word meaning literally “fried meats” by generally referring to grilled meats as well. It refers to a huge variety of dishes (And doner kabab… mmm… if i coudl get that in the states, I’d strike the previously mentioned decision to stop buuying meat) “Kabob” is the american bastardization of kebab, and almost exclusively refers to cut of food put on a skewer.

  27. socalgal says:

    Hey Trent,
    Love the post. Btw, my hubby thought Sarah was your daughter…she looks so young! Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

  28. Anna says:

    What I found most interesting about this picture was the knife Sarah is using. Trent has made lots of posts about good quality knives, but that sort of knive wouldn’t be my first choice for cutting up vegetables – it looks more like a peeling/trimming knife. See how much pressure she is using in her index finger? Much more slicing than chopping – takes time. Not meaning to be critical, just that knives really are important to efficient food prep.

  29. Rozann says:

    Another way to do beans is in the crockpot. No watching or stirring, just add the ingredients and turn it on. My favorite crockpot recipe book is Fix-it and Forget it Cookbook, Feasting with Your Slowcooker.

  30. Ranganathan says:

    Wow, great to see a Vegetarian item. Thanks!

  31. SLCCOM says:

    I saw an alternative to regular skewers in my local King Soopers. They are twisted wire with a twisted wire handle, and flex and hold a lot of stuff.

  32. Pat Woodruff says:

    I thought Sarah was your daughter too! I bought most of these veggies today so guess what I am having tonight!!!

  33. Greg says:

    This is our first warm sunny day after many cool rainy spring days. Someone in the neighborhood is barbequing…it smells so good. We love grilled veggies. We don’t use tomatoes – but will often used canned potatoes, they grill up nice.

  34. Systemizer says:

    Sarah’s t-shirt is winning.

    Great color, fit and design.

    If it’s consignment, thrift or secondhand, consider me a convert.

  35. Karen says:

    Thank you for the great vegetarian meal idea! My hubbie and I are mostly vegetarians and we have done similar meals. Those grilled veggies would also be great with a loaded baked potato. Keep the vegetarian meal plans coming! They are much appreciated.

  36. Crystal says:

    This sounds delicious…we’ll simply replace the mushrooms with steak or chicken and be good to go! Thanks!

  37. Karen says:

    I thought Sarah was your daughter at first too! Looks like she got some sun!!

  38. BonzoGal says:

    Another fun grill idea is fruit. You can either skewer it, or do as I do and put it in foil packets. Depending on the fruit, you can sprinkle it with a little sugar, cinnamon, etc. I did nectarine slices with vanilla and a touch of brown sugar this last weekend and put the packets on the grill after we’d finished grilling dinner. (Chicken, grilled quartered artichokes, asparagus, and zucchini strips.) After 15 minutes the fruit was hot and soft, perfect with some ice cream.

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