I love thick-skinned vegetables that come in season during Summer. They are the perfect items to light a fire and make some hot coals to ember fire flavor into them.
We’re getting ready to coal roast one of my favorite vegetables — zucchini! This is so simple to do and produces an extraordinary flavor for zucchini to be eaten on its own or to be used in your favorite recipe. Clean out the fire pit, charcoal grill or outdoor fireplace and prepare to roast “ember fired fresh zucchini” directly on the hot coals.
Building A Small Fire
Know this from the start — You do not need a large fire! A small fire is best to accomplish your cooking in about an hour’s time. For my fire, I am using ten SmokinLicious Single Filet Wood Chunks in Ash with a couple of pieces of charwood that were left over from a previous cook. Why Ash hardwood? Because it is hands down, the best hardwood to produce an even bed of coals which is what you want when you coal roast.
I stack the wood so there is quite a bit of air space between the pieces. This ensures I have good oxygen flow to produce combustion quickly. My technique is to stand the wood pieces on their end and make a circle. I try to have a couple of pieces in the center kind of tipped on to each other. Remember, you want to produce hot embers quickly so it only requires a little wood and a lot of oxygen to burn things down. I light my wood using a small butane torch. Leave the torch in place until I’m sure the wood has ignited. I keep the lid off my charcoal grill so I can push the combustion process through completion and get those ash covered, hot embers.
Red Means Hot
You will know when the coals or embers are ready for cooking when you have uniform coals and they are glowing red from the bottom and gray on top. I keep a couple of larger coals banked to the side to maintain heat and for reserved hot coals. Just in case I need to rake more to the cooking side. I like to nestle a high heat metal cooking rack on the hot coals and then place my whole zucchini on the rack. This allows for little ash to accumulate on the skin. Remember, those coals are very hot so the zucchini will take less than 20 minutes to tenderize and char.
Turn For Full Char
With the zucchini and coal rack in place, I give the embers about 8 minutes to char and cook the first side of the zucchini. After that time, I gently turn the zucchini so that each side gets an even char. Once the first 8 minutes are done, there will be less time needed for each of the other sides as the zucchini will hold heat. I’ve added one additional wood piece to my banked fire just to be sure I have enough heat in the coal area. I will not put the lid on the unit during the entire cooking process as this is open fire cooking. My total coal cooking time is approximately 16 minutes.
Perfection In Smoke & Char on Ember Fired Fresh Zucchini
After placing my ember fired fresh zucchini on hot coals for about 16 minutes total, turning several times to get an even char, this spectacular vegetable is ready for eating. You will see, there is very little coal bed left following this technique so remember, if you are cooking more than a couple of zucchini, you will need a larger coal bed.
For those of you thinking that the black, charred skin will be bitter and not appealing to eat, think again. Most of the char will rub right off but the flavor will be infused throughout the ember fired fresh zucchini. I’ve sliced mine about ¼-inch thick as I plan to make a galette of ricotta, garlic oil, and basil.
The Culinary Crew wants you to know…
… that ember roasting is ideal to boost up the bland, delicately flavored zucchini and will add a rich, wood-fired taste dimension to any dish featuring this exquisite summer squash. So, be prepared to enjoy a rich, char-smoked variation of your ratatouille, quesadillas, stuffed zucchini or soups from ember cooked zucchini!