Direct fire — the old-school style of cooking, hot and fast. This method works best when the charcoal is distributed in a layer across the entire bottom of the grill.
Tips: When the fire is hot, you can sear meat and get terrific grill marks on vegetables, fruit and some denser fish, like swordfish. A medium fire allows you to thoroughly cook such semi-dense foods as mangoes and salmon and, yes, even burgers (although you won’t get the char you may seek). Aluminum foil can sub for a smoker box and you’ll need 1 cup of hardwood chips, such as apple, oak, or pecan. No need to soak.
The dressing can be refrigerated up to 4 days in advance. The grilled and dressed antipasti can be refrigerated a day in advance; bring to room temperature before serving.
For the dressing
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
1 heaping teaspoon garlic, minced
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
For the vegetables
Olive oil cooking spray or 2 tablespoons olive oil
One 12-ounce eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds (about 12 to 14 rounds)
One 12-ounce zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices (about 5 slices)
One 12-ounce yellow squash, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices (4 or 5 slices)
One 12-ounce sweet onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (4 or 5 rounds)
1 medium red bell pepper
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
For the dressing: Combine the vinegar and salt in a small bowl; let sit for a minute or two, then slowly whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil, oregano, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, stirring to incorporate.
For the vegetables: Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to high. Put the chips in a smoker box (or make an aluminum foil packet poked with a few fork holes to release the smoke); set it between the grate and the briquettes, close to the flame. Once you see smoke, reduce the heat to medium (375 to 400 degrees).
If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them on the grill. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand 6 inches above the coals for 6 or 7 seconds. Scatter the wood chips over the coals. Close the lid and open the vents about a quarter of the way. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames.
Use olive oil cooking spray to lightly coat the vegetables, or brush them lightly with olive oil. Arrange the vegetables directly over the hot coals. Once the skin of the red bell pepper blackens on one side, which should take 3 to 4 minutes, turn it to another side; the whole process will take between 8 to 10 minutes. Once the other vegetables have browned and charred just a little (3 to 5 minutes), turn them over to cook for 3 to 5 minutes on the second side. Use tongs to transfer them to a platter.
Once the bell pepper is cool enough to handle, peel/discard its charred skin. Core and seed the remaining flesh. Pat it dry with a paper towel, then cut the bell pepper into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Pat it dry again.
Arrange the vegetables on the platter, gathering the bell pepper slices in a little mound, if you like. Spoon the dressing over the vegetables, turning to coat well. Garnish with the parsley; cover with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature if serving within a couple of hours. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate up to 1 day in advance; bring to room temperature before serving.
Nutrition per serving: 210 calories, 4 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, 15 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 12 g sugar