Grilled vegetables
Leah Cohen tells us her "must" rules when it comes to grilling veggies. (Photo: Leah Cohen)

How to Grill Veggies, According to Leah Cohen of ‘Top Chef’

Vegetables take the center stage

Leah Cohen
Amanda Faison

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For chef Leah Cohen, summer equals cooking outdoors. The Top Chef alumn, cookbook author, and current judge on the PBS show The Great American Recipe has lived on the East Coast all her life, which means, she laughs, “it’s definitely not grilling season year-round.” Cohen, who owns the restaurants Pig and Khao and Piggyback in New York City, maximizes the time on her home grill when she can, not only because it takes her outside, but because the grill brings natural char and flavor to foods. “I think grilling is a healthier cooking application than sautéing or frying, without compromising on flavor,” she explains. “To me, that’s really important because I try to eat healthy.”

Cohen’s cooking career began when she was a child and was tasked with helping her mother make chicken adobo and lumpia for the family table. Eventually she was entrusted to make rice. In her Filipino household (her mother is Filipino and her father is Romanian-Jewish), rice was a staple and was expected to be cooked perfectly. Cohen continues to draw inspiration from her heritage and extensive travels through Southeast Asia when cooking at her restaurants and at home. “My go-to Filipino marinade is made using a combination of soy sauce (my preferred brand is Lee Kum Kee), sesame oil, oyster sauce, brown sugar, banana ketchup, and vinegar.

What Does Leah Cohen Like to Grill?

On Cohen’s grill, it’s not unusual to find shishito peppers, a variety of mushrooms, ears of corn, heads of cauliflower, or halved cabbage.

What Is the Perfect Grilling Temperature?

To ensure perfection every time, she recommends grilling veggies over high heat, and lightly oiling and salting them for both flavor and to prevent sticking.

Does Size Matter When Grilling?

Pay close attention to the size of your vegetables. If an ingredient like, for example, mushrooms, are small enough to fall through the grates, use a grill basket.

Ready to put these grilling tips to use? Try following Cohen’s Grilled Cabbage with Yuzu Juice and Brown Butter.

Grilled cabbage
Grilled Cabbage with Yuzu Juice and Brown Butter. (Photo: Leah Cohen)