Rodney Scott’s aversion to vegetables used to be a joke between him and those who know him well. It even made its way into the Netflix episode Chef’s Table which featured the legendary pit master. In a moment of levity, Scott was shown dutifully tasting different variations of greens to decide which would best suit his award-winning barbecue. But it was very clear that Scott was not enjoy the experience.
No one would think less of Scott if he delegated all vegetable-related matters to others and concentrated solely on meat. He has devoted his life to the art of whole pig barbecuing and is one of the most respected pit masters in the country (hence the Chef’s Table function). His eponymous restaurants in Charleston, Birmingham and Atlanta attract legions of customers eager to eat his smoky, spicy pork sandwiches. In 2018, Scott was named Best Chef: Southeast by the James Beard Foundation (he is only the second pit master to ever win such an award) and was inducted into the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame. The man is a meat master.
However, seeing himself turn his nose so emphatically at those greens on Chef’s TablHe gave Scott a moment to consider how unbalanced his diet had become.
“I didn’t eat vegetables the way I should have, but after the Netflix series, I decided it was time to make some adjustments towards eating healthier,” says Scott, stifling a slight chuckle. “So for the first time in my life — and as a responsible adult — I started eating vegetables.”
Scott unlocked his taste for vegetables by tapping into what he knows: fire. And of course he has a very specific technique.
“Placing the grill is essential with vegetables,” explains Scott. “You want them to blister a little, but not burn completely or dry out completely. They get a lot of great flavors when they’re a little charred, so while I don’t place them directly over the hottest spot on the grill, I do try them on a bit to get close.
One of Scott’s favorite dishes is this grilled vegetable salad recipe featured in his cookbook, Rodney Scott’s world of barbecue† With pumpkin, carrots, asparagus, red bell peppers and zucchini, the salad is paired with a light vinaigrette, Scott’s barbecue spice rub, and a light char that adds some smoky bitterness.
Because the different vegetables in this salad vary in size and density, Scott staggers the cooking process to make sure each salad finishes off perfectly. Peppers are the first to hit the grill so they have time to be steam roasted and peeled once removed. Carrots continue after that, as they take a while to cook, with pumpkin and zucchini a few minutes later. Asparagus and scallions come last on the grill so they can be watched closely.
The final piece of the puzzle is a dressing that draws in a traditional Carolina-style BBQ flavor profile without overpowering the salad. (To make it, Scott slices his vinegar-based BBQ sauce with olive oil.) A dusting of his rib rub provides that last bit of salty magic to round things off.
When Scott started cooking the dish for family and friends, he received enthusiastic positive feedback – once they got over the shock of seeing him eat vegetables.
Their first reaction was, ‘We thought you didn’t like this one.’ And then it was ‘We are proud of you for eating vegetables.’ And finally it was ‘You need to cook this at home more’”, he says. Sure enough, the salad is now in regular rotation for family meals and social gatherings.
Even Scott’s 13-year-old son got on board. As it stands, he prefers the zucchini alone to the whole salad. But getting a teen to settle for a non-fried vegetable as their favorite is a parenting victory.
Rodney Scott’s Grilled Vegetable Salad
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bunch carrots, top trimmed (actual carrots, not the carrot scraps commonly sold as baby carrots)
- 1 medium yellow squash, quartered lengthwise and then halved crosswise
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into inch rounds
- 1 bunch of asparagus with the woody ends broken off
- 1 bunch scallions, root ends trimmed
- 1 teaspoon Rodney Scott’s Rib Rub (see recipe below)
- ½ cup Rodney Scott’s Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
Light your grill to 400° to 450°F.
In a medium bowl, combine the whole bell pepper with 2 teaspoons oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place the whole pepper on the grill. (Save the bowl for the rest of the vegetables.)
While the pepper is charring and blistering, use grill tongs to turn it frequently so that the pepper is charred on all sides – this should take 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the grill and immediately place in a small paper or plastic bag.
Close the bag and let the pepper steam for at least 5 minutes. Then remove the pepper from the bag and use a spoon to remove the skin. Remove the seeds and stem, cut the roasted peppers into strips and place in a large bowl.
Place the carrots in the same bowl used to season the peppers. Mix them with 4 teaspoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Place them on the grill (perpendicular to the grates).
Add the squash and zucchini to the bowl you used for the carrots and toss with 1½ teaspoons canola oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and teaspoon pepper. After 4 to 5 minutes on the grill, the carrots should be brown and wrinkled and their thin tips may be almost black. Turn them over. Place the squash and zucchini on the grill. Cook for another 5 to 6 minutes.
Toss the asparagus and scallions with the remaining 1½ teaspoons oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place the asparagus and spring onions on the grill, turning and turning to cook evenly. Once they have a light char and wrinkled skin, after 6 to 8 minutes,
Start by removing the vegetables when they are done and place them in the bowl with the roasted peppers. Toss the vegetables with the vinaigrette and place on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the BBQ rub and serve warm.
Rodney Scott Vinaigrette
- ½ cup Rodney Scott’s BBQ Sauce (see recipe below)
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
In a small bowl, whisk together Rodney’s Sauce and mustard. Slowly add the olive oil while stirring to get a smooth emulsion. Add the salt and beat until well incorporated. Use immediately or store in a screw-top jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Shake vigorously before use. Makes about 1 ¼ cups.
Rodney Scott’s BBQ Sauce
- 4 cups distilled white vinegar
- ¼ lemon, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
- ½ cup granulated sugar
Heat the vinegar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. After about 5 minutes, when the vinegar reaches 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer just before it begins to simmer, add the lemon slices and cook until the lemon peels soften and wilt, about 10 minutes more.
Whisk in the black pepper, cayenne, chili flakes, and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is completely dissolved and sauce reaches 190 degrees, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the sauce cool completely.
Pour the sauce through a sieve and discard the lemon wedges. Transfer the sauce to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Makes 4 cups.
Rodney Scott’s Rib Rub
- ¼ cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons MSG
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and place in an airtight container. Cover and store in a cool, dry place until use. Makes 1 cup.