Rodney Scott’s aversion to vegetables used to be a running joke between him and those who know him well. It even made its way onto the episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table that featured the legendary pitmaster. In a moment of levity, Scott was shown dutifully sampling different variations of greens to decide which would best complement his award-winning barbecue. But it was very clear that Scott was not enjoying the experience.
Nobody would think less of Scott if he delegated all vegetable-related matters to others and focused solely on meat. He’s dedicated his life to the art of whole-hog barbecue and is one of the most respected pitmasters in the country (hence the Chef’s Table feature). His namesake restaurants in Charleston, Birmingham, and Atlanta draw legions of patrons who can’t wait to tuck into his smoky, tangy pork sandwiches. In 2018, Scott was named Best Chef: Southeast by the James Beard Foundation (he’s only the second pitmaster ever to win such an award) and was inducted into the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame. The man is a meat maestro.
However, seeing himself so emphatically turn his nose up at those greens on Chef’s Table gave Scott pause to reconsider how imbalanced his diet had become.
“I did not eat vegetables the way I should have, but after the Netflix series I decided it was time to make some adjustments toward healthier eating,” Scott says, stifling a slight chuckle. ”So for the first time in my life — and like a responsible adult — I started to eat vegetables.”
Scott unlocked his taste for vegetables by utilizing what he knows: fire. And of course, he has a very specific technique.
“Grill placement is key with vegetables,” Scott explains. “You want them to blister a little bit but not burn completely or dry all the way out. They take on a lot of great flavors when they’re charred a little bit so while I don’t position them directly over the hottest spot on the grill, I try to get them kind of close to it.”
One of Scott’s go-to dishes is this recipe for a grilled vegetable salad that’s included in his cookbook, Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ. Featuring squash, carrots, asparagus, red bell peppers, and zucchini, the salad comes together with a light vinaigrette, Scott’s barbecue spice rub, and a slight char that provides that necessary smoky bitterness.
Because the different types of vegetables in this salad vary in size and density, Scott staggers the cooking process to ensure each finishes perfectly. Peppers are the first to hit the grill so that they have time to be steam-roasted and peeled after they’re removed. Carrots go on next since it takes them a while to get fork-tender, with squash and zucchini following a few minutes behind. Asparagus and scallions are the last to hit the grill so that they can be carefully watched.
The final piece of the puzzle is a dressing that pulls in a traditional Carolina-style BBQ flavor profile without overpowering the salad. (To make it, Scott cuts his vinegar-based BBQ sauce with olive oil.) A dusting of his rib rub provides that last bit of salty magic to round things out.
When Scott started cooking the dish for family and friends, he got enthusiastically positive feedback – once they got over the shock of seeing him eat veggies.
“Their first response was ‘We thought you didn’t like these.’ And then it was ‘We’re proud of you for eating vegetables.’ And finally, it was ‘You need to cook this more at home,’” he says. Sure enough, the salad is now in the regular rotation for family meals and social gatherings.
Even Scott’s 13-year-old son got on board. As it stands, he’d prefer the zucchini by itself over the entire salad. But getting a teenager to settle on any non-fried vegetable as their favorite is a parenting win.
Rodney Scott’s Grilled Vegetable Salad
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2½ teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1¼ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bunch baby carrots, tops trimmed (real baby carrots, not the carrot scraps typically sold as baby carrots)
- 1 medium yellow squash, quartered lengthwise and then halved crosswise
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch rounds
- 1 bunch asparagus with the woody ends snapped off
- 1 bunch scallions, with the root ends trimmed
- 1 teaspoon Rodney Scott’s Rib Rub (see recipe below)
- ½ cup Rodney Scott’s Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
Fire up your grill to 400° to 450°F.
In a medium bowl, toss the whole bell pepper with 2 teaspoons of the oil, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Place the whole pepper on the grill. (Keep the bowl for the rest of the vegetables.)
As the pepper chars and blisters, use grilling tongs to turn it frequently so that the pepper gets charred on all sides — this will take 8 to 12 minutes. Remove it from the grill and immediately place it in a small paper or plastic bag.
Close the bag and allow the pepper to 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 pepper into strips, and transfer them to a large bowl.
Place the carrots in the same bowl used to season the bell pepper. Toss them with 4 teaspoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and ½ teaspoon of the 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 of the canola oil, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Once the carrots have been on the grill for 4 to 5 minutes, they should be brown and wrinkled and their thin tips might be almost black. Flip them. 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 scallions on the grill, turning and rotating so that they cook evenly. Once they have a slight char and wrinkled skin, after 6 to 8 minutes,
Begin removing the vegetables as they are done and place them in the bowl with the roasted peppers. Toss the vegetables with the vinaigrette and transfer them to a serving platter. Sprinkle with the BBQ rub and serve warm.
Rodney Scott’s 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 the mustard. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to create a creamy emulsion. Add the salt and whisk until it is thoroughly 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 chile flakes
- ½ cup granulated sugar
In a medium saucepan, warm the vinegar over medium-high heat. After about 5 minutes, when the vinegar reaches 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and just before it starts to simmer, add the lemon slices and cook until the lemon peels begin to soften and wilt, about 10 minutes more.
Whisk in the black pepper, cayenne, chile flakes and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the sauce reaches 190 degrees, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the sauce cool completely.
Pour the sauce through a strainer and discard the lemon slices. 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
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and place them in an airtight container. Cover and store in a cool, dry place until ready to use. Makes 1 cup.