The Kitchn: This mixed grill will be the star of your summer party spread

<p>A delicious platter of grilled mixed vegetables, merguez sausage, halloumi cheese, and crispy chickpeas.</p>

Jason Rampe/TNS

A delicious platter of grilled mixed vegetables, merguez sausage, halloumi cheese, and crispy chickpeas.

This Memorial Day, I am so excited to host my friends and grill all the delicious things for them. Instead of opting for burgers and dogs, I’m going into full-on celebration mode with an abundant mixed grill. With sausage, halloumi, pita bread, veggies, and more, this spread isn’t just a combination of my favorite grilled foods — it’s a strategic assortment of flavors and textures that guarantees every bite is delicious. Here’s how I make it happen.

How to host a mixed grill party

A mixed grill is a fun way to kick off grilling season, and its customizable nature makes it perfect for guests. The veggies featured here — fennel, tomatoes, summer squash, endive, and scallions — are very complementary to the spicy, lamby merguez sausage. But if you prefer another sausage or want to switch up the veggies, feel free to build your own platter and use this recipe as a guideline. (Romaine wedges are a great sub-in for the endive!)

One thing you shouldn’t skip? The halloumi. The firm cheese, which hails from Cyprus, is tangy and salty and has a high melting point, making it perfect for the grill. Slice it into planks and toss it on the grates, where it will take on the most gorgeous grill marks. Just be mindful to only grill one side: grilling both sides will dry out the cheese, making it less pleasant to eat.

If you’re serving vegans or vegetarians, grill the vegetables first to prevent cross-contamination, then cook the bread, cheese, and finish with any meat. I like to get everything prepped and onto a sheet tray before I start, which makes it easy to get it all from the kitchen to the grill. Then, I place each ingredient back onto the tray as it comes off the grill. If you start building the platter while you’re cooking, you could lose track of what’s happening on the grill. Plus, you may want to separate any meat from the platter for serving.

Cooking with cast iron on the grill

The chickpeas on this platter feature one of my favorite summer party tricks: cooking with cast iron on the grill. This technique infuses a smoky flavor into ingredients that aren’t grill-friendly. Here, canned chickpeas get the charred and blistered treatment.

The process is as easy as it sounds: Heat a cast iron skillet directly on the grill grates until hot. Add a splash of oil, pour in the chickpeas, and cook until they’re beginning to char and crisp, about two minutes. The crispy chickpeas add great plant-based protein to the platter, and they’re so tasty stuffed into a pita with all the grilled veggies.

Assembling and serving (have fun with it!)

Once everything is grilled, you’ll arrange it all on the serving platter. I like to finish with a healthy sprinkling of mixed herbs to bring balance and freshness to all the smoky veggies, and eat everything with a little garlic-infused mayonnaise. You can stuff all the ingredients into a pita, or, if you’re like me and cooking with fire brings out your primal side, eat it all with your hands. I like to tear the pita and mix and match vegetables for every bite.

If you’re looking for more serving ideas, the options are endless. Fry some capers and sprinkle them across the platter. Don’t like mayo? Toss everything in Italian dressing or serve with some herb sauce. Bring in some heat with red pepper flakes, your favorite hot sauce, or one of my favorites, shatta. This is also a great time to bring out the good olive oil and give everything a healthy glug. The beauty of this recipe is that it’s infinitely customizable, so grill what you like, pile it all on a platter, and serve to the people you love.

Grilled Merguez Sausages and Veggies with Crispy Chickpeas

Serves 8

For the garlic mayonnaise and serving:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium lemon
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup mixed tender fresh herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, dill, fennel fronds, mint, and chives

For the mixed grill:

  • 8 (about 8-inch) skewers
  • 1 (about 15-ounce) can garbanzos beans
  • 6 (about 6-inch) pita breads
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 medium yellow summer squash (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 medium endives
  • 1 large fennel bulb (about 1 pound)
  • 8 to 9 ounces halloumi cheese
  • 1 pound merguez sausage (4 to 5 links)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided, plus more for the grill grates
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

1. If using wooden skewers, soak 8 skewers in water for 1 hour. Meanwhile, make the garlic mayo and prep the herbs.

Make the garlic mayonnaise:

1. Finely grate 2 garlic cloves into a small bowl. Finely grate the zest of 1/2 medium lemon into the bowl. Halve the lemon and juice one half into the bowl (about 1 1/2 tablespoons); reserve the remaining lemon half. Add 1/2 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to the bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

2. Pick 1/2 cup mixed fresh herb leaves, tear into bite-sized pieces, and refrigerate.

Make the mixed grill:

1. Heat an outdoor grill for direct, medium-high heat. Meanwhile, prepare the mixed grill ingredients.

2. Line half a baking sheet with paper towels. Drain and rinse and 1 can garbanzo beans, then place on the paper towels. Prepare the following, placing them on the other half the baking sheet: Halve 6 pita breads. Trim 1 bunch scallions. Halve 1 medium zucchini and 1 medium yellow squash lengthwise.

3. Prepare the following and place on a second baking sheet: Skewer 1 pint cherry tomatoes (5 to 6 per skewer). Quarter 2 endives lengthwise through the core. Trim 1 large fennel bulb, then cut through the core into 8 wedges. Cover the endive and fennel with a damp paper towel to keep from oxidizing. Cut 8 to 9 ounces halloumi crosswise into 1/2-inch thick planks and place in a small bowl.

4. Place 1 pound merguez sausages on a separate plate. Brush everything on the baking sheets and sausages (brush those last if serving vegetarians) with 1/4 cup of the vegetable oil. Season the vegetables with 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt.

5. When the grill is ready, scrub the grates clean if needed. Oil the grates with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.

6. Grill each ingredient uncovered, working in a few batches so that the grill is not crowded. Return each ingredient to the baking sheet as it is ready:

Heat a cast iron skillet directly on the grill grates until hot. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. When the oil shimmers, add the garbanzo beans and discard the paper towel. Cook until the beans are starting to char and crisp, about 2 minutes. Return the beans to the baking sheet and remove the skillet from the grill (careful, hot!).

  • Grill the fennel until crisp-tender and charred in spots, about 3 minutes per side.
  • Grill the tomato skewers until charred in spots and starting to burst, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  • Grill the zucchini and yellow squash until crisp-tender and grill marks appear, about 2 minutes per side.
  • Grill the endive until charred in spots and starting to wilt, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.
  • Grill the scallions perpendicular to the grill grates until charred in spots, about 2 minutes.
  • Grill the pita until charred in spots, 30 seconds to 1 minute per side.
  • Grill the halloumi on only one side until grill marks appear, about 45 seconds, then remove from the grill with a spatula.
  • Grill the sausages until charred in spots and cooked through, about 2 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer to to a clean plate if feeding vegetarians.

7. Cut the zucchini and squash crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Coarsely chop the scallions. Toss the zucchini and scallions together. Quarter each sausage crosswise on a slight diagonal.

8. Decoratively arrange all the grilled foods on a platter, placing the sausages on a separate plate if serving vegetarians. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil and squeeze the reserved half lemon over the vegetables.

9. Dollop the garlic mayonnaise over the vegetables, or serve separately in a bowl. Garnish the platter with the reserved herbs.

Recipe notes: The garlic mayonnaise can be made up to three days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to three days.

(Amelia Rampe is senior recipe editor for TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to editorial@thekitchn.com.)