Love the idea of a barbecue but hate the thought of eating meat? Here are ten ways you can enjoy all the yummy flavor of outdoor cooking without giving a thought to critters. Make sure your grill is both hot and well oiled so food will cook quickly and not stick to the grate. Alternatively, use a grill pan or basket that still imparts the flavor of the barbecue, but is easier on foods that tend to fall apart on a grate. If you don’t have a grill pan, cover the grate with tin foil and poke some holes in the foil. Spray the foil with vegetable spray, or baste the foil with some vegetable oil. Works like a charm.
Marinate the tofu in a soy-based sauce (there are plenty you can buy off the shelf; I like those that are seasoned with ginger and scallions). Slice the tofu somewhat thickly (half-inch or so) if you’re going to put it right on the grill; I generally use a grill pan so I can slice the tofu a bit thinner. You’re not actually cooking the tofu so much as searing it. You want it steaming, with grill marks on both sides, but not burned. You’ll be able to tell the difference.
While tofu is essentially curdled hot soy milk that ends up white, smooth and wet, tempeh is fermented cooked soybeans that is browner, firm and chewy. Marinades also work well here. Mix up lime juice, olive oil, soy sauce, chili powder, chopped garlic and some oregano; coat the tempeh and leave it for 2 hours, or overnight, turning at least once so both sides are coated. Grill over medium heat about 5 minutes, flip, grill another 4-5 minutes and you’re done.
3. Portobello Mushrooms
Portobellos are the big brown mushrooms you see in the grocery store; they’re very flavorful and frequently used as a substitute for meat when someone wants a burger, but not the “ham.” Drizzle olive oil on both sides, grill, and add the same fixings you would to any burger. Or, drizzle with oil, then flip them cap side up and fill the cap with a concoction of chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic and a little fresh basil. You can grill zucchini cut lengthwise and pepper halves in the same way.
4. Veggie kebabs
I actually call these “last stand kebabs,” because I often make them when my veggies are too tuckered out to be served by themselves but still too full of flavor and texture to compost. The only rule of thumb is that they have to fit on a skewer, and not fall apart on a grill. That usually means thick slices of yellow squash and zucchini, cherry tomatoes, onion quarters, button mushrooms, and red, green, yellow and orange peppers. My marinade of choice here is usually some combo of olive oil and a thick balsamic vinegar, seasoned with whatever herbs happen to be available and some salt and pepper. When I have the time, I marinate the veggies in separate bowls for at least an hour, then assemble them in colorful and alternating patterns on long metal skewers, leaving enough room at both end so that I can pick them up and flip them over at some point (wearing heat-protective gloves, of course).
5. Fruit kebabs
The kebab approach works well with a variety of fruits, including melons, apples, plums, kiwi, and bananas. Try fruits that you love – you’ll figure out whether the grill enhances or subdues their flavor. Try marinades infused with honey, citrus, cinnamon and cloves, or add a splash of rum for a more tropical taste.
Grilled pineapple spears dress up any table as well as your palate. You can also grill pineapple rings if they’re thick enough. Some cooks don’t bother with a marinade at all, since pineapple is so juicy. Try popping it on the grill just for a couple of minutes on both sides, then drizzle a glaze made from brown sugar and melted butter on top for a perfect warm weather dessert.
Cut the peaches in half and remove the pit. Brush the cut sides with maple syrup. Place the peaches syrup side down on a grill pan that’s at medium heat. You want the peaches to be somewhat seared on their cut side but not burned. Remove from the grill and slice a few times. Eat as is, or drizzle with a little cream or top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and your favorite toasted nuts.
I prefer to grill onions in a grill pan or basket, though if you cut them thickly enough, you can try them on the grate. I also like grilled onions simple: cooked in oil, salt and pepper, and a little garlic salt. If you’re feeling adventuresome, you can marinate them in balsamic vinaigrette, honey mustard, or barbecue sauce.
Often, I soak the whole ear of corn for a good hour, until the husk is saturated all the way through. Then I put the whole cob right on the grill, turning it frequently so it doesn’t burn. If the husk is thick and wet enough, the corn will steam without scorching.
I usually use a grill pan when I make these, but you can try your luck putting them straight on the grate. Lightly butter the inside of the tortilla. Add a mixture of cheese strips, beans, and thinly sliced peppers and onions. The quesadilla can be hard to flip, which is why I prefer to make it in a pan. Alternatively, heat up just the tortillas on the grill, flipping them once to slightly sear both sides. Then remove, and serve with sides of cheese, beans and what not so people can make their own.