Meat, meat, meat, occasionally corn, and more meat. That’s the dedicated job of many a grill, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The surprising items listed here can become the components of a vegetarian barbecue dinner, or can be grilled alongside meat as accompaniments.
Grilled salad, yum, the antithesis of a big slab of meat on the grill. You can grill many kinds of lettuce, but the heartier varieties hold up better to the char. Use romaine, endive or cabbage–you can separate leaves, use clusters of leaves, or cut the head in two and grill the halves face down. Brush them lightly with oil and grill over medium heat until just charred and not yet wilting into smithereens. There are many recipes online for caesar salad using grilled romaine, but you can make just about any salad you like.
Cooking pizza on the grill imparts some crispy charred parts of the crust akin to pizza cooked in a brick oven. Brush the grill with oil, stretch out the dough on the grill, brush the top with oil and grill over medium-low heat. Flip the dough, add your toppings, and continue to grill until the crust is fully cooked. I really like how Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks handles her grilled pizza.
I am a huge fan of caramelized fruit, and cooking fruit on the grill does just that. You can use pineapple, peaches, mangos, bananas–I can hardly think of a fruit that wouldn’t work. Use large chunks or make fruit kabobs, brush with oil and grill over medium-high heat. You can also marinade the fruit first with a sweet marinade to make a glaze–play around with maple syrup and lemon or honey and orange juice. Grilled fruit can be eaten on its own, as a side for meats, used in a salad, or for dessert served with ice cream.
Salty, yummy halloumi, a traditional cheese from Cyprus, is a wonder on the grill. It stands up to high heat without melting, rather it just gets smoky and creamy and mellow and perfect. You can also use thick slices of aged provolone if you prefer. Brush the cheese with oil, and grill over medium high heat until golden, flip, and grill the other side. My favorite way to eat grilled cheese is on (grilled!) bread with chopped raw tomatoes, sea salt and whatever fresh herbs you may have on hand. (Oregano is especially good.) Or, for the salty-sweet combination that weakens knees, halloumi is amazing with grilled fruit.
Cake? Cake! Angel food cake, pound cake, and any other firm cake loves a little trip to the grill for some toasting and caramelized edges. Loaf cakes, like banana bread or cornbread work well too. Brush with butter and toast over medium heat until golden with grill marks–serve with grilled fruit. Add Greek yogurt, ice cream, or creme fraiche too.
I thought grilled avocados sounded kind of strange–counterintuitive–but I thought deep-fried avocados sounded strange too, until I tried them. Grilling slices of avocado gives the creamy fruit a lovely smoky edge that lends depth to whatever they are added to. Brush them with oil and cook over medium heat–use grilled avocados in guacamole, salads, sandwiches, or alongside whatever else you are grilling.
photo: wannabe a vegan