Living the WELL Life


Summertime and the Grillin’ Is Easy

Friday, June 29, 2012



I know what you’re probably thinking. Vegetarian and grilling are like Romeo and Juliet…with the tragedy. They...just…don’t…go…together. But, really, they do. From corn on the cob to veggie kabobs to yes, desserts, grilling is summer cooking at its best.  

For carnivores and omnivores, grilling is pretty straightforward. Throw some kind of meat on the grill, cook to juicy perfection and eat it. (I know...yuck, still...) But it’s not so simple for the growing number of vegetarians and vegans in the world who are looking for more than grilled zucchini when they show up at your alfresco soiree.

A couple of tips for grilling for the veg heads in your life: When cooking meat along with vegetarian foods, most of us would prefer not to have any meat remnants touch our dinner. So, it’s a good idea to thoroughly clean and scrape your grill after cooking any meat…before placing vegetarian items on the grill. You can also try designating a separate section of the grill for vegetarian items and make sure that this section is seriously clean before firing up the grill. 

Your veg friends will thank you…and your meal together will be completely enjoyable and stress-free.

Lovely high heat will create a luscious delectable caramelized smoky flavor in grilled veggies so take advantage of it. Depending on what you’re grilling, you’ll want to cut veggies thinner or thicker. Zucchini, yellow squash, onions can be cut medium-thin. Eggplant can be cut thicker. Small veggies like cherry tomatoes can be threaded through onto kabobs or seasoned and wrapped in foil.

Lots of people like to marinate their veggies before grilling and that’s a great thing, if you like it. I am more a fan of simply brushing them with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkling with sea salt and letting their natural flavor shine as they grill. Then I garnish my perfectly cooked veggies with fresh herbs to help showcase their freshness. I marinate foods like tofu and tempeh to create some depth of flavor so that when the foods are seared, they take on the flavors of the marinade and compliment vegetables perfectly.

There is so much more to veg grilling than perfect black lines on each tender slice. Grilling time varies from veggie to veggie, but overall, they are s-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o much more tender than any animal food, so you have to be a bit vigilant when grilling so your veggies don’t burn, dry out or come off the grill undercooked.

In the end, grilling vegetables takes your cooking to new heights. ..on so many levels. You are out of the hot kitchen, but your creativity isn’t lost…on the contrary…your dishes can be simple sides or more complex main courses. With a little thought and preparation, an entire feast can be created without turning on the stove…(okay, maybe just one burner)!

Basic Grilled Tomatoes
Grilling tomatoes loves very intense heat…sealing in flavors and searing the skin.  For this recipe, don’t choose overly ripe and juicy tomatoes…they will fall apart.  Stay vigilant, turning the tomatoes to char the outer skin.  

6 medium size firm tomatoes (about 2 pounds total)
sea salt
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Juice of ¼ lemon or orange
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove fresh garlic, finely minced
1 shallot, finely minced
generous pinch ground black pepper
1-2 sprigs fresh basil, finely shredded

Fire up the grill 15-20 minutes before ready to grill, so that the heat is quite high.  

Remove any green stems from the tomatoes, but do not core or cut into the tomato.  Put the whole tomatoes on the wire grate and grill, turning occasionally, until the skins crack and begin to blacken in places.  The tomatoes will soften in 12-15 minutes on a gas grill.  Keep turning to char evenly.

Whisk together the balance of ingredients to create a smooth vinaigrette dressing.  

To serve, slice the grilled tomatoes in half lengthwise.  Arrange them, cut side up on a platter and drizzle dressing over top.  Serve immediately.  Makes about 6 servings.

Note:  You can also coarsely chop the grilled tomatoes and sauté them in olive oil, with a bit of crushed red pepper flakes to create a most delicious chunky pasta sauce.  Simply spoon over pasta and serve garnished with fresh basil.

Grilled Thai Style Tofu
A medium hot grill will be most successful in this recipe.  The tofu will brown lightly at the edges, with the flavors sealed in from the heat of the grill, creating a main course that is hot, hot, hot.  

Marinade:
Juice of 2 fresh limes
1 jalapeno pepper, finely minced
1 tablepoon organic soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup or honey
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons thai curry paste
2 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely minced
1 brick extra firm tofu, sliced into one half-inch thick slabs

1 bunch watercress, rinsed well, chilled
¼ cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Fire up the grill about 10 minutes before cooking to get the heat at a steady medium.

Whisk together pepper, soy sauce, vinegar, rice syrup, garlic, oil, curry paste and cilantro to create a smooth marinade.  Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the heat to develop.

Slice the tofu and pat dry.  When the marinade is ready, lay the tofu in a shallow dish and spoon marinade over top.  Allow to marinate for 10 minutes.

Lay tofu on the wire grate of the grill, reserving the marinade.  Grill on each side until lightly browned at the edges, brushing with marinade occasionally, 4-6 minutes per side.

To serve, lay tofu on a bed of chilled watercress, spoon any remaining marinade over the salad and sprinkle with peanuts.  Makes 3-4 servings.

Grilled Radicchio with Ruby Grapefruit
The delicate bitter flavor of radicchio is showcased against splendidly juicy and refreshing grapefruit, creating a fresh, crisp side dish perfect for any al fresco feast.

2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon avocado oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 heads firm radicchio, halved lengthwise

Sweet garlic dressing
3 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
2 shallots, finely minced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 
2 teaspoons sweet white miso
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup or honey
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar

2 ruby grapefruits, peeled, seeded, thinly sliced
1 small bunch arugula, rinsed well, hand shredded

Fire up the grill about 15 minutes before you are ready to cook.  You will need it at medium heat for this dish.

Whisk together the first 5 ingredients.  Set aside for 10 minutes.  Halve the radicchio lengthwise and arrange on a baking sheet cut-side up.  

Make the dressing by whisking all ingredients together until smooth, adjusting the seasoning to your taste.  

When you are ready to grill the radicchio, spoon marinade over each half and lay, cut side down on the wire grate, grilling for 1-2 minutes, until lightly browned and beginning to wilt.  

To serve, arrange arugula and grapefruit slices on a platter, lay grilled radicchio on top and spoon dressing over entire dish.  Serve immediately.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Grilled Fig, Fennel and Belgian Endive Salad 
Oh, man…nothing does it for me in the summer than the combination of sweet grilled fruit with bitter veggies and a richly flavored dressing.

Dressing:
8-10 dried black mission figs, coarsely chopped
2 cups dry white wine
3 tablespoons brown rice syrup or honey
grated zest of 1 orange
juice of 1 orange
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 dried chili, left whole
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Grilled vegetables:
1 clove fresh garlic, finely minced
3-4 tablespoons avocado oil
2 sprigs fresh basil finely minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 fennel bulbs, halved lengthwise
3 Belgian endive, halved lengthwise

Salad:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
2-3 shallots, finely minced
sea salt
10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 sprigs fresh basil, leaves left whole
¼ cup pine nuts
juice of 1 lemon

2-3 cups spring mix or other baby greens

Fire up the grill 15-20 minutes before you are ready to cook, as you will need high heat.

Combine the dressing in a sauce pan and place over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, uncovered.  Reduce heat to low and cook until figs break down in the mixture and the contents have reduced by about one third, 25-30 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve and set aside.

Mix together garlic, oil, salt and basil, whisking until well-combined.  Brush over cut sides of fennel and endive. Place veggies, cut side down on wire grate and grill until edges are browned and the vegetables are beginning to wilt.  The endive will take between 7-9 minutes and the fennel 10-12 minutes. 

While the vegetables grill, prepare the salad.  Place about 3 tablespoons oil, garlic and shallot in a skillet over medium heat.  When the shallots begin to sizzle, add a pinch of salt and sauté shallots for 1-2 minutes.  Stir in cherry tomatoes and basil leaves, season lightly with salt and sauté just until tomatoes begin to wilt, about 3 minutes.  Turn off heat and stir in pine nuts and lemon juice.

To serve, arrange greens on a serving platter, with fennel and endive on top, cut side up.  Spoon fig mixture and sautéed cherry tomatoes over top.  Makes 4-6 servings.  

Grilled Asparagus Spears with Guacamole
I know we think of guacamole with corn chips and that’s just great…but you simply must try this for a cool, crisp and wonderful way to beat the summer heat.  When I was in Mexico, the chef I worked with told me this is how they really make guacamole, no frills.  See if you like it.

Grilled asparagus:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
juice of 1 lemon
20 asparagus spears

Guacamole:
3 ripe avocados, halved, seeded
½ fresh jalapeno, finely minced
¼ red onion, finely diced
sea salt
1 small vine ripened tomato, diced
2 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely minced

Fire up the grill about 10 minutes before you are ready to cook.  Medium heat will serve best for this dish.

Mix together the oil, salt and lemon juice, whisking to emulsify.  Using your fingers, rub each asparagus spear with the mixture, coating them very well.  Lay the asparagus on the wire grate and grill, turning occasionally, until browned at the edges and slightly wilted, about 5-6 minutes total.

Make the guacamole by mashing the avocado flesh until smooth.  Mix in the balance of ingredients, adjusting the seasoning to your taste.  Cover and chill completely.

To serve, place the guacamole in a bowl in the center of a serving platter with the grilled asparagus spears around the rim.  Serve immediately.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Savory Fettucine with Tangy Grilled Yellow Squash
I love this pasta dish. The mild character of the noodles provides the perfect foundation for the richly flavored grilled veggies.

6 small yellow summer squash, 4 sliced lengthwise 1/3 inch thick, 2 sliced lengthwise 1/- inch thick by hand or on a mandoline 
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar 
1 1/2 teaspoons coconut sugar 
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
5 garlic cloves 
3 large basil sprigs plus 2 tablespoons chopped basil 
1/2 cup mint leaves, plus 1/4 cup chopped mint 
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled 
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar 
1 pound vegan fresh fettuccine 

Toss the 1/3-inch-thick squash slices with the salt and set aside for 45 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the cider vinegar with the coconut sugar and stir to dissolve the coconut sugar. Rinse and dry the salted squash and add it to the bowl; toss to coat with the vinegar mixture.
 
In a blender, puree 1/2 cup of olive oil with the garlic and transfer to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then pour the garlic oil over the squash. Add the basil leaves and sprigs and mint leaves and press to make sure they squash stays in the marinade. Allow to stand in marinade for 30 minutes. 

Fire up the grill to high and preheat to high. Lift the squash out of the marinade; scrape any excess marinade back into the bowl and reserve. Grill the marinated squash strips over high heat until nicely charred, about 1 minute per side. Cut the squash into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 

While the water comes to a boil, heat 1/4 cup of the reserved marinade in a deep skillet and add the saffron. Add the 1/8-inch-thick squash ribbons and cook over high heat, tossing, until al dente, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and stir in rice vinegar, season lightly with salt and toss well. Add the grilled squash and toss to heat through. Remove from the heat.
 
Cook the fettuccine until al dente. Reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet. Toss well over moderate heat, gradually adding the reserved pasta cooking water to make a sauce. Season with salt to taste. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil all over, sprinkle with the chopped basil and mint and serve immediately. Makes 6-8 servings. 

Note: You can prepare the grilled squash the day before you make the pasta.

Grilled Eggplant Stuffed with Cashew ‘Ricotta’
This dish can serve as a main course or a side dish, depending on the rest of the meal. I prefer it as a side dish because the ‘ricotta’ is quite rich and small servings seem to work best. As a main course, you would only need a side salad to complement this fabulously luscious recipe.

2 cups raw cashews (10 ounces) 
1 teaspoon sweet white miso 
1/2 cup spring or filtered water 
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped 
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper 
2, 1-pound eggplants, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick 
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing 

Ratatouille sauce: 
1 pound tomatoes, sliced crosswise 
2 medium red onions, ½-inch thick slices (crosswise)
4 Italian frying peppers, ½-inch thick lengthwise slices 
1 large eggplant, sliced crosswise, thinly 
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise 
extra-virgin olive oil 
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper 
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 
1 bay leaf  
1/2 cup dry white wine 
1/2 cup water 
1/2 cup shredded basil  

In a food processor, combine the cashews with the miso and water and process to a fine paste. Transfer the paste to a bowl, stir in the olives and season with salt and pepper. It will take on the texture of ricotta cheese, but a bit smoother.
 
Preheat a grill to high. Brush the eggplant slices (there should be about 24) with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and grill over high heat, turning once, until tender and lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes.

Arrange the eggplant slices on a dry work surface and season with salt and pepper. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the cashew filling onto one end of each eggplant slice. Roll into tight cylinders. Cover with plastic wrap. 

Brush all of the vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables in batches until tender and lightly charred, about 3 minutes for the tomatoes and 6 minutes for the onions, peppers, eggplant and zucchini. Transfer the grilled tomatoes to a blender and puree into a smooth sauce. 

Peel, seed and dice the peppers and chop the onions. Add them to a large deep skillet along with a small amount of oil and the garlic and bay leaf. Cook over moderately high heat until tender, 5 minutes. Add the wine and boil until evaporated, 2 minutes. Add the tomato puree and water, season with salt and pepper and simmer until the sauce is slightly reduced, 15 minutes. Cut the eggplant and zucchini into 1/2-inch pieces; add to the skillet. Simmer 5 minutes longer. Discard the bay leaf and stir in the basil. 

Spoon the ratatouille sauce into shallow bowls and top with the stuffed eggplant. Garnish with more basil, if desired.

Note: The ratatouille sauce can be made ahead and re-heated before serving. You may also make the ‘ricotta’ ahead, but I would grill the eggplant and stuff it fresh.

Grilled Pineapple Rings
We all love watermelon at cookouts, but why not give your loved ones a taste of the unexpected with this heavenly dessert?

1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and slice into ½ (one half)-inch thick rings
Juice of 1 lime
3-4 tablespoons brown rice syrup or honey
Sea salt
Scant pinch cinnamon

Preheat the grill to medium.

Prepare the pineapple by slicing off the top and bottom and using a sharp knife, slicing off the outer skin, including the ‘eyes’ that dot the flesh.  Using a corer, pull the hard center out and slice into rings. (You can also buy pineapple rings; just avoid the ones in syrup.)

Whisk together lime juice, syrup, a pinch of salt and cinnamon.  Using a silicone brush, coat the pineapple slices and grill until the sugars begin to brown at the edges, about 3-4 minutes a side.  

To serve, place pineapple slices on individual dessert plates and top with a scoop of your favorite non-dairy ‘ice cream.’ Makes 6-8 servings.

 



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