During the summer months, I spend a great deal of time with close friends at get-togethers where food is always the main attraction. Believe it or not, the majority of my friends happen to be vegetarian or vegan and the food around the table at these potluck parties is always diverse and healthy.
Being a professional chef, I have never taken for granted the need for a solid vegetarian menu. Having worked in at least a dozen restaurants, I have unfortunately seen vegetarian meals become a boring afterthought or never really existing. The plain grilled vegetable medley was always the go-to that some chefs seem to scramble to put together when the waiter walks into the kitchen and says, “there is a vegetarian in the house.” If you are one of those vegetarians who has had to endure a boring meal like that, I am truly sorry.
There are so many options available when creating a great vegetarian dish, so if you are a vegetarian or you simply enjoy a meatless meal once in a while, have no fear because the summers of boring store bought soy patties are behind you! Here are some great tips and recipe ideas for a delicious vegetarian BBQ season:
Pre-packaged veggie burgers are sodium filled and void of any fresh flavors. Making your own patties is a great way to pack in a lot of fresh ingredients and most importantly, flavour. Try using a variety of grains and legumes as binding agents instead of breadcrumbs. Wheat berries, lentils, and barley add great flavours and fantastic texture to any veggie burger; and they also add a significant amount of fiber. Roasting your veggies instead of using raw or sauteed vegetables will always give you more intense flavours.
Spice It Up!
Spices and marinades are an important step in any style of cooking. Vegetables and tofu contain a fair amount of water and as they are grilled, the water evaporates and the flavor concentrates; however, these ingredients alone need a bit of assistance. Before you grill any veggies, marinate them to really enhance their taste. Also, use flavoured oils on your veggies like walnut, sesame, pumpkin, chili, and roasted garlic. You may also try mixing in Asian ingredients like miso, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce. If you enjoy spices, then cumin, curry, coriander, fenugreek and paprika all work well too, just remember to toast them to release their oils before you use them.
Most vegetarian foods are much more delicate than meat and contain less fat. So to prevent your food from sticking to the grill and falling apart, it’s important to keep the grill clean and well-oiled. Scrape the grill clean once it is hot using a heavy-duty wire brush to remove any burned on bits of food. Fold a paper towel into a small square, soak it with vegetable oil and rub down the grill thoroughly.
Try grilling up some of these meatless delights:
- Veggie Burgers
- Grilled Veggie-Stuffed Portobellos with Cheese on Herbed Flatbread
- Grilled Vegetable and Goat Cheese Salad
- Buddah Patty
- Grilled Vegetable Kebabs
Chef Andrea Nicholson is the owner of Killer Condiments and was a contestant on season one of Top Chef Canada. Supporting sustainability purveyors, Canadian farmers and Ocean Wise is the central tenet behind her cuisine.