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Where's the Meat?
Barbecuing Veggie Style

veggie bbq recipesHot summer days. Lazy deck chairs. Ice cubes clinking in a big glass of fresh juice. Dinner sizzling away on the grill, its delicious aromas wafting on the cooling evening breeze.

Microscopic bits of polyunsaturated fatty acids floating in the air.

That’s what a study by environmental engineers at Rice University in Houston, Texas see when they think barbecue. According to the scientists, who measured sources of organic particulate matter in the atmosphere above Houston in 1997 and 1998, the residue of charred meat turned out to be an important component of the fine particles in the city’s air, which ranks as one of the more polluted American cities. It also has a reputation for being the barbecue capital of Texas, if not the whole USA.

The researchers noted that fine particles, such as those that come from cooking meat, are a health concern because they can penetrate deep into the lungs and lead to respiratory and heart problems. And of course, many people shun grilled meat for its potentially cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the negative effects on the environment of using cattle for protein or concerns about Mad Cow Disease.

So what are we health and environment conscious people to do all summer? Does your throat close up at the mere thought of veggie burgers that taste more like cardboard than the beef they’re supposed to mimic? Are you sick of settling for some chopped greens and egg salad on the side? Are you starting to think that the phrase “vegetarian barbecue” is an oxymoron?

Well, think again. The meatless barbecue is gaining popularity. Just think about how good that corn-on-the-cob tasted when you were a kid and it was thrown unhusked onto the campfire coals and grilled until juicy and tender. Aside from the old standby corn, what else can a non-meat eater do come patio time? Here are some yummy suggestions to acquaint friends and family to the vegetarian grill.

Artichoke Kebabs

18 small artichokes 
2 tablespoons lemon juice 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 tablespoons water 
½ teaspoon thyme 
salt and pepper 

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, thyme and water. Trim stems from artichokes and remove leaves until you get the pale inner leaves. Cut off the thorny tips of the leaves and remove the fibrous parts from around the bottom. If larger than about 1 ½ inches, cut in half lengthwise. Coat with marinade. Thread onto pre-soaked bamboo skewers and place on preheated grill (medium heat). Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the bottoms become tender. Turn frequently. When done remove from grill and pour remaining marinade over them with a little salt and pepper. Other vegetables that work well as kebabs include mushrooms of all types (especially portabello), onions (small boiling onions, chunks of larger ones), cherry tomatoes, leeks, asparagus, and all manner of squashes, zucchini and eggplant.

Grilled Vegetables

2 large ears fresh corn, husked, each cut crosswise 
1 small eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds 
1 large red onion, cut into 3/4-inch-thick wedges 
3 large bell peppers (various colors), seeded, cut lengthwise into strips 
1 large zucchini, trimmed, quartered lengthwise 
8 asparagus spears, trimmed 
1 large carrot, peeled, cut on deep diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices 

In a saucepan, make a basting sauce by combining ½ cup butter and ¼ cup olive oil with some chopped onion or shallots, mustard, lemon juice, herbs and grated lemon peel. Cool. Whisk over low heat to re-warm before using. Arrange corn pieces, eggplant rounds and onion wedges in single layer on large baking sheet. Arrange bell pepper strips, zucchini spears, asparagus spears and carrot slices in single layer on another large baking sheet. Transfer ½ cup sauce to small saucepan and reserve for dipping. Brush both sides of vegetables lightly with some of remaining basting sauce. Heat barbecue to medium-high. Grill corn, eggplant and onion until tender and lightly charred, brushing occasionally with basting sauce and turning with tongs, about 6 minutes. Transfer vegetables to small platter as vegetables finish grilling. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Grill bell peppers, zucchini, asparagus and carrot until tender and lightly charred, brushing occasionally with basting sauce and turning with tongs, about 6 minutes. Transfer vegetables to same platter, arranging alongside other vegetables. Season all vegetables with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh herb sprigs and lemon. Serve vegetables, passing warm dipping sauce separately.

Fire-Up-the-Grill Fajitas

Summer veggies sizzle in this marvelous Mex meal that is perfect for backyard barbecuers. This recipe is courtesy PETA. You’ll find many yummy veggie recipes on their website www.peta.org, or call 1-888-veg-food for more recipes and a free vegetarian starter kit. 

Juice of 2 limes (4 Tbsp.) 
1 Tbsp. olive oil 
1 garlic clove, minced 
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (for extra heat, don’t seed the pepper before mincing it)
2 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro 
2 tsp. chili powder 
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (or more if you can stand it) 
1 lb. extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch strips 
2 ears of corn 
1 large red onion 
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares 
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares 
12 cherry tomatoes 
4 large flour or corn tortillas 

Put the lime juice, olive oil, garlic, jalapeño pepper, cilantro, chili powder, and cayenne pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well. Put the tofu in a shallow pan, add the lime juice mixture, and marinate in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally, for several hours. Meanwhile, remove the husks from the corn and soak it in cold water for 1 hour. Drain the corn and wrap in aluminum foil. Grill for 20 to 30 minutes, turning often, until the corn is lightly charred. Cut the corn kernels off the cob. Parboil the onion and cut into quarters. Thread the onion, bell peppers and tomatoes on skewers and brush with some of the lime marinade. Grill, turning often, until lightly charred. Place the tofu on the grill, cover with a lid or aluminum foil and cook, basting occasionally with the marinade, until the tofu is light brown. Heat each tortilla briefly on the grill. Divide the vegetables and tofu equally among the tortillas, then roll them up fajita-style.

 

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