Sunday, July 1, 2012

Vegan & Vegetarian Grilling for the 4th of July

I have always wondered why grilling on the 4th seems so de rigor - it is hard to imagine Thomas Jefferson or George Washington slaving over a grill - oh, right, their slaves did that for them! But seriously, where did this tradition come from? If anyone knows, please enlighten me.

Regardless of the tradition, the vegetarian and vegans out there certainly get shunted aside for the meat-heavy menus that take front and center at the grill on that day. So for all of you folks looking for more than grilled portabellos (good, but kind of common) and frozen veggie burgers, here are my humble suggestions.

Let's start with entree possibilities.

First is Apricot Chipotle Glazed Tofu. Sounds complicated but oh so easy and delicious that you will have to hold the meat-eaters at bay with your fork - make sure the tines are sharpened!

Another interesting entree choice is Grilled Haloumi. If you have yet to try this magical cheese of Cypress, find a specialty or natural food store and pick up a piece. A firm cheese that feels like more solid fresh mozzarella with a bit of the salty tang of feta, it grills without melting all over the place, producing beautiful grill marks and a smoking creamy mouth feel. Dare I say it's the steak of cheese? It would pair nicely with any fresh green herb condiments like Chimichurri or Coriander Chutney.

Yes, you can buy veggie burgers at the store and there are some that I love in a pinch. But make your own and put exactly what you want in them!

In these White Bean and Chipotle Burgers I combine mild flavored white beans with spicy chipotle sauce (great if you have made your own) to create a not too beany but oh so spicy burger waiting for your favorite toppings. With that much spice in the burger, my additions are usually simple like the tomato and avocado in the picture.

If you are one of those greens-a-holics (don't be ashamed, raise your hand) you will love the Spinach and Black Bean Burgers. Adding greens of any kind to beans helps hold a veggie patty together nicely - no need for eggs here! Past variations have included bread crumbs or walnuts, truly whatever was on hand that sounded like it would be good together. This version is straight out of the pantry - dry and frozen. Combine frozen spinach, canned beans, a little flour to hold it all together and some basic seasonings, and you've got a great burger!

If you prefer an Asian style marinade, this Szchewan Style Grilled Tofu is for you. Simple but flavorful, this is my go to recipe when I need to whip something up quickly as a contribution to a grilling feast. The tofu only needs to marinate for 10-15 minutes per side and then you're ready for the fire.

Don't forget the sides! These are a few of my current favorites, including grilled veggie options but also some cold salads like this vegan tortellini pasta salad (the trick is to use won ton wrappers or DIY goyza wrappers).

Tortellini Pasta Salad

Grilled Zucchini with Red Wine Vinegar

Traditional Italian Style Grilled Radicchio

Grilled Artichokes with Aioli

And to bring up the rear, here's the Classic Herb Potato Salad I posted for last year's 4th celebration. Happy Birthday America! Here's to another year of continuing to improve our country and striving to be the home of the brave and the land of the free for everyone!

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