Monday, February 6, 2012

Vegetarian Grilling

yeah so we grill every weekend, weather permitting. What's funny to me about this is the following conversation, which I have about half the time when someone asks me about my weekend and how it was:

Friend/family: how was your weekend?
me: It was [insert adjective]. I cleaned [insert noun or name of room] and we went to [insert name of place]. Oh, and we grilled on Saturday.
Friend/family: Grilling, huh?... [thoughtful pause] how does a vegetarian grill?

Apparently eating meat is essential to grilling. well, non-vegetarians believe so. When I tell people I'm a vegetarian, they don't usually react by asking me how I manage to get through a meal. But when I tell people I grilled over the weekend, people who know I'm a vegetarian usually react by asking me how I managed to pull that one off, in a way that sort of likens vegetarian grilling to some kind of oxymoron.

But it turns out that vegetarian grilling is possible, as much fun and just as delicious as meat grilling.

Grilling in our family requires a lot of preparation. We keep a tub in the garage full of grilling accessories, including an assortment of plastic plates, metal skewers, a roll of paper towels, corn tongs, grilling tongs, the lighter, oven mits, etc. I keep a list in the tub of items to prepare before the grilling event. It takes about an hour/hour and a half to get ready to grill, which includes a trip to the grocery store, marinating, cleaning the grill, loading new charcoal, etc.

Recently, the Other Adult bought a fire pit, which is actually in no way a pit because it sits on a stand over the ground. The fire pit is a bowl on legs. You make a fire in it. When we grill at night, the fire pit is a source of light and extra heat. We like it.

We use lump charcoal, which is supposed to be the natural alternative to the regular Kingsford briquets we used in my childhood. Lump charcoal is somewhat faster burning than the briquets, leaves less waste, and comes in irregular sizes that range from large log-like pieces to tiny little flakes. We like the lump charcoal because we have heard rumors that the briquets have been soaked in nasty chemicals and that doesn't sit well with us. See below:

Just like with the briquets, we soak the lump charcoal in lighter fluid (nasty chemicals?) and light it up. It burns hot and bright for a couple minutes, then dies down. When the fire dies down we put on the griddle.

First we put on the shish kabobs and corn in the husks. The shish kabobs have onion, pepper, heirloom cherry tomatoes, cubes of tofu soaked in barbecue sauce, marinated seitan, cut up corn on the cob, and zuchinni. The kabobs are drizzled with olive oil and garlic powder as they cook.

I soak the corn cobs in water for about 15 minutes before placing them on the grill. This prevents the husks from lighting on fire for a while, although by the time we eat the husks are charred.

I cut up some carrot slices and wrap them in foil with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt. We heat that up until the carrots are somewhat soft but still have a crisp core. Sometimes instead of carrots, we marinate mushrooms and put them in foil, or we place asparagus spears directly on the grill and drizzle the spears in olive oil.

We have a grilling mascot. Mr. Grilling. The mascot is a plastic horse I found in the cart corral in the grocery store parking lot.

The Other Adult seems to think Mr. Grilling is stupid.

In place of burgers or steaks, we usually have grilled eggplant sandwiches with goat cheese on crusty bread. Or, like the pictures below, sometimes we make pizzas on crusty bread. For the pizzas, we heat chopped vegetables in olive oil in foil. We grill the bread until toasted and then spread on pizza sauce. We top it with the vegetables and little pats of goat cheese.

Below the table we keep a food garbage that I later put in the compost bin:

And of course, I have a beer. I bought the Guiness Draught because it was on sale.

While we grill, we talk. In the summer we swim. Sometimes the Kid does homework during this process and the Other Adult puts her phone in this little speaker base thing she bought and she turns on podcasts of This American Life or Josh and Chuck or Science Friday. we do it like this because we are huge nerds.

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