A Tasty Twist on BBQ
Let seasonal produce and vegetarian proteins be the stars of your next cookout.
Just about anything can be cooked on an open fire, says Mark McDonough, chef and food team member at Panera Bread®. “When I fire up the grill at home, I’m prepared with plenty of options,” McDonough says. “We eat a lot of alternative-protein dishes, including tempeh and seitan, and we always have a variety of vegetables ready to throw on.” Whether you’re hosting vegetarians for a backyard barbecue or just want to skip the burgers for a change, feel free to take protein substitutes and vegetables off the side dish menu and give them star billing. Keep in mind that veggies and nonmeat items can be delicate (or small enough to slip through the grate), so you’ll want the right tools on hand. Cast-iron pans, which stand up well to high heat, are just right for searing, and grill baskets and skewers can hold smaller items for cooking.
Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan
All three are great sources of vegetarian protein. Seitan is made from wheat gluten; tofu and tempeh are soy products. “You can use these ingredients in much the same way you would use meat,” McDonough says, who favors a marinade of soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, oregano, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes before grilling.
Thread cut vegetables on skewers (bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, eggplant, and squash go well together), brush them with olive oil, and grill over a low flame. For a twist, add lemon wedges to your skewers. Grilling cuts the bitterness, and your veggies will pick up a light citrus flavor. Serve over rice or couscous.
Whether you make your own dough or opt for store-bought, grilling it packs an extra flavor punch in every bite of the pizza. Grill flattened dough until marks appear; then remove it and add toppings on the side with the marks (figs, goat cheese, and arugula is a great combination to try). Return the pizza to the grill and cook it until the cheese is bubbly and toppings are warmed through, two to three minutes.
In a similar way to pizza, you can grill store-bought flatbread, naan, pita, or focaccia until just warm and crisp. Serve it with grilled veggies or pair it with a salad.
Hearty vegetables are ideal for grilling. You can slice a head of cauliflower into thick steaks and brush them with a good-quality olive oil before grilling. “Finish with a drizzle of balsamic glaze,” suggests McDonough. Other fresh vegetables that are good for grilling: sweet potato wedges, fennel, and carrots.
Peaches, nectarines, and plums are ideal grilling fare. Cut each whole fruit in half, remove the stone, and brush the halves with a little oil. Grill them over a low flame, then serve them over crisp garden greens or a grain salad. For a sweet finish, top the grilled halves with ice cream. Another dessert option: Spoon sliced bananas, walnuts, and chocolate chips into sugar cones, wrap the cones in foil, and grill them over a low fire.