Feeling left out at the cookout? Not to worry, the options for vegetarians these days are more plentiful than ever. Maybe you just need some inspiration? Here are some of my ideas that will help you (or your vegetarian friends) feel just as satisfied at the next backyard grill fest, block party or ahem, weenie roast.
There are products on the market to make vegetarian eating easier, and some of these work well for grilling or cookouts, such as soy-based meat alternatives (think pseudo-sausages and franks, mock meat patties and the like). Veggie patties are another option; some of them are grain based, some bean-based. Choose what you like and keep them on-hand for those times when you need a quick burger replacement. Of course, you don’t need to copy typical meat products—there are plenty of other easy choices you could use. For example, you could grill large Portobello mushrooms (season or marinate them first for extra flavor). These mushrooms are ideal as a burger sub since they are the right size, but you could also serve them in a small pita or just slice them—no bun needed.
Veg It Up
Nearly every vegetable can be grilled, so try something new! Here are a few ideas:
- Eggplant (grilled eggplant parmesan anyone?)
- Sweet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, small red or white potatoes
- Summer squash/zucchini
- Green beans
Grilled vegetables can form the basis of an entrée, be a side dish and also be put into a grilled veggie salad (this is handy for veggies you grilled the day before, or if you’re asked to bring a dish to a potluck cookout). Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille is another option and a refreshing difference from the usual coleslaw! You can also make your own falafel patties (falafel is a Middle Eastern mixture of mashed garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas, along with onions and some spices), grill them and serve them in a pita or alone.
Fire Up Some Fish
Not all vegetarians eat fish, of course, but for those that do, nothing beats a nice piece of grilled fish. Fish on the grill sometimes scares people, though I’m not sure why. The trick in my opinion is to use a firm fish (often a fish “steak” works best if you’re new at cooking fish on the grill). Tuna, salmon and swordfish are good choices for your first foray into fish grilling. Halibut is another firm fish that is wonderful on the grill. You can always grill a whole fish for a crowd—it’s quite easy to do. If you want an extra measure of fish-grilling security (against having the fish stick and fall apart), consider purchasing a fish grill basket or fish grilling rack to use on your grill. Planked fish is very trendy and also very tasty! Cooking the fish with spices and veggies in foil packets guarantees that you won’t lose the fish through the grill grate. Finally, consider making fish kebobs using one of the very firm fish (usually tuna or swordfish)—delicious and very welcome at all cookouts!