Monday, July 20, 2009

Vegetarians Can Grill Too!

After a seemingly eternal hiatus from posting, I am back, and inspiration has been coming from all directions. On this gloomy Monday night, I decided to make my first foray into grilling. Plans for providing grilled food at a Saturday party fell through for several reasons, leaving us with an overflowing refrigerator full of vegetables and Erin's lovely charcoal grill still begging to be used.

Last year around this time, I was all about fancying up my culinary creations. I am as yet quite new to cooking, and back then I was even newer. The more ingredients, the more flavors, the more steps involved in the recipe, I thought, the better. I loved making curries, soups, casseroles, sauces, anything that involved a lot of chopping and sauteing. And, it's true...I still love making meals like that. However, heading into this summer, I have realized that summer cooking is all about enjoying food close to its original state. Southern cooking styles are key here. Simple methods rule the plate. Now is the time to appreciate foods for what they really are. Can or freeze the extra and then dress it up during the cold months.

So with that in mind, I have determined to learn how to grill. Okay, so Ron and I are vegetarians, and grilling a few thick pieces of squash is about a thousand times easier than doing a good burger. But still, I was a bit intimidated, though firmly out to prove that grilling is still worth it without the meat.

We cut this huge zucchini (3 like this lurk in the produce drawer!) into 1/2 inch rounds and covered them liberally with melted butter and crushed garlic. These pieces are so hefty in diameter they almost remind me of burgers. At a later date I'd like to try these on a delicious roll, or maybe even as part of a po-boy. For those who are not vegetarians, you could even put one in the roll with your burger.

Though I've seen people grill pieces of sweet corn directly, I learned a neat trick from the internet that I decided to try. Pull the husk back but don't detach it from the base of the ear. Coat each ear liberally with olive oil, then pull the husk back over, tying at the top with kitchen twine or whatever you can find to hold it together.

Not grilled, but we had to include mashed potatoes, since I was going for the classic American feel. Joy of Cooking tells us to boil the potatoes until soft, then combine them with 1/3 cup of hot milk or buttermilk, plus salt and pepper. We added plenty of garlic as well and kept the skins on because these are certified organic potatoes. I admit they are new potatoes and not dried, meaning it's really a waste to eat them mashed (new potatoes should be barely modified from their original form, cooked just enough and combined with some kind of fat, salt, and parsley), but I wanted mashed potatoes!

Into the grill! My dad lent me that nice grill basket. The corn husks browned and blackened and everything together took no more than 15 minutes to cook. Anyone else need to grill something?

Obviously, pair this meal with beer. A black bean, tomato, red onion and microgreens salad adds necessary protein. Dress the beans as you like...I like to add a dash of cumin, a dash of chili powder, something spicy and plenty of salt and pepper. So the final plate is:

Buttery garlic grilled zucchini rounds
Smoky sweet corn
Garlic mashed new potatoes topped with spicy refrigerator pickles
Black bean salad

The corn was amazing, imbued with a very pleasant smoky aroma and flavor and plenty sweet. The zucchini rounds were al dente, golden brown and delicious. No salt necessary, just butter and garlic there. Having done all the grilling myself, my hands still smell like smoke, a pleasant memory of this July meal. I pronounce my grilling a success. I do recommend trying to get organic or at least 'ecologically grown' sweet corn, as any traditionally grown corn will inevitably be GMO and laden with pesticides. Here's a rule of thumb: if your sweet corn doesn't have a worm inside the husk, it's not good for you.


  1. Hey Natalie, Nice Post.
    On the Corn Grilling, Matt and I Love to grill corn and our favorite method is to leave the corn in the husk...only pullng the top back enough to check for worm damage. Fill a Roasting pan or pot with water and soak the Corn, in the husk, for an hour or a little more is fine. Once the husk have been soaked the Corn goes strait on the grill, again right in the husk. After about 20minutes on the grill (turning once or twice)the corn is done and fully plump, juicy and crunchy. The only down side... pealing away the now steaming hot husk! Be sure to use a couple of kitchen towls for this task, and then enjoy!

  2. Correction on that cook time.. 30minutes at a medium low setting.