Who needs steak and burgers when you can enjoy grilled Romaine salads, caramelized doughnuts, and chewy pizzas off the barbecue?
There's nothing like the smell of grilling food to indicate that warm weather is here. Most people associate backyard barbecues with animal protein, but that's a limited way of looking at it. A grill is simply a cooking method that can be applied to countless other foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and grains. Here's a list of foods you should be grilling, no matter what diet you follow. These will satisfy that primal urge for a smoke-flavored meal cooked outdoors.
Greens: Toss a quartered head of Romaine (keep it attached to the core so leaves don't fall off) on the grill, brushed with olive oil. Chop it up for a divine, slightly smoky Caesar salad. Grill radicchio, endive, rapini, boy hoy, and any kind of cabbage. Eat as a side dish, add to a grain bowl, or make into a salad.
Pizza: Make sure the grill is well-oiled. Toss on small rounds of raw pizza dough. Cook for 1 minute per side, just till it firms up and releases from the grill. Remove from grill, top the pizzas, and either finish on low heat on the barbecue or transfer to the oven. Do the same with homemade naan dough.
Dense vegetables: Use the grill as a finishing touch for starchy or root vegetables such as potatoes, fennel wedges, leeks, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and artichokes. Start with boiling till tender, then skewering and grilling for a smoky finish.
Tender vegetables: Some veggies can cook all the way through on the grill, not requiring pre-cooking. These include asparagus, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, scallions, and peppers.
Okra: Grilled fresh okra is a great snack alternative to french fries. Toss with oil and grill over a hot charcoal fire. Season with salt and pepper.
Doughnuts: Who knew? This tip comes via Fine Cooking, which recommends toasting glazed doughnuts on the grill to make them puff up like they "just came out of the fryer. The sugar caramelizes into a crackly crust on the surface." Take it to the next level by dipping in melted chocolate.
Fruit: It may sound strange, but grilled fruit can be wonderful. Peaches are a classic, served with ice cream or as a savory sauce with meat. Try pineapple slices, sprinkled on both sides with brown sugar and 'chai' spices (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, ground anise). Grill for 2-3 minutes per side and serve with sorbet (via Bonnie Stern). Try grilling watermelon wedges and making salsa with it, adding chopped red onion, lime juice, mint, and chile.
Polenta: Make polenta, then let it cool and set. Cut into squares and grill for a few minutes till heated through. Serve with lots of grilled vegetables and/or tomato sauce.
Portobello burgers: Who doesn't love a great burger off the grill? Unfortunately many vegan bean-based burgers don't hold together when grilled, so using a whole portobello mushroom cap is a safer bet. In Vegan for Everybody, America's Test Kitchen recommends marinating the mushrooms for up to an hour ahead of time and cutting a crosshatch pattern to allow more absorption of marinade; this prevents skin from turning chewy while it cooks. Top with grilled onions, mayo, and arugula.
Breads: Prepare garlic bread by spreading minced garlic, butter, and salt on a baguette and grilling whole; slice and serve. Brush pita with olive oil and sprinkle with za'atar, then grill. Cut into wedges and serve with dip.
Tofu & Tempeh: Cut tofu into 1/2 inch slices or triangles. Dip in a tamari-sesame oil mix and grill for 3-5 minutes per side, until grill marks appear. Tempeh can be cooked like a kebab, marinated ahead of time in barbecue sauce (best if you make your own) and threaded onto skewers for grilling. Add peppers and mushrooms for variety.
Seitan: Cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz says this is her favorite way to prepare seitan. She cuts it into 1/4-inch long strips, tosses with olive oil, salt and pepper, and grills for 3-5 minutes per side. "These slices are perfect over salads or in sandwiches (try hummus, avocado, lettuce, tomato and seitan), or perhaps with mashed potatoes and some gravy.
Corn: Grill husked cobs of corn directly on the grill, no more than 5 minutes total. One recipe I make frequently in the summer is grilled corn salad from Bonnie Stern. Grill 8 cobs of corn, then cut the kernels off. Make a dressing: 1/2 cup mayo, 1 clove minced garlic, 3 tbsp lime juice, 1 tsp ground cumin, dash hot pepper sauce, 2 tbsp chopped cilantro, and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Mix and combine with corn.