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Vegetarians at the BBQ
It would seem that nowadays there are a lot of options for vegetarians. Meatless alternatives seem to abound everywhere, from the neighborhood deli, to the sushi shop, to the hamburger joint. The hamburger joint? Yes, you heard correctly. With the introduction of several brands of meatless “burgers,” vegetarians can brave the very den of carnivorous pleasure. Once viewed as an eccentric oddity, vegetarians have moved from the fringe to the mainstream. However, the truth is, all too often the meatless menu option isn’t vegetarian at all…it’s just a menu item, minus the meat. Unfortunately, a white hoagie bun topped with iceberg lettuce, pickles, onions, mayonnaise, and mustard is about as unappealing to the vegetarian as it is to the carnivore counterpart.
So what about the vegetarian at the barbecue?
With its increased popularity, it’s highly likely you have friends or family members who’ve adopted this lifestyle. Don’t let this cause you angst the next time you invite them over for barbecue. With the tips below, you can be assured they’ll be licking their fingers and singing your praise as enthusiastically as your steak-loving comrades.
The first rule of thumb when barbecuing for vegetarians is that veggies are not just a sideshow anymore. Don’t doom your vegetarian guests to pick and choose among the sides to make their meals. Potato salad, relish plates, and devilled eggs? Consider. You offer steak, chicken, and fish to your meat-loving friends, but the vegetarian in attendance is offered only corn on the cob? Lame! If you want to really impress your vegetarian guests, you want to offer at least one meat-free main dish. While there are a few meat substitutions out there I advise you to think outside the box. A quick search on the internet will reveal literally hundreds of recipes for preparing veggies on the grill. A short-list of the easiest to prepare, and most popular vegetables would include potatoes, corn, tomatoes, and zucchini. If you’re willing to put in a little more effort, you can prepare a bowl of pasta to serve with the grilled veggies. Don’t blame me if your meat-loving friends fill up on this entrée and you have to make more!
The second tip to hosting a vegetarian-friendly barbecue is presentation. While a pile of juicy steaks thrown on a platter straight from the grill may look tempting, a pound of potatoes doesn’t quite have the same appeal. Take a few minutes to peruse a few vegetarian cookbooks, or preview the photographs of the recipes you check out on line. You may be surprised how tempting a plate of Stuffed Tomatoes looks with a sprig of fresh herbs and a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar, grated cheese, or drizzled oil. Let your creative juices flow freely, and watch how mouth-watering the vegetarian alternative suddenly becomes.
This article wouldn’t be complete without a word on quality. Time after time I’ve found this to be the big difference between a veggie-lover and a veggie-hater. Usually the veggie-hater has never been exposed to good quality vegetables. If you want your vegetarian entrée to come out tasting like a champ, it’s worth the effort to find the freshest produce available. Barbecue season also happens to be the best season for vegetables—so check out your local farmer’s market or neighborhood vegetable stand. Of course, the best place to get vegetables is straight out of the garden, and there are great recipes that even use the veggies you may otherwise throw away. (For example, the green tomatoes that get knocked off the vine grill up firm and tangy!) Trust me, everyone will love a vegetable that has been ripened by the sun, and picked in season.
There you have it! Take these tips with you to the grocery store and the vegetable stand, and I have no doubt your barbecue will be a big hit—for everyone!
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