Have spices, will travel.
I used to do a ton of meal planning before I visited Rob’s family. My master plan was to make food that Rob’s family would adore and want to make themselves. To do that, I would try to find a recipe that was a bit more mainstream in flavours, with ingredients that were already in their kitchen.
I don’t do that anymore. As selfish as it may seem, I no longer cater my meals to others. It is my meal, so I cater it to what I want to eat. I have realized that at Rob’s family gatherings, my meal is never the main dish and people just nibble at it because they want to try it. If they like it, so be it. If not, that is ok, too. However, I know that with my different tastes, I use different ingredients. I am not just talking about eating vegetables like kale, rather that I use a wide range of spices and condiments that not everyone has.
But now I come prepared. I bring my own spices. My containers are small and portable, so it is no big deal. During my last trip to Woodstock, I decided to make a few dishes. I brought my favourite curry powder to make the Raw Thai Pineapple Rice Salad which received high praise. It was my only repeater recipe but I knew it tasted great and was easy to make. I also brought chili powder (not stale!) to make these grilled vegetable fajitas. Yes, I wanted to capitalize on using the barbecue!
A bounty of vegetables (Portobello mushrooms, zucchini and bell pepper) was marinaded in a chili-lime dressing in the morning. Lentils simmered on the stove before guests arrived for the barbecue. While I originally had elaborate plans to make a flavourful Ancho chile-spiked lentil taco meat, I erred on the side of simplicity and tossed the unadorned lentils with the roasted vegetables. The smoky vegetables with a bit of zip from the chili marinade worked really well together.
I scored the leftovers and at home, I served them in a collard wrap, topped with some fresh avocado. Sprouts are a delicious, gorgeous garnish.
Have no grill? Roasting the vegetables would likely work just as well. Pick your favourite vegetables, but try not to skip the Portobellos. They were my favourite, with a slightly meaty taste. Enjoy!
Who says vegans can’t have fun at a barbecue?
It isn’t all about the balsamic grilled portobellos.. although they are delicious.
Please don’t turn off your barbecue too early. Let me tell you that it should involve dessert, too.
At my latest barbecue gathering, I experimented with grilling fruit. No stranger to roasting fruit (remember the roasted strawberry balsamic dressing?), grilling them also brings out their natural sweetness.
With the first Ontario peaches rolling off the trees, I was excited to try these grilled peaches with a sweet raspberry sauce. Super simple. Mash some raspberries and mix with some lemon juice and a touch of sweetener. Let the peaches marinade for a bit, then grill. Top with more fresh raspberries and drizzle with the remainder of the sauce. Easy,
peasypeachy and so much more than the sum of its parts. Granted, local summer fruit is already pretty spectacular but this definitely brings it up a notch.
I was drawn to this recipe mainly because of the fresh fruit but when my Mom ate it, she said it was similar to Peach Melba. Not sure what Peach Melba was all about, I had to look it up. Named after Nellie Melba, an opera singer, the dessert was invented in 1892. An ice sculpture of a swan sat overtop vanilla ice cream and carried caramelized peaches and spun sugar. A later version in 1900 included a raspberry puree. I am not making any dessert to look like a swan, thank you very much!
A typical peach melba recipe has one boil peaches in a sugar syrup to accentuate its sweetness. I say forget those 3.5 cups of white sugar and resort to grilling instead! Peaches already possess all the sweetness you need: you just have to gently coax it out of them. Next time, I definitely plan on eating this overtop some banana soft-serve ice cream!
This is my submission to Ricki and Amie’s Backyard Barbecue Event, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s One Ingredient challenge for peaches, to this week’s Potluck Party, and to Cookbooks Sundays.
Uh, oh. I have become predictable.
Being invited for a BBQ = time for Garlic-Thyme Balsamic Roasted Portobello Mushrooms!
Any time of day, grilled portobello mushrooms fit with the theme. Rob and I went to a post-wedding brunch where the new father-in-law was cooking eggs and sausages on the barbecue. I knew this man must be a barbecue connoisseur, so I left my marinaded mushrooms with him. Do not lose the marinade, I told him, because it was going to be my salad dressing, too.
I was shocked when he returned with beautifully plump mushrooms with even more marinade. He turned my barbecue skills upside down. Instead of doing a continuous grilling on a random side of the mushroom, he started grilling gill side down. Next, he flipped them gill side up to finish them off. The juices from the mushrooms pooled in the middle of the mushrooms. Ingenious. No, really, I was so impressed. (Never mind scrambled eggs on the barbecue…)
In any case, portobello mushrooms alone do not make a meal, so instead of a garlic white bean puree, I opted to add quinoa and toasted walnuts for crunch. This way, you do not lose any of the fabulous garlic-thyme-balsamic marinade and you get a filling meal that is also great as leftovers. Because, yes, it is very sad. I do not like to share my mushrooms. They are just too good.
What are your favourite vegan things to make on the barbecue? I think I need a bigger variety of barbecue tricks! Here are our current barbecue tricks:
Grilled Rosemary Garlic Corn
Rob’s Grilled Pineapple with Lime and Chile Flakes
Lemon Asparagus Quinoa Toss
Dragon Quinoa Bowl with Roasted Vegetables and a Miso Gravy
Wheat Berry Salad with Pomegranate-Roasted Vegetables
Here are some other recipes I have bookmarked:
BBQ Tempeh Kabobs from Making Love in the Kitchen
Peruvian Seitan Skewers from Viva Vegan
Coconut and Lime Grilled Kale from Kitchen Operas
Grilled Corn and Tomatoes with Vegan Tonnato Sauce from Food & Wine
Portobello Salad with Spicy Mustard Dressing from Veganomicon
Now, when I can buy local corn picked that morning. As corn sweetness degrades by the hour after picking, it is best to buy fresh and to eat it soon after.
Just like fruit, fresh sweet corn is best with minimal adornments.
At the party, because the barbecue was hot real estate, I opted to boil the corn. But this weekend, when Rob and I bought a dozen ears of corn, we wanted to try to grill the corn.
For such a simple procedure, even boiling corn, everyone has their preferred method. When is boiled corn ready? When the water turns yellow… Just take it out after 10 minutes… Instead, I went with Rob’s aunt’s advice to take it out after you could pierce it easily with a knife. Nicely done. The corn was so sweet, no butter or salt was needed.
For grilling the corn, there are also numerous ways to tackle the job. If you want to keep your kernels juicy and plump, grill it with the husk intact. If you want it more dry and charred, grill it with the husk removed (check out this video by Mark Bittman).
This time, Rob and I experimented. We soaked our corn, dehusked the corn (or would that be husked the corn?), then removed the silk. You can then grill them, unadorned, with a hint of that smokiness from the barbecue. Or, go slightly more upscale with your favourite flavourings.
Here, we tried a delicious garlic-rosemary grilled version from Ashley at the Edible Perspective. We mixed together some olive oil with minced garlic and fresh rosemary, slathered it on the corn, re-wrapped the husk around the corn and grilled away. Plump, juicy corn with garlic and rosemary infused right into the corn.
What are your favourite flavour combinations with grilled corn?
My brother and sister-in-law moved into their new condo the week after us. Their place is spotless, nearly everything has been put away, and they are meticulously figuring out which furniture they still want to buy. They are missing dining chairs, though, but told us we could come over for dinner once they arrived. In about…. 16 weeks (eek!!).
Rob and I, on the other hand, have a functional house. We combined both of our stuff, miss-matched in all its glory. While the house is mostly functional for day-to-day living, we still have a lot of unpacked boxes in our offices and in the basement. With Rob’s old mattress and boxspring in the living room along with our 3 bikes. But despite that, we have not put our social calendar on hold until we clean house. We are still having fun, opening our messy home to our friends and family as an easy place to gather.
We have gotten better at the barbecue thing, which is where Rob usually hangs out. Which is a blessing in disguise, because when I made this salad, I knew I would be a goner if I had to man the roasted veggies. Not because it is difficult, rather it is difficult to stop snacking on the tasty veggies! I honestly roasted a bunch of asparagus but you will have a hard time finding it in the salad because I probably ate half of it straight off the barbecue.
Let me back up a bit: I had a recent hankering for pomegranate-roasted vegetables. I wanted to add them to a wheat berry salad. At first, I scoured the web for other pomegranate-grilled vegetables, but then I remembered I already knew the perfect glaze! Last year, I made a delectable pomegranate-glazed salmon that combined a simple glaze of pomegranate molasses with olive oil, but then it was heightened with fresh lemon juice, maple syrup and chopped basil.
Therefore, I based my new recipe on that template, adding more pomegranate molasses and less maple syrup, because I wanted a more pronounced deep pomegranate flavour. Pomegranate molasses can be tart, so taste as you go. Little did I realize how similar this dressing was to my Turkish Bulgur Salad, of former Best Salad Ever fame. With all the roasted veggies, it is kisir on steroids. Or maybe just a winning Janet original.