Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Weekend Grill Fest

Most of my friends in the midwest are just kicking off their grilling season. Here in AZ, it's bound to get too hot to want to be near the grill by August, so I'm trying to get as much grilling in as I can before then. I do love to grill for sure. I remember as kid I couldn't wait until it was warm enough to fire up the coals. One very cold and snowy February, when I was pretty young, I just couldn't stand it anymore. I dug out our trusty Weber and chimney starter and surprised my mom with a grilled dinner. My brother has this blow torch (I'm not kidding) to start his charcoal grill in record time. He gets his coals crazy red hot every time. It's pretty amazing. We have a gas grill for convenience, but I do miss the flavor of real charcoal. I think I need to invest in a smoker box soon, but I digress.

My June column at FrontDoors News is out! The theme is vegan grilling. In the column I recommend a few cookbooks for readers who want to do some plant based grill action. I thought it would be a stellar idea to whip them out myself over this holiday weekend. The two grilling books have lots of great advice on choosing a grill, tools of the trade, marinades and even some safety tips.

Some time back, I did a review of John Schlimm's book Grilling Vegan Style. I made some pretty tasty stuff out of it back in October, but haven't cracked it open since then. I think my grill was starting to get cobwebs. To me, kabobs and grills go together like cookies and almond milk. It was an easy choice to make the Chipotle-Marinated Tofu & Vegetable Kebabs (pg. 172). The marinade was sweet, smoky and spicy. I only let the tofu marinate for a couple of hours. Next time I will plan ahead and let it go overnight for extra flavor. The marinade tasted a bit too sweet for me. But after grilling, adding a little salt and pepper and serving it with a savory quinoa pilaf, it was perfect. I ended up brushing a little of the extra marinade on after cooking for an extra flavor boost.

I know there are lots of great things to grill, but burgers always make me think of a holiday cook out. I am still in search of the perfect veggie burger. I seem to find them either too mushy, too rubbery or not flavorful enough. Today I tried a new recipe (for me) from Joanie Marie Newman's book The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet: Sunday Afternoon Grillers (pg.98). Yes, I know it's Monday, but these are great for anytime. The ingredient list showed some real potential with stuff like mushrooms, onions and garlic. They were simple enough to make in the food processor. The ingredients were pretty darn pantry friendly as well. The pre-cooked mix feels and looks like how I remember the texture of ground beef. It was almost a little creepy. They cook up well on the grill, but  you must make sure to follow the directions about not turning them too fast. Joni's knows what she's talking about. These are probably the closest I've found to the texture I seek. But they are still a bit soft. I think this a really good base to work with, especially if you haven't made veggie burgers before. 

Seriously, don't they look like the beef version?

The third book I mentioned in the column is Grills Gone Vegan by Tamasin Noyes. I got to be on the testing team for this book. I wanted to make something I hadn't made during testing. I decided on the Skitllet-Grilled Cherry Crisp (pg. 148). Cherry season is here, so they aren't crazy expensive and they are really good right now. I dug out my cherry pitter and got to popping out the seeds. I couldn't find the sour cherries called for, but the regular cherries worked out great. This is really an easy recipe. It takes a little while to pit the cherries, but I just sat down on the sofa and watched some cooking show while I was doing them. I used indirect heat on the grill as I wanted to make sure not to scorch those lovely red cherries. After 25 minutes, the crisp was like a bubbling cauldron of yum. I served it with some home made cinnamon ice cream. Wow!

You truly can cook an entire meal on your grill. Oh and did I mention there are recipes for bread made on the grill in Tami's book. This last photo is actually from testing, but worth showing off. The Stuffed-Jalepeno Chiles (pg. 27) were one of my favorites. The smoked tofu filling is rocking! So see, you CAN do it all on the grill: Breads, Appetizers, Salads (yes grilled romaine is a thing now), entrees and desserts. Oh and did I mention there are great recipes for drinks to keep you cool while the fire is hot? Pass me an ice cold Sassy Sangria (pg. 211 in Grilling Vegan Style) and a spatula and let's do this!

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