- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2003

CONCORD, N.H. — Even here in the chilly Northeast, there still is time to get in some grilling. Early fall actually can be the best grilling season for vegetarians. While we’re limited mostly to zucchini and other early crops during much of the summer, autumn means abundance.

Eggplant is wonderful on the grill. Try it peeled and cut into thick slices. Dip each slice into either beaten eggs or a puree of olive oil and soft silken tofu, then coat with bread crumbs and grill until crispy on the outside and tender inside.

Tomatoes are another great grill item. Cut 1-inch slabs out of large, thick fruits. Drizzle both sides of the tomato rounds with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and then grill for just a few minutes. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese toward the end.

Don’t forget your greens. For a delicious appetizer or main course, make or buy enough dough for several small pizzas. Roll out the dough and brush both sides with olive oil.

Spread one clove of garlic, finely minced, over each piece of dough, then sprinkle with red pepper flakes. While the grill heats up, cut a large bunch of kale into ribbons. Cut or tear fresh mozzarella into small pieces.

Place each pizza on the grill and close. It will sizzle and puff quickly. Check the dough after several minutes. When the dough is nearly cooked through, open the grill and top the dough with a heap of kale, then sprinkle with cheese.

Close the cover to the grill and continue grilling until the kale is wilted and the cheese slightly melted. Serve immediately.

For a hardier green, try grilled leeks. Slice the leeks in half lengthwise and wash thoroughly. Place them in a plastic bag and add olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper and balsamic vinegar. Marinate for 15 minutes, then grill until tender.

Garlic can be a luscious, if potent, grilled treat. Cut the top off a whole bulb of garlic, rub it with olive oil, then wrap in foil. Toss the garlic on the grill and let it cook for 10 minutes.

While the garlic cooks, cut large slices of country-style bread and grill until just lightly crispy. When the garlic is done, it should be very soft and fragrant. Allow to cool to the touch.

Separate the cloves and squeeze them onto the bread. They will be the consistency of pate. Sprinkle with salt and enjoy.

Save room for fruit. Thick slices of apples, pears and pineapple are amazing dunked in maple syrup, salted lightly and tossed on the grill. You might need a spatula to get them up, but they are well worth the effort.

In her recent book, “Regina’s International Vegetarian Favorites” (HP Books), Regina Campbell suggests topping grilled vegetables with a creamy sauce made from pureed white beans.

“Low in fat, yet creamy and full-tasting, bean sauces are a wonderful replacement for the traditional French cream sauces,” she writes. “In this dish, the flavor is given a further boost by the smoky flavor imparted from the grilled summer vegetables.”

Grilled vegetables with navy-bean sauce

This recipe is from “Regina’s International Vegetarian Favorites.” The preparation time is 30 minutes.

1 cup cooked white beans

1 cup vegetable broth

2 cloves garlic, chopped

¼ diced onion

¼ cup chopped roasted red bell pepper

¼ tablespoon ground cumin

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

12 drops chili oil or a dash of cayenne

6 summer squash or zucchini, cut into ¼-inch slices

Freshly grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan, Asiago or Grana Padano (optional)

Combine the beans, ½ cup broth, garlic, onion, bell pepper, cumin, salt, black pepper and olive oil in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the chili oil.

Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Add the additional ½ cup of broth while blending to get a smoother consistency.

Brush the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill on both sides until the slices are slightly charred. Transfer the squash to a serving dish and spoon the sauce over it. If desired, sprinkle with grated cheese. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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