Once upon a time, so the story goes, townsfolk would converge to roast an entire goat on a spit. The whole community would gather round. (“Yes! Free goat!”). The beast was cooked from his beard (barbe) to his tail (queue). A summertime, mesquite-infused tradition was born.
But what of the friends and loved ones who say “no” to free goat? Or to the steak or the burger or the spatchcock poussin? What of the vegans during barbecue season?
“Well, there’s salad,” you say. Yes, there’s salad: potato salad, gluey with mayonnaise. There’s caesar salad, rich with eggs and anchovies. But vegans, you’ll remember, don’t eat any food of animal provenance. No eggs, no dairy, no gelatin, and for some no honey or food-grade shellac, since they both come from insects. So, what, the vegans get to pick at the garnish tray? That’s hardly fair.
Here are two secrets to entertaining vegans, or anyone else for that manner: 1) Food stuffed with other food is cool, and 2) Gravy makes everything better.
So take fresh vegetables, stuff them with a flavourful, gravy-laced meatless stuffing, stick them on the grill, and you’ll have some happy vegan friends.
Naturally, you should scrub your grill very well, and if there are meaty bits you can’t get off, line the grill with foil. Cook the stuffed veggies first and keep them covered while the meat does its thing. Grilling the veggies will take about half an hour, so plan your barbecue accordingly.
Select your receptacle vegetable: tomatoes, bell peppers, hollowed-out eggplant and zucchini are classic. Portobello mushrooms make good cups too. Look for veggies that will fit about 1/3-1/2 cup stuffing. Too big and they will take ages to grill. People could get bored and cranky, or drunk and surly while waiting. That’s not a fun barbecue.
Chop an onion and fry it in olive oil with 2 crushed cloves of garlic until soft. Throw in 1 cup of nice summery vegetables, chopped fairly small. Red peppers, summer squash, tomatoes, spinach or Swiss chard would all be delicious. Sauté them with the onions and garlic until they’re tender, then add about ¾ cup of grains (cook according to package instructions) – rice and bulghar are both easy. There should be about ¾ cup of protein, too: lentils (from a can, even) are great, or you can crumble up some fake-sausagey stuff, like Yves Breakfast Patties, and some toasted walnuts or pine-nuts.
Set all that aside while you make the veggie gravy (recipe below). Add enough gravy to the stuffing to stick it together, then spoon the stuffing into your veggie cups. Brush your barbecue surface with oil and put your little veggie boats on top, close the cover, and let them grill until heated through, their skins nicely charred. This should feed 4 people, at least.
Serve the stuffed veggies to your vegan friends and thank them for treading lightly on the earth. Be pleased that the goat-eaters and the non-goat-eaters can all sit down together and enjoy one another’s company.
RECIPE: Veggie Gravy
1/3 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced mushrooms
4t canola oil
3t chickpea flour
1/4 white wine
3/4 vegetable stock
2t nutritional yeast or light miso
1/4 t cracked black pepper
1/2 t savory
Over medium heat, cook onion and mushrooms in oil. When soft, add the chickpea flour and continue to cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add white wine and vegetable stock. Using a whisk, continue to cook on medium until gravy is thick, about 10 minutes. Add tamari, nutritional yeast (or miso), cracked black pepper, and savory. This is delicious on steamed veggies and roasted potatoes too.