Vegetarian Barbeque Preparation
How much time and effort you put into your vegetarian barbeque is entirely up to you, and dependent on so many things.
At it’s simplest, a few large vegetable ‘steaks’ can marinade in 20 minutes, just long enough for the coals to get a good glow on, and then can be slapped down on the bars to cook a quick family evening meal after work.
At the other end of the spectrum, you can prepare beautiful-looking kebabs with complex flavours and ingredients, a range of sumptuous side dishes, and a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Nothing wrong with that! Just try to avoid feeling that the whole idea of a vegetarian barbeque is on trial every time you have guests, that you have to wear yourself ragged in complex preparations and 17 different dishes to try and impress people who cannot imagine a meal without meat… it’s a fine line to tread, we all want to be good hosts and cook up a storm with love and care to make everyone welcome. Just try to keep your finest motives in mind, to feed and satisfy your guests deliciously, rather than specifically to blow their mind with how good vegetarian food can be – then you can all relax and enjoy yourselves.
Certainly with vegetarian food a great deal can often be prepared ahead of time, leaving you maximum opportunity to be a relaxed and sociable host on the day. If you are making burgers, mix them up the night before, the flavours will meld more deliciously in any case. Vegetarian kebabs can marinade successfully in very short periods, but of course there’s nothing to stop you preparing them a day ahead, and not only the marinating, you can also thread up the skewers and just plate them up in the fridge tightly wrapped in foil, ready to go straight to the grill. Don’t forget if using wooden skewers, soak them well before making up the kebabs – if you keep them chilled and wrapped after that point they will easily retain enough moisture to cook safely on the grill the following day.
Salads containing green leaves are best left till just before eating to dress, but all the chopping and washing can be done ahead of time so it’s all ready, and non-leafy salads such as bean and pasta salads often benefit from much longer time for the flavours to develop.
One thing you can definitely prepare ahead of time to make your life easier, for any large event, is some kind of list or time plan. What needs to go on first, what’s ready to be on later, what side dishes are required, etc. Your author has been known to forget about an entire salad in the heat of the party itself, leaving carefully pre-prepared food languishing in the fridge whilst caught up in the moment! So don’t waste any of your hard work or add to stress on the day, make yourself lots of lists to keep things clear and straightforward.
If you are not barbequeing at home but taking a pot-luck contribution or having a picnic or camp, then make sure you have everything packed and ready to take, both food and non-food items. Also, give some thought to safe food storage and keeping things cool, put the ice packs in to freeze the night before, and make sure everything is well chilled before you have to remove from refrigeration. Vegetarian barbeques are much much safer from bacterial contamination than anything containing animal products, but bear in mind that ANY food can spoil if not stored and handled safely, so think about how long your food will spend – before and after cooking – in the ‘warm danger zone’ between chilled and piping hot, where problems can occur.
One final thing to prepare ahead of time, whether you are cooking at home or away, is a simple oil spray. Vegetarian food by large does not contain much fat of its own to be released during cooking like a hunk of meat does, and for this reason it is much, much heathier! Of course you can add oils to your marinades and introduce them that way, but you don’t want your food dripping in oil when the main need is a thin layer between the outside of the food and the grill bar itself to prevent sticking. You can buy oil in spray cans designed for portion control in weight loss, or you can easily make your own – keep it handy at your side whilst cooking. Save your expensive and flavourful extra virgin olive oil for the salad and use a good robust cooking oil like safflower or sunflower for this if you can.
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