By Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff
The joy of cooking and sharing food outdoors is not to be reserved for carnivores only. Vegetarians around the world cook and enjoy open-air cooking, some while working in the fields, others while traveling or on pilgrimages. Sharing food in an outdoor setting is a very special experience especially for us city dwellers.
Outdoor cooking can be a satisfying change to host a party where you can get away from an isolated kitchen and share chores with your guests. A successful cookout can be a joyful cooperative effort with some careful planning.
Here are some tips to make your picnic or barbecue enjoyable and successful. Planning ahead is important.
1) Plan a varied menu with colorful, hearty dishes. Include relishes such as pickles, olives, sauces and chutneys. Bring plenty of beverages including water, juices and tea.
2) Make rice, pasta, and salad dishes ahead of time.
3) Pick a spot that is sheltered from heavy wind.
4) Bring folding chairs, blankets, ground cloths and necessary utensils.
5) Be familiar ahead of time with the grill or whatever cooking medium you plan to use.
6) Remember, grilled food is very hot! Be careful cooking and serving it.
7) Bring water to cool off the grill after you are done and bags to carry away trash.
A list of items you can find at Other Avenues to include in your outdoor party:
- A large variety of juices and flavored waters.
- Organic wine, organic and micro-brewed local beer
- Soy deli cold cuts, such as baked tofu, tofu dogs, and tempeh burgers
- A variety of local and imported cheeses
- Freshly baked bread and gluten-free baked goods
- Crackers and chips
- A variety of condiments from deli cooler and grocery shelves
Read on for two recipes for an outdoor party: Vegetable Tofu Kebabs and Gluten-Free Tabbouli.
Vegetable Tofu Kebabs
This dish can be made with a variety of many different vegetables. So feel free to include your favorite vegetables that are in season.
2 small Japanese eggplants, cut into ½ inch thick discs
Or 1 small global eggplant cut into bite-size chunks
10 to 12 cherry tomatoes
12 to 16 white or crimini mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, seeded, de-veined and cut into large pieces
3 small pearl onions or 2 small shallots, removed outer layers and cut into chunks
2 zucchinis, cut into ½ inch thick discs
2 yellow summer squash, cut into ½ inch thick discs
1 pound firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes after draining some water out
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 to 8 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoon fresh herbs such as oregano, basil and thyme, minced
¼ cup Soy sauce or salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Prepare the vegetables as described in the list and place them into a large mixing bowl.
Drain water from tofu by standing the slab on a cutting board for ½ hour or gently pressing the surface with paper towels. Cut into bite size cubes and add to the vegetables.
In a separate mixing bowl combine all ingredients for marinade by mixing with a whisk.
Pour the marinade onto the vegetables and tofu and toss them gently to mix. Cover and set the bowl aside for at least an hour to allow the marinade to permeate the vegetables and tofu chunks. You can prepare the marinade and other ingredients hours or a day ahead of time, combine them and keep them covered in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. Take the bowl of vegetables, tofu and marinade to the outdoor site where you will be grilling them.
When ready to grill, take out the vegetables and tofu chunks from the bowl using a slotted spoon and place them on a platter. Thread the vegetables and tofu pieces securely onto skewers by spreading out the colors and textures of the ingredients. Liberally baste the kebabs with marinade that remains in the bowl. Place the skewers on the grill above the hot coals. As the kebabs cook, turn them frequently while basting them several times with the marinade. The kebabs are ready when the vegetables look cooked and partially charred. Serve with tabbouli recipe below or a bowl of rice.
Bulgur, the main ingredient in tabbouli is a wheat product. Traditional tabbouli is made with bulgur. Here is a gluten-free option made with rice and quinoa.
1 ¼ cup water
½ cup basmati rice
½ cup white quinoa
A large bunch or two small bunches (2 cups) finely chopped Italian parsley, stems removed
½ to ¾ cup finely chopped fresh mint, twigs removed
1 bunches of scallion, finely chopped, with some of the green tops
1 cucumber, peeled and finely chopped in cubes (1 cup)
½ red or green bell pepper (1/2 cup) seeded and finely chopped
6 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons lemon juice or lime juice, freshly squeezed
½ teaspoon oregano dried or fresh and minced
½ teaspoons or to taste salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
First cook the basmati rice and quinoa. Wash and drain rice and quinoa thoroughly. Bring the water to boil in a saucepan. Add the grains and stir gently. Bring the mixture to a second boil and then cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and allow to simmer gently for 10 minutes. Uncover and check to see that the grain is almost cooked. Cover again and turn off the heat. The steam in the pot will finish cooking he grains. Uncover after five minutes and spread out the grains on a platter to cool the cooked grains. Set the plate aside.
Prepare the dressing with the ingredients in the above list and place in a jar with a lid. Set the dressing aside. Next, prepare the vegetables as described in the recipe above and mix them with the cooked grains. Add the desired amount of dressing to tabbouli and save the rest of the dressing in the refrigerator for the future use. Serve tabbouli with cooked vegetables or the vegetables kebab (recipe above).
Makes about 6 to 7 cups tabbouli
Variation: To make a traditional tabbouli recipe, use ¾ cup bulgur (cracked wheat). Bulgur is a cooked product, so you do not have to cook this grain. Simply soak the bulgur grain in 2 cups of warm water for half hour. Drain completely. Place the grains in a mixing bowl. Prepare the vegetables and the dressing using the ingredients and method above. Mix the bulgur with vegetables and dressing and serve.
Copyright © Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff 2018