I officially now no longer think of “vegetarian” as a four letter word. I’m ashamed to admit that I once harbored certain prejudices. I’ve grown past it all. Not on my own. I had help. I had Vegetarian Grilling.
If you still harbor dark thoughts, and want to advance in life, — or if you just want some really good food — then Vegetarian Grilling by Karen Schulz and Maren Jahnke is an ideal book for you. This beautiful and no-nonsense book is organized with four major chapters representing, not food groups, but food cooking styles for your grill:
- Wrapped and Rolled
The sixty recipes in this book give you a bounty of ideas, for summer and even into the fall and winter. If you have an indoor grilling surface on your stove, then you are in year-round business. And, while the intent here was to steer you towards a vegetarian meal, I don’t think the authors would mind if you paired up some of these great ideas with a little protein.
If you like the look and mechanics of Skewered dishes, then consider:
- Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Cream Cheese and Pine Nuts
- Citrus Zucchini Feta Skewers
- Flatbread Skewers with Tomato, Sheep Cheese and Pickled Chili Peppers
The Wrapped and Rolled ideas include both sweet and savory:
- Sweet Crepes with Grilled Peaches
- Cheese-Stuffed Dates in Phyllo Dough
- Fennel and Apple Envelopes with Gorgonzola
The Grilled recipes spotlight, in a vegetarian book, fruit:
- Mangoes with Scallion Vinaigrette
- Asparagus with Goat Cheese
- Grilled Pineapple with Vanilla-Ginger Syrup
And if Stuffed food makes you feel indulgent, then indulge away on:
- Stuffed Peppers with Harissa Couscous
- Onions with Fig and Goat Cheese Topping
- Spinach-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
There’s an accompanying chapter offering a phalanx of Dips and Spices:
- Chili-Mint Oil
- Maple Syrup and Walnut Marinade
- Apricot Barbecue Sauce
- Onion Relish with Raisins and Mustard Seed
The book is amply dotted with full-page photographs by Wolfgang Kowall, a man who has mastered mixing colors, light, and shadows. He makes food look gorgeous, although Goat Cheese-Stuffed Grape Leaves do have an inherent beauty.
More importantly than the photos, the food is delicious. I’ve made the Onions with Fig and Goat Cheese Topping and it’s on our list for summer party food. That recipe, and in fact all the others here, share a common culinary philosophy. These are not complex recipes. A few ingredients, a brief set of instructions. But the amalgam of flavor and color and shapes and sizes will delight you. This food may be "fast" but it is far, far from fast food.
You can knock off one or two or even three of these recipes and easily have a meal that is nobly distinguished, with a variety of flavors, textures, and aromas. And this meal will be most satisfying to your palate. That onion dish, the one I keep mentioning on this blog, is a perfect example: it literally was a meal in itself.
I don’t think Vegetarian Grilling is just for vegetarians or just for grilling season. This is a book for everyone and a book to be enjoyed throughout the year.
This recipe is from Yucatan by David Sterling. David knows Yucatan inside out: the homes, the markets, the small shops, the restaurants, and the street food. This dish is a street food staple, sometimes available on weekdays and always on weekends. This version uses “everything” David has seen in those street versions. Sometimes other peppers are added, or the scallions are omitted. You have perfect freedom here to mix and match away.
There is a basic, penetrating flavor that comes from the Recado Para Escabeche spice mix, a combination of black peppercorns, Mexican oregano, cloves, allspice and bay leaves. The spice balance, perfected over generations, is rich and penetrating. It does not overpower the corn, but you’ve probably never experienced corn with allspice. You are in for a treat.
While the suggestion is to serve this at room temperature, I have enjoyed it hot off the stove and cold from the refrigerator. And, as a side dish, it pairs with any protein.
Esquites: Sautéed Corn Kernels with Lime Juice, Cream and Chile
Yield: 10 servings
To prepare ahead:
- Recado para escabeche [see yesterday’s post or search on this blog]
For the corn:
- ¾ cup olive oil, divided
- 4 cups fresh corn kernels
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon recado para escabeche
- 1 cup bell pepper, cut into medium slice
- 1 ½ cups chiles poblanos, charred, peeled, seeded, and cut into medium dice
- ½ cup scallions, thinly sliced diagonally, including some green
- ½ cup lime juice or Seville orange juice
- ¾ cup Mexican cream [or crème fraiche, plain yogurt or sour cream] in a squeeze bottle, thinned with a bit of milk
- 3 ½ ounces queso cotija [or feta cheese]
- Cayenne powder, to taste
- Fried tortilla chips, optional
- Lime or Seville orange wedges
Begin by sautéing the corn. Heat ½ cup of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over moderate heat. Add the corn, salt and recado and sauté 6-7 minutes, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the skillet to prevent sticking. The kernels should be slightly deeper golden color and barely softened but still al dente. Transfer the corn to a heatproof mixing bowl and allow to cool completely.
Add the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil and the other ingredients, except the citrus juice to the bowl of corn and toss to combine. Allow the mixture to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to amalgamate the flavors. If you won’t be serving the dish immediately, cover and refrigerate.
If the corn has been refrigerated, bring it to room temperature. Add the juice just before serving and toss to combine. Check the seasonings.
To serve, the dish is typically presented in individual serving bowls or cups and eat with a spoon. It can also be eaten as a dip with chips. Top each serving with a squeeze of cream, some crumbled cheese, and a light dusting cayenne powder.
Serve additional crema, cheese, chile powder, chips and lime wedges on the tale. Esquites is also an excellent accompaniment for seafood dishes or grilled meats.
Source: Yucatan by David Sterling
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for 1/25th second at ISO‑3200