With a nod to good health and great taste, consider some out-of-the-ordinary vegetarian entrée options for grilling this summer. There’s more to vegetable grilling than just throwing some sliced vegetables onto the grill. With the right recipes, you can create tasty meat-free menu items that are substantial enough to take center plate at your cookout. They’ll be just as hearty as the meat options you’re serving, and full of fantastic flavor, thanks to time spent on the grill.
Don’t be surprised if the meat-eating guests take to these dishes as much as the vegetarians do. And if the attending carnivores want further motivation besides great taste, here it is: Research has shown that reducing the amount meat in your diet can cut your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
At backyard barbecues around the country, a vegetarian can often feel like the odd person out — forced to bring his own entrees or to pick around the edges. Fortunately grilling season kicks into high gear just as vegetable produce peaks. Not only are gardeners growing veggies by the bagful, but supermarket prices for fresh fruits and vegetables are also low. This is a chance for hard-core grillers to bring their talents of outdoor cookery to dishes for the meatless crowd.
In addition to providing the smoky flavor that emanates from the coals, grilling caramelizes the natural sugars in the vegetables and makes them taste extra sweet. Just about anything that sprouts from the ground or grows on a tree can be suspended over coals, including corn on the cob, zucchini, potatoes, onions, pineapples, mangoes, and mushrooms. Most vegetarian foods are more delicate than meat and have less fat. So to keep food from sticking to the grill and falling apart, it’s important to keep the grill clean and well-oiled.
Once the grill is hot, scrape it well with a grill brush to remove burned-on bits of food. Then fold a paper towel into a small square, soak it with vegetable oil. Grab it with your long-handled tongs and rub down the grill thoroughly.
For sandwiches, cut veggies like zucchini and eggplant lengthwise into thin slices–or into thick rings, in the case of onions, tomatoes, and peppers. Round out the meal by serving grilled veggies over pasta, rice, or polenta. Asparagus is one of the best and simplest vegetables to grill and is terrific in pastas and rice dishes. Leave the spears whole and simply lay them perpendicular across the grill grates!
How To Make Pizza On the Grill
Grilled pizzas are a specific style of pie: typically thin-crusted, they’re lightly sauced (too much liquid means a soggy crust) with minimal toppings. They also cook very fast.
Make the Dough
Use your favorite crust recipe or see recipe below. Divide the dough into two or more pieces and shape into balls for individual-sized pizzas. Set the dough aside to proof while you prepare your toppings.
Tip: if you have a heavy-duty mixer or bread machine, double the recipe. Divide and shape the dough, and freeze each portion in a plastic freezer bag greased with about a tablespoon of olive oil for another dinner.
Assemble Your Toppings
With grilled pizza, the crust is the star. Choose a few simple ingredients that can showcase the smoky flavor and crispy crust. Or go for minimalism: top the grilled bread with a brushing of good olive oil, a sprinkling of coarse salt, and bit of chopped fresh herbs.
Suggested bases: marinara, pesto, flavored olive oil, salsa verde.
Suggested cheeses: mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, feta cheese, Parmesan, Gorgonzola.
Ideas for toppings: grilled vegetables, fresh figs, fresh herbs, fresh arugula, toasted pine nuts, olives or capers, caramelized onions, roasted garlic.
Grill the Crust
Prepare the grill for high heat.
Shape the dough into rounds, either stretching it by hand or using a rolling pin. Each round should be no more than ¼ inch thick. You can stack the rounds by layering waxed paper, parchment, or a clean well-floured kitchen towel in between the individual crusts. When the coals are hot, have all of your toppings ready near the grill.
The easiest method for grilling pizza is to par-bake the crust: grill one side just long enough to firm up the crust so you can move it easily. By taking it off the heat, you can take your time arranging the toppings and are less likely to burn the bottom of the pizza.
Begin by placing one or two dough rounds on the grill.
- You can oil the grill grates, but it’s not necessary; once the crust has set, after about three minutes, it should be easy to pull off the heat with tongs, a spatula, or your fingers.
- Don’t worry if it droops a little through the grate–it’ll firm up fast.
- After two to three minutes, give it a little tug–it should move easily. If it sticks, give it another minute or so.
- When the crust is set, remove it from the heat and transfer it to a plate or peel; flip it over so the “done” side is up, and add the toppings.
Grilled Veggie Pizza
5 cups all-purpose flour ( or half whole wheat and half white flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast (or active dry yeast, dissolved)
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 cups room temperature water
Combine ingredients in a mixer with a dough hook and knead for six minutes. Let rise until doubled. Divide into 4 balls of dough and keep covered.
Toppings: (Enough for 4 pies)
- 2 pounds mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 large bell pepper, chopped
- 1 large red pepper, chopped
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cups sweet corn
- 4 scallions, diced
- Fresh oregano or basil
Place ingredients in small bowls near the grill for easy access.
- 2 cups tomato sauce (depending on how saucy you like your pies)
- 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- Big pinch of salt and pepper
Stir together sauce ingredients and place near grill.
Eggplant Caponata Crostini
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for grilling
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons golden raisins
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon unsweetenedcocoa powder
- 1-2 tablespoons sugar or Truvia sugar substitute equivalent
- 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
- Coarse salt
- 1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 8- 1/4-inch-thick diagonal slices Italian bread
- Fresh basil leaves, for garnish
- Preheat a BBQ grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush both sides of eggplant slices lightly with oil. Grill 6 minutes on each side. Cut into ½ inch cubes.
- Start sauce while eggplant grills. Don’t turn off grill.
- In a 5-quart Dutch oven or pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion, raisins, pine nuts, garlic, and red-pepper flakes; cook stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
- Add tomato paste, cocoa powder, and sugar; cook, stirring, until tomato paste is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggplant, vinegar, and 1/3 cup water.
- Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick, 7 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and more sugar (up to 1 tablespoon), as desired.
- Brush both sides of bread with olive oil. Grill, turning once, until toasted and grill marks appear, about 2 minutes per side.
- Top grilled bread with caponata; garnish with basil leaves. Caponata can be refrigerated up to 5 days in an airtight container; let cool completely before storing.
Grilled Caprese Sandwiches
- 8 slices round narrow Italian bread
- 2 large garlic cloves, halved
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 slices (6 oz.) fresh mozzarella cheese
- 2 ripe plum tomatoes, thinly sliced (8 slices)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Rub a side of each slice of bread with a cut side of garlic and brush with oil. Spread the plain side of half the bread slices with a thin layer of pesto.
Layer cheese and tomatoes on top of the pesto. Sprinkle with black pepper. Top with remaining bread, garlic side up. Grill sandwiches until grill marks appear and cheese is beginning to melt, 6 minutes, turning once.
Stuffed Grilled Zucchini
- 4 medium zucchini
- 5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
- 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Cut zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, leaving 1/4-in. shells. Brush with 2 teaspoons oil; set aside. Chop pulp.
In a skillet, saute pulp and onion in remaining oil. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add bread crumbs; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the heat. Stir in the mozzarella cheese, oregano and salt.
Spoon into zucchini shells. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Grill, covered, over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until zucchini is tender.
Tomatoes Stuffed with Cannellini and Couscous
After the initial assembly, this dish takes care of itself. If you like, you can prepare and grill the tomatoes well ahead of serving. The flavors will get even better.
- ½ cup couscous
- 4 tablespoons olive oil (preferably extra-virgin), divided
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 6 large ripe but firm tomatoes (10 ounces each; about 4 3/4 pounds total)
- 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Preheat the grill. Coat a 9″ x 6″ disposable foil pan with cooking spray.
In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, or until the onion is softened.
Meanwhile, cut 1/4″ slices from the tomato tops. Discard the tops. With a serrated knife or spoon, scoop out the tomato flesh, leaving 1/4″-thick walls. Set aside. Finely chop the tomato flesh. Add to the onion along with the beans, parsley, Italian seasoning, pepper, vegetable broth and the couscous. Stir to combine. Spoon into the reserved tomato shells, mounding slightly. Spoon any extra stuffing into the base of the pan. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Cover with aluminum foil.
Place on the grill away from direct heat. Grill, rotating the pan occasionally, for about 45 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender and the tops are golden. Allow to stand for 20 minutes.
Grilled Stuffed Eggplant
- 3 small eggplants, halved lengthwise
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
- 3 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat a covered grill to medium-high.
With a small, sharp knife, scoop out the flesh of each eggplant leaving 1/4-inch thick shells and place in a medium bowl. Add the cheese, bread crumbs, tomatoes, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir to mix. Stuff the mixture tightly into each eggplant half. Drizzle with the oil.
Place the eggplant halves in a disposable aluminum foil pan. Set on the grill. Cover and grill for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the eggplant is soft and the top is golden and crisp.
Portobello Burgers with Roasted Peppers, Mozzarella, and Caramelized Onions
This grilled “burger” with all the trimmings will satisfy even devoted beef fans. Serve some oven sweet potato fries on the side.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 4 portobello mushroom caps, about 3 1/2-4 ounces each
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese, about 2 ounces
- 4 (100-calorie) light multi-grain english muffins or hamburger buns
- 2 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and cut into strips
Preheat the grill.
Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Combine the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the vinegar in a small bowl. Brush the mixture over the mushroom caps and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
Grill, covered, turning occasionally, until tender, 9 to 11 minutes. Top each with 1 slice of the cheese and grill until the cheese melts, about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
Toast the muffins or rolls. Place the bottom half of each muffin on a plate and top with 1 portobello cap, one-fourth of the roasted peppers, and one-fourth of the onion. Top with the remaining muffin halves.
- Rustic Grilled Pizza (foodservicewarehouse.com)
- Three Cheese Grilled Pizza (dailycrave.wordpress.com)
- Jim Lahey’s Tips for Perfect Grilled Pizza (thekitchn.com)
- Grill Better, And Don’t Just Grill Meat: ‘BBQ Queens’ Karen Adler & Judith Fertig’s Best Tips (blisstree.com)
- Make-a Your Own-a Pizza Dough (fivewomencook.wordpress.com)
- 10 Foods You Didnt Know You Could Grill (habwwe.wordpress.com)
- Vegetarian Barbecue Ideas (apartmentguide.com)