Grilling for people who are disinclined to eat meat

For most Americans, I feel like grilling is a term that immediately brings meat to mind. My dad has a long and honorable tradition of cooking meat on the grill, from the Memorial Day burger to the Thanksgiving turkey (it has had the occasional tendency to catch fire, but the part that wasn’t charred black was surprisingly still good.)

This summer, my first one as a vegetarian (well, occasional pescatarian, but close enough,) I set out to reclaim the grill for my people. My people being my girlfriend and me.

I decided to start with the classic grilled Portobello mushroom burger and some grilled corn. And as it turns out, they were both super easy. The key to making your grilled goodies really awesome, I think, is giving them a good marinade/glaze. Or anyway, that’s what I did, and it seemed to go over well.

 For the mushrooms:

  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Maple syrup
  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Whatever other spices you have around that tickle your fancy
  1. You’re going to want more olive oil than balsamic, and just a splash of maple syrup (or, if you don’t have any, some sugar or even molasses. Although why you would have molasses on hand and not sugar or maple syrup is beyond me.) You just want something a little sweet to undercut the acidity of the vinegar.
  2. Mix all these things together in a dish that is big enough for you to fit a Portobello or two into it. Then you want to marinate the mushrooms for a few minutes on each side.
  3. While they’re marinating, fire up your grill. If you have a charcoal grill, this will involve loading it up with charcoal and lighting it with matches or a lighter. If you have a gas grill, it should have lighting instructions, but they will probably involve using a knob that has a picture of a flame above it. If you’re not sure, consult someone who has used it before (or the Internet). Don’t set yourself on fire, please. The grill might take a couple minutes to get hot. That’s fine. (Christina’s comment: Apparently, turning on the gas does not count as lighting the grill.) Just marinate those mushrooms some more.
  4. Once the grill is hot and your mushrooms are well marinated, toss them on the grill. (You may want to set some aluminum foil on the grill first, for easier clean-up later. You won’t get the cool grill marks, though.)
  5. The mushrooms will probably take about 5 minutes a side. Poke at them with a fork if you’re not sure. You want them to be soft enough so the fork goes in pretty easily.
  6. Serve them hot off the grill as they are, or on a burger bun with lettuce, tomato, and red onion. Graciously accept praise from girlfriend’s family and/or your assembled friends.
Not the corn we made — but I swear it looked the same.

Not the corn we made — but I swear it looked the same.

For the corn:

  • Olive oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Chili powder (or, lacking that, curry powder is also good)
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Mix the above ingredients together, then spread the mixture onto the corn with a small brush or even a paper towel, if you have no brush.
  2. Wrap each ear of corn individually in a square of tin foil. Be sure to poke holes in the foil with a fork to let heat escape, or else you’ll end up with popped corn instead.
  3. Then just put the corn on the grill. Again, about 5 minutes or so a side should cook it pretty well, but check that the kernels seem like they’ve gotten soft to make sure. If not, just cook them longer.
  4. Depending on the quality of your foil and the size of the holes you poke, some of your corn may turn out blackened. That is totally normal and fine and I think pretty tasty. But if you’re not into that, just wrap your corn tightly and try to keep your steam holes small.
  5. Take them off the grill and serve.

Christina’s Corner:

 Having a cook-out without music is lame. At least in my opinion. What? Do you want to hear the sounds of nature or something? (Okay, that is one excuse I will allow). My go-to summer albums are Best Coast’s Crazy for You, Young the Giant’s self-titled album, and Santigold’s Master of My Make Believe. Basically, I just want to have fun. Turn these on for background jams while you enjoy the afternoon which is (hopefully) free of sunburn and cicadas.