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A vegetarian's guide to surviving barbecue season

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For carnivores, grilling season means a variety of flavorful, delicious foods slow-cooked to utter perfection. For non-meat eaters, grilling season often amounts to dry, frozen veggie patties and a few half-hearted attempts at making zucchini or peppers taste edible over an open flame.  But just because you don’t eat anything with a face doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the bliss of barbecuing. No, with a few tips—and some tasty recipes—you’ll be as sated at your next barbecue as your meat-munching friends.

Survival tip #1: Bring your own eats. Yes, it’s annoying, especially when the barbecue is at someone else’s house and you’d like them to feed you for a change. But unless you’re going to a gathering where meat eaters are the minority, trust that most of the menu will cater to the carnivorous crowd. If you don’t want to starve, or be forced to choke down bland, unappetizing meatless options, why not bring your own? Whip up a batch of bulgur veggie burgers (see recipe below) or just bring a box of Veggie Dogs or Ultimate Meatless Burgers from Veggie Patch, which taste just as good as the real thing. Seriously. They’re really good. And they’re GMO and Trans fat free to boot! (Available at most major supermarkets.)

Survival tip #2: Avoid making wounded animal noises every time your friends bite into a piece of meat. If the other guests are diving into a platter of baby back ribs—and clearly enjoying them—now’s not the time to bring up that documentary you watched on how cows and pigs are slaughtered—at least if you’d like to be invited to another cookout with this crowd. If you don’t eat meat, that’s cool. But don’t make those who do feel like murderers.

Survival tip #3: Get behind the grill. Since you obviously have a lot of experience preparing vegetable-based meals, offer to help your hostess season and grill that pile of delightful looking veggies they picked up for the party. Not only will you ensure that they’ll be to your liking, but if they’re a hit with the other guests, your friends might include more herbivore friendly eats at future parties.

Survival tip #4: Or bring pizza. Not the kind from your local pie shop, but a pizza you prepare on the grill. Not only are they easy, but grilled pizza is a total crowd pleaser—and you can top them with whatever you want.  All you need is store-bought dough, some olive oil and a selection of toppings for an instant, and delightful, meal. See below for pizza grilling prep tips.

Survival tip #5: When all else fails, eat lots of dessert. That’s the one course that’s almost guaranteed to be meat free. Better yet, bring along an eggless fruit dessert—like the cherry rhubarb cobbler below—for a nearly guilt-free treat.

Bulgur Veggie Burgers With Lime Mayonnaise (adapted from Epicurious.com)
Makes 8-10 patties

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil plus additional for brushing
  • 1/2 cup bulgur
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup Panko breadcrumb, plus more to achieve desired consistency
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup walnuts (2 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro sprigs
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • Whole wheat buns

Cook half of onion with 1/4 teaspoon salt in oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add bulgur and water and cook, covered, over low heat until water is absorbed, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in beans and soy sauce.

Pulse bulgur mixture, walnuts, garlic, cilantro, cumin, cayenne, a rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and remaining onion in a food processor until finely chopped. Add bread crumb until the mixture is hearty enough to be formed into patties. Chill at least 10 minutes.

While patties chill, stir together mayonnaise, zest, and juice. Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium heat for gas). Put perforated grill sheet on grill and preheat 10 minutes. Brush patties all over with oil. Oil grill sheet, then grill burgers on grill sheet, covered only if using a gas grill, carefully turning once, until golden brown, about 8 minutes total. Serve burgers with lime mayonnaise.

Pizza with Roasted Red Peppers and Pesto
Serves 4-6

  • 1 store bought pizza dough
  • 1/2 pound roasted red peppers
  • 1 cup pesto (store bought or homemade)
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • Olive oil for brushing

Put the pizza dough in a bowl, cover it with a towel and let it sit a few hours before you plan to use it. Preheat the grill by setting all the burners on high and closing the lid. After 10 minutes, turn the burners to medium. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a round or oblong shape. Brush both sides of the dough liberally with olive oil and ,grabbing the dough by the corners, gently place it on the grill.  Close the lid and grill for 3 minutes. When the dough has browned nicely, use tongs to flip the pizza. Add the pesto, mozzarella, and peppers and close the lid. Turn off the center burner of your grill (if gas) and let the pizza cook for another 7-10 minutes, until the bottom is browned and the cheese is bubbling. Remove with tongs, cut into slices and serve.

Rotini with Spinach, Ricotta, and Golden Raisins (adapted from Real Simple)
Serves 4-6

  • 1/2 pound rotini (or fusilli or bow-tie pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach—thawed, drained and squeezed of excess moisture
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup whole or part-skim ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

Cook the pasta to the label directions. Drain and return to pot. Add the olive oil, spinach, scallions, raisins and basil and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta and balsamic vinegar; stir. Add to the pasta mixture and toss lightly. Top with the Parmesan and pine nuts if desired.

Note: I usually make this dish with a full pound of pasta, but I don’t increase all of the ingredients. I usually add a little more olive oil (especially if I’m serving it the next day) and sometimes I add more ricotta if it looks a bit dry. I’ve made it with and without the pine nuts. The pine nuts are a nice touch, but not necessary if you don’t have them. But don’t skip the raisins. They add a hint of sweetness that really makes the dish.

Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler (adapted from "Baking: From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan)
Serves 6-8


  • 1 pound cherries, pitted & halved
  • 12 ounces rhubarb, trimmed, peeled & cut into 1 inch pieces (about 2 stalks)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger


  • 1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • ½ cup milk (I used ¼ cup skim milk and ¼ cup half and half

Make the filling: In a small bowl stir together the sugar, cornstarch and ginger until well mixed. Place the cherries and rhubarb into a large bowl, sprinkle over with the mixed dry ingredients and stir well. While making the topping, stir from time to time.

Make the topping: Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a food processor. Pulse to blend. Sprinkle the butter pieces over the top, then continue to pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Drizzle in the milk and continue to pulse until it forms moist clumps.

Turn out onto a very lightly floured board. Cut into 20 pieces and shape each into a ball. Place the fruit and any juices that have been released into the baking dish. Spread it out evenly. Top with the prepared dough balls.

Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes or until the topping is golden and fruit bubbling. Cool the cobbler for at least 20 minutes.

Get more tips and recipes for seasonal eats at Made By Michelle.