Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact
Previous story: Three Guys Walk Into a Bar...
Next story: Homemade Frozen Goodness
Artvoice Weekly Edition » Issue v8n29 (07/15/2009) » Summer Vegetarian Eats

No One Really Eats "Bunny Dogs"

How to mash, mix, marinate, and grill a vegetarian feast even a carnivore could love

Summer in Buffalo means never letting a sunny day go to waste. There are the street festivals, city and county parks, road trips to the beach, strolls down Elmwood, restaurant patios, Shakespeare in the Park, Bisons games…and even so, many of us make the time to entertain in style. Partying at home in the 21st century, though, means taking others’ dietary needs into account. Do any guests have a gluten allergy? What about peanuts? And, of course, what do we feed the vegetarians?

The short answer is: anything except meat. It sounds silly, but there you have it: Most foods are not meat. Even feeding vegans—those who don’t eat any meat, eggs, or dairy—is easier than it sounds. Just please don’t throw a carrot on the grill and call it dinner.

Some initial tips:

• If possible, keep a separate grill for meat-free foods. Ask the vegetarians on your guest list if they can spot you a hibachi—if they own one, they’ll be happy to bring it over. Separate grill utensils are a good idea as well.

• Think ethnic. Mediterranean, Asian, and Mexican foods, or at least the Americanized versions of them, are all rife with vegetarian options.

• Some, but not all, vegetarians will eat seafood. If you’re not sure, offer an alternative to those delectable shrimp skewers and grilled salmon.

Suggestions for low-key picnic/deck foods:

• Next to the veggie tray or Jello salad, offer a platter of lightly toasted pita bread arranged around some plain old store-bought hummus. Add tomato slices and kalamata olives (available at Guercio’s deli counter or a Wegmans olive bar) if you’re feeling fancy, and voila, hearty vegan eats that even include protein.

• Another easy option is that summertime favorite, caprese salad. Slice up a few locally grown tomatoes, a couple of fresh mozzarella balls, layer, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with either sea salt and cracked pepper or slivers of fresh basil leaves and serve next to a baguette on a cutting board with a knife. (Pre-sliced bread does not do well in the great outdoors)

• For an easy Mexican snack: tortilla chips with salsa (Goya brand Pico de Gallo is a good, affordable choice), guacamole, and/or bean dip. Bean dip can be found in the natural foods section of Wegmans. If you look in the ethnic section as well, read labels carefully, because the more authentic versions are often made with lard. You can add a dish of neon orange “cheese” dip if you insist, but it won’t look so good after a couple of hours out, especially in the sun.

Vegan layered taco dip is easy enough as well—use spiced vegetarian refried beans for the base, spread on guacamole, then a chunky salsa, and top with shredded iceberg mixed with, if you like, diced onions or black olives. Cheese and sour cream just add fat, after all, and are not sunshine-friendly.

• To whip up a quick batch of guacamole: Cut two ripe but not squishy avocados in half lengthwise and pull the halves apart. Scrape into a small bowl and mash with a fork. Add a clove or two of minced garlic, a generous sprinkle of ground cayenne, a dash of salt, and the juice of at least half a lime. Mash together, taste and adjust seasonings. Try to do this as close to serving time as possible; the riper the avocado, the more quickly it will turn brown. To preserve it in the fridge for a few hours, squeeze a generous amount of lime juice over the top, do not stir, and seal tightly. (Adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook: Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant.)

• Once you’ve chosen some finger foods, we get to perhaps the toughest part. What to throw on the grill? Boca burgers and soy dogs will do the trick, but if you really want to impress that hippie chick you met at the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers Market last week, try vegan grilled tofu skewers with ginger-peanut sauce.

Sure to please anyone who will even consider eating tofu, these kebabs can be good with rice pilaf (but read the ingredients if it’s from a box; many are made with chicken broth), plain old white or brown rice, or on their own on the buffet. If you like, dunk some zucchini slices in the marinade after you pull the tofu out and add them to your skewers.

You will need:

Wooden skewers (available in the Asian section of Wegmans or Tops)
Large bowl or casserole dish
Small bowl for mixing peanut sauce
1⁄2 cup fresh orange juice
4 tablespoons soy sauce (naturally brewed is best and costs only a bit more)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1⁄2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
12-16 ounces smoked tofu (available in the natural foods section of Wegmans. If you can’t find smoked tofu, any other soy-flavored pre-cooked tofu should do.)
1⁄4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Combine orange juice, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, one minced garlic clove, and 1⁄2 teaspoon red pepper flakes in large bowl or casserole dish. Let stand 15 minutes while you cut the tofu into cubes. Fold in tofu, cover, and marinate one hour or overnight, stirring occasionally.

Soak several wood skewers in cold water for half an hour and preheat the grill or your oven’s broiler. Drain the tofu and thread it on the skewers. Broil or grill for 5-7 minutes, until lightly browned on all sides, turning occasionally.

Whisk together 1⁄4 cup creamy peanut butter, 1 minced garlic clove, 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1/3 cup warm water to make a thick sauce. Serve it alongside tofu for dipping.

(Adapted from Vegetarian Times magazine.)

blog comments powered by Disqus