If you have not yet read my post about why I am going vegan for a month, you should.
If there is one thing that makes me nervous, it is being invited to a barbecue. Barbecues are so often focused around meat, and even if you have an alternative, it can often mean cooking it on the same grill that has little bits of sausage still stuck it to. At a restaurant, what you eat doesn’t affect anyone else, and even at a dinner party hosts will often just make the meal vegetarian (this may be less so the case when you are vegan), but it as if the whole point of having a barbecue is to eat lots of meat, and so this is the time I most fear people thinking of me ‘difficult’.* But last Sunday, on my 7th day of being vegan, my friend Natalia invited us to her first barbecue in her new apartment (having recently moved to New York from Sydney), and without fish or seafood or butter or cheese, this may have been the most delicious barbecue I have attended.
Natalia was great about the vegan thing – I came by a little early to help (luckily, most people turned up late so we ended up having plenty of prep time) and the idea was that I would make a couple of vegan dishes using the barbecue before any meat went on it, and then in addition to all the vegetable dishes we provided there would be sausages and steak cooked when people arrived. As well as doing the meats, Natalia made salad of roasted butternut pumpkin, rocket (arugula), radishes, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and toasted pine nuts, with a dressing made from Indian onion chutney. As you can see, it was one of the most visually striking salads I have seen. She also roasted little cubes of potato with sage from their garden, which added a nice crunchy (and salty) contrast to the other vegan-friendly dishes.
I found a recipe online for grilled teriyaki aubergine (eggplant), and made up a corn salad based on what we had left over in our fridge (courgettes/zucchinis) and what I imagined would taste nice (grilled corn and red onion). They were both so good that I would happily have a vegan barbecue again, with these dishes at its centre. Because all the vegetables were in season, they were also both extremely cheap to make (I paid about $14 for all the vegetables I used, and it made a huge amount of food). All night I got compliments on the food, and although there were no other vegans there (there were a couple of vegetarians) the meat didn’t even get finished, while the aubergine (eggplant) and corn salad were still being eaten late into the night. I also made some nectarine sorbet for dessert with an ice cream maker that we currently have on loan from the wonderful Nanna Teitsdóttir, but unfortunately it was too dark when it come out, so I didn’t get photos. I promise to make more sorbet soon and post recipes. A lot of it.
Barbecued Teriyaki Aubergine (Eggplant)
(From Veg Kitchen. Serves 6 as a large side)
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup of mirin
2 tablespoons of vegetable (or grapeseed) oil
3 teaspoons of dark sesame oil
3 tablespoons of raw or white sugar
2 tablespoons of rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1-2 teaspoons of fresh ginger, finely minced
3 very large aubergines (if they are very big, then 1/2 an aubergine/eggplant should be enough for a side for one person)
Lots of salt
4 spring onions (scallions)
Mix together the soy sauce, mirin, oils, sugar, vinegar, garlic and ginger until well combined. I suggest putting them all in a jar, and then just shaking it – if you are going to someone else’s barbecue then you can make this in advance and all you will need is to take the jar of teriyaki marinade and your aubergines (eggplants) with you. Slice the aubergines (eggplants) in half lengthwise, and rub the inside with a lot of salt, leaving the salt on for about half an hour to draw out some of the bitter juices. If you haven’t already done it, this would be a good time to get the barbecue nice and hot.
When the barbecue is hot, rinse the salt off the aubergine (eggplant), pat dry with a paper towel. Brush the inside with a decent amount of the teriyaki mixture, and place face down on the barbecue. Leave on the barbecue until they are soft and browned, turning every now and then and occasionally re-brushing with the teriyaki sauce. When they are done, slice the aubergine into strips, place in a bowl, and pour over the remaining teriyaki sauce. Chop the spring onions (scallions) and sprinkle over. You can serve hot or cold as a side dish, or over rice as a main. Really, this is so, so good that even if you are not a vegan you must try it if you have access to a barbecue.
Barbecued Corn Salad with Red Onion and Courgettes (Zucchini)
(The quantities here make a side for around 12 people)
6 ears of corn
2-3 red onions
3 medium-large courgettes (zucchinis)
Olive oil for brushing vegetables
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
4 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce (make sure to check the labels as some brands of sweet chilli sauce have fish sauce in them)
4 cloves of garlic
The juice of 3 limes
A pinch of salt and grind of fresh black pepper
Corn takes a long time to cook, so begin with that. Make sure that your barbecue is hot and place the ears of corn on the grill, leaving on the husks (shucks). Close the lid and leave them to cook, turning occasionally, until they are soft (about 20-30 minutes).
While the corn is on the barbecue, make the dressing. (Once again, if you are going to someone else’s place, you can make this in advance, and carry it over in a sealed jar to add to the salad as soon as all the vegetables are barbecued). Roughly chop the coriander (cilantro), finely chop the garlic, and then place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Once the corn is done, take off the grill and leave aside to cool. Slice the courgettes (zucchini) and red onions in half lengthwise. Lightly brush with olive oil, and place face-down on the grill (if the onion looks like it will cone apart and fall in between the cracks then carefully place it with the cut side up). Let both vegetables cook until soft and browned, turning the courgettes (zucchini) near the end. (Roughly 15-20 minutes) Once done, take the vegetables off the grill and leave to cool a little.
Remove the husks from the corn, trying to pick off any stringy bits that may have become stuck to the corn kernels. Remove the kernels and place them in a bowl. Cut the onion and courgettes into small cubes and toss through the corn. Pour over the dressing, and mix until well combined. Serve warm or cold.
As good as everything was, the corn salad was my favourite, but I have always been a sucker for barbecued corn. We don’t have a barbecue at our New York apartment, but one of the first things I am going to do as soon as I get back to my parents’ house in Sydney this December is use their barbecue to make this salad again.
*Though I have to say I have been to many wonderful barbecues over the years as a pesco-vegetarian, and had a great time at all of them.