From peaches to asparagus, pineapple rings to polenta, there’s a wealth of tasty alternatives – and you don’t need to be a vegetarian to enjoy them.
I was going to start this article by consoling all vegetarians and vegans, reminding them they don’t need to feel sorry if attending a BBQ on Memorial Day. This is my first mistake: they don’t need consoling. My second mistake: not addressing meat eaters here.
Yes, of course carnivores like you enjoy a good steak grilled on the barbie (as my Australian friends say). But don’t be stupid and skip the vegetarian options; they make for more interesting side dishes than a bun, a tomato and some wilted romaine lettuce.
The king of grilled deserts. You can lightly brush each halves with olive oil before throwing them on the grill, before filling them with homemade whipped cream (and a swirl of maple syrup), or really good pistachio ice cream. Other options include simple brown sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract.
I like to keep it simple: grilled asparagus, salt and pepper, lemon juice. If you’re feeling fancy, preserved lemons can work miracles (and they’re also amazing in kale salads).
I see you raising your eyebrow – but you are wrong. Hear me out and follow those steps: lightly grill slices of watermelon before plating them with crumbles of ricotta, fresh thyme, and a drizzle of honey. One of the best appetizers (or dessert) there is on hot summer nights.
My grandfather used to love grilling them before adding them to any hamburgers (or fish burgers, or vegetarian burgers). As a child, the mix of sugary and tangy paired with red meat used to make me swoon – and it’s still the case.
Another option: create a grilled pineapple salsa using corn (also grilled!), peppers, tomatoes, cilantro and spring onions, finishing it off with a few teaspoons of vinegar and olive oil.
This works especially if you have polenta leftovers in the fridge which can easily be sliced (although polenta can be purchased in blocks ready to be baked or grilled, too). Brush with olive oil, season, and grill, adding flavours as the mood strikes: dried rosemary; pepper flakes; cumin or whatever takes your fancy. Serve as “polenta fries” with chipotle mayonnaise, or with an arugula salad.
Coat in olive oil, cover in za’atar, eat. Nothing more, nothing else. If you must, have haloumi in a vegetarian burger with portobello mushroom.
Red peppers (and other vegetables, for a charred ratatouille)
Charred, and then charred some more. The only acceptable way to eat red peppers, if you asked me. You can of course serve them as is (served slathered with garlic oil on sourdough bread), but the secret weapon of any of my BBQs is to create a “charred ratatouille”: red and yellow peppers, zucchinis, eggplants and garlic cloves, lightly mashed together with a dash of hot sauce and olive oil, and then left to cool for an hour or so.
Top photo: Grilled peaches: a sweet and succulent alternative. Photograph: Yuki Sugiura