A few weeks ago we got the unsurprising news that processed meats were bad for you. Look, if you thought eating hot dogs and Spam was going to make you healthier than your crazy paleo/crossfit neighbor, you get a big ol’ “come on, son.” But now another study has come to light that makes a lot of unpleasant claims about grilled meat. Grubstreet sums it up thusly:
The study’s findings fit the WHO’s ruling on red meat, but cancer experts have long argued grilling or barbecuing is, from a health standpoint, sort of akin to subjecting your meat to cigarette smoke. These researchers say so-called “exposure to meat cooking mutagens” is the best explanation for why the rate of kidney cancer is on the rise.
Well that’s not awesome news. But before you give your grill one last hug (what, you don’t hug your grill daily? Weirdo) and set it out at the curb with a “free but don’t blame me” sign, all is not lost. Meat is not the only thing that’s amazing on the grill. All that smoke and heat means flavor. Here are some of my favorite dishes on the grill. Trust me, grilling vegetarian food rocks.
I’ve talked about grilled pizza before, and that’s because I think it’s among the most perfect grilled foods. Why? Because it cooks lightning fast, it’s actually more forgiving than you’d think, and you have loads of topping options. Here are some basic guidelines:
- have a two-zone fire. On a charcoal grill that means all the coals to one side; on a gas grill, shut off half the burners.
- have a disposable lasagna pan handy to put over the pizza to help melt the cheese and heat the toppings.
- go light on the toppings. It’s not a deep dish pizza, mass quantities of toppings will result in messes and disappointment.
- have your assembly line laid out close to the grill ahead of time.
- making 2-3 batches of dough is no harder than one batch, and the dough freezes beautifully.
Last weekend we made a fabulous grilled pizza with caramelized onions, grilled portobellos, and Parmesan. Popped a nice red wine, lit a fire in the firepit, and had a wonderful fall evening. You should totally try it. Here’s my riff on a favorite recipe:
Grilled chile rellenos
I grew up in New England eating very New Englandy food. When I moved to California a whole new world was revealed to me. Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory? It was like that. Mexican and Southwestern and Tex Mex and all that food is terrific. Traditional chiles rellenos are deep fried. Grilling them is totally worth it, and it’s better for you than fried food. Weber has a great grilled chiles rellenos recipe here.
Grilled sweet potatoes
Baked potatoes are good but they’re nothing compared to grilled sweet potatoes. I’ll get a bed of coals nice and hot and then nestle sweet potatoes right in there. Wrapping them in foil keeps them from getting too charred, but I don’t typically worry about it. Let them cook for about 45 minutes or until soft and creamy on the inside, then bust them open and drizzle with melted butter mixed with ancho chile powder. It’s so simple but so amazing.
Seeing this (awesome) comic about hummus got me thinking about baba ganoush. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a dip made from smoky, roasted eggplant. It’s amazing with crackers or flatbread – heck, you could use the pizza dough recipe above and grill off a bunch of dough brushed with olive oil and have a great snack!
Alton Brown is the only celebrity chef who will cause me to completely melt down if I ever get to meet him, so I’d suggest his baba ganoush recipe.
I’m not known for taking great care of myself – I need to eat better, exercise more, and not wait till webMD tells me I have bubonic plague before calling my doctor – so I can’t really say how much these latest revelations will keep me away from grilled meats. No matter what, though, this list shows that you can avoid grilling meat without having to give up the greatest cooking appliance mankind has ever created: the grill.
Got a fav vegetarian grill recipe? Leave it in the comments, or share it on my Facebook page!