The Meatless Grill

The Meatless Grill

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The Meatless Grill


by Dave DeWitt & Nancy Gerlach


Grilled Green Chile Cheese Tamales with Avocado Cream

Mixed Mediterranean Herbed Vegetables with Penne Pasta & Feta Cheese

Orange Chipotle-Glazed Portabello Mushroom Steaks

Tempeh Satays in Chile-Spice Marinade

Grilled Tangerine Tofu

Fiery Falafel in Flat Bread with Sabra Salsa

Pungent Pizza on the Grill

Grilled Corn with African Nitir Kebe

Grilled Jalapeño Polenta with Roasted Salsa Verde

Barbecue Bean Burritos with Chipotle Cream

It’s not nice to fool father carnivore, but it happens in this article. Dave remembers getting bamboozled by seitan that tasted exactly like beef in a Thai salad, and Nancy, who devilishly devised the recipes here, insists that neither meat lovers nor vegetarians will be disappointed with meatless on the grill. “Meatless doesn’t have to mean flavorless,” she notes, “and by using chiles and spices, you don’t miss the meat and its attendant fat.”

We carnivores and omnivores have noted the increasing interest in meatless cooking, and Dave is even the co-author of two hot and spicy meatless cookbooks. Just note the fanatic enthusiasm for veggie burgers. In 1997, Gardenburger® sales were $18 million and just a year later topped $55 million. Obviously, veggie burgers are going mainstream, and they are excellent when grilled.

There are several reasons why grilling vegetables is better than boiling or steaming them. First, they lose less vitamins when grilled as opposed to other cooking techniques. Also, grilling and smoking vegetables seems to concentrate the flavors instead of boiling them off, and by using vinaigrettes with herbs and spices, you can gain additional flavor.

Veggies roasted on the grill

Phantastic Flavors:
Veggies Roasted on the Grill




Vegetables that work best on the grill are the softer and less dense ones, such as peppers, mushrooms, onions, squash, ears of corn, and eggplants. Don’t try grilling rutabagas unless you parboil them first, as they are quite dense.

Potatoes can be cooking in several ways on the grill. They can be sliced or cut in chunks, parboiled, and grilled directly in a basket, placed with other vegetable kabobs on a skewer, or whole potatoes can be rubbed with olive oil, wrapped in aluminum foil, and placed in the coals of a charcoal fire to bake. Ears of corn can also be cooked in the coals, either in their shucks or shucked and wrapped in foil, but we prefer the method used in Grilled Corn with African Nitir Kebe, below.

One final note on veggies on the grill: most of them need some olive oil rubbed over them so they maintain their moisture and don’t dry out on the grill.


Various Contradictory Vegetable Grilling Hints from the Experts

  • “Resist the temptation to parboil or partially cook in the microwave oven any vegetable before grilling. Both techniques alter the texture of the vegetable, resulting in a mushy, inferior dish.” –A. Cort Sinnes

  • “Tough vegetables, such as potatoes and artichokes, need a short precooking indoors, but this can be done early in the day, leaving only a brief grilling to the last minute.” –Melanie Barnard

  • “Grilling evaporates some of the water in a vegetable, concentrating the flavor. High, dry heat caramelizes natural plant sugars, heightening a vegetable’s sweetness. Unlike boiling, which removes flavor from vegetables, grilling seems to intensify their natural taste.” –Steven Raichlen


Grilled Green Chile Cheese Tamales with Avocado Cream

Oh no, not a grilled tamale! But it works–if you can keep the corn husks from burning. And for that, be armed with a spray bottle filled with water. These tamales can be served as an entree or as a side dish. You can tie the tamales together with string or with a thin strip of corn husk. Serve with Mexican rice, squash with tomatoes and green chile, and flan for dessert.

The Tamales

  • 15 dried corn husks

  • ½ cup cornmeal

  • 1/3 cup milk

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1 tablespoon instant masa mix

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • ½ cup whole kernel corn

Green Chile Cheese Filling

  • 6 to 8 green New Mexican chiles, roasted, peeled, stems and seeds removed, cut in strips

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onions

  • 6 ounces asadero cheese, coarsely grated or substitute Monterey Jack cheese

  • 1/3 cup chopped black olives

  • Avocado Cream

  • 2 medium avocados, peeled and chopped

  • 2 jalapeño chiles, stems and seeds removed, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons chopped onions

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

To Finish

  • Sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Place the corn husks in water in a large bowl, weigh down with a plate and soak for 30 minutes or until soft.

Combine the cornmeal, milk, butter, masa, sugar and salt in a saucepan and simmer for a couple of minutes. Cool and add the corn.

Drain the husks, pat dry with paper towels, and lay on a flat surface. Place two together, overlapping a little. Spread some of the cornmeal mixture on a husk, cover with chile strips, then onions, olives, and cheese. Place another layer of the cornmeal on top, pull the husks over the top and tie at both ends. Repeat until you have 6 packets.

Arrange the tamales around the edge of a high heat grill. Cook until the filling sets, turning occasionally, spraying with water to keep the husks from burning. 45 to 60 minutes.

Place all the ingredients for the avocado cream in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth

To serve, slice open the tamale, spoon in the avocado cream, top with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with the cilantro.

Yield: 6 tamales

Heat Scale: Medium

Mixed Mediterranean Herbed Vegetables with Penne Pasta and Feta Cheese

Here is a dish that Nancy likes to prepare towards the end of the summer when fresh vegetables are in abundance and she doesn’t want to heat up the kitchen with a hot stove. Use the tomatoes as a base sauce and vary the types of vegetables for a different pasta flavor. Begin the meal with a crisp Caesar salad and finish it with a warm apple nut tart.

The Herbed Vegetables

  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut in half

  • 1 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise

  • 1 yellow bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, cut in quarters

  • 1 thickly sliced red onion

  • The Herbed Marinade

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or substitute 1 teaspoon dried

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne chile

The Pasta

  • 4 cups cooked penne pasta, kept warm

  • 1 tablespoon crushed chile pequin, or other small, hot chile

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, Greek preferred, or substitute 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

  • 1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained

  • 12 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Place the vegetables in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, oregano, garlic, and cayenne together and pour over the vegetables. Marinate the vegetables for 1 hour at room temperature. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the marinade.

Place the marinated vegetables in a grill basket and grill over a medium fire until the vegetables a slightly cooked but still a little firm, about 7 minutes. Be sure to shake the basket so that the vegetables are evenly grilled. Remove the vegetables from the basket and chop them. Place them in a bowl with the vegetable juices.

Toss the warm or hot pasta with 2 tablespoons of reserved marinade, chile, oregano, parsley, and vinegar. Add the vegetables and juices, artichoke hearts, and olives and toss again.

Season with salt and pepper, top with the cheese and serve.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Mild

Orange Chipotle-Glazed Portabello Mushroom Steaks

Here’s a hunka hunka burning mushroom. It is amazing how these mushrooms resemble meat in their texture and response to grilling. Now some people think that the flavor of the portabello is too intense by itself, so feel free to make mushroom “cheeseburgers” by melting cheese over the mushrooms and serving them on buns accompanied by potato salad. and a tossed green salad. Incidentally, portabellos (also portobello and portobella) are the same as cremini mushrooms, just more mature.

Orange Chipotle Glaze

  • ½ cup orange juice, fresh preferred

  • 2 tablespoon honey

  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo

  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon oregano, Mexican preferred

  • 1/8 teaspoon saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoon boiling water

  • The Mushrooms

  • 4 large portabello mushrooms

Place all the ingredients for the glaze in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Thoroughly wash the mushrooms, pat dry and cut the stem off flush with the cap.

Brush each of the portabellos with the glaze and let sit for 30 minutes. Place the mushrooms on the grill, stem side up. Grill over a medium fire for 2 minutes, then turn. Brush on more glaze, grill for 2 minutes, and turn again. Reglaze the mushrooms and grill for 2 more minutes.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Mild

Tempeh Satays in Chile-Spice Marinade

Tempeh, made from fermented soybeans, is an Indonesian specialty. Its firm, nutty texture makes for good grilling in these satays. Serve on white rice with the sauce on the side, a cucumber and vinegar salad, and hot sauteed green beans.

Chile-Spice Marinade

  • 3 tablespoons Indonesian kechap (sweet soy sauce)

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 2 shallots, minced

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chile

  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

  • Pinch of ground cloves

The Tempeh

  • 1 8-ounce packages tempeh, cut in 3/4-inch cubes

  • Thai Chile Dipping Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons sweet Indonesian soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon lime juice

  • 2 Thai chiles (prik kee nu), stems removed, minced, or substitute 1 serrano chile

  • ½ teaspoon grated ginger

  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a blender or food processor and process into a smooth sauce. Place in a nonreactive bowl, add the tempeh cubes, toss to coat well, and marinate for four hours, covered, in the refrigerator. While marinating, soak 8 bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.

Combine all the ingredients for the dipping sauce and all to sit for 30 minutes to blend the flavors.

Thread the tempeh cubes on the skewers and grill over a medium fire for 7 to 8 minutes, turning often.

Remove from the skewers and place on the rice with a small bowl of the sauce for dipping.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Mild

Grilled Tangerine Tofu

Since tofu was invented in China, it is perfectly appropriate to grill it after a good soaking in an Asian marinade such as this one. And it does absorb a marinade! Tofu comes in different styles–soft, regular, firm and extra-firm. The firmer ones are best for grilling but it is still critical to remove as much liquid as possible. Serve with hot and sour soup, Chinese sesame noodles, and mango pudding with almond cookies.

The Tofu

  • 1-pound package “firm” tofu

Tangerine Marinade

  • 1/3 cup tangerine juice

  • 2 tablespoons rice wine

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon tangerine zest

  • 1 teaspoon hoison sauce

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chile, such as New Mexican

  • ½ teaspoon 5-spice powder

Place a thick layer of paper towels on a plate. Place the tofu on the towels and cover with another thick layer of towels. Place a heavy skillet on top of the paper towels and let sit for an hour to remove excess moisture.

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl. Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes. Place the tofu in a nonreactive bowl, pour the marinade over the tofu, cover, and refrigerate for 6 hours.

Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes.

Thread the tofu slices onto the skewers. Grill over a medium-hot fire for 5 minutes, turn, cook another 5 minutes, until outside is slightly crispy and brown.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Fiery Falafel in Flat Bread with Sabra Salsa

Falafel, an ancient vegetarian dish dating from the time of the Pharaohs, is usually fried, but we have figured out a way to grill it. Both Egypt and Israel claim falafel as their national dish, so we have an Israel-style salsa to serve with it. Sabra is a colloquialism for people born in Israel (as opposed to immigrants), yet the salsa has two non-native ingredients that are now grown in abundance in Israel: avocados and jalapeños. Serve with a tomato and cucumber salad.

Fiery Falafel

  • 1 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and mashed

  • 1 small onion, grated

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons plain yogurt

  • 1/4 cup soft bread crumbs

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 4 green onions, finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

  • 2 jalapeño chiles, seeds and stems removed, minced

  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • Pinch of salt

  • Spray oil

Sabra Salsa

  • 1 avocado, diced

  • ½ cup plain yogurt

  • 2 jalapeño chiles, seeds and stems removed, minced

  • 2 tablespoon chopped onion

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • Chopped fresh parsley

  • Salt to taste

  • To Serve

  • 6 flat breads or pita bread

  • Lettuce leaves

  • 1/4 lemon

Combine all the ingredients for the falafel and mix well, using your hands if necessary. Knead like a dough for a couple of minutes and let rest for 30 minutes. Form into small balls and thread on skewers, of small patties and spray with the oil. If using patties, place them in a wire-mesh screen or fish basket and grill over a medium fire for 15 minutes, turning once. Don’t overcook.

Combine all the ingredients for the sabra sauce and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to blend the flavors.

Serve the falafel in the bread topped with the salsa, lettuce, and a squeeze of lemon.

Yield: 6 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Pungent Pizza on the Grill

In this recipe we attempt to recreate the wonderful thin-crust pizza from wood-fired ovens in your very own backyard. Our homemade crust has something that Pizza Doodle Express does not: chile. But if you’re lazy and don’t want to make your own dough, you can use a 12-inch, prebaked pizza shell. You can also easily make the dough in your bread machine. It is very important to have a clean grill for this recipes, as any residue on the grill will give the crust an off flavor. Why not make both toppings and divide the pizza?

The Chile Dough

  • 1 cup warm water (100 degrees F.)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 teaspoon yeast

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons crushed red chile

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • Yield: 1 12-inch pizza

  • Powerful Putanesca Topping

  • 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, such as cherry or roma

  • 2 tablespoons chopped capers

  • 2 tablespoons chopped nicoise olives

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

  • 2 teaspoons crushed red chile

  • Garlic salt

  • 1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano cheese

  • Olive oil

Southwest Green Chile Topping

  • 8 New Mexican green chiles, roasted, peeled and cut in half lengthwise

  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

  • ½ cup grated provolone cheese

To make the pizza by hand. Combine the water and sugar in a bowl and stir in the yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, chile and pepper. Make a well in the flour and pour in the yeast water and olive oil. Stir until almost mixed, turn onto a floured board and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft free location and let rise until doubled, about an hour and a half.

Punch down the dough and divide into 2 balls. If preparing ahead of time, place in the refrigerator until ready to use. Bring the dough back to room temperature and then proceed with the recipe.

Roll out each portion into a round or oval pizza or do it free-form. If it will fit on your grill, you can also combine the balls into one and make one large pizza.

Heat a gas grill to hot. If using charcoal bank the coals to one side, creating a hot side and a warm side.

Brush each of the pizzas with olive oil and gently drape, oil side down on a hot grill. Shortly, within a minute or two, the dough will start to rise and bubbles will appear. Gently lift an end to see that the underside is browned and has grill marks. Immediately invert the crust onto a pan, and turn the gas grill to low

Brush the dough with additional oil.

To make the putanesca, place the tomatoes on the cooked side of the pizza, sprinkle the capers, olives, pepper and cheese over the top. Shake a little garlic over the pizza and sprinkle some olive oil over the top.

To make the Southwestern topping, lay the green chile strips over the cooked side. Top with the cheese and sprinkling of the olive oil. Slide the pizza(s) back onto the grill. Cover and cook, rotating once or twice until the toppings are heated through and the crust is browned, about 5 minutes on the cooler part of the grill.

Yield: 1 12-inch pizza or 2 small individual pizzas

Heat Scale: Mild to medium

Grilled Corn with African Nitir Kebe

Nitir kebe is Ethiopian spiced butter that is an ingredient in many that country’s dishes. It certainly gives an exotic twist to a summertime favorite in the U.S.A. Be sure to buy ears with some of the stalk attached for a great handle. The spiced butter freezes easily. Serve this corn with any grilled meat, especially steak, or any of the rib recipes in chapter 6.

Nitir Kebe

  • 1 pound unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon crushed African bird peppers, or substitute chiltepins, pequins, or ground cayenne chile

  • 2 shallots, minced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger

  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamon

  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 4 ears corn, husks and stalks attached

Allow the butter to soften at room temperature and beat in all the ingredients for the nitir kebe. Let sit for an hour to blend the flavors.

Remove any dried, brownish husks from the corn. Pull back, but don’t remove completely the husks and remove the silk. Soak the ears in cold water for 30 minutes to prevent the husks from burning.

Brush some of the butter on each of the ears and pull the husks back up over the ears and secure with string or a strip of corn husk.

Place on grill over a low fire, fairly far from the heat, and grill, turning often, for about 15 minutes. It’s a good idea to have a spray bottle with water handy in case the husks start to burn.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Hot

Grilled Jalapeño Polenta with Roasted Salsa Verde

 Grilled Jalapeño Polenta with Roasted Salsa Verde

We have written before about northern Mexican roasted salsas, and here’s a practical application of the concept. While we’re at it, we’ll add chiles to everything and even grill the polenta. Serve as an entree with a vegetable and a salad or as a side to grilled meat or chicken.

Grilled Jalapeño Polenta

  • 3/4 cup coarse yellow cornmeal

  • 1 ½ cups milk

  • ½ cup grated cheddar or Asiago cheese

  • 2 jalapeno chiles, stems and seeds removed, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons grated onion

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • Salt to taste

Roasted Salsa Verde

  • 1 pound fresh tomatillos, husks left on

  • 1 small onion, quartered

  • 4 jalapeño chiles

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, fresh preferred

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Salt to taste

For the polenta, bring the milk and 1 ½ cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Slowly sprinkle the cornmeal into the liquid, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat, and continue to stir until the mixture is thick and starts to pull away from the pan. Quickly add the cheese, chiles, onion, garlic, salt to taste, stir well, and remove from the heat.

Pour the polenta into a lightly oiled 10-inch cake or pie pan and cool. Place in refrigerator for 3 hours to firm.

To make the salsa, place tomatillos, onion, and chiles in a basket on the grill and roast until the vegetables are slightly blackened, shaking the basket often. Remove from the basket and peel, but don’t worry about removing all the peels from the chiles. Do remove stems and seeds from the chiles. Place the vegetables, juice, and sugar into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Season with salt and stir in the cilantro.

Clean the grill and brush it with oil. Slice the polenta into wedges, brush with the oil and grill over a medium fire until they begin to brown, about 8 to 12 minutes.

Place the wedges on a serving platter, top with the salsa and serve.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Barbecue Bean Burritos with Chipotle Cream

Grilled beans! What will they think of next? We’re not suggesting you grill them bean by bean, but rather these are little bean torpedos bound together by mushrooms and bread crumbs. And go ahead, use black beans, kidney beans, whatever. Shape them into patties and serve them on hamburger buns. The chipotles in the sour cream add just the smoky flavor needed to complete the grilled bean experience. Serve with a corn and poblano chile strips salad and Mexican rice.

The Barbecued Beaners

  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1/4 cup minced bell pepper

  • 8 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons ground red New Mexican chile

  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, Mexican preferred

  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 15-ounce can cooked pinto beans, drained

  • ½ to 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chipotle Cream

  • 1/4 cup sour cream

  • 3 tablespoons sour cream

  • 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle in adobo

  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro

  • To complete the burrito.

  • 6 flour tortillas

  • Chopped lettuce

  • Chopped tomatoes

Prepare the grill for a medium fire.

Saute the onion in the oil until soft, add the bell pepper, and mushrooms

along with the chile, garlic, oregano, and cumin. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender or food processor along with beans and process until combined but still chunky.

In a bowl, combine the bean mixture with enough bread crumbs to hold the mixture together and season with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the Chipotle Cream, mix well, cover, and refrigerate.

Form the bean mixture into 6 oval sausage shapes and mist with non-stick spray.

Brush the grill with oil, then grill the beaners until crisp, 5 minutes per side.

Serve wrapped in the tortilla, topped with the Chipotle Cream, and garnished with the lettuce and tomatoes.

Yield: 6 burritos

Heat Scale: Mild

Photos by Harald Zoschke

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