Includes Recipes Below
A vegan at a barbecue is not like a fish out of water. A vegan barbecue is not an oxymoron. It happens all the time all over the vegetarian world, especially on summer holidays.
Whenever people gather at summer celebrations like the 4th of July, there is often a focus on informal patio dining with an abundance of food. And, what kind of food? A barbecue, of course! The mention of an old-fashioned 4th of July celebration easily conjures up images of friends and family chatting, joking, and teasing the man of the house who dons an apron and tends the smoke-spewing barbecue. With long tongs firmly in hand, he dutifully turns the hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs, sausages, or shrimp until flames shoot upward and the food is well charred.
But, let's leave that old-fashioned image behind, and step out onto the patio of the vegan household to see what's cookin' for this year's 4th of July barbecue. The vegan gathering of family and friends pays homage to its furry friends, the animals, by letting them roam free, while the barbecue sizzles with some tasty treats of the season.
Though people unfamiliar with the vegan table consider it very limited, it's actually quite the opposite. With so many possible choices of excellent dishes, the host and hostess have the challenge of narrowing them down to just a few special recipes that take advantage of the outdoor grill. The vegan choices for the barbecue can also include succulent hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs, sausages, and shrimp made from plant-based ingredients. But we've departed from the ordinary to offer an extraordinary festive meal. Here's what we've chosen for this year's barbecue menu:
With just a few creative touches you can turn the patio into the ultra-American vision with some red, white, and blue decorations, a patriotic gesture to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Fourth of July just wouldn't be complete without an array of small flags and streamers adding visual flavor to the party scene. Perhaps you've found a patriotic tablecloth, some napkins to match, and a package of red, white, and blue balloons at the local party shop. A CD playing strains of God Bless America, The Star Spangled Banner, and America the Beautiful completes the scene. These may seem like little things, but they instantly spark a festive mood from the moment guests arrive.
Any successful event goes more smoothly with good planning. Many dishes can be prepared a day or two ahead, making the party day as enjoyable for the home chef as well as the guests. Make-ahead dishes include the Curried Coconut Salad Dressing, the Grilled Tempeh Steaks (made from fermented soybeans and available at natural foods markets), the Spicy Peanut Sauce, and even the Marinated Tofu Fingers. Both desserts, including the Chocolate Sauce, can be made the day before, too.
Be quick to accept the help of anyone who offers! You'll find plenty of volunteers to blow up balloons and put up streamers. Young people love to contribute to the party activities including the preparation of the food.
When the party day arrives, prepare the Tossed Salad, assemble the Veggie Kebabs, soak the fresh Corn in their husks, and slice the Onions for grilling. Shortly before guests arrive, prepare the Island Chillers and put the dessert Chocolate Sauce into a saucepan ready for warming later. Then greet the guests with a smile, and turn the grilling over to the barbie chef.
While the guests are sipping a refreshing mango-pineapple Island Chiller, the barbecue chef can toss some succulent, skewered Marinated Tofu Fingers on the grill to warm before dipping them into a Spicy Peanut Sauce. While everyone is chatting, munching, and catching up on the latest happenings, the presoaked fresh corn in the husk can have its turn on the barbie, sending fragrant drifts of sweet corn into the air.
Set the cooked corn aside to cool off, and give the Grilled Tempeh Steaks, Grilled Onions, and Veggie Kebabs their place on the barbecue for a brief grilling. Now is the time to bring on the colorful Tossed Salad with homemade Coconut Curry Dressing. And when the plates are heaping with celebratory vegan barbecue vittles, the chefs collect their reward in compliments and appreciative grunts.
Dessert, often considered the piece de resistance, can be equally as delectable as the entrée. For some, the dessert is the highlight of the meal. There will be no disappointed diners on this occasion with two earthy desserts that cater to the sweet tooth.
First, the dessert lovers will encounter Nutty Chocolate Frozen Bananas secured on heavy-duty wooden skewers. These are dipped into a rich, warm Chocolate Sauce to coat the surface. Then, before the chocolate hardens, each guest rolls the banana in a combination of chopped toasted nuts. One bite of this heavenly treat brings on emissions of ecstasy and delight. It's a winning threesome--chocolate, banana, and crunchy toasted nuts.
The second treat, the Stars and Stripes American Pie, is a recreation of the American flag with fruits of the season that include strawberries, blueberries, and a creamy Almond Tofu Mousse. It looks sensational, tastes great, and makes a perfect conversation piece--and a memorable one at that.
Here's an ideal starter that quells the hunger pangs, yet leaves plenty of appetite for the festive delights that follow. Because two servings fill the blender, you may want to prepare several batches ahead and chill them in pitchers if serving a crowd. Alternatively, have plenty of ingredients on hand and make them to order.
Yield: 2 delicious servings
Flesh of 2 ripe mangoes
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and creamy. Pour into old-fashioned glasses.
Marinated tofu and a vibrant peanut sauce were destined to meet as a great starter, perfect for any occasion. Prepare the sauce and marinate the tofu a day ahead so all that's needed is a quick sizzle on the barbecue or a brief warming in the oven. In addition to a dipping sauce, the Spicy Peanut sauce doubles as a tasty dressing for a salad or steamed vegetables. The sauce can be prepared up to three days in advance.
Marinated Tofu Fingers with Spicy Peanut Sauce is one of the delicious recipes in Zel's cookbook The Nut Gourmet: Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion published by Book Publishing Company in 2006.
MARINATED TOFU FINGERS
WITH SPICY PEANUT SAUCE
Yield: 10 tofu fingers
1/3 cup (80 ml) plus 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/3 cup (80 ml) light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound (450g) extra firm tofu, cut into 10 thick fingers
Spicy Peanut Sauce
Baked Tofu Fingers: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (Gas Mark 6). Do not use the skewers. Arrange the tofu fingers on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake them for about 20 minutes.
Here's a light dressing that promises not to cover up the fresh, sweet flavors of your crisp tossed salad. Instead, those crunchy veggies will show-off their best with a topping that compliments their earthiness.
COCONUT CURRY DRESSING
Yield: 1 3/4 cups (415 ml)
1/4 cup (60 ml) plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/4 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon guar gum **
Combine all the ingredients in the blender and process until the garlic and ginger are completely incorporated and the dressing is smooth. Pour into a narrow-neck bottle for easier pouring and chill. To serve, shake well.
* Choose a coconut milk containing at 5 to 8 grams of total fat for a good consistency and flavor. Avoid the higher fat content varieties. They will produce a heavier dressing with overpowering flavor.
** Guar gum is a fine powder made from the seeds of a legume called cluster bean that grows in India. The powder is an excellent thickening agent that requires no cooking. The powder is on the (FDA's GRAS list). Used in small quantities it is considered completely safe. Guar gum is available in natural food markets.
A tasty marinade can raise the status of a simple food like tempeh to a level that deserves to be defined as "special" or even "elegant." By marinating the tempeh the day before you plan to serve, you will be able to prepare this dish in just a few minutes.
GRILLED TEMPEH STEAK
Yield: 6 servings
Dust off those metal skewers tucked away over the winter and prepare them for the grill with colorful veggie kebabs. While wooden skewers may seem convenient and can be easily disposed, they tend to burn quickly and break off, making the grilling experience challenging. Save the wooden skewers for items that take only a minute or two to grill. Metal skewers are best for kebabs and other foods that take several minutes to cook and need to be turned frequently. For easier handling and grilling, thread the veggies tightly together on the skewer.
GRILLED VEGGIE KEBABS
Yield: 6 servings
4 yellow crookneck squashes, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) slices
3 red bell peppers, cut into 1 1/2-inch (3 cm) squares
2 large sweet onions, cut into 1 1/2-inch (3 cm) wedges
1 pound button mushrooms
Prepared dressing or marinade
Note: Here are other vegetables you might consider for the kebabs:
Patty pan squashes
Red and white onion wedges
Bite-size chunks of sweet potatoes
Bite-size chunks of butternut or kabocha squash
This is simple recipe with the rewarding flavor of onions that turn sweet when cooked until lightly browned. Grilling them brings out their best flavors. An additional enhancer, the maple syrup caramelizes the onions to perfection, making them a great side dish with very little preparation.
GRILLED RED ONIONS
Yield: 6 servings
Organic canola oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup or agave nectar (optional)
Salt and pepper (optional)
Arrange the onion slices in a large grill basket and brush the tops with canola oil. Grill 3 to 6 minutes on each side, brushing with oil when turning the basket. If desired, lightly brush on the maple syrup when the onions are almost done cooking, and grill 1 minute longer on each side. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
Sweet, succulent, fresh-picked corn is a much-anticipated treat on 4th of July because it is often the first corn of the season. Farm-stands and farmers' market offer fresh, sweet-tasting corn that's usually picked the very day you purchase it, but nothing beats home-grown corn. By the time sweet corn arrives at the supermarket, it is often several days old, and has lost much of its sweetness. Ever wonder why? It's because the corn's natural sugars have begun turning to starch.
Our favorite method for cooking sweet corn is to grill it in the husk. That way, none of the flavor or nutrients is lost. The season for fresh, sweet, white corn begins about early to mid May. Yellow corn becomes available at the end of June or early July.
GRILLED CORN ON THE COB
Begin by soaking whole ears of corn in their husks in a large bowl of water at room temperature for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Soaking makes the ears easier to shuck and helps to retain the moisture in the kernels.
Prepare the barbecue for grilling. When the coals are hot, place the whole, unshucked corn directly on the grill. Cover the grill, and cook 5 minutes.
Lift the cover and use tongs to turn the corn about 1/4 turn. Recover and cook another 5 minutes.
Turn the corn a final 1/4 turn, and cook 5 minutes longer. The husks should be quite blackened. If the corn is young to medium, 15 minutes is just about right. For medium to large kernel corn, 20 minutes on the grill is perfect. Allow 5 minutes for corn to cool before shucking.
To send chocoholics into ecstasy, purchase a good quality of dark chocolate and prepare the easiest sauce you've ever made. A few simple preparations the day before serving puts this sinfully delicious treat into the category of nearly trouble-free. Then, when the crowd is ready for dessert, simply warm the chocolate sauce over low heat until it is completely melted.
NUTTY CHOCOLATE FROZEN BANANAS
Yield: 6 servings
1 cup (240 ml) raw walnut pieces
6 sturdy wooden skewers
A patriotic holiday like 4th of July really deserves a patriotic dessert to top off the celebration with patriotic flair. Instead of waving a flag, we create a patriotic dessert that resembles our flag, and we devour it in a patriotic moment. If two desserts seem excessive, and you decide on only one sweet finish, choose the red, white, and blue. The dazzled diners might even burst into patriotic song with God Bless America or It's a Grand Old Flag!
STARS AND STRIPES AMERICAN PIE
Yield: 6 to 8 generous servings
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) raw almonds
15 pitted dates
1 12-ounce (340g) box soft silken tofu
2 cups (480 ml) unsweetened flaked coconut, divided