It’s almost Labor Day and many of us are preparing to host end-of-summer barbecues, picnics and other celebrations for the holiday. Hot dogs and hamburgers are the much-loved American standard, but if you have a vegetarian coming over you may be worried about serving something that he or she can enjoy while at your get-together. It’s great to anticipate the needs of your guests, but don’t stress yourself out about it. Firstly, many vegetarians recognize that they have a dietary restriction and can usually find something that they can eat (even if it’s side dishes and salads) without imposing on their hosts. They may also bring their own vegetarian dish to pass. If, however, you want to go above and beyond or experiment with some meatless dishes, there are many that are great for a summer barbecue. These easy menu ideas are so yummy that even your meat-eating guests will love them:
Packet-Roasted Veggies (serve alone as a side dish or over rice or another grain as a main dish):
Cut up some colorful veggies like bell peppers, potatoes, green beans, carrots, broccoli, onions and cauliflower (and any combination) and toss the vegetables in olive oil with minced garlic, salt and pepper. You can then lay the veggies on a rectangle of aluminum foil (use two sheets of foil to double-up and protect the vegetables from burning). Fold the foil to make a packet with the veggies inside and pinch the edges closed. You can place the packet on the grill next to whatever else you’re grilling. Leave on medium heat for 10-12 minutes. Remove from packet and enjoy delicious packet-grilled vegetables.
Caprese Salad (serve as a salad/starter or as a light main dish):
Caprese salads are delicious and colorful. I think the bright, festive colors make the Caprese a great choice for serving at a party or barbecue. The Caprese is a simple salad composed of tomato and fresh mozzarella cheese, with sprigs of fresh basil tucked in between the tomato and cheese slices. Thickly slice the tomato and cheese and arrange in an alternating pattern on a tray or plate. Add large leaves of fresh basil here and there. Drizzle with a balsamic vinegar reduction and then sprinkle with salt and pepper- and voila! You’ve made a fresh, summery salad that your guests are sure to enjoy.
- You can make a “reduction” by thickening and intensifying the flavor of a liquid. To make a balsamic vinegar reduction, put about 4 times as much balsamic vinegar as you think you’ll need for the salad into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the liquid to a boil and then turn the heat down until it’s at a simmer. Simmer it (while watching carefully so that it doesn’t burn) until the liquid has thickened to a syrupy texture or for about 4 minutes.
If you don’t want your vegetarian friend to be left out of the hamburger/hotdog sandwich-style dining experience, there are a couple of different sandwich options that you can work with. There are faux burger patties that you can buy at almost any grocery store that are easy to throw on the grill. A couple of the best brands are Amy’s and Morning Star (you see boca burgers everywhere but boca has a very distinct flavor that is not for everyone).
You can also make a great veggie sandwich by:
- Grilling thick slices of eggplant. Place on crusty Italian bread and top with mozzarella slices, tomato and spinach.
- Grilling thick strips of Portobello mushroom, bell peppers and onions. Place in a hoagie and drizzle with honey mustard.
Vegetarians may appreciate this departure from run-of-the-mill veggie burgers.
You can’t go wrong with fresh salsa and tortilla chips, cheese and crackers or hummus and chips. Hummus is very easy to make as long as you have a food processor. There are many flavor variations on hummus, but the basic idea is as follows:
Process a (drained) can of chickpeas along with a couple of tablespoons olive oil, a couple tablespoons tahini, minced garlic, salt, pepper and a splash of lemon juice – really easy! Serve with crusty pita chips, carrot sticks or tortilla chips.
Have a great Labor Day with some of these vegetarian menu ideas!