Backyard barbecues are America’s favorite past-time--unless you’re a vegetarian. If you don’t eat meat, barbecues mean signing up for an evening of chips and salsa, veggies and ranch and that one random salad that doesn’t include any meat product.
Around Aspen, people have generally grown more conscious of plant-eater’s needs. But when the entree revolves around grilled animal parts, it’s hard to fill up on the side dishes. I have a couple of strategies when approaching barbecues in the summer, depending on location and host:
— If it’s thrown by a male under the age of 30, the menu is probably BYOM, Lay’s and a keg. It’s recommended to eat a lot before, snack on chips (and whatever the girls bring) and know there is going to be a second dinner stop in the future on your way home.
— Ladies, either in a group or individually, have spent a lot of time on Pinterest but only want to subtly acknowledge it. The majority of dishes will be delicious, and they’ll all be really, really cute. Many will have meat, so eat a lot of the nuts that are set out as appetizers before.
— Couples without kids have plenty of time to prepare for the feast and are wanting to show off their new digs. Superfood side dishes like edamame salad and kale-quinoa mixtures abound, as do fresh-pressed Prohibition-era cocktails and sparkling water. Other couples without kids bring more Whole Foods-inspired dishes and it’s generally happy eating for all, especially veggie eaters.
— Couples with kids are too busy to worry about cooking. That probably means ordering from Hickory House. If they’ve had the forethought to consider vegetarians in this order, you’ll leave full on fries, coleslaw and black-bean burger.
— If it’s a benefit barbecue for a nonprofit, or something of the like, bring your own snacks or simply drink a lot of lemonade. Potato or pasta salad on a bun always makes a good fall-back.
— Fully hosted barbecues, at which the hosts tell guests the only thing they need to bring is their swimsuit for the pool, are accompanied by a full spread out of Sunset magazine Balsamic-drizzled watermelon, grilled vegetable skewers and sirloin steaks are on the menu, and probably fresh Alaskan salmon steaks too.
If you’re a picky (read: vegetarian) eater, then it’s still cool to bring something of your own to eat too. Most people are happy to accommodate and then they don’t feel guilty for incorporating all the food groups.
Quick and easy grilling ideas include stuffed-portobello mushroom caps. Mix some ricotta, mozzarella, basil and garlic together to fill the inside and then let the mushroom sit bottom-down simmering on the grill. Sprinkled with some parmesan, it’s a tasty, gooey treat.
Sliced eggplant topped with mozzarella slices are simple. Once the cheese has slowly melted on the top, sprinkle some salt and pepper or balsamic on top to bring the flavors together. These can be done with zucchini slices too.
Grilled peaches and avocado slices make an interesting taste combination and a substitute for a meat patty. A little red onion and lettuce tie it together for a winning combination that even carnivores will envy.
Christine Benedetti is glad she’s not vegan. Send your vegetarian barbecue secrets to firstname.lastname@example.org.