Plant-based BBQ: Top 3 veggies to grill
Although BBQ is still prominently a meat industry, some new alternatives are growing in popularity: times are changing. Some will oppose it, some will embrace it and call it progression.
With the rise of plant-based meats in recent years, consumers are slowly finding different options to combine both flavor and health on the grill.
While plant-based meats have yet to find footing in the market, these new ranges of products have a lot of pit masters rekindle an interest into veggies and the art of side dishes.
Grilling vegetables is often a way to brighten up the plate but also cleanse your mouth with counterbalance flavors to make sure you taste the full range of flavors emitted by your meat. Most people don’t realize how big a role side dishes play in a meal.
Every good pit master should have at least 3 go-to veggie recipes in its repertoire, other than potatoes. To help you with that, here are our 3 favourite veggies to throw on the barbecue!
Asparagus are like that one old friend that you know you can always count on. Not always the life of the party, but always reliable. I take it upon myself to make sure that they become one of the highlights of the meal whenever possible.
Asparagus are cheap and easy to find year round. As much as I would like to talk about grilled corn and such, I feel like a good go-to needs to be easily available at all times. Asparagus check that box.
The key thing with this vegetable is to play with textures. An asparagus can either be snappy, stringy or creamy. Good news: you have the full control over this.
One of my best go-to is to cook them for 6 minutes over medium-high heat, just a minute shy from ready and serve them warm with a classic cold tomato bruschetta topping.
Pro-tip: Using a vegetable basket is a great way to make sure you do not lose any asparagus through your grates. Simply lock them in the basket and flip them over. You can also use a stainless steel grill pan for more versatility and surface area.
The hot/cold contrast is always fun and different. Being a little undercooked, the asparagus will keep that crunchiness in balance with the wet and oily texture of the tomatoes, onions and garlic.
These veggies have always had a bad reputation but still to this day feel like it’s just because our parents didn’t know what to do with them at the time, meaning we never learned to enjoy them.
Brussels sprouts can resist a lot of damage, making them ideal for new pit masters to work with.
By design, brussels sprout is pretty bland and hard. Therefore, you have to give them some love.
I found that the best way to cook brussels sprouts is to cut them in half and line them up on skewers and grill them directly over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes.
Cooking sprouts whole is always a challenge as you will often burn the outside long before the middle is cooked through. Hence, splitting them in halves makes sense. This is a great way to ensure that they will cook evenly but will also help you maximize the different textures.
A nicely grilled sprout will be crispy and flaky on the outer skin while soft and almost creamy in the middle.
Brussels sprouts work perfectly with honey, mustard and HOBE Tex Max spices but to me, the best way to eat them will always be with a light coat of Hollandaise sauce.
Pro-tip: If by some chance you have some extra mac and cheese sauce, use it as a Hollandaise substitute. Ever dreamt of a mac’n’cheese tasting veggie that works perfectly with a brisket? Now you can have it instead of dreaming about it!
Beets are my personal favourite because they can be done in so many ways. Having naturally high levels of carbohydrates, they are easy to grill and roast to perfection.
Aesthetically, their colour will brighten up while showing deep tones of black/purple on the sear marks. Flavor wise, you can’t go wrong as they have a pretty bold profile while always putting that earthy sweetness to the forefront. If you enjoy a mouthful of different textures, beets are a sure bet.
We often skip over beets as most people will want to avoid the mess and potential stains as you peel them. Beets are easy to peel, and if you feel fancy, you can put some latex gloves on. Otherwise, you can roast them whole unpeeled on the veggie rack and just wait until they’re soft. They’ll slide right out of the skin once cooked. See? That has easy! Now let’s move on.
There are different ways to grill beets. The most classic method is to cut them in thin slices, coat them with a little avocado oil and put them directly over medium heat for roughly 18 minutes, turning them every so often. Adding salt to your beets will help balance out the natural sweetness of the vegetable. You can turn them into beet crisps if sliced thin enough and eat them nearly like chips.
My favourite way to cook beets on the grill is to dice them up in small cubes, roast them in a cast iron skillet with some garlic, remove and let them rest, so they cool down but not completely, and finally add them in a bowl to make a nice little salad. Just add some salad greens, walnut, feta or goat cheese, a little dab of House of BBQ Experts California rub and a like touch of balsamic vinegar.
It’s an easy “feelgood” side dish that you can pull together in no time and that will please everyone as it’s got some sweet and salty touches.
Of course, I could have talked about grilled and glazed carrots, turnips, seared lettuce or potato… But the key here is to simply define your 3 go-tos. Veggies should not be dreadful to grill and it is up to you to spark that interest and proving to yourself how good a pit master you are.