In the decades since I stopped eating meat, people have often asked whether I miss eating hamburgers on the grill. I don’t. I actually don’t care for the smell of barbecued burgers, but I do like the taste of grilled foods.
Barbecues and potluck picnics abound in the summer. Vegetarians can always partake of the meatless sides at an outdoor barbecue, but why not participate in the main event? You can always bring a ready-made or homemade veggie burger, but making skewers (aka kebabs) is easy and fun, and there’s lots of room for improvisation.
The basic recipe I start with comes from The Natural Foods Cookbook by Mary Estella. You can marinate the tempeh in a store-bought barbecue sauce. Feel free to use whatever veggies are in season. I’ve grilled cauliflower (medium-sized florets), and zucchini and yellow squash, sliced 1/2-inch thick.
1 lb. tempeh, cut into 1-inch squares
1 red pepper, cut in 1-inch squares
1 green pepper, cut in 1-inch squares
1/2 lb. button mushrooms, stems removed
1 T shoyu
2 T water
1/4 olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
Cook the tempeh in your favorite bottled barbecue sauce for 15 minutes. Drain and save the barbecue sauce. Pour the marinade over cubes and toss to coat well. Cover bowl and allow to rest 2 to 3 hours.
Before assembling, add mushrooms and peppers to the tempeh. Mix well and let sit 10 minutes.
To assemble: Put pepper pieces on the end of the skewers to secure the other ingredients. Alternate pepper, tempeh, tomatoes and mushrooms, placing a pepper piece on the end.
Add shoyu and water to the marinade for basting. Grill skewers until done, turning occasionally to expose all sides to the coals. Brush with marinade while cooking, and serve with a dollop of barbecue sauce.
A word on grilling with your carnivorous friends: If you prefer not to have your veggies touch a meat-coated grill, you can bring your own grill to place on top of the community grill. I’ve found that simple camping grills made to use over a campfire work well. You can either set the entire grill on top of the community grill, or use the legs of the campfire grill to situate your campfire grill a bit above the surface.