John Schlimm, author of Grilling Vegan Style, says vegan grilling is not limiting -- it will expand the range of foods you can eat. You can put just about anything on the grill: Just drain, marinate and grill tofu, tempeh and seitan for a meal free from animal products.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper: Vegan on the grill can be a real challenge. How would you start?
John Schlimm: I think that you're right -- it is challenging, it's mysterious and it's even scary to some people. My objective is to just blow through that stereotype because really it's just about removing animal products from the food. It's not about not allowing yourself to eat a lot of things. In fact, it expands what you can eat. Certainly you can put just about anything on the grill and it does not have to involve animal products.
LRK: What do you like to do for main dishes?
JS: I love doing veggie burgers on the grill; I love to make veggie burgers from scratch, which are quite simple. I have Slip-N-Sliders, which use garbanzo beans, green onions, toasted almonds, cumin and coriander. With portobello burgers, there's not much mixing you need -- you can just marinate them, put them right on the grill and they act like a hearty burger. You can take things like cauliflower, which maybe on its own doesn't have much flavor, put it on the grill, combine it with some smoked paprika and it just has that "wow factor."
Recipe: John Schlimm's Italian Herb Burgers on Focaccia
LRK: There are three things that sort of replace meat for vegans: tempeh, seitan and tofu. How do you handle these on the grill?
JS: They can be a little temperamental, especially the tofu and the seitan. The tempeh is a little bit sturdier, stronger and heartier, so that holds up a little better.
There are these wonderful things called grill screens, which everyone should have, even if they aren't vegan or vegetarian. It's just a great thing to have for making things like smaller vegetables or skinnier vegetables like asparagus. Sometimes the asparagus spears slip through the grates, so a grill screen will take care of all that. The other thing you can do is put skewers in the tofu as well as the seitan, and that really helps to keep it above board.
LRK: How do you grill tofu?
JS: The way I grill, you first have to really drain the water out of it, which is quite simple. You just put it on a paper towel and put a weight on top, and that will drain. I do that for about an hour because you don't want all that water spitting and splattering all over the grill.
Then I love to marinate it. That's really the miracle and the magic of those three -- what are called meat analogues, the tofu, tempeh and seitan -- is they act like these great sponges for any flavors you want to mix them with. I whip up a marinade that is lemon and garlic, or mustard and white wine. I have a classic barbecue sauce. Really any of the marinades you would use with meat, you can use on these three -- the tofu especially really absorbs it.
I just put it on the grill screen. The thing about grilling anything really is that grills need a lot of attention. You need to stand right beside them and watch the food the whole time. But these things grill up in about 8-10 minutes. Turn them maybe once or twice until they're golden brown. That's all it takes and they're done.