The summer sun is almost here, which means grills across America are about to be fired into high gear. I love grilling - for me, there's an almost primitive pleasure I derive from stepping outdoors and bidding adieu to the oven for a few months: the smoke. The smells. The sounds. And in our family, the consensus is that practically every food tastes better grilled-slices of crusty bread from the farmers market, fish or poultry with a snip of summer herbs, garden vegetables, even stone fruit like apricots and peaches.
You grill can not only be good for you, but it's good for the planet. Here are 4 of my favorite tips to keep your diet a cool shade of green during grilling season:
Green Grilling Ideas:
1.Cook once, eat twice. When you fire up the grill, use all the available space to cook dinner tonight, plus enough for extra leftovers to take to work or school tomorrow. Like I said, practically everything tastes better grilled. And maximizing the food you grill means cooking with less energy per calorie of food.
2. Marinate meaty mushrooms. Drizzle portabellos with a generous amount of olive oil, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar and let sit for 30 minutes. Grill until soft and smoky on each side- as a side dish, a "mushroom burger" or in an omelet or salad, these are divine. With just 40 calories per cup, it's also a great way to also slash calories and saturated fat while still delivering bold flavor.
3. Grill an outdoor veggie pizza. The act of grilling utterly transforms pizza. The real flames and high temp create a deliciously crispy crust, with a fantastically smoked flavor. Simply buy some pre-made whole grain dough for your crust, and top with your favorite veggies and fresh sliced tomatoes (or your favorite sauce) and a small amount of good mozzarella for a fun dinner treat. Bonus points if you put on basil or oregano from your garden.
4. Grilled veggies make excellent sandwich toppings. The grill can also help you shake off a lunch rut: Try roasting your favorite veggies on the grill (lightly brushed with olive oil, salt and fresh cracked pepper) and wrapping them with a whole grain tortilla and some hummus. Grilled sliced eggplant (like mushrooms) is another fantastic "meat like" alternatives.
5. Fire up Shrimp or Chicken Kabobs. Kabobs are a fun, easy way to serve smaller portions of animal protein-in a way that most people don't even notice. You can round out kebobs with a side of whole wheat cousous and a yogurt dressing, or on top of summer salad greens.
Want more ideas? Here's one of my all time favorite creations- my Thai Inspired Soy Sliders. You can prep the elements in advance and then people can build their own (which kids especially love to do). These savory, smoky bite-sized sliders have a refreshing contrast-the crisp, pickled vegetables with creamy sauce. Even carnivores will crave one.
Have any more green grilling ideas? I would love to hear them! Please drop me a line.
Thai Inspired Soy Sliders
Yield: 5 Tofu Sliders
Inspired by the popular bahn mi Thai sandwiches that many Thai food trucks sell, these tofu sliders are a delicious twist on the typical slider, and are packed with fresh flavors.
5 whole grain dinner rolls
1 cup bean sprouts
1 small handful fresh cilantro sprigs
1 small handful fresh mint sprigs
1/2 hothouse cucumber, peeled and julienned
1 small jalapeño, seeded and julienned (or with seeds, if you prefer more heat)
1. The night before, slice the tofu into 5 equal slices (about 3/4 inch thick). Cover with paper towels, place in a bowl, and drain overnight.
2. Place the drained tofu in a marinating dish. Place remaining marinade ingredients in a large liquid measuring cup. Using an immersion blender, puree all the ingredients together into a paste.
3. Cover both sides of tofu with the paste, and marinate for at least 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 400°F, and preheat your grill or sauté pan over medium-high heat.
6. Grill the tofu 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through (and with grill marks).
7. While tofu is grilling, place dinner rolls directly onto the upper rack in the oven. Bake for 5-6 minutes, until toasted and slightly golden on top. Remove.
8. To assemble: Slice heated dinner roll in half. Spread 1/2-1 tsp of burger dressing on each side of the roll. Stack grilled tofu with some bean sprouts, cilantro, mint, cucumber, jalapeño, and pickled vegetables. Top with other half of dinner roll and enjoy immediately.
1 carton extra firm tofu
2 cloves garlic
1/2 a large white onion
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp canola oil
1/4 cup canola mayonnaise
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 tsp sriracha
1 tsp soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tsp sugar or honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 bunch small Daikon or other radish, julienned
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
Pickled Vegetables Directions:
Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Add carrots and radishes. Marinate 30 minutes - 1 hour (can be made the night before). Drain well before use.
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk until combined. Taste and add more sriracha if you prefer more heat. Set aside.