Monday, November 02, 2015

Grilled Vegetables

Vegetables on the grill are so delicious that the prominence of meat in the many grilling events I've attended over the years is somewhat befuddling. All you need is some produce and a bit of creativity, as we found out yesterday at Tomales Bay

The sky was overcast and it was gently drizzling the whole time, but it did not deter us from going for a nice swim in the chilly bay, where we had a couple of pelicans for company. They swam and flew very close to us--how exciting!

The pelicans reminded me of how much I love Judy Irving's terrific documentary Pelican Dreams. In fact, that's the movie that pushed me to become vegan, because I realized, while learning about the environmental threats faced by these beautiful birds, that everything is interconnected, and that the best thing I could do for all animals--farm animals AND wild animals--is to stop consuming them in any form.

But back to the vegetables. After our swim, we sliced up a potato, a yam, and a red onion, removed the less-exciting parts of several green onions, sliced up two Field Roast sausages lengthwise, and removed the stems from an entire bunch of rainbow chard leaves. We set all of this up in one layer on foil, drizzling olive oil and sprinkling cumin on our bounty.

Setting up the grill is easy, but time consuming. It calls for a match, some kindling (we used splinters) and coals. We started by lifting the grid (and cleaning the ashes inside), and then by making a little fire with the splinters and doctoring it to health. This requires some patience when there's wind and a drizzle, but is certainly doable. Then, we gently and carefully placed the coals atop the little fire, taking care not to extinguish it.

The idea behind cooking on charcoal is as follows: when oxygen (in the air) meets carbon (in the charcoal), they produce CO2 (they also sometimes produce CO, carbon monoxide, which is why doing this indoors is a very bad idea.) A by-product of the chemical reaction is heat. You can tell that things are going okay by the coals starting to become white and ashen. When the process starts, it's time to put down the grid and layer the foil atop it. It helps with steaming if you cover your food with a second piece of foil.

Everything on the grill was delicious, but I was particularly fond of the chard and sweet potato. The grilling process imparted a smoky and wonderful taste, which you can sort-of-but-not-accurately recreate at home by adding liquid smoke. The big discovery was how unnecessary meat was. While the vegan sausages were great, the vegetables were terrific, and I can see us trying with eggplant, green beans, and tomato slices next time.

Finally, before heading home, don't forget to extinguish the fire!

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