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Vegetables

Incomparable vegies – honest!

The very idea of vegetarians rolling up to a barbecue causes great mirth in certain circles. But not in this one. Because many vegetables, and a couple of magical vegetarian dishes, make outstanding barbecue fare, even for carnivores.

Start out simply, with two of my favourite barbecue vegetables – corn and asparagus. Here’s are a couple of ways, one simple and the other a bit more elaborate, to prepare corn:

First of all, buy cobs still in their husks, and not interfered with by your meddling green grocer. About an hour before cooking, toss them into a bucket of water.

To cook, simply put them, dripping wet and with husks still in place, on the grill, close the lid, and turn them from time to time, letting the husk darken, until they are evenly charred. They need about 20 minutes all up, or perhaps a bit more.

Check by peeling back a corner of husk and peeping to ensure they are becoming golden.

Now, take them off. Carefully roll back the husks to form handles and serve them with a drizzle of melted butter to which you have added some lime juice and a pinch or two of cayenne. The quantities are up to you. Be amazed.

But if you would like to be even more amazed, here is a way or preparing corn in a way that remains acceptable to your vegetarian guests, and will blow their minds, as well as lift their miserable spirits (just kidding).

Ensure your corn is fresh and good. Peel back the husks, remove the fibres from the cob, and tie the husks with twine to form a handle that looks like Neil Perry’s pony tail. Now, position each cob over direct heat, as hot as you like, with the hood coming down on the base of the husk. A gas barbecue works well for this, as does a charcoal kettle, of course.

Smoke is not essential, for reasons that will soon become clear. Rotate the cobs slightly every minute or so to ensure they cook evenly which, on a hot grill, they should do in six to eight minutes. They need to be deep golden, with a couple of blackened kernels, but not overcooked.

Make a bowl of chipotle mayonnaise by chopping four chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (buy them, cheaply, in tins from any Mexican food outlet, or through Monterey Foods on-line – Embasa brand is excellent) and adding the chillies, and a couple of teaspoons of the sauce, to two cups of Best Foods bottled mayo. Mix well. Also, grate some good parmesan (Italian please – and never use pre-grated, ever) or pecorino on a microplane grater (it keeps the cheese gratings much lighter).

To serve, coat the cobs thinly with the chipotle mayo and sprinkle with parmesan. And no, don’t think too hard about it before you have tasted it. Because you are about to be amazed…

For the asparagus, use soaked bamboo skewers to pin sticks of asparagus, from which you have snapped the bottom few centimetres, into rafts of, say, four sticks each. This makes them easier to turn on the grill. Then, coat them well with EV olive oil and season with salt and pepper. They take 2-4 mins a side to cook on a hot grill.

Other vegetables worth grilling include pumpkin, eggplant, zucchinis, cos lettuce, fennel, witlof and, my favourite, radicchio. In all cases, slice or simply split, brush with EV olive oil, season and grill.

And finally, big field mushrooms are brilliant: brush half a dozen of them clean, remove stems, place a dollop of snail butter (butter mashed with garlic, parsley and a squeeze of lemon) in each and cook, on the grill, butter side up. Ten minutes or so, or until the mushrooms begin to soften, should do. Lift them off and line them up on the base of a split, warmed baguette you have spread with Dijon mustard, sprinkle with more chopped parsley, replace top, press down and slice into four portions.

But if you think that’s good, which you will, have I got a vegie offering for you. It’s my mushroom burger, fully vegetarian, and more exciting than some vegetarians, and all vegans, can handle. Try this, and weep…

MUSHROOM BURGER WITH SMOKED CHILLI

Let’s look at making a vegetarian version of the least vegetarian dish of them all – a hamburger. And yes, it’s possible, and even as a devout carnivore, I love this dish.

First, buy a portabello (large field mushroom) per person, and ciabatta rolls, likewise. Make a marinade with a wonderful product called chipotle chillis in adobo sauce – easily available on-line, very reasonably, from Monterey Foods in Sydney on montereyfoods.com.au. Look, among canned chillies, for Embasa chipotle in adobo sauce. Less than $5 a can. Buy a case of them because they are wonderful, and I will tell you about other things you can do with them.

Now, blend or process 4 of these, and a good dollop of the adobo sauce they come in, with 3 cloves garlic, 1 small, chopped red onion, 3tbs balsamic vinegar, ½ cup olive oil, salt and pepper.

Wipe clean and trim the stems from as up to four mushrooms and slosh this marinade into the gill sides. Marinate for 2-3 hours, and then lift from the marinade and grill on a covered, hot barbecue, gill sides up, for about 3 minutes. Turn and grill, gill sides dosn, for another 3 minutes. Turn again, adding reminder of marinade to gill side of mushrooms. After another two minutes, top each mushroom with a slice of comte (French gruyere) cheese, or similar, and allow to melt into the mushrooms.

Split ciabattas, brush cut sides with oil and grill quickly and lightly. Spread thinly with chipotle mayo, made by stirring a coujple of chopped chillis and 1tsp of the adobo sauce into half a cup of Best Foods bottled mayo. Lift mushrooms off grill and position on bottoms of ciabatta rolls. Top each mushroom with slices of fresh avocado, season, replace top of roll and eat. With a very cold beer.

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