Most eco-conscious people are aware that eating less meat is good for the planet. But in practice, keeping away from meat can be easier said than done, especially during summertime--the season of outdoor grilling and backyard barbecues. Part of the reason it's so hard to turn down meat in favor of veggies is because most people are never taught how to properly prepare vegetables.
But rest assured, it's no more difficult than preparing meat! In fact, the best way to make vegetables delectable is to treat them as if they are meat. This handy list of tips can help you create veggies so delicious, even hardened meat-eaters will be begging for seconds. Even if one of those meat-eaters is you!
Select flavorful vegetables.
Just as one might consider which cut of meat to prepare for dinner, vegetables should be carefully selected for maximum flavor potential. When cooking veggies for summer get togethers, avoid watery or bland veggies, such as potatoes, turnips and cucumbers. Instead, choose veggies that can be prepared in a variety of ways and produce a bold array of flavors. These include bell peppers (red, green, and yellow), onions, tomatoes, asparagus, and yellow squash.
All of these can be baked, grilled, sauteed or combined into salsa. With these veggies, you will have the potential to create dishes with as much punch as any traditional burger or brat. They also have the added advantage of looking as great as they taste--their bright colors and pleasing, varied aromas make it hard not to be tempted.
Give your vegetables a dry rub.
As any barbecue lover knows, dry-rubs can be key to bringing out meats' flavor. But it isn't only meat that deserves the dry rub treatment! Just about any vegetable dish, from kabobs to baked veggies, can benefit from a good rub down.
Your dry-rub recipe doesn't need to be complicated. In fact, there's likely no reason that you can't reuse any recipe you've already been using for meat. Dry-rub recipes are as varied as human palates, so the sky is the limit on what flavors you can bring to the table! From ulta-spicy cajun-style rubs to savory Texas-barbecue rubs, feel free to experiment. Rubs should generally be added before cooking, but can sometimes also be sprinkled atop your dish after cooking for an added kick.
Marinate your vegetables.
Marinating meat is a popular way to ensure that flavor soaks into meat--especially when it comes to chicken and turkey. But veggies can (and should!) be marinated from time to time too! Vegetables are absorbent and are thus champs at holding in the flavor of marinades. As you would with meat, choose ingredients for your marinade that can provide your favorite sort of flavor profile, be it savory, sweet, spicy, or a combination.
If you're searching for a bit of marinade inspiration, check out this list of five marinades specifically for veggies, which includes a variety of flavor profiles, from sweet bourbon and brown sugar to a soy-sauce-based Asian style marinade.
Grill or smoke your vegetables.
If you're looking for cooking techniques that not only bring out the natural flavors of your veggies but also add new flavors of there own, then grilling and smoking may be for you.
Smoking will permeate your veggies with a light, smokey flavor, just as it would with meat. If you or someone you know owns a smoker, then line a tray with tin foil, place your cut veggies on the tray, and slide the tray into the smoker, as you would with meat. Tomatoes and bell peppers are especially good smoked, since they cook quickly. Tougher veggies, such as onions and asparagus, will take far longer to smoke. Another, even simpler technique for smoking veggies? Cook them over a fire pit, using a common hot dog or marshmallow skewer.
Grilling is by far the most common way to make flavorful veggie kabobs. To make delicious grilled veggies, simply flip until the vegetables are evenly charred on both sides, as desired. Grilling will give a bold, charcoal flavor to your veggies. Grilled asparagus is an especially popular side dish, but paired with a dry rub, there is no reason it needs to remain a side! Grilled veggies pack enough punch to be the star of the show this summer.