Don’t act like you haven’t struggled with this before.
When we think of summer, the first thing that comes to mind is BBQ’ing. Because, let’s be real, everything tastes better on a BBQ. So much so that even in the colder months we contemplate bundling up and heading out to battle the elements, all in the name of a perfectly grilled steak. Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about that just yet—at the moment we’re brainstorming ways to squeeze in as many outdoor BBQ parties as possible before we’re hit with the coming months that shall not be named.
Our daydreams about all the delicious cheeseburgers, chicken wings, and steaks are cut short by the fact that as of late, at least three of our friends have become vegan. So what the eff do we do now? Considering we’re not top chefs (although we like to consider ourselves great cooks), we decided to—you guessed it—ask an expert. So we reached out to Michael Stilson, Chef de Cuisine at Woodlot restaurant in Toronto. Woodlot’s focus is on Canadian comfort food, and they have two separate menus, with one fully dedicated to vegetarians and vegans. So, if you’re finding yourselves stuck in the same boat as us, struggling to figure out what the hell to BBQ your vegan friend, we suggest you note the below tips and then proceed to throw the most unforgettable BBQ of the summer.
Where to start…
“You don’t have to change the whole plan to accommodate people, I think if you just put a little bit of foresight into it and plan in such a way that you can leave out the meat or the dairy products in whatever you’re doing, it keeps things very easy for us and for anybody.
“Mindfully prepare everything so that you’re not necessarily making an entirely new dish for somebody, but there are a few small modifications you can make.Just being mindful of those things and leaving your dairy aspects as options that you can add later on in the process, and omit for your vegan friends.”
The best options for a main dish....
“In terms of grilling, there’s a lot of meat substitutes out there. For me, the soy substitutes like tofu don’t tend to pack as much flavour; you have to manipulate them quite a bit to make them super delicious. I think a great product for [naturally grilling] is tempeh. It grills up really beautifully, we’re actually doing it in the restaurant right now, amber-grilled tempeh brochette. Essentially it’s like a skewer with patty pan squash, marinated tempeh, and chilblain onions. It pretty much acts like meat on the grill—it gets the grill marks. It’s got a little more depth of flavor than tofu or anything like that—it’s got a really interesting flavor to it, so I think that’s a nice option for vegetarians and vegans.
“Another go-to for this situation is mushrooms. Mushrooms are gorgeous, they suck up smoke beautifully, like they’re sponges for flavor. We use hen of the woods or maitake mushrooms here, but shiitakes are really great on the grill as well. Just anything that will hold up to the heat.”
What appetizers and sides to offer…
“Any grain or legume salads are very easily made vegan and we do them a lot here in the restaurant as well. Rye berries, wheat berries, or whole oats are great, if you cook those off and then basically [add] fresh vegetables and a nice vinaigrette. There’s no need to add any meat or butter or anything to it, you can get a ton of flavor that way with the legumes, fresh vegetables, herbs and a nice tasty vinaigrette. It’s a very easy vegan side to do and no one would even think about the lack of dairy or animal products. I think you can make it super delicious that way.”