Every other Monday throughout the summer and fall while locally raised produce is spectacular and abundant, the Heavy Table will be exploring vegetarian cuisine, both in the kitchen and at local eateries.
You’ve got your reasons. Maybe you want to dabble in vegetarianism because you think reducing your meat consumption is more healthful. Or, because you think it will help save the earth. Or, because you struggle to keep up with the vegetables bursting out of your garden and your CSA box every summer. Maybe it’s because you want to drop a few pounds. Or reduce your food bill. Maybe it’s a kindness to animals thing. Or because you heard celebrity chef and restaurateur Mario Batali is going meatless on Mondays. Maybe you’re a devotee of author Michael Pollan and subscribe to his philosophy: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” You might not be ready to give up meat completely, so you call yourself a flexitarian, a part-time vegetarian, a conscientious carnivore.
Whatever your reasons and however you label yourself, it’s surely easier to reduce your consumption of meat when the growing season is in full swing, when the tables at farmers markets are piled high with leafy vegetables in every shade of green, when your garden is yielding enough summer squash every week to fill a laundry basket, and when the kitchens at your favorite restaurants kick out bright and colorful dishes featuring seasonal produce.
But how do know when to start something you’re only doing part-time? You might have to rely on produce that isn’t local, at least for now, but start now with this quick and easy kebab recipe from Brenda Langton‘s now-closed restaurant Cafe Brenda. With tender bites of bell pepper and mushrooms coated with a sweet and savory marinade, it’s not the same as the juicy, beefy cheeseburger you might normally enjoy at your Memorial Day cookout. But maybe that’s the point.
Grilled Tofu, Green Onion, Sweet Pepper, and Mushroom Brochettes in Japanese Marinade
Yield: 8 small kebabs
If you can’t find miso, ginger juice, or barley malt at your favorite grocery store, check your local co-op. Seward Co-op is open today. If you have time, make your own ginger juice by peeling it, then grating it finely. Scoop the grated ginger into the palm of your hand, then squeeze it over a small bowl to force the juice out. For this recipe, you’ll need about a 2-inch piece of ginger.
4 tbsp barley malt (or 3 tbsp + 1 tsp molasses)
2 tbsp white miso
1 tbsp ginger juice
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
chili paste to taste (start with ½ to 1 tsp) or cayenne pepper
⅛ tsp salt
- Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl until thoroughly combined.
Grilled Tofu, Green Onion, Sweet Pepper, and Mushroom Brochettes
½ pound firm tofu, rinsed and cut into 16 squares
16 fresh mushrooms, ideally shiitake mushrooms, rinsed and stems trimmed
5-6 green onions, cut into 16 pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
- On bamboo skewers, alternate 2 pieces each of tofu, mushroom, onion, and pepper.
- Brush each kebab generously with the marinade. Marinate for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
- Place the skewers on aluminum foil on the grill. Rotate the kebabs as they brown until they are cooked on all sides, approximately 10 minutes.
Adapted from The Cafe Brenda Cookbook: Seafood and Vegetarian Cuisine, by Brenda Langton and Margaret Stuart.