Memorial Day is upon us, which for many Americans means celebrating with an all-day barbecue. Millions of hot dogs and packages of curiously-bright red ground beef will be consumed over the weekend, as is the American way.
Without a doubt, there will be thousands of bland tofu dogs and dried out fake-meat burgers set aside for the family vegetarian, too.
But Memorial Day barbecuing doesn't have to be so predictable or so meat or veggie burger-centric. Whether you're making a conscious effort to eat with health and environment in mind, or just seeking a little creative variety, the farmers market is a great place to spruce up the vegetarian side of your grill.
Patch took an inspiring walk through the local Santa Cruz Farmers Market and came across dozens of vegetables just begging to be slathered in olive oil and lightly grilled to perfection.
Here are some ideas for grilling fresh local produce that should get your creative juices (and saliva) flowing before you head to the weekend markets:
1. Grilled Lettuce. Yep! Really.
Sarai Fox of Blue Herons Farms explains:
"What's become popular in fancy restaurants is to do the little gem grilled," said Fox. (The "Little Gem" is like a crunchy butter lettuce.)
"People do like an olive oil vinaigrette with it, you can decide what vinegars and oils to use, and then you essentially just dip it and grill it real quick. I just know that some restaurants have started doing this and it's gotten really big," said Fox.
Fox recommends buying a whole head, cutting it lengthwise and rinsing it to prepare it. Blue Heron Farms also has fantastic looking bok choy which can be grilled in a similar way by halving it lengthwise.
2. Easy Aluminum Foiled Vegetables with Coconut Milk
Many of us swear on aluminium foil to keep those precious asparagus from falling between the grill slats. Using aluminum foil also helps to keep your veggies from burning, and keeps them from losing their juices and marinade while cooking.
Blue Heron Farms recommends using foil to create a container to grill kale, or other vegetables, and adding a little bit of coconut milk for a luxurious flavor.
3. Grilled Fennel from Route 1 Farm
The licorice-hint of fennel adds an interesting twist to any meal, and it is another green that happens to be delicious on the grill. Right now, the fennel at Route 1 Farm is looking exceptionally healthy and delicious.
"You can leave the tops on or you can take them off, you can marinade it, you just don't want to burn it but you want to let it cook for a while, and it takes the grill flavor nicely," said Josh of Route 1 Farm.
4. Kale-Wrapped Grilled Fish
Fish on the grill is easy and delicious. Blue Heron Farms recommends wrapping your fish in marinated kale leaves and adding some coconut milk. Or use olive oil, herbs and a few lemon slices.
5. Summer Squash with olive oil and herbs from Happy Boy Farms
"Definitely the pick of the week would be summer squash, because you can cut it the long way in nice big slabs and a little bit of olive oil, chopped up fresh herbs, anything will do really, oregano, basil, and then just grill them not so long. A little bit of chopped basil on top of summer squash is just killer," said Drew of Happy Boy Farms.
6. Grilled Mushrooms
When it comes to a meat replacement, there is nothing quite like mushrooms. Their meaty texture and ability to absorb marinades and flavor make them an ideal stand-in for meat.
Drew of Happy Boy Farms says grilled shiitaki mushrooms are his all-time favorite for a meat replacement:
"I like to use big old shiitakis, and do a combination of tamari, maybe a littlemirin, that sweet wine, some rice vinegar, ginger and garlic and let it sit like that. And then when you grill it it's the most juicy, rich thing and then you never need meat again!" he said.
New Natives sells several varities of mushrooms at the market. Try them as a burger subsitute or just grilled on their own!
6. Golden Beet Salad with Goat Cheese
This recipe for calls for roasted beets, but Josh of Route 1 Farms says beets are delicious on the grill as well. Right now Route 1 has superb beets in several varieties!
Put them in some foil, and once they are cooked, the skin should slide right off. The golden beets are best for salads since their color doesn't bleed as much, but all of them are delicious grilled.
7. Grilled Potatoes and Spring Onions
The first harvests of potatoes are coming out of the ground and starting to appear at local markets, as are spring onions which turn exceptionally sweet when grilled. Toss some small potatoes with olive oil and add some dill or garlic and halved or whole spring onions and grill away.
8. Fresh Microgreens and Quinoa
With all that grilling you're going to need a side salad. If you're going to a pot luck, get a little more creative than potato salad or mac salad and try this recipe for . It is a unique, healthy dish that is sure to be a hit. The microgreens are a crucial ingredient though—it's just not the same without them—so get to the market early and hit up New Natives before their microgreens sell out!
9. Grilled Oysters
Oysters from H & H Fresh Fish are harvested fresh in Puget Sound and sold at the local markets. They are delicious grilled! Just put them on the grill unshucked, and they will open as they cook. When they open they are ready to eat. Squeeze some lime and a drop of cocktail sauce or hot sauce and enjoy!
10. We could go on forever, but it's your turn. What vegetable dish are you making for Memorial Day Weekend? Tell us in the comments!