To be honest, being a vegetarian doesn't really make you the coolest person around the fireplace...
But after years of feeling slightly party-pooperish near the grill I finally managed to find a way to gain some respect around the embers :)
This is my favorite recipe for BBQ and these skewers not only look quite fancy and taste delicious - their preparation method has several advantages over single pieces of grilled vegetables or skewered chunky veggies.
- Due to the thinly sliced vegetables the surface area is enlarged and they become nice and crispy on the outside while the center keeps juicy.
- Compared to bigger pieces of vegetables the cooking time shortens significantly.
- They are as easy to handle as sausages or steaks on the grill, you don't need a special device or tool to cook them.
- If you use two sticks per unit for skewering you'll have no trouble turning them around on the grill.
- If you want you can serve them on a plate and eat them with utensils - but I think they are the nicest when rolled up in a flat bread or served in a bun.
- Last but not least: they taste amazing. There is something about the different textures and flavors coming together in these sticks that makes them a real culinary delight. Seriously.
I don't want to brag about it, but even hardcore meat-fans have tried them unsolicited - and they remained happy past consumption ;)
The preparation of these sticks is more labor intensive than making chunky veggie skewers but it's well worth it.
I can't really give a source to a original recipe for these skewers, I just saw a picture of similar ones on a magazine cover and started to try this style.
Step 1: Ingredients
It's kind of difficult to tell how many peoples hunger you can satisfy with these sticks. With the amounts used in this instructable I was able to feed two hungry persons and there where some leftovers - but it depends on your way of consumption (with / without bread or salad) how much you need...
I used about:
- 1 zucchini (the give a really nice texture and are easy to bend, they are kind of the foundation for the skewers)
- 1 small eggplant (earthier flavor and softer texture)
- 1 carrot (they add sweetness and a little crunch)
- 1/2 onion (scallions are nicer, but I had no on hand)
- about 6 mushrooms (they give a nice earthy flavor, grilled mushrooms are the best!)
- about 15 cherry tomatoes (sweet and tangy juiciness)
- 1 sweet pepper
- 2 hearts of artichokes (canned) i had on hand by chance - I used them the first time on skewers and the added a really nice touch. I'll definitely use them again.
Ideas for options (I haven't tried so far):
I think olives, and dried tomatoes would add a nice touch. Tofu and grill-able cheese (like Halloumi) should work as well.
And of course you can also add non-vegetarian things to your skewers. I haven't tried it myself but I guess bacon and sausages would work fairly well - though pieces of raw meat might be a problem since they need more time to cook than the veggies...
You could even use no vegetables at all and use bacon instead of the veggie-strips. I imagine bacon combined with something fruity would be nice (like dates or figs or peaches...a bbq twist on the traditional spanish tapas) I don't eat meat, so no bacon included in this instructable - But hey! Thats your chance to write one ; )
Step 2: Preparation
In order to make the vegetables bendable you have to slice them quite thin.
I don't have a mandolin, so I used my peeler to slice the zucchini, eggplant and carrot.
The peeler setup works fine, but if the vegetables are wider than your peeler (pic 3) you have to either cut the veggie to a peeler-according size (pic 4) - or you could try to use a knife to cut them into thin and conform slices (though it's pretty hard to get a good result with the knife).
I started by cutting the eggplant and put these stripes into a bowl with saltwater (1 tbsp salt to 1 quart/liter water). I kept them in the water until I had cut all the other stuff. I'm uncertain what the saltwater does to the eggplant, but many recipes demand treating eggplants with salt or salty water, so I just follow the common herd with this...
The mushrooms, onions, artichokes and sweet pepper I cut into manageable bite size (no need to cut cherry tomatoes). When cutting fragile ingredients like mushrooms be careful to cut the pieces big enough. They should be skewer-able without breaking. If you do this for the first time I recommend to assemble a test skewer before you cut up all the vegetables, this way you'll get a feeling for the right size.
And a hint I actually haven't tried myself: If you use wooden skewers and prepare them on a "real" grill the wooden skewers tend to burn - soaking them in water beforehand makes them less likely to do so...
Step 3: Construction
There are different ways to skewer the vegetables:
My favorite one you can see on the upper left corner of pic 1.
These skewers are crammed with bite size vegetables while bands of sliced veggies wind around them.
The pictures explain the process better than I could with words, so take a look at them.
Here are some Tips & Tricks:
It's nice use two strips of vegetables at the same time.
Before you arrive at the end of one strip just place another strip on on top of it for seamless winding (pic 9)
Than more vegetables are on the stick than harder it gets to push the skewer further. The best method is to grab the vegetables with one hand and to use the other hand to push the skewer with an rotary motion a little further (pic 12).
I highly recommend to use two skewers per veggie-stick. You can either start with two or you construct your stick just with one and add the second one afterwards.
I was short on skewers so I made some with just one, but was super annoyed when I had them on the griddle: As soon the the vegetables cook they get soft and when you try to turn them on the other side you most likely just turn the skewer... Use two skewers!
On the upper right you can see lanced strips of veggies, I use about two or three layers of strips to make these. They are a nice snack, but not as interesting for your taste buds as the other ones ;) You can eat them right from the skewer and children usually like them. They are quickly made and cook fast but it's hard to get sated by them so don't choose this method when you have to feed a hungry crowd... (these sticks are lightweight, so one skewer is enough)
On the bottom of picture 1 you see thicker slices of eggplant and zucchini with some veggi pieces added. I made those because the thicker slices don't bend very well. I think this is the least useful way to prepare the vegetables compared to the two other methods. They take a relatively long time on the grill and you should eat them on a plate and with utensils. I prefer the first method, but if you end up with some thicker slices you can use them this way.
Step 4: Spicing
You can use your favorite barbecue sauce/marinade to spice up the skewers.
If you serve them to strict vegetarians/vegans you might keep in mind not to use products they don't include in their diet. (e.g. my marinade recipe is not suitable for vegans due to the honey...)
I made a simple sauce/marinade by mixing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon honey
1 clove of garlic, grated
a little bit of ginger, grated
some hot sauce, a dash of soysauce, pepper and (smoked) salt to taste. (The smoked salt adds some campfire feeling, if you prepare the skewers on a griddle (like I did) I highly recommend adding it.)
Use a kitchen brush to distribute the marinade on the skewers.
You could as well just put salt and pepper and fresh lemon juice on the sticks and drizzle them with garlic infused oil, that's nice as well.
And if you like you can add herbs like rosemary or oregano...
If you prepare your skewers in advance - store them in marinated condition, covered and in the fridge.
Step 5: Cooking
Sorry, I was too lazy to borrow my friends "real" grill - and as I love my griddle so much, I used it :)
But I have char-grilled skewers like these many times, they are just as nice when grilled on a real fire. Keep an eye on them, they are too delicious to be burnt. ;)
The "crammed" skewers are roast-able from all four sides which makes them easy to cook without burning the surface. The two other methods offer just two grill-able sides and therefore need a little bit more attention...
The nicest way to serve them is like this: wrap them in a flat bread, take out the skewers and enjoy!
If you really want you can add ketchup or some kind of yogurt sauce - But you should try them without first. If you used a spicy marinade there is no need for additional sauces. The skewers are a complex taste experience just by themselves :)