Saturday, September 09, 2006

Labor Day BBQ

I had vegans and vegetarians at this BBQ, so had to be a bit creative. Rather than make special dishes to accommodate the meat-o-phobes, I prefer to make as many dishes as possible enjoyable by everyone. All of the dishes below are vegetarian, and all but the Spinach & Artichoke dip are vegan.

To accommodate the meat-eaters, I grilled up some really yummy steaks. But you can figure out those without a recipe.

Most Glorious Spinach & Artichoke Dip

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ bulb fresh fennel, diced
  • ½ sweet yellow onion, diced
  • A few cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
  • ¼ c drained & chopped sundried tomatoes marinated in olive oil
  • ½ c white wine
  • A few large handfuls of coarsely chopped fresh baby spinach
  • 2c marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 6oz cream cheese
  • 1c sour cream
  • ½ c shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ½ c shredded Asiago cheese
  • ½ Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • ½ Tbsp kosher or sea salt
  • ¼ Tbsp fresh ground black pepper
Sauté onion and fennel in butter and olive oil until onion begins to soften. Add wine and simmer until fennel is tender, about 5 minutes. Once the liquid has almost evaporated, add crushed garlic and sundried tomatoes, and stir. Top with spinach and toss until spinach wilts. Remove from heat.

In large microwave-safe bowl, combine cheeses.

In food processor, lightly pulse the artichoke hearts with the tarragon, salt, and pepper. Add in the sautéed vegetables, and pulse again lightly to mix.

Add the vegetable mixture to the cheese, and stir. Put in microwave and heat on half power for about 3 minutes. Mix, then reheat on full power for about 2 minutes (You may also put in a baking dish and heat in conventional oven for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring halfway through).

Serve with sliced French baguette or tortilla chips.


  • 1c small diced tomatoes
  • ½ sweet yellow onion, diced
  • Bunch of fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp Kosher or sea salt
  • ½ tsp fresh ground pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 long French baguette

I know. You’re thinking, it’s the height of summer, and you’re using CANNED tomatoes? But the thing is, canning preserves the sweetness of summer, and the small diced canned tomatoes have no skin and no seeds. It really makes this preparation easy. But if you like, go ahead and skin and deseed 3 or 4 fresh ripe tomatoes. Dice and drain before using.

Combine tomatoes, basil, onion, salt and pepper in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cut baguette into thin slices and place on cooking rack. Spray with olive oil, and toast until lightly browned and crispy.

When ready to serve, arrange toasts on tray, and top with one spoonful of tomato mixture.

Bean Salad

This isn’t your traditional marinated 5 or 7 bean salad. It’s wonderfully fresh and raw, and shouldn’t be marinated to the point where the basil wilts and the beans become pickled.

A handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4c finely chopped sundried tomatoes
2 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tsp dry mustard
½ tsp kosher or sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ c each malt and rice wine vinegar
¼ c olive oil (or oil from the sundried tomatoes)

1c each: garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans
2 ears fresh corn, removed from cob
1c frozen sweet peas (or fresh peas, lightly blanched)
1c frozen cut green beans (or fresh green beans, cut and lightly blanched)

Combine first set of 10 ingredients in a blender and pulse briefly to mix.

Combine beans, peas, and corn. Add dressing, and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving, but not more than 12 hrs. I prefer to use a gallon size ziplock for refrigeration, as the flavors tend to blend better.

Grilled Marinated Polenta, topped with mushrooms and eggplant relish

A handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4c finely chopped sundried tomatoes
2 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp kosher or sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ c each malt and rice wine vinegar
¼ c olive oil (or oil from the sundried tomatoes)

1 tube of fresh polenta, cut into ½” slices

4 or 5 marinated cipolini onions
1c marinated button mushrooms
1 Tbsp sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 small eggplant / aubergine, diced
½ tsp kosher or sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper

Aluminum baking trays, with holes poked through the bottom

Combine the first set of 8 ingredients (yes, it’s the same dressing as for the beans, minus the paprika and mustard. If you like, you can just double the dressing for the beans, and use half of it here) in a blender and pulse to make a paste. Add additional vinegar to thin if necessary. Reserve 2 Tbsp for relish.

Arrange slices of polenta on a baking tray (not the ones with holes), and pour a spoonful of the marinade over each slice. Turn over each slice, and add another spoonful of the marinade. Pour any extra marinade into the tray. Cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Combine onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplant, salt & pepper in food processor. You can also add the leftover ends of the polenta, if you like. Pulse this lightly two or three times to chop, but not puree. Turn out into bowl. Add reserved marinade and mix.

To grill, poke holes into the bottom of an aluminum baking tray. Oil lightly, and arrange the slices of polenta. Top each slice with a spoonful of the mushroom and eggplant relish. Place on grill. Close cover, and grill over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until the polenta is crispy on the bottom and the vegetables on top are warmed through and soft.

No comments: