Jason Sellers, a vegan chef, is opening his new restaurant, Plant, later this summer. What does a vegan cook have to do with a grill? Everything, says Sellers. Smoke imparts a certain amount of umami to vegetables and vegetarian proteins, he says. “Many people don’t think about it this way,” he says, “but grill is as much a flavor as a technique.”
Sellers has some great grill tips, whether you’re cooking an entirely meat-free menu or struggling to come up with something to feed the vegetarian in-laws.
• Vegetarian kebabs make perfect sides for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. For a meat-free main dish, add a protein like seitan that’s been marinated in chimichurri. Substitute cremini mushrooms for the seitan if you’d like. Try threading some lightly parboiled fingerling potatoes on the skewer, along with small tomatoes, local patty-pan squash — whatever suits you. Just remember: marinate, marinate, marinate.
• Think outside the cap: Grilling portabellos is a common trick. However, says Sellers, we are fortunate enough to live in an area where people are growing all sorts of mushrooms in all sorts of sizes. Grilling, says Sellers, brings out a unique flavor in mushroom caps that’s not too strong.
• Watch the fat! Too much oil can drip into the flame, and burning oil is not the taste that you want on your vegetables.
• Don’t worry, says Sellers. Grilled vegetables are a no-brainer. Anyone who eschews meat will be thankful that you thought of them at all.