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Grilled Garden Veggies = YUM

Summer is here and that means mealtimes can move outdoors! It’s a great feeling to fire up the grill and host a backyard barbecue with friends and family. But what about vegetarians, vegans, and those who are just hoping to eat more of a plant based diet this summer? Does no meat mean no chance to grill? No way! Dr. Brian Frank has some fresh ideas to share that will inspire you to make room for more plant-based foods over those flames.

Dr. Frank’s Favorite Grilled Garden Veggies

1. Grilled Portobellos: These giant relatives of crimini mushrooms have a rich, earthy flavor that tastes delicious on a grilled roll with roasted red peppers or atop a pile of fresh greens. Portobellos have no cholesterol and no saturated fats. They’re high in several B vitamins including niacin, a naturally occurring compound known to lower bad (LDL) and raise good (HDL) cholesterol levels. To get the most flavor out of these beauties, soak them in your favorite marinade for at least an hour (keep it simple with a mixture of balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, crushed garlic, and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand), then put them on the grill. Since mushroom cell walls contain chitin, the same material that makes crab shells so impenetrable, low-and-slow is the key to tender, juicy flavor without drying them out.

2. Seared Asparagus Spears: Don’t limit yourself to just one bunch; pick up a few to feed a crowd. Packed with a variety of anti-inflammatory nutrients and antioxidants, asparagus stalks are a perfect compliment to portobello burgers or tasty just on their own. While some people assume that the pencil-thin spears are fresher or more tender than the thicker stalks, the size actually just reflects the age of the plant that it came from. With the heartier spears, there’s just more to enjoy in each bite. After breaking off the bottom ends of the stalks (which is a bit too stringy and tough to chew), put your asparagus in a bowl and toss with a little sesame oil and fresh ground black pepper. Spread them out on a grill basket, and sauté over a grill burner set to high heat. Once they’re dark green and tender, take them off and lightly sprinkle with sea salt.

3. Grilled Greens: No summer grilling experience would be complete without a salad. But why keep the greens indoors when there’s still room left on the grill! Cut a head of your favorite greens (romaine, radicchio, or even iceberg lettuce) in half, brush with olive oil, and place face down over low heat. Just a few minutes will do the trick, as the heat caramelizes the naturally occurring sugars to bring out their inherent sweetness. Drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette and a sprinkling of fresh chives or parsley.

These fresh options will leave you feeling light, energized, and satisfied. It’s grilling without the guilt. So reroute your next dinner plans outside to your deck.

Invite the neighbors, fire up the grill, and enjoy a plant based summer barbecue where everyone can dig in.

Brian Frank, MD, is a Guest Expert with The Heart’s Kitchen.

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