This summer, I’m going to be posting a series of fifteen low-cost, tasty, and easy-to-prepare meals that are literally straight from my own kitchen.
Our meals are usually pretty heavy on the vegetables and fruits by default. Often, our main course is a meat of some sort – fish, beef, pork, and chicken are all game – but those are almost always paired by at least one vegetable side and at least one fruit side.
Sometimes, though, we go all the way and prepare fully vegetarian meals. This is one of those times.
Grilled vegetable kabobs are a tremendous summer dish because they can be assembled out of whatever vegetables happen to be on sale in your area at the time. Dozens of different kinds of vegetables work, from zucchini and cherry tomatoes to peppers and mushrooms. From squash and onions to potatoes and sweet corn. Broccoli and cauliflower work, too. The key isn’t some perfect medley of vegetables – the key is what’s on sale.
This time, we used these vegetables for our kabobs:
An onion (red ones are a bit more tasty, but the yellows were on sale). Button mushrooms. Cherry tomatoes. Bell peppers in a variety of colors. And a zucchini. These were the kabob-appropriate vegetables that were either on sale or are already pretty low in price around here.
An exact cost breakdown and an ingredient list is difficult here because the meal is so variable. Just use whatever vegetables are on sale and you’re good to go.
The first step, obviously, is rinsing off all of the vegetables and brushing the mushrooms clean. Once that’s done, start slicing. I like to peel the zucchini, but that’s entirely up to you, and I also discarded the insides of the peppers and some parts of the onions.
The nice part about having a fully vegetarian meal is that any scraps that are left over from preparation can go straight in your composter. I wound up with a bowl full of scraps:
The contents of the bowl wound up straight in our composter. They’re now happily composting, turning slowly into perfect nutrients for future garden crops.
Anyway, back to the slicing. Sarah and I took turns slicing the vegetables for the kabobs. Here, Sarah is showing off her slicing technique on an orange bell pepper.
We usually slice the peppers into sixteen equally sized pieces. We chop it into quarters, clean out the insides, then chop each of those quarters into four equal parts.
We do something similar with the onions, except I usually chop the onion into six equal pieces, then slice each of those wedges three times. This gives plenty of pieces for the kabob.
After everything is sliced, assembly begins:
I simply pick up a bamboo skewer and push vegetables down on it, alternating vegetables as I go. Easy as can be.
This also makes it very easy to customize kabobs for specific people. Sarah doesn’t like mushrooms, for example, so it was easy to make two non-mushroom kabobs for her by just skipping that ingredient.
Also, if you want to include meat on the kabobs, you easily can – just slice up your beef or chicken into 3/4″ to 1″ cubes and mix them in with the vegetables.
Here’s what our seven vegetarian kabobs looked like when finished:
From here, they headed straight to the grill. After preheating the grill, I just put the kabobs over medium-to-low heat, then brushed the side facing up with olive oil. As soon as I brushed them, I flipped them over and brushed the other side. I then let them cook for about twenty minutes, flipping them about every four minutes or so.
What you’re looking for is just a bit of char on the edge of the vegetables and a bit of shrinking and wrinkling on the mushrooms and tomatoes. You don’t want everything burnt, but you do want everything cooked.
I intended to get some beautiful shots of the kabobs on the grill, but we had a sudden thunderstorm, so I wound up sprinting outside to flip the kabobs and running back into the house before getting too drenched. Photography wasn’t a big concern at that moment.
So what did we have with it?
I could give a long story about boiling beans overnight, baking them in the oven for hours with molasses and other ingredients, and producing some version of the “perfect” baked beans. And sometimes I do that, because freshly-boiled beans are just incredibly tasty.
But the truth is that most of us aren’t going to invest twenty four hours on beans as a side dish unless you’re hosting a fancy barbecue. Instead, I’m going to show you a very simple way to make barbecued beans on a grill.
All you need is one or two cans of beans, some barbecue sauce that you like, and some aluminum foil. If you happen to have some onions available (as we do), that’s good, too.
Take a can of beans, put the beans in a colander, and rinse them until the water runs clear through all of the beans – probably two minutes of rinsing per can. Put the beans in a bowl and put 1/4 cup barbecue sauce in with the beans. If you’d like, you can chop up a handful of onions and toss them in as well. Mix it up thoroughly, and add more sauce if you’d like.
Spread out a rectangle of aluminum foil – probably 50% longer than it is wide – and pour the mixture in the center. Wrap it up in a tight package, then wrap that package in a second rectangle of aluminum foil.
We made two packets – one with onions and one without:
Put these packets straight on the grill over medium-low heat (just like the kabobs) for about thirty minutes total, flipping them regularly. You’ll have steaming, delicious barbecued beans when you open the package.
In the interim, we also boiled some long grain rice to go along with the meal. Here’s what my dinner plate looked like:
A delicious vegetarian meal, indeed. Even our four year old and our two year old loved the kabobs – my son particularly went wild over the mushrooms.
Next week, we’ll look at how to make some cheap skillet fajitas that are to die for.