Grilling Jeff, February 21, 2017
My Vegetarian Mother-in-Law
Last year, my mother-in-law Marilyn was visiting us in our new Fraser Valley home. She lives in Ontario and was flying across the country to visit us and the grandkids. All the years we’ve been married, she has minced no words telling everyone that her daughter could have done better than “that fireman who grills.” Also, there’s something all mothers-in-law have in common – they love to tell embarrassing stories about their sons-in-law in conversation with complete strangers.
“I’ve planned grilled vegetables with a gluten free barbecue sauce for our first dinner,” I told Wendy as I imagined serving juicy, crunchy grilled vegetables for my vegetarian mother in law – the kind that would win her over after all these years. Wendy stared at me for a few seconds as incomprehension hung heavy between us. “Grilled vegetables in a vinegar-based gluten free BBQ sauce for your mom’s welcome dinner,” I said firmly to Wendy. It sounded perfect at so many levels! Wendy hinted, “Or we could order pizza, honey.” I should have listened to my wife.
After a week of steady rain, we finally had a gorgeous dry evening in the Fraser Valley. It was bright and sunny as I turned the grill to high to get it ready, and brought out my mix of bell peppers, zucchini, Japanese eggplant, mushrooms and green onions. They were all washed, cut into pieces and nicely placed in a large bowl. Needless to say I was distracted trying to impress Marilyn as I grabbed the oil bottle… the wrong oil bottle!
I’d grabbed the coconut oil Wendy uses for her smoothies and drizzled it all over the vegetables. Seriously, I can’t stand that stuff. Smoothies, sure. But on my veggies? Nope. Darn! I drizzled a bit meaning enough to get a whiff of the aroma and I stopped pouring. I put the bottle down, cursed and grabbed the olive oil.
And then I oiled the vegetables with a flourish. My mind was not entirely on the process, and I don’t really remember how it happened. But as soon as the first batch came out, I knew that something was very very wrong. The olive oil I’d used had been out in the open for a while, and had seen at least two seasons of rain and storm. Too late, I smelled the bottle of olive oil I’d used and it gave out a nauseating reek. My heart sank into my toes – this was not how I’d imagined this evening!
My first batch of vegetables turned out rancid just before everyone was coming out for dinner on the deck!
By this time I was really panicking. I remembered the new bottle of olive oil I’d bought last night. I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t beside the grill and it wasn’t in the kitchen. Whoops! It must have rolled out of the grocery bags into the trunk of my car. I could go grab it and salvage the second bowl of marinated vegetables in my fridge. I started to walk away from our deck onto our backyard towards the garage – and that’s when I heard her from behind me.
My nemesis- my wife’s mother – had come out on the deck, as usual dressed to perfection. She was wearing a red outfit and expensive white pearls. Her voice sounds very different when she’s calling me as opposed to when she talks to Wendy. When she calls me, it’s almost like a lioness’s roar before she leaps onto a deer.
“Where are you going, Jeffrey? Wendy tells me you’re grilling vegetables tonight,” she roared. As I turned around, I started to make some vague sounds and walk back at the same time. Before I could offer any descriptions of my masterful cooking plan, Marilyn had served herself a large portion from the batch of rancid veggies. I stood paralyzed as I watched her eat hungrily. Wendy and I were very quiet. After the longest two minutes ever, Marilyn gave me a withering stare and said very slowly, “It – tastes – worse – than- it – looks.”
Tips for Grilling Vegetables in BBQ Sauce
I can now impart my wisdom and experience so you can grill perfect veggies at home AND impress your mother-in-law:
- First get the grill nice and hot. Gas grills can sometimes reach 700-800˚ but right below this is perfect – call it “medium-high-heat”
- For charcoal, let the coals burn for five to 10 minutes. Any crusty bits on the grates from past use can be scraped with a bristled grill brush.
- Next, dip a dedicated rag in a neutral oil, like canola, and get it nice and wet.
- With your longest tongs, brush the grill grates with the oiled rag.
You can expect smoke and a few small flare-ups, which is normal.
- Repeat two or three times, and you’re ready to cook.
Do this every time you grill, and your grates will be well-seasoned, like a quality cast-iron pan.
- Remember to keep brushing on the marinade as the vegetables cook.
- Wash and prepare the vegetables to be in grill-manageable sizes – for example, bell peppers in half, onions in half or rings.
- Grill peppers or vegetables with a tough skin with the tough part on the grill grate first… turn to the flesh-side once there is color.
Mixed Grilled Vegetables in BBQ Sauce
- 3 red bell peppers – seeded and halved
- 2-3 zucchini (about 12 ounces total) – sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
- 3 Japanese eggplant (12 ounces total) – sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
- 12 Portobello or large shitake mushrooms
- 1 bunch (1-pound) asparagus – trimmed
- 12 green onions – roots cut off
- Rock’n Red BBQ Sauce – ½ cup
- House Rub BBQ Seasoning – generous sprinkling
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Whisk Rock’n Red BBQ sauce with eggplants, zucchinis and bell peppers. Marinate for about 45 minutes. Treat your veggies with a generous amount of marinate – as you would treat steak. Marinate in the fridge for about 45 minutes.
- Preheat grill for medium heat and lightly oil the grate. Remove vegetables from marinate, shaking off excess.
Grill vegetables on preheated grill until tender (about 10 to 15 minutes) as you keep brushing vegetables with marinade.
- Transfer cooked vegetables to a platter and serve with any remaining marinade.
My Mother-in-Law’s Story
Wendy’s mother never fails to tell the story of that July day to perfect strangers. In fact, she’s visiting us next month, and I expect she’ll bring it up in conversation with our neighbours.
“I think I have a plan for your mother’s welcome dinner,” I told Wendy. But Wendy thinks we should order pizza – Can’t imagine why!
About Grilling Jeff
Our family of Jeff, Wendy, Payton and Dryden is fictitious in nature even though we’ve met people who are really like them. They’ve bought House of Q products at home shows, and never looked back. Jeff’s always been passionate about all things barbecue, and loves to host parties. He buys local and insists on a choice of high quality meat. Wendy and Jeff use House of Q sauces and rubs on pretty much everything – chicken, beef, pork, ribs and grill-able vegetables – to make it sometimes spicy and sometimes sweet. It all depends on the mood. Their kids are very happy with Jeff’s grilling; Jeff will be sharing many recipes with you, so you can come on out and grill like a champion in your own backyard in the barbecue season.