It seems most children enter a phase of self-awareness, when they start to be conscious of their fashion, friends, toys, homes, and general appearance.
When I was little, I was embarrassed by our family’s barbeque grill.
The dingy charcoal grill had aluminum foil covering the gaping hole at the bottom of charcoal basin, and a bottle opener held in place some other broken fixture. My friends had gleaming, stainless steel, propane-fueled grills. My parents always insisted that “charcoal grills taste better.” For a child with just-blooming taste buds, this did not matter. Our grill looked like crap.
Over the years, our family replaced the barbeque with a new charcoal grill, though the appliance stores seem to carry fewer charcoal grills and more and more propane grills. My tastes evolved, and I came to realize that charcoal does actually taste better (despite whatever carcinogens we inhale by this mode of cooking). More importantly, I realized that our dilapidated grill was better than the fancy-schmancy grills because it had a story. That grill was ours. It was special. It was our family’s version of the poor-little-scrawny-Christmas-tree-that-nobody-wants. Aluminum foil and bottle opener included.
I no longer eat Nathan’s hot dogs, a staple to my diet in the summer when I was little, nor do I eat barbeque chicken or grilled Italian sausage. Instead, I have found meatless ways to enjoy our old-school grilling methods. Whether it be grilled bruschetta or vegetable kabobs, the taste of charcoal-grilled foods will always transport me home.
Below is one of my favorite recipes for Grilled Mediterranean Portobello Burgers, which is more like a sandwich since I serve it between two pieces of fresh ciabatta bread. Garlicky, meaty, and yet light, this meal has become a staple when grilling.
Adapted from: Eating Well
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 portobello mushroom caps, stems and gills removed
4 large slices ciabatta bread
1/2 cup sliced jarred roasted red peppers
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup feta cheese
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups romaine lettuce
Mash garlic and salt on a cutting board with the side of a knife until it’s a smooth paste. Mix the paste with 2 tablespoon oil in a small dish. Lightly brush the oil mixture over portobellos and then on one side of each slice of bread.
Combine red peppers, tomato, feta, vinegar, oregano and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a medium bowl.
Grill the mushroom caps until tender, about 4 minutes per side; grill the bread until crisp, about 1 minute per side.
Toss salad greens with the red pepper mixture. Place the grilled mushrooms top-side down on 4 half-slices of the bread. Top with the salad mixture and the remaining bread.