Just as you thought the summer was over, the Cook Sister! is hosting another round of the ever-so-popular "Waiter! there's something in my..." event where the chosen theme for August is BBQ. And before you fire up the grill and get out your Frankfurters and steaks, be advised that for once, the event is vegetarians only. Yep, you've heard right. Vegetables on the Weber. Or anything that isn't meat, basically. We've all been there: lovely summer evening, you sitting on a sun lounger, a bottle of chilled white wine or a jug of Pimm's at arm's reach - not long before the guests arrive and panick strikes when one of them announces that he/she has become a vegetarian! What now? Few of us carnivores tend to make provisions for those cases, but it's really not all that difficult to offer a non-meat alternative without having to lug a whole pumpkin on the grill...
If your guest eats fish, it's really simple: a whole sea bass stuffed with lemon wedges, garlic slices and a handful of fresh herbs usually does the trick... let them worry abouth the bones ;-) Or, if you want to make it really easy for them, try some fish parcels: a few chunks of fish like salmon or cod, some shelled prawns (or scallops, if you want to splash out), some live mussels plus a few segments of lemon or grapefruit, two sprigs of coriander and a teaspoon full or two of a home-made chilli & lime butter - nothing could be easier, yet more luxurious.
If fish and seafood are not an option, there's still no reason to fret. Grilled vegetable slices might look like a bit of an afterthought (even though you might argue that chucking a packetful of sausages on the BBQ is hardly a labour of love), but these stuffed limes are a real treat. Not only do they taste great, they also look the part and lend themselves to all sorts of variations: my favourite is to stuff them with mozzarella, then top with some chopped chilli, occasionally a dollop of home-made pesto... a quarter of an hour later, you've got a mini-bowl full of bubbling goodness, with a tiny hint of citrus: refreshing and indulging at the same time.
The concept of the lemon as a container works with other ingredients, too. How about some scamorza (smoked mozzarella) and sundried tomatoes? Halloumi, roast vegetables and harissa? Or how about some couscous, smoked salmon and a handful of rocket? The possibilities are endless.
And do try these ideas on carnivores... We had some friends over this summer and while he was unpacking a big chunk of steak and some speciality sausages we had brought from Austria, my dear husband was questioning whether anyone would go for my "fancy" fish parcels and stuffed limes - at that point, he would have bet anything that my meatless BBQ ideas were a complete waste of space. But after offering another steak to a friend who has never been known to refuse a good chunk of beef, said friend replied "no thanks, but do you have some more of those lovely cheese thingies?" Goes to show that you should never underestimate the power of a great meat-free alternative - not even for a barbecue!
Mozzarella & chilli stuffed limes
limes (use lemon as a good alternative)
red chilli (chopped)
salt, pepper to taste
First, prepare the containers. Cut a tiny bit off the bottom of your lime, just enough to provide a flat base - they will be standing on the grill, so a firm bottom is needed. (for the lime, don't worry about your own!)
Generously cut off the top (about 20% of the lime), then carefully hollow out the fruit, removing all the flesh (you can keep it for seasoning a herb butter or dice it for use in a fish parcel etc). Be careful to keep the bottom of the lime intact in all your proceedings, in order to prevent the melted cheese from running out. Should you accidentally cut through the base, line the inside of the lime with a bay leaf before filling.
Cut the mozzarella into generous dice, about 2-3 cm thick. Stuff the limes with the cheese (3 - 4 pieces per lime should be sufficient, depending on the size of your fruit). Don't over-fill, the mixture will bubble as it melts, so allow some room on top to prevent spillage.
Top with some chopped chilli and a thumbnails' worth of pesto (optional), season to taste.
Pop on the barbecue and grill until the cheese has melted and is bubbling slightly. (ca. 15 minutes)
Serve with crusty bread.