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Having 2 daughters one who is a pesco vegetarian and the other being vegan I have become sensitive to the needs of the non-carnivore for quite some. A trained chef myself it pained me to watch as my younger daughter go from eating everything to cutting out pork then beef then chicken and finally lamb and all other land creatures. I breathed a sigh of relief when she stopped there and I was able to at least cook a plethora of seafood for her. My older daughter had played with becoming a vegetarian off an on for the past 4 years and now has gone over to the other side and become a vegan. It pains my heart but if it makes her feel better, then that’s all that matters to me. So that’s the background. Now to the meat (pun intended) of the matter, don’t despair there are not only interesting BBQ options for the grill but also good wine pairings to boot.

For the pesco-vegetarians of the world there are always the 2 standbys grilled salmon and shrimp. For the salmon, get salmon with the skin on, it keeps it together and makes for easier grilling.  I like just some olive oil salt and pepper on mine and then put it on a nice hot clean grill, hot and clean being the operative words to prevent sticking, skin side up and let it cook for a bit. Look at the sides of the fish to see how far up it has cooked, try about 1/3 of the way up before flipping over. I like to use tongs for this so I don’t damage the fish.  Then finish the cooking on the skin side. Serve with lemon or a dill yogurt sauce. Grilled shrimp is great just marinated in olive oil, chili flakes, salt, pepper and some garlic for about an hour. Pull them out and squeeze on some fresh lemon, lime or for a twist orange and mix until it is all blended. Put the shrimp on skewers, if using wooden soak in water for about 30 minutes before using, then put on the grill using the same rules as with the salmon. With shrimp once they are reddish/pink on both sides then they are done. Don’t over cook them or they will turn to rubber.

For the Vegans out there you can make grilled tofu which tastes great. Use firm or extra firm tofu and cut in 1/2 inch slices. Marinate slices in a mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar, chili flakes and garlic for about 30 mins to an hour or you can use your favorite marinade from the store. The key is to let the marinade soak into the tofu. Once ready to grill, get the grill hot and clean and brush tofu with olive oil on each side and place on hot grill and let it do its thing. It won’t take long for it to warm through and create grill marks, flip over with spatula and apply your favorite BBQ sauce to the top then eat it like a burger or on top of a bed of mixed greens with a citrus dressing. You could also add some grilled spring onions to it for a bit of a kick.

Then there are always the standard Garden or Boca burgers. I prefer the Boca’s since they grill best. Trader Joes also has some great vegetarian/vegan sausages that are good such as the Italian blend and andouille both vegetarian and tasty.

Now what to serve with these delicacies well I asked Jon Troutman from the Cork’d blog to help me out and he recommended either a “Sauvignon Blanc or a Chenin Blanc and as he puts it two grapes that are food friendly with high acid levels and clean flavors that play well with vegetables, salads and cheeses.” I would also say that you might be able to go to a light Pinot Noir if you are grilling using BBQ sauces.

So there you have it my homage to the vegetarians out there. If you want more info please drop me a line at chefphotographervip@fineculinaryexperience.com and I’ll be happy to answer your food questions.

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_DSC2242-3I am an omnivore in the truest sense of the word.  I will eat almost anything and certainly try anything at least once.  So when I recently befriended Mandy Unruh, the baking queen, she proceeded to tell me about her baking adventures and that she is particularly interested in vegan baking.  I admit that I was skeptical and when she told me that she also baked non-vegan delights I was relieved.  I have tasted a variety of vegan cookies and quite frankly have been unimpressed.  Most tasted like cardboard or lacked any depth of flavor or the texture was off in some way or another.  She and I spoke about a variety of things culinary and I could tell that she was passionate about food. She’s not a vegan, another relief, and has a passion for food and flavor that she explores on her blog and with her experimenting.   We decided to carpool to the recent Western Food Service and Hospitality Expo in San Diego.  I would drive and she would bake.  It sounded like a good deal to me.  She asked me what I liked and I told her chocolate chip cookies which was uneventful so I just said to make what she felt like and I’d eat it.  I like culinary surprises I love going to restaurants and having the tasting menu. If I know the chef then it’s even better when they just send out courses of what ever the chef feels like which makes things more adventurous.  So the deal was struck and Monday morning arrived.

I picked up Mandy and she had a little goodie bag filled with 3 different types of vegan cookies.  I thought to myself if she can make vegan cookies taste good then I’m sure that anything else she makes will be great. She handed me one of her almond coconut macaroons.  It was a small bite sized dome-shaped cookie that looked similar to a thumbprint cookie.  I bit into it and there was a rush of complex flavors. The texture was firm and a bit chewey.  She used almond meal mixed with the coconut.  The almond flavor hits me first reminding me of Viennese butter cookies that my grandmother used to make which incorporated almond meal to give it a nutty flavor.   Next came the coconut flavor and texture blending with the almonds to create a nutty symphony of flavor at the finish accompanied with a bit of crunch from some small almond bits.  Wow I said, this doesn’t taste like any vegan cookie that I have ever tasted. It was delicious and complex.

I didn’t want to spoil my appetite for the restaurant show since I knew that we were going to eat and drink our way through sampling different offerings from various vendors.  On our way back home it was time to sample the other two delights that she brought with her.  At this point I knew that she had something.  She handed me a lemon star cookie. _DSC2240-2 It had a nice soft moist cookie texture.  At first bite you taste cookie dough and as you chew a burst of lemon begins to grow in your mouth, not fake lemon but fresh picked lemon almost like a meyer lemon. I never knew you could get so much lemony goodness out of a cookie. It was not overpowering and the flavor stayed with me for a bit after I had finished the cookie.  Next she handed me one of her chocolate chip cookies made with vegan chocolate chips the texture was similar to the lemon star cookies soft and cakey but this time the chocolate flavor burst out instead of the lemon. What a wonderful treat to have these cookies that were full of flavor yet not over sweetened, just the right balance of flavor for any palate to enjoy be it vegan or not. I’m thinking if she can create cookies this good that are vegan I can only imagine what she can make that is not. Mandy you are the Vegan Baking Goddess.

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