Memorial Day was created by General John Logan  in the U.S. in 1868 as a way to honor and remember those who have died serving our nation. Because it creates a three-day weekend as the weather is heating up and schools are winding down, it has also come to signal the unofficial beginning of summer.  In my neighborhood, it truly feels that way because our community pool, just down the street from our house, opens its gates this weekend and the screams of joy and shock from the kids as their skinny bodies hit the cold water, can be heard for blocks.

Andrew and I do a lot more entertaining in the summer because we can invite friends to the pool, where not only can the kids have a blast swimming and playing volleyball and basketball, but we adults can hang out and eat at the covered picnic tables, complete with gas grills.  I find this to be the ultimate in low-maintenance entertaining.

The flavor of many vegetables, including broccoli, corn, zucchini, asparagus, and eggplant, is enhanced by grilling them, as they take on a smoky flavor from the grill. I generally brush or toss the vegetables with a little olive oil and kosher salt before putting them on a hot grill. You can also brush them with almost any dressing or marinade before grilling them, or drizzle them with your favorite sauce after removing them from the grill.

In addition to grilled vegetables and salads, vegetarians usually want something more filling, like grilled tofu, portobello mushrooms, or even sliced polenta. Years ago, my friend Nachama Wilker introduced me to this grilled polenta, and I’ve served it at many summer barbecues.

Below are a couple of other fantastic options for vegetarian barbecues:

What is your favorite vegetable or meatless item to prepare on the grill?

Recipe: Grilled Italian Polenta with Fresh Tomatoes

  • Prep Time: 10 min(s)
  • Cook Time: 20 min(s)
  • Total Time: 30 min(s)
  • Servings: 4

A delicious vegetarian option for barbecues.

Ingredients

    • 24 oz. plain prepared polenta (sold in a tube with grains), sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
    • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic (about 1 clove)
    • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
    • 5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
    • ¼ - 1/2 tsp. salt, to taste
    • 1 tomato, diced
    • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, or to taste

Instructions

    • Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.
    • Using a vegetable tray if necessary (so the slices don’t fall through the grates), grill the polenta until it is lightly browned, 3-4 minutes per side. (Alternatively, broil the slices on a cookie sheet about 4 inches from the heat source, flipping once, until they are browned.)
    • While the polenta is cooking, in a measuring cup mix together the oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil and salt. Arrange the hot, cooked polenta in a single layer on a serving dish. Top it with the diced tomatoes and the oil mixture. Sprinkle the cheese on top, and serve it immediately.

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