Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | March 21, 2013

Fire It Up! Meat-Free Grilling at the Cookout

By Ernest Barteldes


(this previously appeared in New City Chicago’s  Summer 2012 issue)


Having lived most of my life in Brazil, I have come to really cherish the few warm months of late spring and summer, when I (sort of) relive those tropical days by lazing away on the beach, attending outdoor concerts, having picnics in the park and, of course, grilling—anyone who has been in Texas de Brazil or Fogo de Chão understands the deep relationship people there have with the grill.


I am not, however, your average griller, since I do not go to the nearest market for hot dogs or hamburger patties. For starters, I “retired” from red meat years ago (though I do eat poultry and fish), so when we barbecue I often bring stuff that leaves my meat-loving friends scratching their heads—that is, until they taste the final result.


I often throw sliced vegetables like zucchini, eggplant and beefsteak tomatoes on the grill, which all pair well with a nice vinaigrette dressing or chimichurri, the garlic-rich sauce Argentineans put on various dishes. I also like to prepare veggie burgers of various varieties—my personal favorite being black bean burgers that I learned from a magazine I can no longer remember years ago. They are easy to prepare and store until the charcoals are right.


Another recent discovery I found in Paul McCartney’s recently published “Meatless Mondays” cookbook: tofu kabobs, which are marinated in a citrus sauce for hours and then put on skewers with onions and tomatoes. This recipe was created by Pamela Anderson, of all people, but they are indeed delicious and also very nutritious.

Black Bean Burgers

1 16 oz. can cooked black beans, drained
½ cup Italian-style bread crumbs
2 tbsp. sour cream
½ tsp. ground cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste.
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Mash half the black beans. Mix in remaining beans, sour cream and remaining spices and refrigerate for about an hour.  If mix is not firm enough to make patties, add some more bread crumbs. Form patties about an inch thick with your hands. Grill until cooked through and serve (if using indoor griddle, cook at 350 degrees). Use some cooking spray before grilling.


Source: Recetas de Argentina (translated from Spanish)

1 bunch parsley, well chopped
8-10 chopped garlic cloves
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp. chopped red pepper (not spicy)
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
salt and black pepper to taste

In an empty glass jar (do not use plastic) put all the dry ingredients. Add the olive oil, vinegars and lime juice until the ingredients are well covered. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and cover jar in refrigerator for at least twenty-four hours before using. For a bigger kick, also add a well-chopped jalapeno pepper to the mix during preparation. Serve on grilled foods.

Orange marinated tofu skewers
From “Meat Free Mondays” (recipe by Pamela Anderson)

For the skewers
24 oz. firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large onions cut into 1-inch pieces
1 green pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb. whole cherry tomatoes
Orange pieces for garnish

For the marinade
1 cup orange juice
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1 ½ tsp. whole black peppercorns
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Zest of 1 orange
1½ cups olive oil
10 bamboo skewers

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade, except the oil, in a food processor and blend for fifteen seconds. While the machine is running, slowly add the oil until well blended.

Thread the tofu, onions, peppers and tomatoes onto the skewers. Place in a shallow dish and pour the marinade onto the tofu and vegetables. Leave to marinate for four hours. Remove the skewers from the marinade and either grill over a medium flame for about five minutes on each side or place under broiler until the veggies are lightly cooked and have grill marks. Serve with orange pieces.

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