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Smoke Signals: Vegetarians get sauced, too

During a recent Free Range chat, I was asked about other uses for barbecue sauces:

I just don't eat much meat . . . are there any other suggestions or recipes of meals/side dishes that use BBQ sauce so that I can try one of these sauces?

Barbecue sauce is often pretty robust in flavor and tends to overpower vegetables. But cold salads, such as one with green beans, chickpeas and red onion, pairs well with thin, piquant sauces such as a North Carolina-style, vinegar-based sauce.

The classic tangy, thick tomato sauce is a tougher challenge, but more versatile than you might think. It goes surprisingly well when brushed onto half-inch-thick wedges of firm or extra-firm tofu (drained) before they hit the grill. It also rocks veggie burgers, especially those made from black beans.

A classic side on the cook-off circuit for the red stuff is barbecue cabbage. Usually, crumbled bacon is used. (We’ll skip that addition here.)

A backyard mainstay is grilled vegetable kebabs. Smoke Signals adds a twist by using a white barbecue sauce. And because it is a shame to waste a nice fire, we’ve added a bonus recipe: the eggplant dip called baba ghanouj. There’s no sauce to go with it, but it is wood-smoked. Indeed, smoke is its secret -- and crucial -- ingredient.

The following dishes can be prepared using the same fire if your grill is large enough; a basic Weber kettle grill will work fine.

-- Jim Shahin. Follow me on Twitter.

Smoked Cabbage With Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce
4 servings

Adapted from "How to Grill," by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2001).

1 medium head green cabbage (tough outer leaves removed)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

Start an indirect, wood-supplemented fire, with fire on one side of the grill (using wood chips such as oak, pecan, hickory).

Core the cabbage, carving out a moderately wide space into the head. Shape some aluminum foil into a round base to hold the cabbage in place.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has softened. Stir in the barbecue sauce, then remove from the heat.

Cut the remaining butter into small dice. Place the cabbage cored side up on the indirect-heat side of the fire. Pour the sauce mixture into the cavity.

Close the lid. Smoke for 4 to 6 hours, at 250 degrees, until the cabbage has softened. Cut into wedges. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

VARIATION: Core the cabbage. Boil the head for 20 to 25 minutes, and let cool. Combine the sauce mixture and the remaining diced butter in the cabbage cavity. Place cabbage on a foil ring. Smoke over indirect heat for 30 minutes, then move to the direct-heat side of the grill to cook for 10 minutes.

Vegetable Kebabs With Big Bob Gibson's White Sauce
4 servings

Serve these with rice or couscous.
From Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin.

12 small new potatoes, scrubbed
1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, then cut into about 2-inch squares
1 medium zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
1 medium onion, cut into eighths
8 cherry tomatoes
2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into quarters (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Big Bob Gibson's White Sauce

Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium (400 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them under the cooking area for direct heat. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water by several inches. Add a generous pinch of salt and stir to dissolve. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until barely tender. Drain and cool.

When the potatoes are cool, transfer to a mixing bowl, along with the pieces of red bell pepper, zucchini, onion, cherry tomatoes and jalapeno pieces, if using. Drizzle with the oil and season with salt to taste; toss to coat evenly.

Have eight 8-inch metal skewers at hand. Thread an evenly distributed assortment of the vegetables on each skewer. Place on the grill and cook for about 4 minutes, until lightly charred. Turn and cook for 4 minutes until charred on the opposite side.

Transfer to a platter. Drizzle the white barbecue sauce over the vegetable kebabs. Serve immediately.

Baba Ghanouj
6 appetizer servings

Serve with triangles of fresh or toasted pita bread.
From Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin.

1 large (about 1 1/2 pounds) eggplant
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon (2 to 3 tablespoons)
2 medium cloves garlic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup store-bought tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (1/4 cup), for garnish

Start an indirect fire, but, if you have a smoker, not in the firebox. When hot, add a couple of chunks of oak.

When it is medium-hot, place the eggplant directly above the fire. Use tongs to turn it every minute or two (depending on hotness of fire) to char the skin all over; a total of 4 turns. Then transfer the eggplant to the indirect-heat side of the grill or smoker. Close the lid. Smoke for about 20 minutes, until soft. (The eggplant will deflate on itself.)

Transfer to a mixing bowl to cool. Discard the seeds and skin, leaving a few blackened bits for flavor. Mash the eggplant flesh or transfer to a food processor and pulse until pulpy.

Add the lemon juice, garlic, oil, tahini and salt; mix well or pulse to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with parsley; serve warm.

By Jim Shahin  |  September 14, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Recipes , Smoke Signals  | Tags: Jim Shahin, Smoke Signals, recipes  
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