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As a vegan and someone whose family does not eat a lot of meat, I quickly got into the habit of preparing vegetarian dishes that can feed a crowd. We all love to eat fresh and in-season ingredients, but what we love most is spending quality time together. Our get-togethers are always big! I thought I would share a few tips and tricks on how to cook summer veggies a little differently, so that you can impress your guests every time!

The grill

The summer season is great for cooking outdoors; your backyard and BBQ pretty much double your kitchen space! Plus, it’s the perfect season to enjoy sweet corn, cucumbers, peppers, and zucchini. Whether it’s for lunch or supper, potlucks, or more . . . these veggies should be the star of the show! Grilled corn on the BBQ is a must; nothing beats the sweet flavour and crunchy texture. Instead of boiling it in water, place it directly on your BBQ grill, cook a few minutes, then serve with butter, fleur de sel, pesto, parmesan, fresh cilantro, and spicy sauce. A real treat!

The air fryer

Zucchinis are abundant this time of year, and I love grilling them or adding them to salads or muffins. One of my favourite recipes is zucchini fries in the air fryer (a must-have kitchen appliance!). Here’s my recipe: Prep time: 10 min Cooking time: 15 min at 400°F in the air fryer Servings: 4 Ingredients Fries: 2 zucchinis, washed and cut into sticks ½ cup almond flour ½ cup nutritional yeast (flakes) 1 tsp. Herbamare spicy herbed sea salt ½ tsp. paprika ½ tsp. onion powder ¼ tsp. Cayenne pepper 1 cup almond milk beverage Sauce: ⅓ cup vegan mayonnaise 3 tbsp. water ¼ tsp. Herbamare spicy herbed sea salt 1 tbsp. lemon juice 1 tsp. spicy sauce (optional, add for heat) ¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  1. Prepare two bowls for your dipping and breading station. In one bowl, pour the almond milk beverage. In another bowl, combine the almond flour, spices, Herbamare spicy salt, and nutritional yeast.
  2. Next, take your zucchini sticks and dunk them in the almond milk beverage.
  3. Immediately transfer them to the dry mixture and toss until thoroughly coated. Repeat until all the sticks have been coated.
  4. Cook in the air fryer for 15 minutes, at 400°F.
  5. To make the dipping sauce, simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl.

In a salad

Panzanella is one of my favourite summer salads! It’s a tri-colour salad, symbolic of the treasures in Tuscan cuisine. Bread is often the dominant ingredient and, with a bit of imagination and thanks to the variety of local products to choose from, this salad is hearty enough to be served as a main dish. It’s a great way to use local produce, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and fresh herbs, without having to cook them. Here’s a quick and easy panzanella recipe I’m sure you’ll love: Prep time: 15 min Cooking time: 5 min Servings: 4
  • 2 cups stale bread (country-style or sourdough), chopped
  • 5 medium-size ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 small cucumber, chopped
  • A handful of black olives
  • A few fresh basil leaves
  • A few arugula leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
  • Wine vinegar, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Toast the bread with a bit of olive oil, salt, and garlic powder (can be in the oven or on the BBQ).
  2. Place the bread in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Toss and serve.

Crudités

Instead of placing a large platter of crudités in the centre of the table, where the vegetables are likely to wane quickly in the heat, why not prepare individual glass jars? What I do is cut a variety of vegetables (celery, carrots, peppers, beans) into sticks. Next, I spoon some dip or hummus on the bottom of some Mason jars, and place the veggies upright overtop. I close the lids and pop the Mason jars in the cooler, where they stay fresh and cool all day long! My guests are always charmed by these individual crudité jars.

Grilled vegetable medley

A classic in my family during BBQ season is a large bowl filled with a variety of grilled vegetables. All I do is roughly chop the following veggies: potatoes, green cabbage, zucchinis, carrots, peppers, onions, tomatoes, radishes, asparagus, beans, etc. The secret ingredient is the Aglio Napoletano spice mix by Kanel. I add a generous amount, drizzle the vegetables with oil, and season with salt. Then I grill everything on the BBQ . . . delicious!