Summer Cookouts: The Veggie Way

By Amber Powell, Derby City Weekend

I host a 4th of July cookout for my friends and their families each year. But, most of my friends don’t eat meat, so planning the menu isn’t always an easy task. This summer, I’m determined to perfect my veggie burger recipe so it can be the highlight of the show.

The great thing about veggie burgers is that there are so many options. You can make them out of a variety of ingredients, so pick what you like! I looked at several different recipes online and chose a black bean and beet base (Sweet potatoes are another good option). I love mushrooms, so I added those as well. The other important aspect is seasoning… and again, use what you like.

Makes 4 Burgers
1 can black beans, strained and rinsed
1 fresh beet, sliced
1 8 oz pkg of mushroom caps (white, portobello, shitake)
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 egg
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp chili powder

Preheat grill to 350 degrees. Place aluminum foil on grill rack, cut several small slivers in foil and spray with cooking spray. Mix all ingredients in a food processor for 30-60 seconds. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl. Add bread crumbs and egg, mixing with hands until fully incorporated. Form into four patties. Place on aluminum foil in grill. Cook for 10 minutes on each side.

Once your patties are cooked, you can begin crafting your masterpiece burger. Again, this is what you make of it. The type of bun, cheese and toppings can all be catered to what you and your guests like. My best suggestion is building a toppings bar so everyone can create their own. Include the basics and add some unique offerings like avocados or fried green tomatoes.

For a side dish, you can also grill another type of vegetable. I often grill corn on the cob; it’s abundant and cheap in Kentucky during the summer, and usually very good quality. The key to grilling corn on the cob is cooking it in the husk so it doesn’t dry out. IMPORTANT: Submerge the corn fully in water and soak for at least 30 minutes before grilling; this will prevent scorching and fires.

The corn on the cob is super easy. For added flavor, I like to make an herb butter to brush on it when serving. Again, you can use whatever herbs you prefer. This time, I made mine with garlic and dill.

Heat saute’ pan to medium-low.
Add 1 tbsp butter and chopped garlic, cook until garlic is lightly browned
Reduce heat to low
Add 3 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp dried dill
Continue cooking on low for 5 minutes

No cookout is complete without a great summer drink. I got an idea for a twist on margaritas when I saw Heartland Weekend’s Smoked Lemonade segment. Basically, they put halved lemons on the grill to caramelize the sugars and create a smokey flavor. I decided to use limes and make a smokey margarita.

Makes 2 Margaritas
4 oz Patron tequila
6 oz margarita mix (keep it simple and buy the pre-mix)
1 smoked lime (2 halves)
3-4 cubes of ice
Margarita salt (or not)

Add tequila, margarita mix and ice into a cocktail shaker. Squeeze juice from smoked limes into shaker. Shake for 30-45 seconds. Wet rims of glasses with water, then dip into salt. Pour mixture over ice in glass. Garnish with lime and lemon slices.