With summer grilling season underway, meatless meals are few and far between. But a Top Chef alum is looking to change all of that. Restaurateur and cookbook author Richard Blais teamed up with MorningStar Farms to revamp the veggie burger and turn it into something that even meat lovers will appreciate. He hosted his own “Backyard Veg Out” aimed at inspiring the 66% of Americans who prefer their protein come from alternative meat sources.
“As a chef, I get joy out of creating new flavor experiences and veggie burgers offer up a whole new taste experience,” said Chef Richard Blais. “MorningStar Farms makes it easy, with veggie burgers that pack in all the flavor and fun that grillers expect at their summer cookouts.” He prepared four meatless burgers at the party: a Pita Burger, an Island Burger, a Romesco Burger and Tandoor Burger. Each starts with either an original or black bean veggie patty and is then transformed into something completely different. The Island Burger, for example, is a double decker stuffed with grilled pineapple and seasoned with Kansas City-style BBQ sauce. The Romesco is perfect for red pepper fans and the Tandoor calls on classic Indian flavors like tandoori spice, garam masala, cottage cheese and naan.
Blais appreciates the simplicity of a plain veggie burger, too. In fact, he regularly cooks spicy black bean burgers for his wife and kids. “They love it when I char the burger very quickly over an open flame to create a more savory burger.”
After the event, Blais, who prefers a charcoal grill over a gas one, shared his top tops with Haute Living on the perfect meatless grilled menu.
Be Prepared: It’s helpful to have flavor enhancers on hand when creating an all vegetarian cook out. Two must have items are fresh herbs and dressings. “I use dressings like mustard, Italian or Greek to marinade my veggie burgers before warming them up and chowing down. If you’re using a grill to warm your MorningStar Farms veggie burger, be sure to have some oil to lightly spread on the grill so the burgers won’t stick!”
Menu: Create a menu that is full of flavor, visual appeal and nods to the season’s bounty. His go-to backyard BBQ menu looks something like this:
- Grilled Caesar Salad
- Mexican Street Corn
- Charred Carrots and Chimichurri
- MorningStar Spicy Black Bean Burgers
- Sea Salt Potatoes
Technique: Two important things to keep in mind when grilling veggie burgers: First, use a spatula to flip the burgers to avoid breaking the patties. Second, use the cooler side of the grill to warm them through. I also love using the hottest part of the grill for things like breads, watermelon, pineapple, lettuces, and other fruits and vegetables.
Cooking for a crowd: Be efficient with your space on the grill. When you’re cooking for a crowd, everyone is eager to eat and timing is key. Use the hottest parts of the grill for things that need more grill time – breads, vegetables, fruits, etc. – and use the cooler parts of the grill for things that require less time, like MorningStar Farms veggie burgers.