If you grill it, they will eat

Charcoal smoke is in my blood. As a kid, my father and I, in coats and gloves, basted ribs with barbecue sauce on the grill in January. I have often thought that I would eat anything – anything – if it were cooked over hot coals.

I put the theory to the test last weekend.

The vegetables are beginning to pour into the farmers market, and I wanted to make an entree using grilled vegetables, with an Italian touch. It needed some protein. Left to myself, I would have layered some fresh mozzarella between the grilled vegetables, but that wouldn’t fly with the dairy-allergic husband.

Well, I thought, there is that white stuff in a block that I like about as much as wet chalk: Tofu. People have tried to convince me for years that my hatred of the bean curd Jell-O is unreasonable. It is not. Vegetarians have told me that it has no flavor on its own and just picks up what you put on it. Wrong. It does have a flavor – one resembling wet weeds. The only recipe up to now in which I’ve liked tofu was a chocolate pie made with the silken variety, although making it almost burned up my blender.

But I considered extra-firm tofu. Would grilling cover its many sins? The answer, to quote a wise copy editor friend: It didn’t suck absolutely. It wasn’t fresh mozzarella, but it wasn’t hideous. Grilling added smoke to the flavor and firmed up the texture (one of my issues). Here’s what I did.

Two eggplant, three yellow pattypan squash, a small red onion and a weird variety of green squash I got from the CSA, cut in about 1/2-inch slices. No need to peel the eggplant unless you’re swimming in extra time and have nothing else to do. Rubbed with plenty of olive oil. Griledl until brown on each side. I used a perforated grill pan to prevent slices from falling through the grate. I put them in a low oven to keep warm. While the vegetables cooked, I made a sauce. I thought I was grabbing a bag of homemade tomato sauce from my freezer, but it turned out to be frozen cherry tomatoes. No matter. I boiled them down with garlic, marjoram and lots of fresh basil until they thickened. After the vegetables, extra-firm tofu in 1/2-inch slices, rubbed with olive oil and sprinkled with marjoram and garlic powder. I grilled them until they didn’t look like tofu anymore, but perhaps oddly shaped chicken breast. Layered it up, poured over the sauce. Nice, even with the four-letter food included.


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