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Mike Green's best bets for barbecued veggies

You don't have to be a carnivore to appreciate the flavours you can get from a barbecue. Vegetables are about the easiest thing to do on the grill, and the resulting flavours you get from the flame will be pleasing to your palate. 
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Barbecued bok choy (left) and eggplant dishes ready to be served. (Mike Green)

Spicy barbecued bok choyIngredients:

One large head of bok choy (will be enough for a tapas style dish for four)
1 tablespoon Rooster brand chili garlic sauce


1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil 
a couple good dashes of soy sauce
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Method:
Cut bok choy leaves from the knob and rinse off dirt that gets down near the bottom of the stems. Combine chili garlic sauce, rice wine vinegar, grapeseed oil, soy sauce and whisk. In a large bowl, just before you put them on the grill, toss the bok choy in the dressing. (Don't do this too early, as the vinegar will wilt the leaves).

Heat your barbecue until it is cracking hot. Using tongs, lay individual bok choy pieces down on the grill, and turn once, two minutes per side. They don't have to be laid out perfectly with space in between, as you will get some nice toothy textures if some pieces are more charred than others. Bok choy is done when leaves have a slight char, while the the stem has just softened. 

Plate in a shallow dish, and pour over any remaining dressing that may still be in your mixing bowl. Top with some toasted sesame seeds.

Note: this cooks so fast it's a great last addition to your grill when you are waiting for your meat to rest. So do it last at a dinner party because it is so good right off the grill.


Whole grilled eggplant (to replace that tin foil barbecued potato nonsense)

Ingredients:
To start: 
One beautiful eggplant per every two people (Sicilian varieties and the smaller Indian varieties will do too, you'll just have to watch them a bit more as they will cook in less time). Don't cut off the top or anything, just keep that baby whole.
To finish: 
a drizzle of your finest olive oil
a drizzle of your best balsamic
fresh parsley
sea salt
a small knob of chèvre

Method:
Heat grill to medium heat (around 300 to 400 will do). Poke a couple holes in the skin of the eggplant with a fork and place on the hot grill. Shut lid and walk away, returning every 5-10 minutes to turn the eggplant.

After 30 min or so (depending on how massive your aubergines are), and a couple turns, that eggplant will start to deflate like a balloon. Once the skin has a nice char, and the eggplant is quite soft to the touch, take it off and let it rest for about two minutes on a baking sheet.

Using your tongs, grip eggplant from the top (I always like to think of it as the eggplant's hat) and use your fingers to peel off the charred skin (it will come off super easy). Place whole on a plate, and run a fork through the flesh a bit to make it easier to serve later.

Top with a couple nice clumps of chèvre, a drizzle of olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic, and a nice smattering of fresh parsley and sea salt.

Note: you can serve this on its own tapas style, or spoon out portions and put your other barbecued meat goodies on like you would with a purée. 

I've used both dishes before for the same dinner, topping the soft eggplant with some slices of Italian sausage, then putting the barbecued bok choy in a nice clump on top. It has a lovely colour and texture, while the lingering spice from the bok choy goes swimmingly with the eggplant and meat. 

Mike Green is a food columnist for CBC Radio. He has a masters of journalism from the University of British Columbia and recently finished in the top five on MasterChef Canada.
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