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Episode 101: Argentine Fire

Meatless Mixed Grill

Other Recipes from Planet Barbecue Episode 101: Argentine Fire

Argentineans have the highest per capita consumption of beef–including the 2000 pounds sent to Qatar to feed the Argentinean soccer team. So not surprisingly, this isn’t the greatest place to be a vegetarian. And yet, and even the most hardcore steak houses, a triumvirate of meatless dishes invariably greet diners. The first two are vegetables: eggplants and peppers. The third is an appetizer that takes grilled cheese to a whole new level. Who says a vegetarian can’t survive, or even thrive at an Argentinean barbecue?!

Serves: 4 to 6
Method: Direct grilling


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Meatless Mixed Grill

Ingredients

For the eggplants:

  • 3 small (4 to 6 ounces each) Italian eggplants
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed, then minced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the peppers:

  • 3 large red bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise
  • Garlic oil, for brushing
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

For the grilled provolone:

  • 2 slices (each about 8 ounces and 1 1/2 inch thick) aged provolone, the older and firmer, the better
  • Garlic oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Crusty Italian bread, for serving (Optional - See Note Below)

Recipe Steps

For the eggplants:

  1. Cut the eggplants crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange the slices on a wire rack and season on both sides with salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. The salt will draw out the bitter juices and soften the eggplant for grilling.
  2. Meanwhile, add the garlic and oil to a pot and place over a burner for a few minutes to warm and infuse the oil. Mix the garlic and olive oil in a small bowl to make garlic oil.
  3. Combine the oregano, basil, thyme, paprika, and hot pepper flakes (if using) in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Rinse off the eggplant slices and blot dry on paper towels
  5. Brush some of the garlic oil over the cut sides of the eggplants and sprinkle with dried oregano, red pepper flakes and chopped parsley. Flip and season on the second side the same way. Reserve the remaining garlic oil for the peppers and eggplant recipe below.
  6. Set up the grill for direct grilling and heat to medium-high.
  7. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the eggplant slices on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes. Lightly brush the top of the eggplant slices with some of the garlic oil. Turn the eggplant with tongs and brush the other side with the remaining garlic oil.
  8. Sprinkle the herb mixture over the eggplants and season them with salt and black pepper to taste. Continue cooking the eggplants on the second side until nicely browned and the flesh is soft, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Serve the eggplants at once.

For the peppers:

  1. Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. There is no need to brush or oil the grate. Brush the peppers with garlic oil. Arrange the peppers on the grate and grill until black on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side (12 to 16 minutes in all), turning with tongs. Don’t forget to grill the peppers on the tops and bottoms, 1 to 2 minutes. The idea is to char the skins completely. Note: for extra points and flavor, if using a charcoal or wood-burning grill, roast the peppers directly on the embers, turning with long-handled tongs.
  2. Transfer the peppers to a cutting board and let cool. (No, you don’t need to place them in a paper bag or bowl covered with plastic wrap. I’ve found no appreciable difference in ease of peeling.) Let cool to room temperature.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and pine nuts and fry until golden. Pour the oil into a heatproof bowl.
  4. Scrape the skins off the peppers, using a paring knife. There’s no need to remove every last bit—a few black spots will add color and flavor. Cut each pepper in half and scrape out the core and seeds. Cut each pepper half lengthwise in half. Arrange the pepper halves on a platter or plates and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Spoon some of the garlic pine nut oil over the peppers. Sprinkle with pine nuts and parsley and serve.

For the grilled provolone:

  1. Preheat a plancha or griddle on a grill over direct high heat.
  2. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Brush the cheese slices on both sides with garlic olive oil and sprinkle with half the oregano, hot pepper, and paprika; season with black pepper. Lay the cheese slices on the hot grate. Cook until the bottom side is browned and beginning to bubble, but not completely melted. This will take 2 to 4 minutes.
  3. Using a spatula, flip the cheese slices to the second side. Sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of oregano on top, dividing it evenly between them. Sprinkle some pepper over the cheese, then grill the second side the same way, 2 to 4 minutes longer.
  4. Transfer the grilled cheese to a plate along with the grilled peppers and eggplant. To eat, spread the melted cheese on chunks or slices of bread.

Recipe Tips

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Steven Raichlen’s Planet Barbecue is a production of Barbacoa, Inc., and Resolution Pictures. © 2023 Barbacoa, Inc. Photos by Chris Bierlein