Grilling is great, but backyard cooking can be a challenge when you want to emphasize vegetables and legumes. Even Asians, who generally set a good example - traditionally eating lots of greens and other vegetables and only modest amounts of meat, poultry or seafood - are known for enjoying grilled meats: yakitori in Japan, satays in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and bul goki in Korea.

Grilling aside, Asians eat far more vegetables than we do, especially squashes and sweet potatoes as well as many different dark, leafy greens and varieties of onion. To create an enticing kebab for American grills, try using all three in a skewered treat that gives grilling a delicious and colorful vegetarian twist.

Butternut squash and the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes we call yams are delicious grilled. We often avoid using them this way because they burn before becoming tender. The solution is simple: simmer them until they are al dente. (You can do the simmering in advance and reheat the chunks of squash or yam before use.) Then brush them with oil or marinade and finish cooking them on the grill.

A marinade helps protect grilled food from charring on the grill. It also imparts flavor, especially if you use tofu along with the vegetables. Getting a marinade to penetrate takes effort, involving pressing and baking the tofu. Instead, simply buy any of the pleasantly chewy, commercially-marinated and baked tofu now sold in the produce section of many supermarkets.

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Shallots, milder than garlic and more tender than onions, are the overlooked members of the allium family. Originally from Central Asia, they were brought to the Mediterranean area, where they are most associated with French cuisine. In the recipe below, they add just the right touch of pungency. The dipping sauce, spared with pineapple, is perfect for this satay.

Summer Squash And Tofu Kebabs With Peanut Dipping Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup peanut butter*
  • 1/4 cup canned crushed pineapple, plus 2-4 Tbsp. juice
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. (or to taste) red pepper flakes, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce, divided
  • Juice of 1 lime (1/4 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 3 yellow summer squash, peeled and cut into 12 pieces
  • 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 8 squares
  • 4 fat spring onions (ends and green tops removed), cut diagonally in half, or 1 medium red onion, cut in 8 wedges
  • 7-8 oz. spicy marinated tofu, preferably Thai or Southwestern flavor
  • 4 8-inch metal skewers (or bamboo skewers, soaked in warm water 30 min.)

Directions

  1. Heat a well-oiled grill or preheat the broiler.
  2. Make the dipping sauce: In a blender, combine peanut butter, pineapple, garlic, half the red pepper flakes, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Pure until smooth. Thin sauce with more juice, as needed. Set aside or refrigerate, tightly covered, up to 24 hours.
  3. Make the marinade: Mix together in a large bowl the remaining soy sauce with lime juice, honey, ginger and remaining red pepper flakes. Add vegetables and toss to coat with the marinade. Let stand 15-30 minutes. Make 4 kebabs in all, reserving the marinade. On each skewer, place a piece of squash, then bell pepper, onion, tofu, squash, tofu, onion, bell pepper, ending with squash. Brush the kebabs liberally with the marinade.
  4. Grill until vegetables are half-way tender and lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Turn and grill 2 minutes longer.
  5. Serve with the Peanut Dipping Sauce, either hot, warm, or at room temperature.

    *For those allergic to peanuts, substitute commercially-prepared toasted almond butter.

Nutritional Information Per Serving (1/4 of recipe):
202 calories,
11 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat),
21 g. carbohydrate,
11 g. protein,
4 g. dietary fiber,
640 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1-1/2 Lean Meat, 3 Vegetable, 2 Fat


AICR