Flatbread is your canvas, vegetables are your paint. Now grab your (basting) brush.

By Josh Miller
June 29, 2020
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Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

I have one vegetarian friend. Wait—that’s not entirely true. I have one friend who identifies as a vegetarian, but who has pescatarian tendencies and has been known to dabble in pork. (I see you J.C.!) And even though she shows up at every cookout bravely toting a tiny shrink-wrapped veggie burger and claims it’s just fine…honey, it’s not! Vegetarians should get to have fun at cookouts, too! And thus the idea for this Grilled Vegetable Flatbread with Smoked Almond Muhammara was born.

When it comes to entertaining, I’m a contradiction. I like things to be REALLY easy, but I also love to make a scene. Enter this flatbread! Our edible cubic yard of vegetable goodness features a wide, long flatbread (or several of them lined up in a row), topped with a smoky-almond muhammara that works perfectly with the lightly charred veg. We deployed wedges of red onion, sliced zucchini and yellow crookneck squash, halved mini peppers, and a shower of fresh herbs—but don’t let us box you in! The beauty of this recipe is that we’re not telling you what to put on it—the season is! Hit your local farmers market on a Saturday morning, and fill your reusable tote with whatever makes you gasp. Here are few ideas to get you started. Read More: How to Grill Pretty Much Any Vegetable

Honk Your Horn if You Love Corn

Grilled corn sends folks into a frenzy every time it shows up. Whether it’s wrapped in a husk or shucked bare and grilled directly on the grates, there’s something undeniably electric about hearing those pops coming from the grill. When grilling corn that I intend to cut off the cob and use in salads (or in this case, for topping flatbread), I like to strip off the husk and silk, but leave some of the stalk intact to use as a handle. It makes it easier to cut the kernels away if you hold the stalk in one hand, and then slice downward toward the tip of the ear. I also like to cut closely to the cob to yield chunky sheets of charred kernels. Sweet, smoky, golden rubble. Yeah, I get why people freak out.

Give Eggplant a Chance

In the past, I’ve been a little testy with this high-maintenance nightshade. I mean, who has time to salt something for a half hour before cooking? Turns out you don’t have to!  While larger eggplants can be a little bitter and do benefit from a little salt, most eggplant are far less bitter than their reputation would have you think. Salting does draw out moisture, helping them develop stronger grill marks, but it’s not a requirement. If you’re still anxious about bitterness, hedge your bets and seek out smaller eggplants, which are more tender and less spongey than the big boys. I mean, nobody wants to eat a 2-foot-long zucchini, right? Same story with eggplant. Baby eggplant are great if you can find them, as are Japanese and Fairytale eggplant. If you can only find one that’s the size of a small child, fret not. Just grab the salt.

Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Treat Yourself to Tiny Tomatoes

Look closely at our flatbread and you’ll notice something missing. Figure it out yet? Hint: It’s technically a fruit. Ding-ding-ding! You got it—tomatoes! Now you win the prize, which is to find out the secret of why we didn’t invite summer’s most delicious mascot to our flatbread party: We’re shallow. OK, that’s not fair. We didn’t like the “look” of tomatoes—more specifically, we couldn’t see them with all the red that was already going on. But that doesn’t mean you should follow our lead. Since you can’t successfully grill cut tomatoes (trust me, it’s a hot mess!), get yourself a grill basket (like this carbon-steel number from Lodge) and go to town. Preheat the basket on the grill with the lid covered so you get it screaming hot; that way you’ll achieve a little char on the tomatoes. If you’re like us and are a little concerned about too much red, get yourself some Sun Gold tomatoes. (Now why didn’t WE think of that???)

Speaking of Fruit…

Don’t get nervous—I’m not that guy who orders pineapple on my pepperoni pizza. I mean, I have before; I was a pre-teen in the 1980s, after all. I wore Hypercolor shorts. I listened to New Kids On The Block. I ate Hawaiian pizza. Honestly, probably at the same time. But I don’t now, and that’s what’s important! But maybe some fruit on this flatbread is worth having a discussion about? Hear me out. Lemons. Specifically, GRILLED lemons. If there’s one thing I’ve seen folks freak out more about than grilled corn, it’s grilled lemons. I mean, come on, folks—is there anything prettier than a perfectly charred lemon? I’m waiting. Got nothing? That’s what I thought. In the case of this flatbread, you can grill lemon halves, then squeeze the glorious juice over the finished flatbread, or you can thinly slice them, grill them until tender, and then layer them on with the other charred veg. Since they’re thinly sliced, the bitterness factor from the pith is minimal, plus it gets mellowed by the accompanying tartness and char. Pretty and practical—coincidentally, that was my nickname in college. ;)

No matter what you pile on this edible buffet line of veggie insanity, your vegetarian guests will rejoice at not having to glumly fill their cookout plates with “extra salad.” Even your devout carnivores will roar in appreciation. So grab what you like, grill what works, and pile it on. It’s summer, not rocket science, kids!