Vegetables and I have grown super close over the years. Where I used to be terrified of Brussels sprouts and eggplant, now a meal doesn’t feel complete without a huge helping of something green. Or purple. Or cauliflower. While I am not a vegetarian by any means, I find going meatless once in a while stretches both my creativity and my shopping budget.
But what about hot dogs? What about the good ol’ frankfurter?
With the summer starting to fade and my urge to use the grill increasing, it recently occurred to me that burgers have a lockdown on the vegetarian BBQ. So far, there’s not much to choose from, other than processed versions that don’t have a whole lot of real produce in them.
This is why, today, I’m going to change that with the almighty squash dog. A meatless frank that you can make any day throughout the year, and with fresh ingredients.
How to Make Squash Dogs
First, buy some yellow or green squash (one per person) that is roughly “hot dog-ish” in size, about two inches wide and five inches long. Also, be sure to choose buns that will fit your squash dogs. I went with fancy pretzel buns. Prepare your squash by trimming the root and tip, then slicing them in half lengthwise.
Next, make your squash marinade. In a large, rectangular dish, mix one tablespoon mustard; three tablespoons olive or vegetable oil; a half teaspoon each of smoked paprika, cumin, and garlic powder; and a pinch of black pepper. If you have it on hand, also try adding a dash of liquid hickory smoke. Or give your squash dog an Asian twist with a little teriyaki or soy sauce. Or harissa sauce. Point being, use what you have on hand and play with flavors.
Then lay your squash halves in the dish, in a single layer. Let them sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to two hours, flipping the squash halfway through. Don’t be afraid to use your hands to rub that marinade all over.
When it’s time to eat, fire up the grill or get out a stovetop grill pan. Over medium-high heat, lay the squash dogs on their flat side on the grates and let them cook until they soften a bit and get some dark grill marks, about five to seven minutes. Then flip the squash dogs and let them cook on the other side, another five to seven minutes.
Remove the squash dogs and place two halves in each bun, the flat sides touching each other (do you see how you’re making a “hot dog” shape?). Offer guests an array of traditional toppings like relish, ketchup, or mustard. Or go rogue with kimchi, avocado cream sauce, salsa, or a lemon tahini.
Remember, food is fun. So have fun with your food. And squash dogs for president.
Old Ingredients, New Tricks
As someone who constantly makes over dishes for dietary and health needs, I'm used to using total creative license when it comes to food. And the good news is we already live in a culinary world where zucchinis can be noodles, beets can be chips, and cucumbers can act like baguettes. So let me be your guide as we dust off some standard items from the produce aisle and give them a chance to show off a little. It’s an exercise in recipe liberation (not limitations) that will not only lighten up those eating habits but also give new life to old favorites.
So whether you’re trying to ditch the gluten, sugar, or just a pant size, let’s forget about pledging to take on a new diet. And let’s pledge instead to break some rules and teach a handful of old ingredients some new tricks.
(Image credits: Jessica Goldman Foung)