From Masters of the Grilling Universe, by George Yatchisin
Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent, July 3, 2013

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Chef Edie - Pro-Am Vegetarian Plate

VEG-TACULAR: Edie Robertson’s perfectly spiced “steaks” won perfect scores. Photo by Paul Wellman.

Pro-Am Vegetarian Plate

Winner: Edie Robertson

Dish: Flame-Grilled Seitan and Local Pistachio “Steaks”

Since we started this showdown in 2010, there’s been only one year that Edie Robertson didn’t win something and that’s because we invited her to be a judge in 2011. Otherwise, this private chef, who’s perhaps best known for her years at the Sojourner Café, has always wowed the judges.

This time, she got nothing but perfect scores for her Flame-Grilled Seitan and Local Pistachio “Steaks”, which are injected with farmers’ market chimichurri and Drake Family Farms’ garlic chèvre, plus grilled seasonal veggies and avocado purée served stacked with gingered Hollister Brewing Company’s At Dawn Beer and balsamic tar, mango-passion fruit coulis, and micro greens.

“Edie’s seitan burger was superb, a perfect balance of crunchy pistachios and meaty seitan,” raved judge Fontaine. “It didn’t even need a sauce because the creamy goat cheese melded all the flavors together into one euphoric patty. But the balsamic tar and mango-passion fruit coulis gave the dish acidity and sweetness to make you swoon. Her presentation was also superb, with fresh basil, lavender, sunflowers, and cloth napkins.”

As a leader of Santa Barbara’s Slow Food Convivium and veteran of the Food Network’s series Extreme Chef, Robertson is fazed by very little, even grilling without meat. Indeed, vegetarian cuisine is “almost second nature” to her, as Robertson’s clients expect healthy foods without a loss of flavor.

“I roast and grind my own spice blends, so that gives a big boost to the flavor, along with using fresh herbs and roasted nuts whenever possible,” said Robertson. “I have learned by trial and error how to create dishes that have a satisfying mouthfeel by manipulating the tofu or seitan so it has a pleasing texture that goes well with fresh vegetables, ground nuts, and fresh and roasted spices.”

What’s her advice for home grillers? Practice makes perfect, but remember to clean your grills with heat and vegetable oil before cooking and don’t turn your meat too quickly. “Be brave,” said Robertson. “I think everything tastes better when it is licked by the fire.”

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