The Fourth of July is a big deal in my family, and food plays a central role.

The party isn’t vegetarian (it’s billed as a lobster bake), yet the menu has become seriously veg-friendly in recent years, as the number of vegetarian, vegan and vegan-ish guests has increased.

This Saturday, I’ll be enjoying vegan potato salad, vegetarian baked beans, fresh fruit salad and a plant-based peanut butter cup mousse pie. That’s in addition to standard vegetarian starters such as chips and salsa, green salad and veggies with dip.

Interested in learning how other Maine vegetarians celebrate, I asked my friends and readers what hearty vegetarian eats they like to bring to the Independence Day party table.

I quickly discovered that a popular way to make a holiday menu more vegetarian-friendly is to upgrade the salads. All you need to do is nix the meat, diversify the vegetables and add in some beans and grains.

Beth Richardson of Portland uses rice as the base for a salad she says has been pleasing Fourth of July party guests for more than 30 years.

“At some point in the early ’80s, I was asked to bring a ‘different’ salad to a cookout,” Richardson recalls, “and I turned to my now wrecked copy of the ‘Silver Palate Cookbook.’ I chose the rice and vegetable salad on page 214. Thus began my love affair with that salad.”

Over the years, she’s modified the recipe to suit her family. The frozen peas were eliminated years ago to be replaced more recently with edamame. The original white rice is now brown, and the diced purple onion has morphed into shallots.

Mary-Anne LaMarre of Oakland makes a July Fourth chilled salad that emphasizes beans in the form of tempeh, which is a fermented soybean cake. The salad also calls for almonds, celery and vegan mayonnaise.

“This recipe is well-loved by all, not just vegans,” LaMarre says. “I always make a double batch.”

When she feeds vegetarian friends and family at this time of year, Barbara Gulino of South Portland, who blogs at spiritedcook.com, often makes tabbouleh salad, sometimes using quinoa for the traditional bulgur wheat to make it gluten-free.

Another way to mix up your salad routine is to add bread. Gina Platt of Seal Harbor recommends a Tuscan panzanella salad, which uses hunks of day-old bread to soak up the juices of chopped tomatoes, vegetables and herbs, all drenched in a vinaigrette.

Tracy Northup of Portland tells me “a grilled fattoush salad is the bomb.” The dish is a Lebanese cousin to panzanella and uses grilled pita bread.

For Carole Hunnewell of Brunswick, her favorite Fourth of July recipe is a creamy potato salad from the “Nature’s Harvest Cookbook.” The “creamy” doesn’t refer to actual cream, as the recipe calls for vegan mayonnaise.

Marie Gardner of Yarmouth also sticks to traditional potato and pasta salads for her celebration, and she likes to marinate tofu for grilled tofu kabobs.

As Gardner points out, the grill is an easy place to pack your menu with plants. Plan on pushing some of the meat aside so you can devote grill space to vegetables, veggie burgers, tofu, tempeh and soy meats.

Platt makes a marinade from soy sauce, lemon juice and olive oil, which she pours over sliced veggies, including sweet potatoes and beets, before arranging them on the grill. She is also a fan of grilling stone fruits and pineapple.

Peppers (preferably shishito peppers from Green Spark Farm in Cape Elizabeth) and corn are a favorite grill combo of Northup’s. And she “highly recommends” an unusual potato salad made with grilled potatoes.

While it’s often best to grab a skillet before adding delicate homemade veggie burgers to the grill, these bean-and-grain patties offer substantial heft to any vegetarian spread.

Hunnewell shared a recipe for her favorite veggie burger, which calls for pecan meal and oats.

A final Independence Day inspiration came not from a reader, but from a news release for a product called GrillGrates that claims to make it easier to cook vegetables, pizza, veggie burgers and other messy foods on the grill.

The recipe sandwiches sweetened ricotta (there are versions without animal-derived rennet) between two tortillas, adding chocolate chips, raspberries and blueberries, and carefully grilling the dessert quesadilla for a few minutes.

The result? Red, white and blue gooey goodness that is a patriotic, vegetarian treat.

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at:

[email protected] Twitter:AveryYaleKamila

MARY-ANNE LAMARRE’S TEMPEH SALAD

Serves 4

1 block tempeh, cut into very small cubes

Olive oil to lightly coat a skillet

3 stalks celery, diced

3 scallions, diced

2 shallots, diced

1 cup tamari almonds, chopped

2 tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Vegan mayonnaise, to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium-size skillet, then sauté the tempeh until it turns a light, golden brown on all sides. Cool.

Mix the cooled tempeh with the remaining ingredients.

Serve the salad with crackers, wraps or as a sandwich spread.

BARBARA GULINO’S TABBOULEH

Bright with the flavors of summer, this refreshing salad is best served the day it is made; store unused portions in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days, where the vegetables will get softer, but it is still delicious.

Despite the popularity of flat-leaf parsley, I think this salad is best made with curly parsley and only fresh mint! Never dried.

This recipe is adapted from “Cooking in a Small Kitchen” by Arthur Schwartz.

Makes 6 cups or 6 to 8 side servings

1 cup fine-cracked bulgur wheat

1½ cups quartered and sliced cucumber

1½ teaspoons sea salt, or more to taste

1½ cups sliced scallions, both green and white parts (about 8 scallions)

2 cups chopped curly parsley leaves (about 1 large bunch)

¾ cup chopped fresh mint leaves

6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste (2 large lemons)

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1½ cups diced fresh tomatoes (about 2 large plum tomatoes)

¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste

Soak the bulgur wheat in ample cold water to cover for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender. The only way to determine that is to taste a bit of it.

Meanwhile, place the cucumbers in a colander, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt and toss to combine. Set aside. Place the scallions in a large roomy bowl and with a pestle (or a potato masher), pound them lightly to slightly crush them and extract some of their juices.

When the bulgur is ready, pour it through a fine mesh strainer. Take a handful of the bulgur and squeeze it between your hands to extract as much water as possible, a technique that makes it light and fluffy. Release it into the bowl with the scallions, and repeat with the remaining bulgur.

Add the cucumbers, parsley, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, tomatoes, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper, and with a rubber spatula mix gently until combined. Taste for seasoning. Let rest for 15 minutes or so before serving, to allow the flavors to develop.

CAROLE HUNNEWELL’S BETTER BURGER

Makes 11 to 13 patties

¼ cup oil

1 cup chopped onions

¼ cup Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

1 cup pecan meal

¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup tomato sauce

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried parsley

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon dried sage

½ teaspoon dried savory

3 cups rolled oats (not instant)

1/3 cup vital wheat gluten flour

Spray your baking sheet with olive oil spray and heat the oven to 350 F.

Heat the oil in a large pot on the stovetop. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups water, the pecan meal, yeast flakes, walnuts, tomato sauce and herbs and spices. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the oats. When well mixed, add the flour, stirring well. Let the mixture cool.

Using a 1/2 cup measuring cup or a large ice cream scoop, form into patties. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, flip and bake 15 minutes more.

CAROLE HUNNEWELL’S CREAMY POTATO SALAD

This is from the “Kitchen of Nature’s Harvest Cookbook,” but is actually a Shannon Johnson recipe. For the mayonnaise, Hunnewell recommends Vegenaise or Earth Balance.

4 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 cup vegan mayonnaise

½ cup sliced black olives

1 small jar chopped pimentos, drained

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

2½ teaspoons onion powder

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1½ teaspoons dill weed

Boil potatoes until soft enough to mash with a fork, but not mushy. Drain. Combine the remaining ingredients in separate bowl. Pour the mayonnaise mixture over the drained, still hot potatoes. Add the dressing slowly because you may not use it all if you like your potato salad a little less creamy. Serve warm or chill for later.

GRILLGRATE’S RED, WHITE AND BLUE DESSERT QUESADILLA

Vegetarians can use ricotta cheese that is made without rennet. This recipe comes from a company that makes Grillgrates, but if you don’t own their product, you can make it on a grill pad or on a griddle on the stovetop.

Yield: 2 dessert tortillas serving 8 to 12

FILLING:

8-ounce container whole milk ricotta cheese

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

TORTILLAS:

4 flour tortillas

1 cup white chocolate morsels 1 cup fresh raspberries

1 cup fresh blueberries

Vegetarian ricotta cheese

Confectioners’ sugar

To make the filling, whirl the ingredients together in a food processor.

To assemble the quesadilla, spread 1/3 of the filling on 1 tortilla; this is the bottom. Sprinkle with not quite half of the white chocolate morsels. Place second tortilla on top. Frost the tortilla lightly with more filling. Decorate the top with the berries and a few more white chocolate morsels. Repeat with remaining 2 tortillas.

To grill the quesadillas, heat your grill to medium heat, about 400 F. Brush or spray the grill grates with oil. (Or heat your griddle over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles.)

Slide the quesadilla off the cutting board onto the GrillGrates (or griddle). Close lid. Check in 3 to 4 minutes by slightly lifting an edge to see the sear marks. (Or just keep on eye on your griddle until the quesadilla looks melty, gooey and ready to eat.) Give the quesadilla a quarter turn if there are dark sear marks, or if necessary, close lid and wait another 1 to 2 minutes before turning. Check to see if done: Crispy-firm is perfection. When you remove it from the fire (or the griddle), let stand for 2 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.