The all-grilled salad has become a staple in our house over the years — it's versatile, easy, has minimal cleanup, and of course, it's right up our healthy-eating alley.
A hot grill coaxes out the sweetness from anything we toss on it, and that tiny bit of char flavor is like a kiss of summer. So, even if I don't "have" to cook something — such as cabbage in a slaw — if the fire is roaring, I'll let the ingredient enjoy a few minutes of grill time, just for flavor. Super healthy foods become craveable with the arrival of the backyard barbecue season.
To make a tasty all-grilled salad, follow a few simple tips. First, invest a few bucks in an oil mister, which allows you to coat veggies and fish with just enough fat to keep it from sticking or drying out. With an oil mister, you can turn almost any combination of veggies and protein you have on hand into an all-grilled salad.
Second, grill the veggies in somewhat larger pieces and chop them down to salad-size later. This will keep the veggies from falling through the slats and keep the integrity of the vegetable intact, resulting in a true salad, not just floppy grilled garnish for your meat.
Third, make a simple vinaigrette for the salad, and in it, use some form of fruit juice — lime, orange, pineapple juice. The little bit of sweetness plays up the sweetness in the lightly charred veggies.
Finally, don't hesitate to serve the salad whole! Layer the veggies and meat on a large white tray and pour vinaigrette over, and serve with crusty baguette slices for an alfresco meal that will delight.
Grilled shrimp and vegetable salad with asian dressing
Start to Finish: 35 minutes
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon Sriracha, or other hot sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon neutral oil, like grapeseed oil
For the salad:
1 pound large shrimp, deveined and shelled
2 red bell peppers
3 small Japanese eggplants, stem end removed, halved lengthwise
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 pound large white mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
1/2 head of purple cabbage cut into 3 wedges, core intact to hold the wedges together
4 green onions
1 pint large grape tomatoes
Vegetable or grapeseed oil, for misting
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (or other seed/nut)
Lemon wedges, for garnish
Salt and pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, vinegar, ginger, Sriracha, and sesame oil. Whisk in the grapeseed oil slowly, creating a thin emulsion. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the dressing onto the shrimp, toss to coat and reserve the rest. Heat the grill on high. Spray the vegetables with vegetable oil using a mister, coating on all sides, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill peppers and eggplant until tender (10-15 minutes), carrots, mushrooms, and cabbage for 5-10 minutes, green onions, tomatoes and shrimp about 5 minutes. Times may vary depending on the grill — vegetables should have some char, but still be relatively firm. Remove the grilled items and chop the vegetables into larger bite-sized pieces (remove seeds of bell pepper). Toss the salad with dressing and cilantro. Serve topped with shrimp and sesame seeds.
Note: Salad can also be served deconstructed — instead of chopping, lay the vegetables out decoratively on a platter and top with shrimp and dressing.
Nutrition information per serving: 391 calories; 90 calories from fat; 10 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 trans fats); 143 mg cholesterol; 1349 mg sodium; 50 g carbohydrate; 16 g fiber; 27 g sugar; 26 g protein
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, "Supermarket Healthy."