By Jessica Roy This week I'm combining two summer staples (salad and grill) to create the ultimate dinner menu mash-up. My husband, who is the ultimate carnivore and will often refuse to eat something if it doesn't have meat attached, loved this flavor rich salad, and didn't even realize it was all veggies until he had scarfed down two portions.
Having said that, for a "one bowl meal," adding shredded chicken or sliced grilled steak would easily take this from side salad to entree.
While I am a huge fan of salads and veggie bowls, I do understand that it never hurts to really kick up the flavor game to accentuate the best that each individual vegetable has to offer. And that is exactly what bringing the grill into the game does by adding a little bit of sweet smokiness, caramelized sugars, and charred richness to otherwise plain produce.
The key to this salad is letting the veggies cool once they are off the grill, chopping them up into somewhat uniform bitesized pieces, and allowing them to marinate in a tangy, delicious dressing for at least 15 minutes prior to serving. Top the whole thing off with some fresh herbs for the perfect light complement to all the bold flavors. I used some chives and basil from my garden.
Chef's ingredient tip: In this recipes we are using sunchokes, aka Jerusalem artichokes, which are actually part of the sunflower family. They are somewhat knobby looking, similar to ginger root or galangal.
Grilled Mediterranean Veggie and Bean Salad
1 small eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 yellow onion, cut into 1/4 inch whole round slices
4 large sunchokes, peeled & cut into 1/4 inch slices
3 portobello mushroom caps, cleaned
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can pink beans, rinsed and drained
Vinaigrette, recipe below
Salt and pepper, as needed
Olive oil, as needed
Fresh herbs, as desired
Place the mushroom caps into a zip-top bag along with 1/3 of the vinaigrette and allow to marinate for 20 minutes while you prep the rest of the vegetables.
Cut the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices, and arrange on a plate lined with a paper towel. Sprinkle each slice liberally with salt, and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Rinse the salt off the eggplant slices with water, and pat each slice dry with a paper towel.
Arrange all of the sliced vegetables onto a large baking sheet. Rub a bit of olive oil over the top of each, until just shiny. Season the whole tray with salt and pepper, as desired. Flip the veggie slices, and repeat.
Cook all of the sliced veggies and marinated portobello mushroom caps on a medium hot grill for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until tender and cooked through. Remove vegetables from grill, and allow to cool to room temperature. Cut all of the grilled vegetables into bite sized pieces.
In a large bowl, toss the grilled veggies and rinsed beans along with the remaining 2/3 of the vinaigrette. Allow to sit for 15 minutes prior to serving, then toss again. Top with freshly torn herbs as desired.
For vinaigrette/ marinade
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. fine ground salt
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/4 tsp. fine ground black pepper
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until thoroughly combined.
Remove 1/3 of the vinaigrette, and use to marinate the portobello mushroom caps. The remaining vinaigrette should be tossed with all of the grilled chopped veggies and beans 15 minutes prior to serving.
Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer and chef instructor, and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville, where she teaches classes. Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/ yourpersonalchef.