Sunday, July 24, 2011

Grilled Summer Vegetable Salad

It's a thing of beauty, isn't it?  Perfectly ripe summer vegetables, grilled just enough to give them a nice smoky flavor.  Beautiful ripe tomatoes, juicy and tender.  A light, herb-filled dressing to bring them all together.  And a hunk of garlic rubbed-grilled bread.  It's the best summer salad ever and it's blessed my dinner table many times in several of its many possible variations this year already.

If you're anything like me, you loathe cooking indoors during the summer.  I think I can count on one hand the number of dinners I've cooked on my stove since May rolled around.  My poor grill definitely gets a workout- and is starting to show its age with burners that light only once in 25 tries, grates starting to crumble away  from the one burner that gets WAY too hot, and a host of small and only slightly inconvenient issues.  But despite my grill's woes I refuse to go back into my kitchen...

The recipe for this salad was inspired by the newsletter that comes with my CSA box every week.  Good ol' Farmer Vernon gives us a recipe featuring some of the produce in the box, which is helpful if it's something like japanese turnips (I still don't have a clue and I'm glad I only got them once).  His "Grilled panzanella salad with bell peppers and squash" instantly became my summer go-to salad in the many ways I could think of to improve upon it, though the dressing remains (mostly) the same.  So thanks Farmer Vernon.  I hope you all thank him too when you make this one at home.

Grilled Summer Vegetable Salad
There are probably hundreds of different ways to make this salad, depending on what veggies you have in your fridge.  Feel free to adapt the recipe to fit your needs and tastes.  The recipe as written will feed a bunch of people (6 adults or so), so cut it back to fit your family or make more and have a party!

3 bell peppers (any color), cut into strips
1 large red onion, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 1/2 lbs squash, zucchini, or eggplant (or all 3) cut into think slices
1 lb tomatoes, cut and diced
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbs grated lemon zest
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped herbs (parsley, basil, and chives are what I use)
1 loaf of ciabatta or french bread, cut into 1 inch slices
1 garlic clove

Lightly drizzle a bit of olive oil on the vegetables and bread, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill over medium heat until they are tender and the bread is crisp.  Set aside to cool.
Rub the bread slices with the garlic clove.  You can serve the bread alongside the salad (as my husband would do), or you can cut or tear it into pieces and add it to the salad (as I prefer).

Cut the cooled grilled veggies into bite sized pieces and toss in a bowl with the tomatoes, herbs and bread (if you like).  In a separate small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, vinegar and olive oil,  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the dressing to the salad, toss and let stand for 20 minutes.  Use those 20 minutes to grill your main dish or have a nice glass of wine with your guests.  In either case, enjoy this beauty of a salad.

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