By contributing writer Mary Cressler
In my last post, I wrote about some of the less usual suspects when it comes to summertime grilling. Since steaks and burgers get all the glory when it comes to outdoor cooking, I wanted to focus on other proteins like fish, tofu (I’m serious!), and vegetables. My previous post included a recipe for grilled halibut with a savory sausage lentil salad. This time we’re going full vegetarian!
Meat lovers, don’t be scared when I start talking about vegetarian dishes. This dish will win over even the most passionate carnivore at your table. It won over my husband, so I can attest to this!
This meal is not only healthy but also insanely delicious, and it can be served as a light starter or alone as a hearty meal.
Making kebabs is one easy way to grill up an assortment of vegetables, but it can get old and boring quickly. Trying to jazz up plain grilled vegetables was the inspiration for this grilled vegetable salad. We’re taking grilled vegetables to the next level, my friends.
A platter full of grilled vegetables is certainly pretty. But cutting them up and creating a salad, served over grilled romaine and topped with a creamy cilantro lime dressing is such a fresh and fun way to jazz up a standard grilled vegetable plate.
You start by grilling up your prepared vegetables. Any of your favorite vegetables will do, but I love to add diverse flavors by including earthy mushrooms and poblano peppers (these aren’t spicy, so don’t be nervous). Then for color, I like sweet corn, summer squashes, and bell peppers. I even like to grill up lemon and avocado to add to the finished salad. So good! Once these are all cooked, cut them up and toss them in a salad bowl with a can of drained black beans.
When the salad is mixed and ready, grill your romaine so it’s crisp and warm come serving time. Pop open some wine, and you’ve got the perfect light summertime meal. By the time you dive into this dish, you’ll forget that there’s no meat in sight.
- 2 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into 3 - 4 slices lengthwise (about ¼ inch thick)
- 2 medium yellow squash, trimmed and cut into 3 - 4 slices lengthwise (about ¼ inch thick)
- 2 red bell peppers, stems and seeds removed and cut into fourths lengthwise
- 2 yellow bell peppers, stems and seeds removed and cut into fourths lengthwise
- 2 large Portobello mushrooms, without stems
- 2 poblano peppers, stems and seeds removed and cut in half
- 2 ears corn on the cob, husks and silk removed
- 1 lemon, cut in half lengthwise
- 1 avocado, cut in half lengthwise
- 14 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- 3 heads romaine lettuce, cut in half lengthwise
- Olive oil (about ¼ cup)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon diced jalapeño (about ½ a medium jalapeño)
- 2 sprigs green onions, diced (white part only)
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 cup cilantro, loosely packed and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Juice of one fresh lime (approx 2 tablespoons)
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt (I like 2%)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon honey (optional, for sweetness)
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat or direct cooking for charcoal. Brush the grill grate with oil when cooking vegetables. With a smaller surface area, consider cooking the vegetables in waves. The last thing to cook is the lettuce.
- Avocado and Lemon - Brush halves with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and cook over direct heat for up to 3 minutes. You are looking for grill marks but not blackening. Flip over and finish for another three minutes.
- Corn - Season with olive oil, salt, and pepper and cook over direct heat. Rotate in quarter turns every three to four minutes.
- Squash - Season with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place over direct heat for three minutes. Flip over and finish for another 3 minutes.
- Peppers (poblano, yellow, and red) - Season with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place skin side down over direct heat for up to five minutes. Look for a nice char on the skin and once done, flip and cook for another three minutes. Remove from grill and remove skin.
- Mushrooms - Season with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill over direct heat for approximately 5 minutes and then flip for another 5. The size of the portabello mushrooms may cause need to adjust the cooking time. You’re looking for slight grill marks and a soft and moist mushroom texture.
- Move the cooked vegetables to a plate. When done, cut the corn off the cob and dice all the vegetables, including the avocado, into small pieces and place in a bowl. Add the drained and rinsed black beans and cilantro. Toss together. Keep the lemon halves for squeezing over the salad and presentation.
- Finally, brush the romaine with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the romaine lettuce halves cut side down on the grill over direct heat for about 3 - 4 minutes, and then flip for 3 – 4 more minutes. The goal is a light char to the lettuce and slight wilt.
- Remove lettuce from heat and place on your serving dish. Top the warm lettuce with a large spoonful of the vegetable salad, squeeze some of the grilled lemon over the top and drizzle with some of the cilantro lime dressing.
- Add the jalapeño, green onions, garlic, and cilantro to a food processor and pulse a few times until everything is broken down into small pieces.
- Add the red wine vinegar, lime juice, yogurt, and olive oil. Blend until smooth.
- Taste and adjust ingredients to your preference. Want it a little sweet? Add some honey. Want a little kick? Add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce.
What is exciting about this dish is the variety of flavors and textures you have to work with, from the rich roasted vegetables that have a yin-yang of sweet and earthy flavors to the crisp romaine with some smoky char notes to the bright citrusy and herbal dressing. Because of the creamy acidic dressing, I recommend avoiding red wines with this salad. Instead, stick to white wines and rosés with good acidity.
I wanted to test the range of wine options by selecting a citrusy Sauvignon Blanc, a fruity rosé, and a crisp Albariño. The result? All three were perfect for the dish in different ways. I couldn’t pick a favorite!
2013 Honig Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley ($15)
I picked Honig Sauvignon Blanc thinking it would stand up to the bold flavors of the dressing, and it did just that. It was zesty and fresh with the perfect amount of bright pink grapefruit flavors and herbal notes. From California, this balanced Sauvignon Blanc isn’t the in-your-face intense style you can often get from the more famous New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. This one has the signature citrus and mild grassy notes but they are toned down and more food friendly. It was fantastic with this dish and would be great for a hot summer day.
2014 Miraval Côtes de Provence Rosé ($20)
The Miraval Côtes de Provence Rosé added a lovely fruit element with fresh red berries that offset the earthy peppers. It also had some bright citrus flavors and great acidity. The acidity and lemon freshness were strong enough to stand up to the citrus found in the dish but were also very refreshing and balanced. This is a great wine for sipping alone or pairing with this salad.
2013 Burgans Albariño from Rias Baixas, Spain ($14)
The Burgans Albariño was super refreshing and crisp. It began with some fresh lemon, lime, and melon flavors. It was tangy on the palate with some sweet Meyer lemon flavors and a savory finish that melded seamlessly with the vegetables. The juicy fruit with a crisp finish make this one delicious with the complex flavors found in the salad, and it refreshed the palate with each sip.
All three of these wines show the range of wine styles that you can experiment with when selecting something to pair with this grilled vegetable salad.
We hope you enjoy our wine pairing choices. If you want to know which wines YOU will like best, download the FREE iPhone app Wine4.Me. Tell it what wines you know you like and get your own personalized rankings of best-selling, widely available wines in the US.
Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners. She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.