Monday, August 22, 2011

Grilled Summer Salad

Most weeks, I hit the grocery store with a meal plan in mind and solid list of items to procure.  Sometimes, though, I'm not so organized, and my trip to the store is much more like an episode of Supermarket Sweep, with me grabbing things from the shelves and getting out of there as quickly as possible.  When one of these rush trips occurs, I try to focus my random shopping on the produce section, figuring that whatever I come home with, I'm bound to create something healthy from a good haul of veggies. Last Friday, the week drew to an end, and I still had quite a bit of random produce in my crisper from one of these crazy grocery runs.  Inventory included:
6 ears of corn
2 Japanese eggplants
1 pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 orange bell pepper
2 leeks
and 1 bunch of fresh basil
I also had a beautiful loaf of rosemary-olive oil fougasse bead from a trip to a favorite bakery.  I stared down these ingredients for quite awhile, trying to make sense of how to use them.  Roasted vegetables with a grain of some sort?  Tomato and basil pasta with a ratatouille-inspired side dish?  Soup?  Nothing seemed quite right.  Also, it was a summer Friday, and unless there is an outright hurricane happening (and sometimes even in the middle of one), the husband prefers to be standing by the grill with a PBR to celebrate the start of the weekend.  What to do?

I took a gamble.  I halved and cleaned the leeks and the pepper, brushed everything with olive oil, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and sent it out to the grill.  The husband grilled everything in the photo above except for the tomatoes and basil, which I chopped and put in a large salad bowl.  He came back in with meltingly sweet leeks, perfectly charred eggplant, salty-caramelized ears of corn, slightly crisped bread, and a beautifully heat-blistered pepper.  I chopped all of these ingredients, removed the nibs from the corn, and tossed them all together with a solid dousing of white balsamic vinegar, a splash of olive oil, and a drizzle of honey.  
The result was a little slice of summer dinner heaven.  All the flavors married together beautifully, with the char-grilled flavor being the common denominator.  This salad was light, complex, and utterly delicious.  I served it on a bed of mixed greens, but it was perfection on its own, and we topped it with grated parmesan to take it right over the top.  This dish just goes to show what kind of kitchen kismet can occur when you let yourself run wild in an in-season produce section (or at the farmers' market!).  I never would have planned this meal in advance, but it is now something we'll make again and again, and it would make an elegant dinner to serve to vegetarian friends with a crisp glass of white wine.

Friday night already seems like a million years ago, but this dish stuck with me, and had to be shared.  Sometimes the best recipes are happy accidents!


  1. Yay and congrats! I forgot how much I enjoy your before-and-after meal photos of your creations. And your husband is a god on the grill. All hail, to the both of you!

  2. This looks delicious! I love it when summer produce comes together in one fabulous dish!