In the hopes that summer weather will hurry up and stay, I’ve been firing up the grill on a regular basis. So far, Mother Nature doesn’t seem to be getting the message, but the food certainly is great.
When my father-in-law came to visit last Sunday, I created an all-barbecue menu that included grilled marinated chicken kebabs, grilled flatbreads stuffed with cilantro pesto and cheese, and grilled vegetable salad with feta. While the grilled flatbreads were a bit of an experiment (which fortunately turned out well), the grilled veggie salad is definitely one of my favourites. It’s a recipe that gets used over and over again, and seems to fit every occasion. It’s best made fresh, but stays delicious for the day after.
Grilled Vegetable Salad
1 small fennel bulb with fronds attached
1 medium orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 4 or 5 pieces
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 medium yellow squash, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slives
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup (2.5 oz) crumbled feta cheese
3 tbsp loosely packed thinly sliced fresh basil
Cut the stalks off the fennel bulb. Remove about 1/4 cup of the fronds from the stalks, chop the fronds, and reserve. Cut the fennel in quarters lengthwise and trim away most of the core, leaving just enough intact to keep the layers together. Slice the quarters lengthwise 1/4 inch thick.
Prepare a medium gas or charcoal fire grill (alternatively, use an indoor grill pan over medium-high heat). Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on a tray or work surface. Brush both sides of the vegetables with 2 tbsp olive oil and season with 1/4 tsp salt.
Grill the vegetables in batches, flipping once, until both sides are nicely charred and the vegetables are just tender, about 12 minutes total for the fennel, 10 minutes total for the pepper, and 6 minutes total for the onion and squash. When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, cut them into 1/2-inch dice and transfer to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil, the vinegar, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Toss the vegetables with the dressing. Gently stir in the tomatoes and fennel fronds. Season to taste. Divide the salad among 4 plates and sprinkle with the feta and basil.
Serves 4 as a side
[Fine Cooking, April/May 2010]