Salad without greens
Not all salads contain lettuce or greens.
Not all salads are made of raw vegetables.
That's right. Sometimes I like to cook my salads.
In my personal opinion, some of the very best salads are a combination of cooked and raw veggies, which is why I enjoy this simple grilled vegetable salad so much. It’s mostly grilled veg with some uncooked garnishes and a rich balsamic dressing.
Grilled eggplant and zucchini
Slice your zucchini and eggplant, lightly sprinkle with salt, and let them sit while you prep everything else.
Grilled eggplant slices can sometimes have a bitter flavor. The salt ‘pulls’ out some of the bitterness as well as some of the water, so that it crisps up a bit more. The zucchini doesn’t NEED the salting, but I usually do them together, and it doesn’t hurt.
Note: If you like your veggies crisp you can salt them more heavily to pull out MORE water. Rinse the salt off and pat dry before brushing with oil.
While the salt is sitting I cut my peppers and other veggies.
Finally, prep your veggies for the grill by drizzling or brushing extra virgin olive oil over them. It soaks into the eggplant really quickly so brush or rub it around promptly.
The art of grilling veggies is to grill them just long enough to caramelize and get those lovely grill marks, but not so long that they start to lose their texture. Look how pretty they are!
One of the perks of this salad is that you can swap in other veggies if you prefer them. Not a fan of eggplant? Increase the zucchini and peppers to fill the gap.
Portobello mushrooms are another good addition. They do contain a lot of water though, so keep in mind that a lot of juicy veggies will make your salad leftovers a bit soggier on day two.
Why does grilling veggies make them taste so good, anyways?!
That, my friends, is the science of caramelization. When the natural sugars in the vegetables reach a certain temperature you get a toasty gold-brown color and those perfect sweetened notes that you don’t find in raw form.
Each vegetable has its own combination of sugars, so their sweet or toasty flavors are also unique. Thank you, food chemistry! Our taste buds appreciate you.
A bowl full of grilled veggies… mmm mmm mmm.
Add fresh elements for a bright flavor and texture
Fresh seasonal garnishes are so very delicious. I grow parsley in my window all year round, so I can put fresh parsley on everything. Now, if only I could keep the basil alive as well…but I digress.
Of note, there were supposed to be a lot more tomatoes than you see in this photo, but I misjudged how many cherry tomatoes we would just eat in passing while they sat on the cupboard. As it turns out we ate almost all of them in the single day before I made this salad! Note to self: next time buy bigger containers of cherry tomatoes.
Easy Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette
Making your own balsamic vinaigrette is time well spent. Nothing beats homemade dressing, since you can adjust the ingredients to your taste.
The recipe for this grilled vegetable salad dressing is incredibly simple and uses ingredients you probably already have on hand.
As a general guideline, the oil-to-vinegar ratio in a vinaigrette is two parts oil to one part vinegar. However, if you're going for a richer flavor, be more generous with balsamic vinegar to make it your own.
The robust balsamic flavor bridges the acidity of the fresh tomatoes and herbs with the natural carmelization of the roasted vegetables.
Mixing together the ingredients for balsamic vinaigrette is a breeze. Shake it in a jar, whisk it in a bowl, or blend it in a blender—the choice is yours!
And for a final touch, we add pickled capers. Capers are actually flower buds, which I think is pretty cool. Their bright, briny flavor is an excellent accent to the sweet tasting vegetables. They are also my replacement for canned or pickled olives in any dish because, alas, I cannot love olives.
Be aware, if your balsamic dressing sits for too long, separation is inevitable. While mustard slows the separation process, it doesn't eliminate it completely. If you've made the dressing ahead, simply give it a good shake or reblend before dressing your salad.
Mealtime conversation starters
We all want meaningful relationships. Ones where you learn about each other and feel like you “get” one another. Deep down, it’s about caring. Does another person care about your well-being, successes, your hopes, and dreams?
QUESTION: If you were able to live to 100, what would be most important for you to be fully functional, your mind or your body?
Grilled Vegetable Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
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- tongs for flipping the veggies
- 3 small zucchini (Roughly 1 lb), sliced lengthwise into 1/2" to 3/4" slices
- 1 medium eggplant sliced into 1/2" to 3/4" strips
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 bell peppers Red and yellow, cut in half
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for roasting
- 1½ cups cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 2 green onions green part only, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp capers drained
- 2 tsp sugar
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
- ¼ tsp salt
- pinch freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Turn on your grill to 450° to preheat and clean.
- Slice zuchinni (lengthwise) and eggplant (widthwise), salt lightly and set aside. Cut peppers in half. Brush or rub all veggies with olive oil.
- Grill the veggies on medium heat just until they have grill marks on each side, 3 to 4 minutes per side. You want them to still be tender crisp, not mushy.
- Remove from the grill and spread them out to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes, green onions, and parsley.
- Make your dressing by whisking the ingredients together in a small bowl or cup.
- Rough chop your grilled veggies and place in a medium bowl.
- Add the raw ingredients and drizzle with dressing. Toss to coat.
Hand Size Portions
When you look at the nutritional values of a meal to log what you are eating, that is called tracking macros. A lot of people use this method to reach their health goals.
Looking at hand portion size and using this method to gauge how and what you eat is also a great method to help you reach your health goals. Many people who use this method often think this form of tracking meals is easier and more sustainable for a lifetime.
Want to learn more about hand portion size and how to use it to reach your goals? Check out the article How to Get Started with Hand Portion Sizes.
Health Ninja Jeanette Marcotte is a health coach and professional geologist, who is obsessed with helping fellow professional women reclaim their time and energy by weaving healthy choices into their daily lives.
When she is not coaching or looking at rocks, you can find her hanging out in her garden with her dog, collecting new hobbies, and/or reading far too many books at once.
Find other articles written by Jeanette on her coach profile. Hang around for mindset strategies and micro-habits that will transform your health & confidence so that you feel like a Health Ninja, too!