When warm weather rolls around, I can’t get enough of the long days of summer. I’m eager to walk the dogs as the sun rises and linger on my porch as the sun sets. Of course, at some point, I still have to make dinner. Sure, I could cook up a cheeseburger, but let me propose a lighter, fresher meal: a dinner salad made on the grill. Grilling gives the ingredients a hint of smoke, a touch of char, that regular salads just don’t have. I like to make my dinner salads with protein, so I throw chicken, steak, even calamari or tempeh on the grill. I don’t stop there: veggies and fruit go on too. And sometimes I add sturdier lettuces to give them a little bite.
Take my tandoori chicken salad: I skewer grape tomatoes to grill alongside marinated chicken. As they cool, I toss chickpeas, romaine and cucumber with a spiced yogurt dressing, then chop up the chicken, toss everything together and—voilà—dinner is served! All without turning on my stove. As my family and I sit on the porch in the fading light, we dig into that salad, knowing it’s just the beginning of our favorite season and we will have many, many more days just like this to enjoy.
If you’re looking for something lighter, healthier and tastier than typical grilled fare, then think about cooking up a salad on the grill. Here are some tips to make sure all your grilled salads sizzle.
Pictured Recipe: Chopped Tandoori Chicken Salad
Any vegetable you like to oven-roast is a good candidate for the grill. Think: onions, peppers, potatoes, eggplant, fennel and asparagus.
Pictured Recipe: Chimichurri Grilled Steak Salad
Gather your ingredients on baking sheets for easy transport to the grill. Don’t forget tongs, a kitchen timer and a clean plate for cooked meat.
Pictured Recipe: Feta, Corn & Chicken Salad with Smoky Tomato Dressing
To keep food from sticking, oil a paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub on the preheated grill rack. Don’t use cooking spray on a hot grill. To prep veggies for the grill, toss them with oil so they brown nicely and don’t dry out.
Pictured Recipe: Grilled Halibut Salad with Beet-Carrot Slaw
Denser vegetables like potatoes take longer to cook. Grill slices until marked on both sides, then reduce heat (or move to a cooler part of the grill) and cook until tender.
Pictured Recipe: Grilled Tempeh Salad with Sesame-Ginger Dressing
Try grilling sturdy greens like romaine and escarole. A few minutes on the grates renders them delightfully smoky and pleasantly wilted.
Pictured Recipe: Grilled Calamari & Potato Salad
For smaller items like cherry tomatoes use skewers to keep them from falling through the grates. Don’t bother soaking wooden skewers to prevent them from burning—we’ve tested this and they still burn. Wrap exposed ends of wooden skewers in foil to keep them singe-free or use metal.
Pictured Recipe: Grilled Romaine with Avocado-Lime Dressing
It’s also great for small vegetables that you could skewer. Just toss mushrooms or onion slices into the basket and stir occasionally until done.