Grilled Vegetable Salad
Last night I made what is possibly the most very best version of the Grilled Vegetable Salad I have ever made. Ever. I saw a recipe for something resembling what I make a couple of years ago in the local newspaper when I was visiting my parents in Osoyoos, and it has become my favorite way to eat vegetables. In fact it is my #1 favorite way to feed dinner guests, because I can make it ahead of time, adding the vegetables to the platter as they are ready and letting them soak in the marinade and the best part is that it is as delicious served at room temperature as it is served warm or hot, so I can have it all ready before my guests arrive and then I can just visit, instead of worrying about the food. For this reason, if I have you over for dinner I am very likely to serve you this always, although you might not notice because it is different every time I make it.
This is not a recipe. It is a description of how I made this delicious meal, specifically how I made it yesterday. I make it differently every time. The details are important. You can go to the Safeway or the Superstore and get all the ingredients and make pretty darn good food, and I do that sometimes, especially in the winter, but the details are the crucial element, in my world, to making pretty darn amazing food.
First of all, I need to have a home garden. Since my space is very limited, I triage what I need to grow. Peas for my awesome young neighbors because all kids need to have fresh peas when they are playing, beans because you can never have too many beans, and herbs, because you just can’t buy the same quality as what you can grow. Right now, in my planters behind the garage, I am growing sage and oregano, and in front with the flowers I have orange mint and Kentucky Colonel mint for the mojitos. Some years I will also grow thyme, or something else, and Genovese basil inside, but this year it’s just the sage and oregano. At the end of the season, before it gets killed by the frost, I cut it all back, puree it with olive oil (not the mint though-yuck-I usually just bring it in and it gets sickly and aphid-infested by February- I’m thinking this year I might try making chocolate coated mint leaves) and then store the paste in my deep freeze. Then I chip some out when I need it. Point being, I have this homemade oregano paste in my deep freeze and it is one of the ingredients in the marinade.
The other ingredients in the marinade (the specific one I made last night) are:
-3 cloves Farm Box green garlic, crushed
– 1 Tablespoon whole mustard seeds from Spice Sanctuary, crushed well with a mortar and pestle
– Olive oil, about 2-3 times as much as the vinegar
– white balsamic vinegar (because that’s all I had. Usually I use white or red wine vinegar. I think it’s important I had run out of that and used the white balsamic this time.)
-some chopped green part of a spring onion from the Garden
-generous pinch of salt (I use the pink Tibetan salt because it’s pretty, but the important thing when choosing salt for your cooking is that it does not have any chemical additives. So a good quality sea salt or even Kosher salt would probably taste as good.)
Confession time. In addition to being a Communal Garden member, I have a Single Farm Box share. I really would recommend this as it fills in a lot of the blanks as we wait, in our Zone 2B, for example for the zucchini to be ready to harvest in our garden, with top-quality food from small organic farms in Alberta and B.C. So yesterday afternoon, I already had in my fridge 4 zucchinis, about 2 pounds of potatoes, a pound of beets, and 1-1/2 bunches of the yummiest little carrots that I had been hoarding for this meal. I also picked up a couple of yellow peppers at the grocery store. ( I would have liked to get an eggplant too but they were kind of mushy and with eggplant freshness is so important. Any vegetable you can fit onto a barbeque can go into this dish. Cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, parsnips, turnips, tomatoes, beans, fennel, anything. Whatever you want. I used what I had in the fridge and topped up with a favorite.) I stopped at the Garden and picked the largest spring onion I could find, and several baby Walking Onions.
I also picked flowers for a little bouquet. Remember, the details are important.
At home I prepped the veggies for the BBQ. The beets and potatoes I chopped up and wrapped in foil pouches. The baby Walking onions I pulled apart and put in with the beets. These packets go on first and come off last. Nothing ruins my day the way biting in to a raw potato does. The carrots were tiny so were left whole. Zukes, onion and pepper were cut in half for the BBQ, to be chopped further after they came off. These were all rubbed with a little olive oil and grilled. As they were ready they came off the BBQ and were cut up as needed, and placed on the platter when ready. This is great because sometimes you don’t always have room on the BBQ for everything at the same time and it’s no problem. Drizzle the marinade over the veggies as they are ready. This dish is great with some bocconcini cheese. Because some of my guests don’t eat dairy, I made extra marinade and tossed the cheese in the marinade bowl when the veggies were done, and people could add it or not to their meal. If it’s not an issue I put the cheese on when the potatoes go on, and it melts a bit.
So that’s it. My favorite way to eat vegetables. You can try all kinds of combinations of herbs/spices, oils and vinegars in the marinade. They make fantastic leftovers and will keep for days (some vegetables better than others ), and are great on a pizza or in a wrap, hot or cold.
Both Spice Sanctuary and Farm Box are at the Canmore Farmers Market every Thursday.
– By Nicole Tremblay