The transition from winter to spring hasn’t been a particularly easy one this year – from one day to the next, the weather swings from bitterly cold and windy to warm balmy sunshine. I’ve been compensating by leaving the house each morning with a spring jacket, a warm sweater, a short-sleeved top, an umbrella and a pair of sunglasses, so that I can mix-and-match to suit the weather.
Still, we didn’t waste any time in pulling the barbecue out of storage, lest we miss a single precious day of the all-too-short grilling season.
To celebrate the return of barbecue season, here’s a wonderfully simple salad, which we make in infinite variations as the summer goes on. Its appeal is that it can be made with almost any vegetables, so long as they can be grilled in some way, shape or form… this time around, we decided to use red peppers and portobellos, but it also works quite beautifully with zucchini, sweet onions, beets and eggplants in whatever combination seems appealing.
For that matter, the greens are equally interchangeable – I like the sharp, peppery bite of baby arugula, but most any kind of salad green will work equally well so long as it’s tender and not too crisp. Try Bibb lettuce torn into bite-sized pieces, baby spinach, or a favourite mesclun mix.
(BTW, if you happen to have any fresh herbs lying around, a sprinkling of chopped fresh basil or thyme is always a welcome addition)
Grilled Vegetable Salad
2 sweet red peppers
2 large portobello mushroom, stemmed
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp herbes de provence
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
Baby arugula or other tender salad greens
While your grill is heating up, remove stems from the portobello mushrooms and discard. Brush the portobello caps with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Once the grill is ready, place whole red peppers directly on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until the peppers are blistered and black all over. Place the peppers in a small bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and allow to steam for about 10 minutes to loosen the skins.
Meanwhile, grill the portobello caps for about 10 minutes or until tender, then remove from grill and set aside.
Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, carefully peel away the blackened skin. Remove stem and seeds, and discard.
In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic, olive oil and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice the peppers and grilled mushrooms into thick strips, and toss with the dressing until evenly coated. Let stand for 15-30 minutes or until ready to serve, to allow the flavours to meld.
To serve, place a few handfuls of greens on each serving plate, then top with the pepper and mushroom mixture and a sprinkling of goat cheese.