By Emily McKenna, Recipe Developer & Tester for EatingWell Magazine
During summer, when it's hot and humid at dinnertime, the last thing I want to do is go inside and turn on the stove to cook. As an alternative, I often turn to salads, which are not only quick and easy to pull together, but also lighter and don't require the stove. Of course, I want a little variety at the dinner table, and sometimes a big bowl of raw greens and veggies just doesn't make the cut.
So to give my salads some flair, I'm turning to the grill. Yes, you heard me right. Here are 5 EatingWell recipes for healthy grilled salads--with accompanying tips for salad-grilling perfection--that go beyond the usual sliced, grilled steak or chicken on greens. You do have to cook the components of these salads, but at least you can do your cooking outside, watching the sunset and, I hope, with a cocktail in hand.
Chopped Tandoori Chicken Salad
This salad is inspired by one of our favorite Indian dishes--tandoori chicken. Instead of raita, a traditional Indian condiment, we use yogurt mixed with fresh ginger and fragrant dried spices (cumin, coriander, garam masala and turmeric) to make a marinade for the chicken, which gets grilled then chopped. Yogurt is also the star of the dressing, which gets tossed with chopped romaine lettuce, cucumber and chickpeas. The dish gets smokiness from skewered, grilled cherry tomatoes. Of course, we did not forget the bread--naan--which we also throw on the grill.
Chopped Tandoori Chicken Salad
Makes: 4 servings
Total time: 1 hour (plus marinating time)
To make ahead: Marinate chicken for up to 24 hours. | Equipment: Skewers or grill basket
Cost per serving: under $4
Tandoori chicken is a traditional Northern Indian dish of spiced yogurt-marinated chicken cooked in a clay oven. In this tandoori chicken salad recipe we grill chicken and toss it in a salad with grilled tomatoes and cucumber.
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala, divided
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Cayenne pepper to taste
8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 European cucumber, chopped
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
1. Whisk 1/2 cup yogurt, garlic, 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon garam masala, coriander, turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Place chicken in a sealable gallon-size plastic bag and add the yogurt mixture. Close the bag and massage the marinade into the chicken. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
2. Twenty minutes before you are ready to grill, preheat grill to medium-high.
3. Remove the chicken from the marinade (discard the remaining marinade). Take the chicken and tomatoes out to the grill. Oil the grill rack (see Tip). Place the chicken on the hottest part of the grill. Skewer the tomatoes or place in a grill basket. Grill the chicken, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 165°F, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Grill the tomatoes, turning or stirring occasionally, until slightly charred, 5 to 6 minutes. Let cool while you prepare the dressing and the rest of the salad.
4. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon each cumin and garam masala and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Whisk in cilantro, vinegar, oil and cayenne. Add romaine, cucumber and chickpeas. Chop the chicken and add to the salad; toss well. Serve with the tomatoes.
Per serving: 459 calories; 19 g fat (4 g sat, 10 g mono); 96 mg cholesterol; 35 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 37 g protein; 9 g fiber; 698 mg sodium; 1,159 mg potassium.
Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (193% daily value), Vitamin C (45% dv), Folate (44% dv), Potassium (29% dv), Zinc (26% dv), Calcium & Iron (20% dv), Magnesium (18% dv).
Tip: Oiling a grill rack before you grill foods helps ensure that the food won't stick. Oil a folded paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. (Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.) When grilling delicate foods like tofu and fish, it is helpful to coat the food with cooking spray.
Here are 4 more grilled dinner salads & grilling tips to try:
Feta, Corn & Chicken Salad with Smoky Tomato Dressing
The dressing in this flavor-packed salad is genius. Ripe plum tomatoes are grilled until charred and almost bursting then blended into a creamy dressing with a splash of tangy sherry vinegar and a hint of smoky paprika. Grilled escarole takes on surprisingly meaty flavor when grilled, and the whole salad comes together with sweet grilled summer corn, salty feta and toasted pine nuts.
Chimichurri Grilled Steak Salad
Let's go back to the aforementioned sliced grilled steak over greens. In our version, romaine lettuce is grilled until it just starts to soften and takes on a slightly sweet flavor. Sliced bell pepper and red onion are grilled with the steak, and everything gets drizzled with a zingy chimichurri-inspired dressing of chopped fresh parsley, garlic and vinegar.
Grilled Calamari & Potato Salad
Who knew you could grill potatoes? Not me, until I tried this recipe, which makes me want to travel to Italy and eat this light, fresh salad outside with a glass of crisp Pinot Grigio. Every component of this salad (except the spinach greens) is grilled--whole baby calamari, fingerling potatoes, halved tomatoes and garlic, which gets whirred in the blender with fresh parsley, anchovies and capers for a salsa-verde-inspired dressing.
Grilled Tempeh Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing
I tend to think that tempeh is bland, so I was skeptical when I saw this salad on the Test Kitchen roster. Little did I know that a few minutes on the grill followed up by a quick dip in a bold sesame, miso, orange and ginger dressing would really make the tempeh sing. This Asian-inspired salad comes together with sharp fresh arugula, raw snow peas and juicy pineapple.
5 Grilling Tips for Sizzling Salads:
Grilling Tip 1: Use skewers for smaller items, like cherry tomatoes, 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. Alternatively, you could try a grill basket, which is great for small vegetables like cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and onion slices.
Grilling Tip 2: Try grilling sturdy greens like romaine and escarole. A few minutes on the grates renders them delightfully smoky and pleasantly wilted.
Grilling Tip 3: When a recipe calls for grilling different foods for varying lengths of time, it is best to get organized before heading out to the grill. 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.
Grilling Tip 4: Any vegetable you like to oven-roast is a good candidate for the grill. Think: onions, peppers, eggplant, fennel, asparagus and even potatoes, which take a little longer to cook. Grill potato slices until marked on both sides, then reduce heat (or move to a cooler part of the grill) and cook until tender.
Grilling Tip 5: 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.
What are your favorite dinner salad recipes?
By Emily McKenna
Emily McKenna tests and develops recipes in the EatingWell Test Kitchen. Emily recently moved to Vermont from New York City, where she worked at Food & Wine, food52.com and Real Simple. She is a recent convert to the glories of kale and has a weakness for doughnuts, strawberry licorice and anything her Italian-American grandmother makes, especially pizza.
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