To me, just about everything tastes better grilled—and that includes salads. (My mantra isn’t “If you can eat it, you can grill it!” for nothing.) Have you ever noticed that a grilled steak gets twice the raves of a non-grilled one? Well, I’ve watched this happen over and over, and it got me thinking: If grilling does wonders for steak, shouldn’t it do the same for salad?
It all started when I was looking for ways to jazz up ordinary grilled vegetables, something beyond flavored butters or vinaigrettes. I wanted explosive flavors, attention-grabbing textures, and zippy colors. In short, I was trying to create vegetable dishes that I would truly hunger for and not consume simply because I know I should eat more vegetables. As I mulled over the options, I decided that salads possess all the qualities I was looking for: contrasting textures, complimentary flavors, and, in the best cases, an element of surprise. By adding the intense flavors of grilled vegetables to the mix, I knew I couldn’t go wrong.
The joy of caramelization. Even hot-house vegetables taste sweet and flavorful when grilled because the cooking process concentrates their natural sugars, which the high heat then browns or “caramelizes.” Next time you have a cookout, try this little experiment: Boil a few asparagus spears in salted water until bright green. Next, brush a few of the spears lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and cook on a hot grill until browned on all sides. Now call over a friend and taste each one. I’ve done this experiment lots of times with my friends, and 99.9% of the time, the grilled entry wins.