Warm weather calls for pulling out the grill, but most grill options are notorious for being less than nutritious. This hearty grilled salad is the perfect alternative.
When the weather is not so nice or if you don’t have a grill of your own, it can also be prepared using roasted vegetables instead.
This salad is extra flavorful, thanks to the addition of fresh grilled vegetables and toasted sunflower seeds. It is much heartier than your typical tossed salad, like one that’s made with just a few fresh greens. The aroma and mix of textures are also wonderful benefits.
The Secrets that Make this Salad so Amazing
The vegetables become sweet when they’re cooked, and grilling them outdoors adds a touch of smoky flavor that’s wonderful alongside the raw spinach and the dressing, made with flat leaf parsley or fresh basil.
I first discovered this salad at a restaurant in Buenos Aires, and started making my own version at home. I adjusted it a bit to fit my personal tastes. Below you will find my favorite take on this nutritious and satisfying dish.
This is a hearty enough salad to serve on its own, or perhaps with some nice crusty bread on the side. I love dishes that are meals in themselves, especially on those nights and weekends when you don’t feel like putting a lot of effort into cooking multiple complicated dishes.
Tips & Suggestions
The serving sizes indicated below are just an estimate. The quantity that you want to serve is really up to individual preference, and how hungry you are. I have actually shared this salad, when we’re really hungry, between just a friend and myself.
This also depends on how much bread you eat along with it (which is not necessary, but it is yummy, especially spread with some tasty butter)! For more nutritional impact, try choosing a delicious whole grain bread, perhaps one made that’s with a variety of nutritious seeds.
A little bit of fat in the dressing and on the grilled or roasted vegetables (and maybe even in that pat of butter, if you choose to include it) helps your body to absorb the fat-soluble nutrients in the fresh produce.
Clean & Prep Veggies
Be sure to wash your produce well, cleaning any dirt from the sweet potatoes wit a vegetable brush. You can peel them if you want, but I prefer to eat them with the peels on, since this is where you’ll find most of the vitamins and minerals.
For a salad like this one, I always call for “bite-sized pieces” because I like to eat my salads without fighting with them, and having to cut huge pieces into smaller ones takes away from the pleasure of eating. I would rather just enjoy the salad and not have to fight with it, and I’m sure you will too!
You can cut them into smaller chunks after roasting or before. If you cut them up into smaller chunks before cooking, you’ll have to place them in a roasting pan or on top of a heavy duty pizza steel so they don’t fall through the cracks in the grates. This also holds true if you prepare this in an oven rather than on a grill.
For the spinach, I recommend using the smaller, more delicate pieces and discarding the large fibrous leafs and saving them for another use, like juicing. If the more delicate pieces are still larger than bite-size, tear them in half.
If you don’t care for spinach you can replace it with escarole lettuce, which is hearty enough not to wilt when it’s mixed with the warm grilled vegetables.
Slice your onions like this: cut the onion in half lengthwise, putting the flat side down on the cutting board, and slice it very thinly into half-moons. Separate them with your fingers when you’re done.
In Argentina we call this method of slicing “feathering” or “en pluma” (“pluma” means feather).
This method really shows off the various beautiful colors of the purple onion. Not only do I prefer this method because it improves the presentation when they are sliced this way and mixed into the salad, but also for texture and flavor reasons as well.
If you just throw in diced onions, the salad will be overwhelmed with onion flavor and a sharp crunch, thus drowning out the other flavors and changing the experience. In this way, when you get one of these thinly sliced pieces on your fork, you can really appreciate the sweet yet pungent flavor of the onion along with the flavors of the other ingredients.
Never forget that texture and presentation are very important to your final outcome!
Try soaking your onions in cold water before cutting. This may lessen the effect of the usual eye watering and nose running.
Get more tips to reduce your misery when cutting onions now.
If you’ll be toasting your own sunflower seeds at home, keep an eye on them and be careful not to let them burn – they contain a lot of oil, so they may burn quickly.
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 1 cup carrots (about 2 medium)
- 1 cup butternut squash peeled
- 2 1/2 cups cauliflower florets (about 1/2 head)
- 2 cups broccoli florets (½-1 crown)
- Vegetable oil to coat the grill
- 4 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds
- 1 medium red onion sliced “en pluma”
- 2 large handfuls of spinach leaves
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Sea salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 cups flat leaf Italian parsley or basil, chopped fine
- 2 tablespoons capers drained
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
- Sea salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Wash and scrub all the vegetables very well, especially the potatoes.
- Peel the carrots and butternut squash.
- If you’re making this recipe on the grill, slice the sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, cauliflower and broccoli into one-inch thick slices and wait to cut into bite-sized pieces after they are cooked. If you are going to be roasting the vegetables in the oven, cut them into bite-sized pieces after washing and drying. Keep the sweet potatoes and carrots separate from the rest of the vegetables when you’re cutting, since they’ll require an extra step.
- Blanch the sweet potatoes and carrots in boiling water before grilling for just a few minutes, so they do not take a lot longer to cook than the rest of the vegetables. Plunge into an ice bath, drain well, and blot to dry with paper towels.
- Heat your grill on medium for about 10 minutes (if using a gas grill) or wait until the charcoal is good and hot, and has a generous coating of ash. Make sure the grill grates are clean, and brush with a light coating of oil. If you don’t have access to a grill, you can cook your vegetables in the oven instead. Preheat to 425°F.
- In a large bowl, drizzle the carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, and cauliflower with a few tablespoons of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat, then place the vegetables on the grill, or a metal baking sheet.
- Cooking times can vary according to your cooking method, and how crispy or caramelized you prefer them to be. Don’t forget to turn them every once in a while so they cook evenly, and remove cooked vegetables from the grill to a covered serving dish as you continue to grill the rest. If roasting in the oven, toss the sheet about halfway through cooking to ensure that the vegetables are browned on all sides.
- Let the vegetables cool for a few minutes before adding to the salad, so you don’t wilt the spinach.
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until well combined.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. If it’s too acidic, add more oil; if it’s not acidic enough, add more lemon or lime juice.
- Place the raw spinach and red onion in a large bowl. Add the cooled vegetables to the bowl.
- Pour the dressing on top, and add the toasted sunflower seeds. Toss and serve immediately.
Tip: You'll want to use freshly ground pepper. Grinding your own peppercorns rather than using the pre ground stuff brings the flavor to a whole new level.
Enjoy this wonderful, warm, nutrient packed and flavorful salad, and don’t be afraid to serve it as a main dish – especially on one of those busy nights, or when you’re gathered with family and friends in the backyard and you want to join in the fun, rather than letting the meal prep dominate.
If you truly savored this recipe, make sure to also give our roasted rosemary carrots with honey glaze a little taste!
And if you want another hearty salad fit for a main dish, try our recipe for a classic Greek salad, served with feta cheese and an herb-packed dressing!
Let us know about your experiences, and any variations that you’ve come up with, in the comments section.
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Photos by Kendall Vanderslice, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Additional writing and editing contributed by Kendall Vanderslice and Allison Sidhu.
About Lori Jo Hendrix
Lori was born in southern California and currently resides in Mexico. She is an actress and model who also writes in the fields of nutrition, wellness, and cuisine. Her passions include working as a volunteer with various groups in the rescue and rehabilitation of orphaned and injured animals.
11 thoughts on “Grilled Vegetable Salad with Parsley Dressing”
Why are you making me hungry? It’s not time to eat yet. Now, I know what I would like to have though!
I’ll probably have to wait until the weekend for my husband to do some grilling (that’s his domain), but I’ll be ready with lots of fresh veggies. Yum.
This sounds really tasty and healthy,. I’ll have to make a batch for all the kids.
LOL, I am getting hungry as well. I am so happy you are going to try the recipe soon.
Enjoy your family grill!
@Zyni I feel you, I just ate breakfast, but this salad looks and sounds totally amazing! I’ve roasted vegetables for a salad before, but I’ve never thought about adding butternut squash or sweet potatoes to it, and that parsley dressing sounds like it would be good with fish.
I used the butternut squash and sweet potatoes because of the sweetness they contain after roasting and the flat leaf Italian parsley compliments them very well and yes the dressing would be excellent with fish.
You could marinade the fish in it, put the fish in a foil pouch, add a little more into the pouch and cook it in the oven, yummy!
This looks so good, I love that you actually added the dressing recipe, sometimes that’s the key to a lot of meals.
And when it comes to variations, I think that it would be a good idea to put some olives and maybe some slices of cucumber when we finish making the salad, I think that it would add a refreshing touch, and I’m also a big fan of those two veggies, so that’s an extra! 😉
The cucumber sounds nice and refreshing. I never thought of olives. Please let me know if you try the olives and as you probably already know, buy the ones with the seeds still in them. The ones without the seed taste like cardboard to me. I especially love black or greek olives. I could eat a whole tub of greek olives, no problem. Oh now I am craving them! Something to look for at this weekends farmers market. 🙂
Well I have to say that this looks like nutrient packed side dish that I just think I cannot afford to not have. When it comes to cooking for the family, we all know that vegetables can be a hard sell, especially for the little ones, but I have a feeling that the fact that they are grilled, and having the green dressing on the side, I think that they would like it a lot more, which means them eating more healthy, which is always a good thing. Thanks for sharing.
This is definitely kid friendly!
I came across this recipe last night and ended up printing it out.. went grocery shopping this morning and got all the stuff to make it.. I made it for our family a couple hours ago and OH MY GOSH!! We will definitely be making it as a regular part of our menus now! Thank you!
That makes me so happy! I am so glad you all loved it.
Thank you for your comment and you are welcome!
I really love the amount of color this salad has, it definitely looks nutritive, tasty and really nice. I am not a really big fan of salads, but this one is really making me change my mind about these, thank you for sharing this! Really appreciated.