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.
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.
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.
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.
Don’t forget to Pin It!
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.