When I lived in Chicago, I had access to a great rooftop deck where we grilled on a regular basis; well, at least the few months out of the year that were actually warm enough to grill. Now that I’ve relocated to DC, the weather is consistently better, but unfortunately I no longer have access to that great rooftop deck, or room in my less than spacious (800-square foot) apartment to store a grill, or, more importantly, access to a grill (the one from Chicago didn’t make the move). After a year of moaning about a lack of outdoor space, I decided to try out a cast iron grill pan for my stove top. Although a bit skeptical at first, I plunked down my money nonetheless. And, I must say, this pan works really well, better than expected; not quite a substitute for the a grill, but not a bad alternative for city dwellers living in tight spaces.
Excited about my new find, I started with an assortment of grilled vegetables — corn, zucchini, squash, green beans, okra, eggplant, peppers. Hmm, what other veggies can I grill? Even leafy greens, like kale, grill up nicely. As you can see from the photos, you can achieve a nice char and grill marks right in your own kitchen. As an added bonus, it only takes about 5 minutes for the pan to get sizzling hot.
Now that I have a nice assortment of veggies grilled up, assembling this salad is a snap. Prepared wild rice for the base of my salad, toasted up a medley of mixed nuts in a dry skillet for a nice added crunch, and whipped together a quick fish sauce vinaigrette.
Fish sauce (or nam pla) is an essential ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking. If you’re not familiar with it, don’t be put off by its pungent odor (it’s made from fermented anchovies after all). However, once you whisk all the vinaigrette ingredients together, the flavor of the fish sauce is much less pronounced. The flavor from the fish sauce is evident in the vinaigrette, though balanced out by with the other ingredients. The vinaigrette is at once sweet, sour, and spicy (depending on the amount of Thai chiles you add) — and highly addictive.
Love this time of year — an assortment of (mild-to-medium heat) peppers and sweet corn, waiting to be grilled…
Thai basil, a member of the anise family, brings strong licorice flavors (if you can’t find Thai basil, substitute with the more commonly available green sweet basil)…
Long, slender Japanese eggplant, summer squash, zucchini, okra….
A few toasted pecans, walnuts, and slivered almonds provide a nice crunch. And, sauteed a few garlic scapes and added them to the wild rice…
Roasted Vegetable Salad
12-14 greens beans
2 summer squash/zucchini, cut into 1-inch strips
2 ears of corn, shucked
2 Japanese eggplant, cut into 1-inch strips
3-4 mild-medium heat peppers
4-5 kale leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups wild rice (3 cups cooked)
4-5 garlic scapes, finely chopped (optional) (can substitute chives, scallions)
Thai basil leaves and flowers for garnish
Mint leaves for garnish
1/3 cup toasted nuts (such as pecans, walnuts, slivered almonds)
Fish sauce vinaigrette (recipe below)
Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Toss the vegetables lightly in olive oil, season with salt and pepper. When the pan is very hot, grill the vegetables in batches. When nicely charred and tender, remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside. When cool enough to handle, cut the okra in half lengthwise, cut the green beans into 1-inch pieces, cut the kernels off the cob, and slice the peppers into thin strips.
Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add a few teaspoons olive oil and saute the garlic scapes (if using) a few minutes until tender. Add to the cooked wild rice.
Layer the wild rice in a large bowl/platter. Top with the grilled vegetables. Garnish with basil and mint leaves. When ready to serve, pour the vinaigrette over the grilled vegetables, and top with the toasted nuts.
Fish Sauce Vinaigrette
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon palm sugar or brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1-2 Thai chiles, thinly sliced (they’re quite hot)
Whisk all the vinaigrette ingredients together. Taste and adjust accordingly.