Don't you love it when someone makes a pretty, thoughtful salad for you? I'm usually in such a hurry that, if I do make a salad for lunch or a solo dinner, it involves haphazardly tossing a bunch of ingredients in a bowl and drizzling them with balsamic vinegar and then olive oil (because who has the 20 seconds that it takes to make a proper vinaigrette?)
The salad ends up being fine. I mean, it suits its purpose in the sense that it makes me less hungry. Honestly, it usually ends up being a C- salad, with too much balsamic vinegar that stings my taste buds and essentially masks the flavor of every other ingredient.
Which doesn't make me very happy. You know what does make me happy? A pretty salad with a well-balanced, zesty vinaigrette.
I usually end up wishing that I had taken a bit more time preparing a meal that is as appealing to the eye as it is to the palate. I think I at least owe that to myself, right? Right.
With this recipe, I've officially turned over a new lettuce leaf. Inspired by the abundance of fresh basil that we've had in our garden (who knew basil grows so well in the desert?), this salad has "summer" written all over it. Rows of grilled peaches, corn, asparagus, potatoes, and mushrooms lie next to ripe tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella atop a bed of mixed greens. The vinaigrette is a lemony basil pesto: something that is just as good spread on a turkey sandwich as it is tossed in a salad (which is why this recipe makes enough for leftovers.)
The result is a vibrantly-colored, healthy salad that would be a lovely al fresco lunch and dinner entree or a popular side dish for your next picnic or barbecue. I ate it for lunch and dinner the day that I made it. So, technically, this salad was so delicious that it actually ended up saving me prep time in the long run. That means it's a keeper.
Do yourself a favor and make this pretty, delicious salad and addictive pesto vinaigrette. I promise, you'll be happy you did.
This summery salad is twist on the traditional Cobb, incorporating grilled vegetables such as sweet corn, asparagus and potatoes, juicy grilled peaches, fresh mozzarella and a lemony pesto vinaigrette. The beautiful presentation makes it a great healthy option for entertaining or for a vegetarian supper.
- 2-1/2 cups (625 mL) packed fresh basil leaves
- 5 large cloves garlic
- 3/4 cup (175 mL) olive oil
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) lightly toasted pine nuts
- 1 cup (250 mL) grated parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) red wine or champagne vinegar
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) lemon juice
- 1/2 bunch asparagus
- 10-12 red potatoes or fingerling potatoes, halved
- 1 large ear of sweet corn, husk removed
- 2 portobello mushroom caps, stemmed
- 2 large ripe but firm peaches, pitted and halved
- Olive oil, salt and pepper
- 6-8 cups fresh mixed greens
- 3 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Fresh mozzarella cheese (I used the small round Ciliegine variety, but any variety will do.)
- Fresh basil leaves, torn
- Make the vinaigrette: Place the basil in the work bowl of a food processor. Add the garlic and pulse enough times to roughly chop. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream down the feed tube, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Add the pine nuts, parmesan, salt, and pepper and puree, until well blended and smooth.
- Add the vinegar and lemon juice and blend until smooth. If necessary, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the vinaigrette has reached your desired consistency. Cover and chill until ready to use.
- Heat a gas or charcoal grill over medium-hot heat.
- On a large sheet tray, toss the asparagus. potatoes. corn and mushrooms with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Brush the cut sides of the peaches with olive oil.
- Using a flat grill pan or a professional grill pan (something that keeps small pieces from falling through the grill grates), grill the asparagus and potatoes until they are lightly charred and tender. The asparagus will take much less time than the potatoes, so remove them to a foil-line sheet pan when they are done.
- Grill the corn directly on the grill grates, turning occasionally, until the kernels are lightly charred and tender.
- Grill the portobello mushrooms, turning once, until the juices start to release and the surfaces are lightly charred and very tender.
- Grill the peaches, cut sides down, just until there are light grill marks on the surfaces and they are warmed through, 3-4 minutes.
- As the vegetables are finished grilling, transfer them to the foil-lined tray. Allow them to cool for at least 10 minutes before continuing (if they are too warm, they will wilt the spinach.)
- Using a serrated knife, cut the corn kernels from the corn. Cut the peaches into thick wedges, and thinly slice the portobello mushrooms. Cut the asparagus into 1-2 inch pieces.
- Assemble the salad: Fill the bottom of a large serving bowl with the mixed greens. Working in rows, arrange the corn, asparagus, potatoes, mozzarella, tomatoes, peaches and mushrooms across the top of the greens. Sprinkle the basil leaves on top.
- Serve the salad, passing the vinaigrette on the side.