Grilled Asparagus and Red Pepper Salad with Shaved Parmesan

Two of the kids disappeared to their friends' cottages for the long weekend so we were footloose and fancy-free and hardly knew what to do with ourselves. The teen entertained himself and kept busy so Q and I were able to get gardening done and other stuff around the house uninterrupted. He's almost at the peak of his Ironman training, which meant an easy six-hour bike ride followed by a one-hour run, so that consumed most of Sunday. Unfortunately he ran into technical issues on the bike so it ended up being just five hours instead of the full six (slacker) and we almost had to send out search-and-rescue to teams to Stouffville for sympathy pickup, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't make a huge difference in the greater scheme of things. Since we were kid-free, we ate out for an unprecedented three nights in a row (lots of carb-loading for him)... memories of long ago when we did this more often. Nice break from the cooking but by Monday I was ready to get back in the kitchen.

Between thundershowers, we grilled some steaks and I threw together this fantastic salad to go along with it. The grilled asparagus, red pepper and croutons all added real warmth, meatiness and substance and we didn't need any other side dish to go along with it. And we all took seconds... high praise indeed.

serves 2 to 3 dinner salads

1 recipe salad dressing, below

1 red bell pepper

1 pound asparagus

6 to 8 cups mixed salad greens

store-bought or homemade croutons

shaved parmesan

salt and pepper

Make the salad dressing. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Meanwhile, heat the grill to hot. Grill the bell pepper until it's well blackened. Place it in a paper bag and close the top. Steam for 5 to 10 minutes until the skin is easily removed. Skin the bell pepper. Strain pepper juice into the salad dressing. Remove the stem and seeds and slice into thin strips.

Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus. Coat with a little dressing and grill until done to taste. Slice asparagus into thirds.

Wash, dry and place the greens onto 2 to 3 plates. Top with red pepper slices, asparagus, croutons and salt and pepper. Using a vegetable peeler, slice off strips of parmesan onto the salad. Shake the dressing and drizzle over the salads.

Garlic Basil Dressing and Marinade

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

juice of grilled red pepper, optional

Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl, drizzling the olive oil in last.

Rest of the week

May 20, 21 and 22 Three consecutive dinners out (woo hoo!)

May 23 Grilled steaks with asparagus and red pepper salad


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