Grilled Summer Squash and Asparagus Salad
At the first Meatwave of 2022 back in the spring, I had two things in excess on hand that I needed to find uses for—lemons and herbs. That meant many of my recipes I devised that day featured both of those things and that's how this grilled summer squash and asparagus salad came into being. I needed some sort of side dish for the meal, and making a lemon-based dressing became the first criteria, then I went all in on the seasonal bounty by pairing that up with asparagus, zucchini, yellow squash, grape tomatoes, and feta that formed into a pleasant dish to kick off both spring and the grilling season.
Since the dressing was my starting point, it makes sense to begin the recipe journey there. As I already mentioned, the immediate need was for me to utilize lemons and herbs, of which I put orgeano and mint in here. Then to complete the dressing equation I added extra-virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, and garlic. I've always liked a little crushed red pepper with my grilled summer squash, so I used that to round out the seasoning along with the standard salt and black pepper.
Prepping the veggies was quick work here because I wanted to mostly keep them large for easy of grilling. That meant merely snapping off the tough ends of the asparagus, and cutting the squash into 1/2-inch thick slices lengthwise. I then put them all on a large sheet pan and tossed everything with oil, salt, and pepper.
For clarity in the final recipe, I divided up the grilling of the asparagus and squash, but if you're impatient like me, and have a large enough grill, you can certainly grill everything at once to cut down the time of this already fairly fast recipe. For the asparagus, the most important thing is just placing the spears perpendicular to the grates so they don't slip through and fall victim to a fiery death. Other than that, I just gave them a turn every minute or so and took them off once they were tender and starting to char in spots.
The asparagus cooked just slightly faster than the squash, whose doneness I judged by a combination of browning and a crisp-tender consistency. This required a little more oversight than the asparagus since the squash can both over brown and soften quite quickly once they've started to do both. So I kept a more watchful eye on the slices, flipping them regularly and removing each just as they were done.
With everything off the grill and on a cutting board, I sliced all the veggies into 1/2-inch pieces and transferred them to a large bowl. Then, in went the dressing, halved grape tomatoes, and the feta and I tossed everything together to evenly distribute and coat. I gave a final taste to ensure no more salt or pepper was needed, then moved the salad into a serving dish and set it out for my guests.
I had actually finished this salad about fifteen minutes before anybody showed up, so I got taste the salad both while hot and more at a room temperature, and it performed well at both points. Hot off the fire, the salad had a bit more of a grilled character, but that trait persisted in a mellowed state when cooled. The bright citrusy tang tasted at home with all of the vegetables, with the herbal notes adding a subtle depth and an additional element of freshness. The grilled veggies were quite soft, which made the introduction of the more firm tomatoes pretty key to the textural success, while the feta added pockets of saltiness that maybe were a tad too intense when you hit a larger bit. Overall though, this salad checked a lot of boxes: used up some of my lemons and herbs, was fitting side for the menu that day, and tasted like an appropriate entry point into spring and summer grilling.
Grilled Summer Squash and Asparagus Salad
- Yield 6 servings
- Prep 15 Minutes
- Cook 10 Minutes
- Total 25 Minutes
- For the Dressing
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeeze lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the Vegetables
- 1 lb asparagus, tough ends removed
- 2 large zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch strips lengthwise
- 2 large yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch strips lengthwise
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- For the Salad
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- To make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mint, oregano, mustard, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- To make the vegetables: Place vegetables in a large bowl or on a large sheet pan. Drizzle on oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss vegetables to evenly coat in oil and seasoning.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place asparagus on grill, perpendicular to the grates, and cook until tender and lightly charred, about 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Transfer asparagus to a cutting board and slice into roughly 1/2-inch pieces.
- Place zucchini and yellow squash slices on grill and cook, flipping occasionally, until well browned and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes total. Transfer squash to a cutting board and cut into roughly 1/2-inch cubes.
- To assemble the salad: Transfer all vegetables to a large bowl. Add in feta, tomatoes, and dressing and toss to evenly distribute. Transfer salad to a serving bowl and serve immediately or at room temperature.