In winter, basically the only way I cook vegetables is by roasting. In the summer, I’m all about grilling. I’ve yet to find a vegetable that isn’t made more delicious by tossing it on the grill. Plus, the grill marks are just so damn pretty. The summer produce is coming in hot right now and this grilled summer vegetable quinoa salad takes full advantage.
It started with a desire to grill some eggplant, which is easily my favorite way to cook eggplant. Then I thought “hmm, toss it with some quinoa.” Then it kind of got out of control from there as I raided my fridge for any grillable vegetables I could find. I topped it with a mix of chopped mint and oregano, plus some pistachios for added crunch. And the tahini dressing? Just trust me, you’ll want to eat it straight with a spoon.
Why I Like This Recipe
It’s chock full of antioxidants (as you’ll see below). It’s nutrient dense and almost ridiculously delicious. It supports healthy digestion. And it makes the most of the gorgeous summer produce coming into season.
Eggplants are high in fiber, meaning they’re good for digestion. They also have a high number of antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, and could help control blood sugar, reduce the risk of heart disease, and fight cancer.
Zucchini are also high in antioxidants, including lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. They benefit digestion because of their high water and fiber content. They can also help control blood sugar, promote heart health, and may strengthen your vision.
Asparagus is, once again, high in antioxidants (seeing a pattern here?), particularly the flavonoids quercetin, isorhamnetin and kaempferol. The antioxidants and the other nutrients in asparagus have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and have antiviral and anticancer effects. Oh yeah, and it also helps promote healthy digestion.
Herbs are my not-so-secret weapon to taking any dish over the top. Not only do herbs provide tons of flavor for almost zero additional calories, basically all herbs are nutrient-dense superfoods.
Quinoa is, as usual, one of my favorite grain salad bases. Its mild, nutty flavor complements basically any dish. It holds up extremely well to meal prep. And it’s one of the few complete plant proteins. I opted for yellow quinoa in this dish so the vegetables could take center stage visually but any quinoa would work just as well.
It’s completely customizable. I used the vegetables that looked particularly good to me at the time but this recipe would work with whatever vegetables you prefer and have on hand. The only thing that would change is the grilling time, so watch the vegetables closely and adjust accordingly. You can also use any kind of soft herbs you like and any nuts.
It’s perfect for meal prep. This summer vegetable quinoa salad is just as delicious room temperature as it is warm. Leftovers store well in the fridge for a few days and the flavors combine nicely as it sits, making the leftovers just as tasty.
Grilled Summer Vegetable Quinoa Salad
- 1 medium eggplant
- 1/2 medium red onion
- 2 small zucchini
- 1/2 bunch asparagus (about 1/2 pound)
- 1/4 cup avocado oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 handful soft fresh herbs (oregano, mint, parsley, basil… anything)
- 1/4 cup roasted, salted pistachios
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 1 teaspoon mustard (dijon and brown work best)
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup yellow quinoa
- 1 cup water
- Prep vegetables by slicing eggplant and onion into ½-inch rounds, zucchini into ½-inch rounds on an angle, cutting asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Place the eggplant slices in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt. Allow eggplant to sit for 30 minutes so the salt can pull some of the bitterness out. Rinse with cold water and pat dry.
- While waiting for the eggplant, prep the dressing, nuts, and herbs. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, mustard, paprika, and garlic in a small jar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fasten lid and shake vigorously to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Roughly chop the herbs and nuts and set aside.
- Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse with cold water. Place quinoa in a medium saucepan with water and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Allow quinoa to cook for about 20 minutes, until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Fluff with a fork then replace the lid and set aside.
- Preheat grill to high heat for about 15 minutes. Spread sliced vegetables on a large tray and brush with avocado oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill vegetables over high heat. The asparagus will only take 2-4 minutes to cook through. The eggplant, zucchini, and onion will take about 3-5 minutes per side, depending on the heat of your grill. Depending on the size of your grill, you may have to do this in batches. As the vegetables finish cooking, simply remove them from the grill onto a plate and keep cooking until the rest of the vegetables are done.
- Allow grilled vegetables to cool slightly so you can handle them. Roughly chop all vegetables into large-ish bite-sized pieces.
- In a large bowl, add quinoa, grilled vegetables, half of the dressing, and half of the nuts and herbs. Toss to combine. Top with more dressing and the rest of the nuts and herbs.
- This grain salad is great warm, room temperature, or even cold. Leftovers keep well in the fridge for a few days.