Salads make the perfect dinner summer. They are light and refreshing and showcase the plentiful bounties of fresh summer produce. Plus, they very rarely involve cooking in the kitchen. Yet, another reason why salads are perfect for the summer–they keep the heat out of the kitchen!
I truly could eat a hearty salad everyday in the summer. Actually, I probably do eat a salad everyday in some form or another. The varieties of choices in ways to highlight produce within salads are endless, and that is one reason that I will never tire and am always inspired by recipes for fresh creations.
The recipe I am featuring today,Grilled Panzanella Salad with Chicken Sausage, is by far one of my favorite recipes. It is easy, versatile based on what you have in your fridge or garden, low fat, high protein, and utterly satisfying. Plus, my entire family devours this salad when it is placed on the dinner table and that just makes this Mom happy!
So let’s start with the basics:
I start with the most amazing chicken sausage I have ever had and am excited to tell you about–Thin & Trim Chicken Sausage. There is a variety of flavors but this one happens to be the Sweet Italian. And let me tell you, sausage is tricky at my house. My husband, as you well know, has a passion for his meat. I have a very serious reaction to anything with MSG (monosodium glutamate) in it and need to stay as far away as possible. Finding a good quality sausage without MSG is a very difficult task. It is even harder to find one without MSG and low fat that will please my carnivore. Well, the first time I sampled this sausage in this dish, my husband raved that it was the best chicken sausage he had ever had and took one of his already favorite dinners and heightened it to a new level–so there you go! You should be sold by now.
So once you obtain the sausage, take a look around at what you have on hand. You will need some sort of lettuce and bread and the ingredients for this amazing vinaigrette I am going to share, and the rest is icing on the cake and easily interchanged. When I made the salad this particular time, I had a few mini peppers, a zucchini, a vidalia onion, a few vine-ripened tomatoes, and a whole grain baguette. The last time I made it I had a jar of roasted red peppers, half a loaf of homemade Italian bread, and a pint of cherry tomatoes–both worked and I loved how each salad had a unique flavor that made an old recipe new again at my house.
Fire up that grill and get those ingredients seasoned with salt and pepper and let the flames bring the flavors of this salad to a whole new level of ridiculous!
Once the char has been given to the lovely array of ingredients you were working with, chop it all up to throw into some washed and dressed lettuce.
On a side note, I had an idea that I thought I was brilliant. I took my lettuce and put it into my salad spinner to evenly coat my lettuce with my vinaigrette. You can stop laughing now. You are probably thinking, “Crazy, Lady there are holes in the spinner–the dressing will fly through it.” Yep, that is what happened. Tongs work–and clean hands work wonders for tossing salads as well.
So avoid the spinner and toss your grilled ingredients with the dressed lettuce and some Parmesan cheese and there you have it, a fabulous meal fit for company, carnivores, dieters, children, and I think it’s even good enough to serve the Queen.
So onto the recipe: Remember I used what I had on hand. Don’t have any quality bread…what about pita chips or croutons? They work great to soak up a vinaigrette. Roast your peppers on the grill or open a jar of roasted peppers, or I don’t care–skip the peppers! Just use what you have and what you love. Use this recipe as a guide. But the vinaigrette, that is dynamite–you may not want to tweek it much.
- For the Viniagrette:
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp oregano, dried
- For the salad:
- 1 (10oz) package Thin and Trim Italian Chicken Sausages
- 1 zucchini, cut into vertical planks about ½ inch thick
- 1 cup sweet mini peppers
- 1 vidialia onion, sliced into ½" thick rounds
- 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 8 oz whole grain baguette (this is usually half a store bought loaf), cut into ½" slices
- 1 head of green leafy lettuce or romaine, washed, dried and cut into small chunks
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving (or omit for dairy-free)
- Prepare the vinaigrette by blending all the ingredients together, until well combined and capers have been broken down. Set to the side.
- Preheat grill to medium. Throw sausage on grill. Season zuchini, peppers, and onion with salt and pepper and place on grill. Place slices of bread on top rack of grill or on indirect heat. Close lid on grill and leave for 5 minutes. Flip veggies and bread and grill for another 3-4 minutes or until bread is toasted and veggies and sausages have nice grill marks evenly on both sides and are beginning to soften.
- Remove everything and dice up into small bite size chunks.
- Toss with lettuce, tomatoes, and vinaigrette.
- Grate fresh Parmesan over entire salad, Serve immediately or after 1 hour to allow bread to soften (I like it best right away!)