The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect (Healthy) Summer Spread series continues with more nutrient-packed recipes to keep you fueling amazing all summer long. This week Katie Shields, MS, RD of Honestly Nourished shares two easy summer sides—grilled zucchini ribbons with mint and the prettiest grilled heirloom tomato and onion salad you’ve ever seen. It’s a bold statement, but we think you’ll agree.
Typical barbecue side dishes like potato and pasta salad or grilled corn, while all delicious, are often calorically dense and nutrient poor. This summer, skip the usual fare and instead bring one these healthier seasonal sides. Both plant-based recipes are packed with flavor and essential nutrients to energize you for warm weather activities, games, and socializing and compliment any main dish. Let’s get to it!
These skewers take mere minutes to grill but they do require a small bit of prep work using a small mandolin or spiralizer (if you don’t, you definitely need to add one to your arsenal of kitchen tools!). If there are kids at your gathering, enlist their help with threading the ribbons onto wooden skewers (otherwise a friend will do just fine!). I promise that the final product is worth the initial effort. Once grilled, the zucchini ribbons will have a crispy crunch on the edges making for a delicious side. Plus, they are so much more unique looking compared to ordinary vegetable skewers.
Since zucchini is relatively bland, adding a dressing with a fresh herb like mint will enhance its appeal. Fresh mint has long been hailed as a health food for its digestive benefits. Oils in the leaves have been shown to reduce gastrointestinal distress due to its ability to relax smooth muscle tissue, which lines the stomach. Mint also contains rosmarinic acid, and antioxidant that inhibits allergy-inducing leukotrienes. Hence, consuming peppermint may help reduce or alleviate nasal allergies. Who knew? Science aside, mint is refreshing and its bright flavor will undoubtedly elevate the humble zucchini in this dish.
4 medium zucchini, washed with ends removed
2 garlic gloves, diced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice plus zest
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, whole
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. If using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them for up to 20 minutes prior to placing on the grill.
2. Using a spiralizer fitted with the ribbon or flat blade, spiralize zucchini into long ribbon-like strands. Alternatively, you may use a mandolin to cut zucchini into very thin slices.
3. Thread zucchini ribbons on the pre-soaked wooden skewers, adding a whole mint leaf at random intervals.
4. Lightly brush zucchini with olive oil and grill zucchini ribbons for 2-4 minutes, turning as needed. They will cook very fast so stay near the grill during this time!
5. Once the zucchini ribbons have a nice crispy char, remove from grill and place on a serving plate.
6. Prepare the dressing by combining chopped mint, lime juice, olive oil and salt and pepper in a small dish and drizzle over top. Enjoy!
Note: If you are not a fan of mint, simply brush grilled ribbons with olive oil, fresh lime juice and season with sea salt and pepper!
GRILLED HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALAD
Serves: 4-6 | Prep time: 5 minutes | Grill time: 10-15 minutes
This salad is a total showstopper starring the gorgeous heirloom tomato. The best way to tell if a tomato is ripe (and worth your money) is to give it a good sniff. A ripe tomato should have a very strong and appealing aroma. If you take whiff but can’t smell anything, keep looking. There really is nothing more disappointing then a bland tomato in the summer. Select tomatoes with the deepest red color as they contain the most lycopene. This powerful phytochemical’s potential health effects include reduced cancer and cardiovascular disease risk both of which are attributed to lycopene’s antioxidant function. Tomatoes also and excellent source of biotin and a good source of vitamin B6, niacin, folic acid, and fiber.
While less nutritious than the red tomato, other colors like green, yellow, and orange will make for a pretty salad so be sure to grab a few different ones for the novelty factor alone. When it comes to tomato size, bigger isn’t better. Smaller tomatoes pack more natural sugar and will be sweeter without really impact blood sugar levels as they are considered a low-glycemic fruit. The smaller tomatoes also contain heaps more vitamin C. If you can find an heirloom tomato known as a Red Pear, snatch it up! These beauties contain up to 27 times more lycopene than your average tomato. Try hitting up your local farmers market for the freshest produce.
1-2 cups organic heirloom cherry tomatoes
4-5 medium organic heirloom tomatoes, quartered
1 avocado, diced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
3 tbs pine nuts (or whatever nuts or seeds you like)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1lemon, juiced plus zest
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1. Heat grill to medium high and soak wooden skewers in water for at least 20 minutes before grilling.
2. Thread heirloom cherry tomatoes on skewers, brush with olive oil and arrange on grill. Place heirloom tomato quarters or halves directly onto grill and brush with olive oil. Grill heirloom cherry tomatoes until they begin to burst and collapse and until larger quartered tomatoes have a good char.
3. Grill red onion slices directly on grill, turning as needed until slightly translucent and charred.
4. While vegetables are cooking, prepare the dressing by whisking olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and salt in a small dish.
5. Allow vegetables to cool slightly and drain any water seeping from tomatoes before placing in a large serving bowl or platter.
6. Layer avocado, basil, and pine nuts on top of tomatoes, finishing with the red onions.
7. Pour dressing over salad right before serving and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Enjoy!
What are your favorite summer side dishes? How are you planning to celebrate the flavors of summer and grilling season this weekend? Share your plans and favorite recipes with us below! And be sure to check back next week for another simple (and healthy) recipe from Katie.