FIRE UP THE (cast-iron) GRILL (pan)!

July 8, 2014 | Posted by Christine Sanchez

After a month of tasting and testing more burgers, fries, onion rings, and yes, even shakes than I ever should, followed by a weekend where rosé, fried clam bellies, hotdogs and homemade strawberry ice cream were abundant, a month of healthy grilling sounded just perfect to me.

Not wanting to wait until the weekend, Monday seemed as good a day as any to fire up the grill, and make a simple, light lunch for the office. The fact that our office is right in the heart of midtown Manhattan created a bit of a challenge but hey... one can always improvise, right?

My plan of attack was simple -- grill up a quick, healthy and light lunch on this 90º day. Veggies, fresh herbs, some chiles for a welcome kick and perhaps a grain for added protein. Grabbing some beautiful summer squash and bell peppers, some sweet 100 tomatoes, baby arugula, garlic, fresh ginger, serrano chile, bunches of mint, cilantro and basil as well as some bulk quinoa from my favorite market up the street, and one of Bobby’s cast-iron grill pans from Kohl’s (maybe not a true grill but they’re a great substitute nonetheless) and it was game on or shall I say... grill on!

I whisked together a quick marinade (tamari, ginger, onion, chiles, garlic, touch sugar) for the vegetables... one that would add lots of flavor with very few calories and no added fat.

While my vegetables were marinating, I cooked the quinoa (boiling salted water, 2 cups water to one cup quinoa) until all the water is absorbed, about 10 - 12 minutes. Transfer cooked quinoa to a large bowl, fluff with a fork to separate the grains, add lots of chopped fresh herbs – I used a full bunch of mint and cilantro and a good handful of basil). Makes everything so fresh!

Veggies now marinated, are ready to grill! One rule of thumb when working with cast-iron is to let your pan get super hot, so preheat over high heat for at least 5 minutes before using. Since my marinade did not have oil, it was important to add some to the pan itself (I chose canola). A pastry brush works great for this. At this point let me stress that whenever you are grilling inside you always want to have adequate ventilation. See footnote.*

The actual grilling part is simple: remove the veggies from the marinade (reserving liquid for later), season both sides with salt and pepper and place them on the grill. Cook them for a few minutes, until the bottom is lightly golden brown and slightly charred, turn once and continue to cook in the same manner, about 8-10 minutes total. Remove to a platter, and let them cool a bit.

Once your veggies are cool enough to handle, cut them into bite-size pieces. The rest is easy. Toss everything together, season with salt and pepper, and add some of the marinade liquid to help dress the salad.

Arrange the salad nicely on a large platter (I added some baby arugula and scattered some chopped cashews and halved tomatoes about) and dig in!

No waiting until the weekend needed. Grilling starts now ... while getting your work done, too.

* Smoking out your office mates can sometimes result in bouts of coughing, waving of file folders and possibly even a sheet pan. However, once the smoke clears, they come around and eventually gobble up everything.