Grilled Mexican Panzanella Salad with Chayote is a Latin inspired spin on the classic Tuscan bread salad. Grilled bread, corn, and chayote are combined with fresh tomatoes and queso fresco, and it all gets tossed with a yummy Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette!
Healthyish Mexican Food?
I would venture to guess if you love to cook Mexican food, you have heard of Rick Bayless? The Food Network icon has authored several cookbooks including 2 in my collection - Mexican Everyday and Authentic Mexican.
I love Bayless' fresh, healthyish approach to Mexican food. He emphasizes whole foods, chiles, fresh ingredients, and lots of flavor. His options go far beyond tacos, enchiladas, rellenos, and tamales. Yes, those delicious (not-so-healthy) dishes are beloved in the US, but Mexican food includes so much more... It is my aim to introduce my readers to new Mexican (Latin, global) dishes.
Back to Rick Bayless... I went looking for Mexican salads, and came across his
Chayote Salad with Tomato and Garlic Dressing. This was my "jumping off point."
About Chayote Squash
Chayote squash (aka mirliton) is from the family Cucurbitaceae. In the US, people are more familiar with eating only the fruit, but the stems, seeds, roots, and leaves are edible as well. They are typically treated similarly to summer squash.
Grilled Mexican Panzanella Salad with Chayote uses only the fruit. I look for younger fruit with smooth skins. If the skin is smooth, I don't peel them. While the seeds are edible, I have never eaten them. LOL.
Nutritionally speaking, chayote are low in calories (only 19 per 100 grams raw), it is a rich source of dietary fiber, magnesium, vitamin c, potassium, phosphorus, and choline. Its folate content makes it a great choice for pregnant women. It contains no cholesterol and no unhealthy fats. What are you waiting for?
For more on chayote squash, see this article...
Slice the chayote squash into 4 lengthwise sections. Using a sharp paring knife, remove the 1 large seed piece from each section.
Cut each section into 3-4 chunks. Toss with a little bit of sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and olive oil. Grill the chunks in a grill basket.
Making Grilled Mexican Panzanella Salad with Chayote
Because this salad is served room temperature, it's flexible. Most importantly, you want to toss the vinaigrette, grilled bread cubes, and veggies just prior to serving! The corn takes 15-20 minutes to grill (depending on size), and the squash about half that.
My Work Flow
Riffs on Grilled Mexican Panzanella Salad
- Omit the bread cubes and queso fresco, and add roasted peppers (poblano, anaheim, bell) for a gluten free and low calorie option
- Replace the chayote squash with zucchini or crook neck squash, and add fresh oregano and scallions
- For a winter version, try butternut squash sun dried tomatoes in place of the chayote squash and fresh tomatoes, with a red chile and roasted garlic vinaigrette like the one in my Grilled Mexican Steak and Arugula Salad.
This Mexican Panzanella Salad will serve 2 as a light supper or 4 as a side dish. Isn't it time to heat up that grill that has been idle for too long?
- 2 ears fresh corn, shucked
- sea salt, pepper, olive oil
- 1 chayote squash, cut in chunks (see post for more info)
- 1 ciabatta roll, cut in large cubes
- 1 large or 2 small heirloom or other flavorful tomatoes, cubed
- 2 ounces queso fresco, cut in cubes
Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- 1 (or 2) jalapeños, minced (remove stems and seeds!)
- 3 cloves garlic (roasted if possible)
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1 tablespoon sherry or white wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Mexican Panzanella Salad
- Preheat grill to medium-high.
- Lay each piece of corn on a sheet of foil large enough to wrap it up. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Wrap. Place on the grill. Turn after about 8-9 minutes. Our small corn was perfectly charred in about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, finish any prep and make the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette.
- Toss the chayote chunks with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Add to a grill basket, and grill until tender when pierced with a fork. Chunks should have some caramelization (grill marks). This may take about 10 minutes.
- When the chayote is done, using the same grill basket, grill the ciabatta cubes (stir regularly). They will cook quickly. Keep a close eye on them!
- When ciabatta, corn, and chayote are all grilled, toss them with the tomatoes, queso fresco, and desired amount of the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette.
The vinaigrette keeps well in the refrigerator for a week or so. We tend to go light on salad dressing, and only use part of it.
Feel free to substitute other summer squash, other vegetables, add avocados, etc.
Macronutrients are an approximation only from MyFitnessPal.com, and include about 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette.
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