I’ve been trying to recall where I first ate grilled romaine. I remember the salad itself, and my surprise and delight at the preparation. It was a Caesar salad, bright with lemon and smoky from the grill, a little shriveled and blackened on the ends. I think it was at the brilliant – and sadly departed – Joseph’s Table in Taos. It was certainly good enough to stand out, even in such a vaunted dining spot.
But, you may be asking, grilled salad? How can that possibly work?
The answer is that you aren’t grilling the salad, exactly, but the romaine hearts that form its base. Hearts of romaine love the heat of the grill. The dark-green outside leaves get slightly blackened, wilted and smoky; the firm yellow inside softens slightly and turns juicy without losing its crunch. A grilled romaine salad makes a wonderful summer supper, being somehow light and hearty at the same time.
I’m not going to give you a “recipe” here – all you need is the method. Start with some romaine hearts (the ones sold in a plastic bag work fine, or you can strip the outer leaves from heads of romaine and set aside for another use) and halve them lengthwise. One head is a good amount for a full-meal salad; half a head works great for a side.
Brush a little olive oil on each romaine half and place on a medium-hot grill, cut side up. Grill for 2-3 minutes, until the leaves start to blacken and shrivel. Turn and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Plate and top with blue cheese, crumbled bacon, hard-boiled egg, sliced turkey or cubed chicken, and avocado. Serve with blue-cheese dressing or a simple vinaigrette.
Of course, once you’ve mastered the grilled romaine itself – and you’ll get it your first time out – the only limit to the salads you can create on this canvas is your imagination.
One last tip: You may want to serve this with steak knives. You can certainly tackle it with just a fork, but a knife simplifies matters.
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