I have to admit that I didn’t think up grilled salads all on my own. There are many versions out there, some more complicated, and many using different ingredients. I like to keep this to the most basic elements – fresh, crisp romaine, a flavorful vinaigrette and some salty cheese.
Perhaps you haven’t yet run across this idea yet, in which case, you might be thinking that I have lost my mind, but rest assured – grilling lettuce is not crazy! When you begin with a nice crispy head lettuce, it stays nice and crisp, with the grill just charring the cut edges and adding a dimension of flavor that is amazingly rich and satisfying. Romaine doesn’t have a lot of bitter notes to begin with, but those that exist are smoothed right out and mellowed beautifully.
Last summer, my Mom came to stay with us for part of the summer, and like nearly anyone would be, she was a little skeptical of this idea – until she tasted it that is. She asked me to make it again before she went back home, and since then, she has been making it herself. In fact, I have served this to a few other guests as well, and every one of them has gone home and made it themselves – it is that easy and that good!
Earlier this spring, after years of using only a gas grill, we decided to switch back to charcoal, and we are really glad we made that switch. A gas grill is definitely easier, and faster [though with a charcoal chimney, it a lot faster to start charcoal than you might think!] but the flavor when you do this over charcoal is absolutely beyond amazing.I made a sherry vinegar vinaigrette, and used Asiago cheese, but use whatever you like best or have on hand – regular classic or balsamic vinaigrette, Romano or Parmesan cheese. Or maybe try it with my Chive Lemon Vinaigrette – that would be really good with any of those cheeses.
- ¼ cup sherry vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, mashed to a paste
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 5 coarse grinds of fresh black pepper
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 large romaine hearts
- a couple tablespoons olive oil
- kosher salt & fresh black pepper
- about ½ ounce shaved or grated Asiago cheese
- Whisk together the vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper, until the salt is completely dissolved.
- Whisk in dribbles of the olive oil until the vinaigrette emulsifies, and set aside. You can make this earlier in the day and let it sit at room temperature to blend the flavors.
- Preheat the grill
- Trim the outer leaves from the heads of romaine, and remove just the very end of the core, leaving the rest of it intact to hold the lettuce together during grilling.
- Cut each head in half lengthwise, taking care to keep the halves together neatly.
- Lay the halves on a cutting board or large platter and brush all surfaces, both the cut sides and outer sides, with the olive oil.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Lightly oil the grill [hold a paper towel with tongs, dip in small bowl of oil and brush over grill surface].
- Place romaine heads, cut side down on the grill, pressing lightly to make sure entire surface is making contact with the hot surface.
- Grill for 2 to 3 minutes, and gently lift a corner to see how charred it is - you want browned, not blackened. When they are done to your liking on the first side, turn them over and grill that side for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from the grill - I just put them back on the cutting board.
- Arrange on a serving plate, or individual plates. Scatter cheese over top and drizzle with vinaigrette - serve immediately.
See – isn’t that like the easiest thing ever, ever, ever?You know it is!