Friday, June 20, 2014

Grilled Caesar Salad

Before we go any further:  Yes, you grill the lettuce.  Say what?!  I first encountered this recipe at an Italian restaurant in our neighborhood a few years back.  It was a revelation—you can grill lettuce! And  instead of making it nasty and squishy, just a tiny bit of char adds so much flavor and texture as to change the whole dish!  Then I saw the idea again in a magazine last week and, that was it, I had to try it at home.  (Okay – I made my husband do the actual grilling.  But I supervised, I promise!)
The dressing comes together in a snap in the food processor (or you can do it old-school in a wooden salad bowl with a fork, but I find it is hard on my forearms!)  The only ingredient you may not have is anchovy paste.  It’s pretty cheap and lasts forever in your fridge, and it adds that “umami” flavor you can’t get anywhere else.  It’s also great in spaghetti sauce, if you’re worried you won’t make a lot of Caesar salad.  This dressing also calls for a raw egg yolk.  I would highly recommend buying the highest quality eggs you can find – check your local farmer’s market – or at least getting organic, free-range, or both.  (If you are immunosuppressed you could substitute a spoonful of store-bought mayonnaise, but it’s just not the same.)  Also, you’ll notice there are no croutons on my plate.  We almost never eat bread, but if croutons are your thing, go ahead and pile them on!
This salad was a side dish to a dinner of grilled steaks and grilled veggies.  Feel free to chop up some grilled chicken and make it a whole meal!  For a side dish, plan on one half of a head of lettuce per person.  If you are making it the main dish, serve a whole head of lettuce per person.  Curious?  Let’s go!
Grilled Caesar Salad
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • croutons and grated parmesan cheese to serve
  1. Prepare the dressing:  In a food processor, blend together the garlic, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, egg yolk, anchovy paste,  and lemon juice.  Blend in 1/4 cup of oil.  Taste to see if you like the consistency.  If you want it more diluted, add more oil.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Prepare the lettuce:  Slice it vertically down through the core.  You have two long halves now.  Wipe with a dry paper towel.  The lettuce needs to be completely dry or else it will stick and wilt.  No washing it, no oiling it!  Place the lettuce on the grill, cut side down, for 2 minutes without moving it.  With tongs, take it off the grill and lay it grilled-side up on a plate.  Don’t cover it or it will get soggy.  Drizzle with dressing, and add croutons or grated cheese to serve.  Eat it now!

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