How-To: Grilled Lettuce

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GrilledSalad4 I can already see some people (ahem, my vegetarian-skeptic of an Uncle) rolling their eyes at the title of this post.  Some people in my family already think I’m nuts for ditching meat.  Now they probably believe I’ve just completely fallen off the bandwagon.  Grilling lettuce?  Really?  Why would you do that?  I know it seems a bit weird and not so tasty.  And I would have thought so too, that is, if it weren’t for my previous encounters with these crazy grilled up salads.  I’ll never forget that first bite… crunchy, smoky, charred, warm and delicious all in one giant mouthful!  Oh!  I was in love!

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You might still be thinking I’m kinda nuts, so let me explain what I mean when I say “grilled lettuce”.  I’m not talking about throwing a spinach leaf onto your grill.  No sir.  That would indeed be weird.  I’m talking about a nice sturdy head of romaine or radicchio,  something that won’t wilt away to nothing on the grill.  Romaine becomes smoky and wilted with a touch of charred sweetness, and radicchio becomes really tender and the bitterness turns into a delightful caramel flavor.  Grilling lettuce is not only amazing it makes salads exciting to eat.
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Since I know I’ve already totally convinced you on the wonders of grilled lettuce (OK maybe not totally, but close) I want to share some of my grilling insights.  Like I mentioned above, this is not suitable for all types of lettuce.  Plus, the method to this grilling madness is kinda specific.  So I’ve listed out some how-to tips and tricks so you can grill up the most amazing salad you’ll ever eat! Plus, I’ve also included my top favorite grilled salad recipe.  I highly suggest you try making.  Your taste buds will be doing a serious happy, happy dance!
radicchio, grilled salad
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How-To Grill Lettuce:

  • Choose the sturdy and heartier types of lettuce – like romaine, radicchio, treviso, endive, escarole, etc.  The lettuce needs to be able to hold up to grilling, yet still be able to soften up a bit.  But too sturdy, like cabbage, won’t be good either.  
  • Get your grill smoking hot!  Grilled lettuce is all about a quick sear.  You want those charred marks, yet you don’t want to turn the lettuce into mush-mush, so high heat is the way to go.
  • Oil ’em up.  Slice your lettuce into wedges or halves and make sure to rub them with olive oil liberally.  The worst thing besides mush-mush lettuce, is lettuce that gets glued onto your grill.  Been there, done that, not fun.
  • Cook quickly.  If you’re one of those people who wants dinner on the table in like 10 minutes, grilled salads are the way to go.  Even super hearty lettuces like radicchio only require about 30 seconds to a minute on each side.  Slice up and you’re ready to go in what?  5 minutes?  Can’t beat that.
  • Eat immediately!  This is key to maximize the flavor, taste and texture of your salad.  The warmth of the grilled lettuce will heat through your other salad components and help bring out any subtle flavors in your dressing.  Once it gets luke warm or cold…you just got limp leaves.

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Now that you got the techniques my grilled romaine and radicchio salad should be a cinch to make!  Here’s the recipe:

Grilled Romaine and Radicchio Salad w Creamy Herbed Dressing:
Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/3 low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup shredded basil
  • 1/4 cup shredded parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1 tsp agave nectar, honey or sugar
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard

Salad:

  • 1 large head of romaine, slice in half length wise
  • 1 small head of radicchio, sliced into 4-6 wedges (keep core in, it helps keep the lettuce together)
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 1 cup white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 3/4 cup sliced artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

Instructions

  1. For the salad dressing, add all ingredients into a food processor or blender.  Pulse/blend until thoroughly combined.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to dress salad.
  2. Preheat your grill or indoor grill pan to high heat.
  3. Rub each cut side of the romaine and radicchio with olive oil. Evenly sprinkle over the salt and pepper.
  4. In a large bowl add the arugula, white beans, tomatoes, goat cheese and artichoke hearts.  Toss gently to combine.
  5. Once grill has started smoking, gently lay on all the radicchio slices and romaine.  Flip after about 30 seconds-1 minute.  Lettuce should be dark brown and charred, but not burnt and wilted.
  6. When lettuce has finished cooking, roughly chop and add to the arugula and bean mixture.
  7. Add as much dressing as desire and toss to coat and combine all ingredients.  Serve immediately.

 

You tell me!  Have you ever tried grilled salads?  What’s your favorite type of salad?  What’s your favorite type of grilled veggie?

1 Comment

  1. carrian

    April 4, 2013 at 1:53 am

    PSH!!! You are genius for grilling it!

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