Now that we’ve made grilled lettuce, we’re wondering why we had never done lettuce this way before. It’s like eating a candy bar with a fork and knife. Sure you could eat it with your hands…but if you want to sell the Yankees on supporting a PBS pledge drive, maybe do it classy. And this is some classy a** lettuce.Jump to Recipe
It never occurred to us to grill lettuce before. We had grilled other vegetables plenty of times, but never lettuce. And then I nonchalantly stated that “fried lettuce sounds gross” in my Mini-Eggplant Roasted “Fries” article, and exposed my lack of imagination. My sister-in-law luckily read the post and sent us this recipe for grilled romaine from NYT Cooking. She was right, we just did NOT know what we were missing. So now, we are going to share this with you. Welcome to fancy town.
Even if you are opposed to grilling your lettuce, this recipe is worth a look for the dressing alone. I could probably put this stuff in a to-go cup and drink it like a smoothie throughout the day. Its creamy texture is balanced out with hints of tart from the dijon and vinegar. If you are going to try it, though, you might as well grill up some greens and get the full experience. The unexpected warmth of the caramelized lettuce does really make this dressing shine.
This worked out especially well because, right now, we are actually up to our eyeballs in lettuce. Our community garden plot is pumping out the greens like no one’s business. And in the indoor garden, we always have some lettuce that is just starting to go south and needs to get eaten. So if you’re like us, flush with greens and not wanting to choke it all down raw, give this a try. The grill elevates a boring salad into something you’d find in an upscale steak house, dripping in dijon luxury.
In the NY times original recipe, the dressing is a bit like a caesar, and it even includes anchovies. I appreciate that anchovies can add a huge amount of umami to a dish, but we think they are rather gross. Since we are also (conveniently) vegetarians, we just left them out. We followed the above recipe to the letter the first time, other than the gross anchovies of course, and our lettuce actually turned out pretty soggy. We also tried it with several different lettuce varieties from the garden, and romaine was the only one that held up on the grill. The smaller, artisanal, lettuce heads sort of sogged-out and shredded themselves down into the grill.
To sum up the original version, you basically put a light coat of oil on the lettuce and then grill until it’s just golden. Then you add the dressing, getting it between the leaves with a paintbrush or a small spoon. The lettuce stays on the cool side of the grill, covered, just long enough to soften the lettuce a bit more and melt the cheese. We must have either heated it too long or added too much dressing, because our dish turned out very soggy the first time. But the dressing was so good, it was hard to show any kind of classy restraint.
So our version of this recipe has just a couple of tweaks. We leave out the anchovies of course. We spritz the lettuce with a light oil, grill it until it’s lightly golden, and then take it completely off the grill. Then at the table, we add the dressing into all the nooks and crannies, sprinkle the parmesan on top and serve it right away. We’ve grilled them this way the last few times and it has allowed our lettuce to stay crispy and bright and still hold plenty of dressing. But if you’re using a strong back-boned, store-bought romaine, you could really do it either way, as long as you don’t heat the lettuce too long!
If you are using a smaller type of lettuce like the Salanova Baby Leaf lettuce, or any bibb lettuce variety, you may also want to use a Grill Grate. These little plates help conduct heat evenly and sear like you’ve never seen on a gas grill, but they are not cheap. A more economically-friendly solution would be to get a grilling vegetable pan like this one from Weber. These are very helpful for grilling any type of vegetable, especially peppers and onions, that would tend to fall through the grates.
So there it is. Grilled lettuce. Who knew lettuce could be such a classy a** dish?
Grilled Lettuce with a Dijon-Mayo Vinaigrette.Course: Dinner, SaladsCuisine: VegetarianDifficulty: Easy
A decadent spin on a classic, the dressing is addictive. Adapted from NYT Cooking.
- To make the Dressing:
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 small shallots, diced fine
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
½ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
salt and pepper (to taste)
- For the Salad:
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup Parmesan, grated
2 heads of greens (romaine is what they suggested and seems to hold together best on the grill), cut lengthwise
- We make this on a gas grill. We simply turn half the grill on high, put down the top, and leave it to heat up for 15 minutes while preparing the dressing. Then, when you are ready to cook, turn the heat to medium. You could also do this over an open fire while camping, or over charcoal, which seems to make everything taste amazing.
- To make the dressing, add the garlic and shallots into a medium sized bowl. Using a fork, mix them together throughly. Then, add the mustard and vinegar and mix well, again with a fork or even a whisk, to form an emulsion. Then add the mayo and olive oil, continuing to whisk vigorously. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Spritz the lettuce with oil on all sides. Grill the lettuce directly over the hot heat for 15 to 20 seconds on each side, until they are nicely charred. Then, remove them from the grill. Using a pastry brush, paint the dressing on to the lettuce, getting plenty into the nooks and crannies. Then lightly sprinkle on the parmesan cheese and serve immediately.