Grilled salad? I know, sounds weird doesn’t it? I was filled with a sense of disbelief and certainly some trepidation myself when I was first introduced to a salad with grilled Romaine lettuce a couple of years ago at the Snowmass Culinary and Arts Festival. The cooking demonstration by Diane Hendricks was fun but the best part was my first taste of that smoky, delicious salad with grilled Romaine. That salad was finished with a simple dressing and served on paper plates for a crowd but I learned something new and have since used the same technique to make this Grilled Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons on several occasions. Be forewarned…do NOT try this with iceburg or green/red leaf lettuces; OK?
I invited some friends to join me for dinner this past weekend and wanted it to be easy to prep and prepare so we could actually visit. Making everything on the grill, including the salad, sure helped. I don’t know about you but I’ll grill all year round so this is not a salad relegated to just the summer but if you don’t like doing it outdoors when it’s freezing, it works just fine using a kitchen grill pan too.
An easy appetizer was to top some cream cheese with my favorite Blackberry Serrano jam and then I accompanied the appetizer with Lemon Drop Martinis. For our main course I decided to make this Grilled Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons and have a couple of options on the side including grilled chicken and flank steak, chopped hard boiled eggs, Parmesan cheese, homemade croutons and both regular and anchovy free dressing for the salad for anyone who might be vegetarian. Everyone could not eat everything but there were enough choices that everyone was able to prepare their salad with what they could eat and it was the perfect choice. I was the lucky one…no food allergies for me; I got to add it all!
The salad has a couple of nuances that made it a bit unique from what I’ve done in the past. Those anchovies? Not skinny sliced fillets at all but anchovies from Wild Planet. Also known as boquerones in Spanish restaurants worldwide, these sustainable white anchovies are smaller and more delicate in texture than a sardine, with a clean, mild flavor that is the perfect compliment to this dressing. These anchovies were packed in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and have a very mild flavor; perfect for my salad dressing. I’m crazy about Wild Planet; their policies to fish with sustainability in mind are important but the most memorable component for me is the exquisite taste. I made this Tuna Burger last year with their Tuna Fish and it was to die for!
With so many dietary restrictions to consider; I wondered if someone would have an issue with the raw egg I would typically use for Caesar Salad dressing; I’ve got a couple of recipes that call for raw egg and I’ve never had any issues but I wanted to proceed with extra caution. I decided to coddle the egg I use in my favorite recipe; a simple procedure that requires submerging an egg in boiling water for exactly one minute. The egg surface and the outermost layer of the egg white will be cooked slightly thus eliminating some of the risk carried with eating a raw egg, however, it’s important to note it does not COMPLETELY remove the possibility of contamination. If you’re concerned that this procedure isn’t enough then use a pasteurized egg or just substitute the egg with a dollop of mayonnaise the size of an egg yolk; the taste and texture will be changed slightly but it’s still a great flavor.
The coup de grace for me are the homemade croutons; I could make these and never get the salad done I love them so much. You know the routine, ‘I think I’ll just have one more’ turns into ‘where the heck did the croutons go?’ very quickly! Great in this salad, this same recipe is also perfect for croutons for soups so don’t forget this come winter; the same precautions about eating them up applies!
I made this for dinner again last night…this could become a habit. A really yummy habit.