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.
Grilled Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons
When I'm juicing just one half of a lemon; I simply use a fork. Puncture the membranes with your fork and give a little twist; the juice will run out. Give a quick squeeze of the lemon when done too and there ya go!
For the Croutons
- 1/2 to 1 tsp garlic powder ( use more or less depending on your tastt)
- 2 Tbsp butter, melted
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Pinch of salt
- 2 cups French bread slices cut up into 1/2 inch cubes
For the Salad Dressing
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 medium garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2-3 anchovies
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon capers
- 1/2 cup olive oil
For the Romaine Grilling
- 2 medium heads of romaine lettuce -- outer leaves removed and cut in half; do NOT remove the stem end; that keeps it held together on the grill.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
To Prepare the Salad
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese -- grated
To Make the Croutons:
- Combine the garlic powder, melted butter, olive oil and salt in a large bowl. Mix until blended; add the bread cubes and toss until evenly coated.
- Spread the bread cubes onto a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until the bread is golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
For the Salad Dressing:
- Bring a small pot of boiling water to boil, add the egg and cook for just 60 seconds EXACTLY. Remove the egg from the water and place it in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process and cool the egg.
- Combine the balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, salt & pepper, anchovies, mustard and capers in a blender or food processor; crack the egg and add it to the other ingredients and mix well. While blending, pour the olive oil into either the blender or processor in a slow stream until thoroughly combined and thickened.
- Brush the Romaine lettuce lightly with olive oil; place on a hot grill and grill on both sides for approximately 2 minutes each side. Remove from grill to a plate and allow to cool.
- Pour half of the dressing into a large bowl.
- Cut the romaine lettuce into 1 inch pieces and add them to the bowl ; mix until the leaves are all coated.
- Add the Parmesan cheese and croutons, toss and serve on chilled plates.
- Pass the remaining dressing for individuals to add more if they choose. Or save it for yourself for later. ?