Dining Features

Simple Art of Cooking: ‘Lettuce’ Grill It Up Right This Summer!

At first it was hot dogs and hamburgers, marinated steaks, pork chops, butterflied legs of lamb, and the like on the grill. Forty or so years ago it was news for fish to find its way on the grill, skewered shrimp, tossed calamari and so on. Potatoes on the grill! Of course, and in some South American cultures the potatoes are buried in ashes to end up in a favorite potato salad recipe. Fresh local peaches will surely find their place on the dying embers at the end of a barbecue. And don’t forget those seasonal fresh figs on the grill—pure ambrosia!

How about lettuce on the grill such as romaine, radicchio, treviso—basically any small lettuce head with its core. It’s not a new idea exactly but next time you fire up your grill for outdoor dining on a beautiful summer day, I hope you’ll try grilling quarters of fresh-from-the-farm romaine lettuce on the grill. Enjoy its sweet flavor heightened by the bit of char from the grill.

GRILLED ROMAINE SALAD WITH FETA CHEESE DRESSING AND POACHED EGG
Here is my version of grilled romaine salad with creamy feta cheese dressing. The salad is served with heirloom tomatoes in season. The dressing, poached eggs and grilled croutons can be prepped up to a day ahead with the lettuce to be charred before serving. It would be fun to have guests arrange their
own plates.

Serves 4 to 6

For the dressing

2 ounces Greek or Bulgarian feta cheese
4 tablespoons crème fraiche
2 teaspoons milk

For the salad

1/2 pound loaf crusty baguette cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes for croutons
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 to 6 eggs for poaching
2 tablespoons white vinegar for poaching eggs
2 slices 1/4–inch thick slices pancetta diced (optional)
2 to 3 heads farm fresh romaine, quartered
3 to 4 heirloom tomatoes, sliced for serving
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Do-ahead preparation:

1. Place feta cheese, crème fraiche and milk in bowl of food processor fitted with steel knife, or in a blender; process to a smooth purée. Transfer to a container and refrigerate up to one day ahead.

2. Bring 3 cups water to a rapid boil. Add vinegar. Poach only 2 to 3 eggs at a time and have them ready in small individual ramekins or bowls so that they can be added to the water at approximately the same time. Slip in eggs while rotating surface of the water with the back of a large kitchen spoon to help draw whites around the yolks. Remove pan from heat and count to 30. Flip the eggs to roll over one at time. Let stand in water about 1 1/2 minutes longer. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Repeat with remaining eggs and set aside.

3. Place bread cubes in a bowl and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil to coat. Can grill ahead in a grill pan or in preheated grill until toasted on both sides, turning as necessary. Set aside.

Day-of:

Place the diced pancetta, if using, in a medium hot skillet and toss to crisp the pieces. Transfer to paper towels to absorb the grease. Set aside.

Hold the quarters of romaine lettuce under cold running water and spin dry two quarters at time. Roll in paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Place quarters on a platter, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside up to an hour or so before grilling. Preheat your grill to medium hot for just a few seconds. Place the romaine quarters on the grill, moving them about as necessary, until lettuce is slightly charred. Meanwhile slice tomatoes for serving.

Have guests arrange their own plates by placing romaine quarters to one corner of salad plate, add tomato slices alongside the lettuce, and top with the poached egg. Toss the croutons and pancetta if using and squeeze the lemon juice over the mixture, then season all with salt and pepper. Place a generous dollop of creamy feta in remaining space on plate and and serve at room temperature.

READ MORE SIMPLE ART OF COOKING

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