In our short summer, nothing beats pulling out the barbecue and getting your grill on.
Now, I’m not the grill-meister in our house. That title belongs to my husband. To be honest, I’m a little afraid of our grill. It’s a gas grill with a broken ignition switch, so there’s a bit of a trick to getting it lit. But, as Dave says, there’s something primal about a man playing with fire to cook his food. That, and he really enjoys doing it, so I leave it to him.
I’m not sure where I first saw this as a suggestion, but a few years ago I learned of a way to grill a salad on the barbecue. I was intrigued. When I realized that the recipe called for actually placing lettuce on the grill, I knew we had to try it. And after we tried it once, we knew that the maxim cited by grill-meisters everywhere was true: Everything can be grilled.
(I don’t have a picture of this recipe, since – well, it isn’t terribly photogenic for one thing. It also should be eaten warm, which precludes spending ten minutes arranging wilted lettuce leaves on a plate. If I do happen to get a photo of it, though, I’ll update this post with it!)
This recipe will serve two for a dinner salad, or four for a side dish. You will need:
* one head of very fresh romaine lettuce
* a pound (or so) of fresh asparagus
* one medium eggplant
* two large portabello mushroom caps
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* about 3 TB balsamic vinegar
* olive oil
* freshly ground pepper
It would help if you have two people working on this: one person working the grill, and the other person prepping stuff and keeping things warm inside. After everything was cooked and chopped, it went into a big bowl covered with foil.
1. Wash the head of romaine lettuce, keeping it intact. Rinse down between the leaves. Wash the rest of your produce too, since the sink will be occupied in the next step.
2. With a large knife, slice the head in half lengthwise, from the top down through the root. Place both halves face down in the sink to drain.
3. Slice the eggplant into round slices, about 1/2 thick. Brush with olive oil. (I tried drizzling it, but the oil just seeped right in. Pour the oil into a separate dish and brush it on.) Grill the eggplant over medium heat, 3-4 minutes a side. Remove from heat and quarter. Keep warm.
4. Snap the hard ends off the base of each asparagus stalk. Drizzle the stalks with oil, and roll them around to get them well-covered. Grill the asparagus for about 3-4 minutes total, just until they are tender. Remove from heat and slice into 1″-2″ pieces. Keep warm.
5. Drizzle the cut sides of the lettuce with olive oil. Turn face down on a plate, and brush on more oil on “backs.” Place face-down on grill. Timing is critical here: you’re looking at 1-3 minutes per side for the lettuce, or just until the dark green bits are wilted. Grill on all sides, watching it carefully so the lettuce doesn’t turn into a soggy lump. Remove from heat, and slice into 1″ pieces. Keep warm.
6. Brush portabellos with olive oil and grill, about 4 minutes a side. Remove from heat and slice. Add to the salad.
7. Once everything is in a big bowl, toss with Parmesan, balsamic vinegar, pepper, and more oil if needed. Keep warm while you toast the bruschetta.
And that’s it! Grilling the romaine gives it this rich, almost cheeseburger-like taste. Also, the variations on this are endless, depending on what you have on hand and what’s seasonal. We have replaced the portabello with chicken breasts (marinated in lemon juice and garlic, grilled and sliced), and the eggplant and asparagus could be replaced with any grillable vegetable: zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, bok choi, sweet onions, etc.
Anyway, back to the dinner! While I’ve made bruschetta before, that was more of the Western style: toasted bread topped with stuff. At it’s most basic, bruschetta is just toasted bread with garlic and olive oil. Served with the salad we just made above, this was sort of like making our own, gigantic croutons.
You will need:
* one large baguette (the kind you always see poking out of shopping bags in illustrations)
* a clove of raw garlic
* olive oil
1. Slice the baguette into slices that are about 1″ to 1.5″ thick. I cut on the bias (diagonally) to make it look pretty, but that’s not necessary.
2. After cleaning the grill, place the slices on the grill over medium heat.
3. Keep a close watch on your slices! You’ll want to grill them for about a minute to a minute and a half a side. If they start to blacken it’s time to flip!
4. Peel your garlic clove and slice in half (either way, whichever is easier.)
5. After they are toasted, rub each slice on both sides with the cut side of the garlic. Then drizzle the slices generously with olive oil.
You’ll have certainly gotten your daily requirement of olive oil from this dinner, but it’s so good. None of it makes for very good leftovers, though, so plan accordingly.