A few summers ago, I purchased my first grill. Over the course of the next few months I proceeded to grill practically every fruit and veggie I could get my hands on—even lettuce! I’m pretty sure my family thought I was crazy watching me throw crisp romaine hearts on the grates of the grill, but the outcome of that grilling experiment was nothing short of spectacular. Does grilling lettuce sound weird? Yes. But once you try it, you’ll change your mind!
Romaine lettuce is one of only a few leafy greens sturdy enough to withstand the heat and char of the grill without wilting into oblivion. (If you’re interested in trying other greens on the grill, kale works well too.) In the few short minutes it takes for the heads of romaine to caramelize on the grill, a smoky sweetness is released from the greens that is otherwise impossible to attain. As the natural sugars in the romaine heat up they are released and create a brilliant juxtaposition of flavors and textures–the outside is crisp and charred, while the inside is warm and tender.
When serving grilled romaine lettuce, you have two options: you can serve it whole on a plate, which looks nice but can be a little unwieldy, or chop it after grilling, which isn’t as aesthetically pleasing, but does make serving a lot easier. With summer drawing to a close, I decided to add the best produce of the season to this salad–marinated heirloom tomatoes, smoky grilled corn, and fresh basil in the creamy avocado dressing.
Grilling turns plain old romaine into a smoky-sweet salad topped with marinated heirloom tomatoes, fresh corn and a creamy avocado-basil dressing.
- Grapeseed or light olive oil for brushing the veggies and grill
- 2 heads romaine lettuce, washed, thoroughly dried, and cut in half lengthwise
- 3 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
- 2 cups mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 1/2 of 1 large avocado
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Lightly brush the ears of corn and the romaine lettuce on all sides with the grapeseed or olive oil. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and minced garlic; toss to coat, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to marinate.
- When the grill has heated, brush the grates with olive oil. Place the corn directly on the grill and cook for 8 minutes, turning every few minutes as it chars.
- While the corn is cooking, make the dressing by combining the dressing ingredients in a blender. Process until the dressing is smooth with flecks of basil throughout, but no large chunks of ingredients remain. If the dressing is too thick, blend in additional water 1 tablespoon at a time; season with additional salt if needed.
- At this point the corn should be done. Remove from the grill and set aside to cool. Add the halved romaine hearts to the grill, sliced side down, and grill for 3-4 minutes until slightly charred and beginning to wilt. Remove from the grill
- To assemble the salad, lay the grilled romaine cut side up on a large serving platter, remove the kernels of corn from the cob with a knife, and sprinkle them over the romaine. Spoon the marinated tomatoes over the corn, discarding any juices that have collected in the bowl. Drizzle the salad with prepared dressing and serve.