Have you ever grilled a garden salad? Not the loose-leaf type, but wedges of lettuce heads with glorious nooks and crannies where you can bury your vegetables, fruits, nuts and cheese treasures. (Don’t have a grill? You can also pan fry them over high heat.)
Ok, I admit it’s not going to win a blue ribbon for it’s looks, but grilling a salad transforms a regular garden salad in a couple ways. It partially caramelizes the lettuce head bringing out its natural sweetness. It also adds a faint smokiness to the lettuce and other vegetables, fruits and nuts you add in.
Like you might do for “make you own pizza” or “make your own taco” night where everyone assembles their own, the same is true for grilled salads. Get your family and friends involved. This way everyone chooses what they like and you won’t have to clear plates with abandoned ingredients like an island of misfit toys. Just prepare diced vegetables, fruits and cheeses, plus nuts, and let your family and friends take a turn assembling their own.
How to dress your salad? Homemade classic vinaigrette, recipe below. The basic proportions for classic vinaigrette are two parts oil to one part acid. Simple enough, yes? But here’s when it gets fun and you may exercise your creativity! For example, on a regular basis, I use extra virgin olive oil, and white wine vinegar. I use these because they are fairly neutral and go well with many salad ingredients. I make a big batch and it lasts me for a month.
However, depending on what ingredients I am featuring in a salad, I might use hazelnut, walnut, pistachio or avocado oil. And for the acid, I might use leftover champagne, wine, fresh lemon juice, or another type of vinegar. I might even use a combination of these acids as long as they equal one part to the two parts of oil.
Why make your own vinaigrette? It’s fun, it’s creative – and you know exactly what’s in it. No sugar, no corn syrup, no MSG. No other things you can’t pronounce.
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Hidden Treasure Grilled Garden Salad (Plus Vinaigrette Recipe)
The ingredients below are suggestions. Use what you and your family and friends like!
- 3 small heads of lettuce (Little Gem and Hearts of Romaine work well. Look for tight heads of lettuce)
- Your choice of diced tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, cheeses, scallions
- Your choice of diced nectarines, apricots, watermelon, figs
- Your choice of chopped dried fruit such as raisins, cherries, apricots
- Your choice of chopped nuts
- Small cubed cheeses such as feta, goat
- Coarse salt and black pepper to taste
- Remove outer loose leaves of lettuce heads. Slice each head in half lengthways. Trim, but keep the core intact and thoroughly rinse under cold running water. Drain to dry
- With the cut side up, gently pry open layers of lettuce leaves and evenly distribute vegetables, fruits, nuts and/or cheese that you like (Tuck them in deeply. Warning: some will fall out while grilling, it’s inevitable. Save some of raw ingredients to supplement any grilled items that may have fallen out.) Each lettuce wedge may be different — mix and match!
- Pre-heat grill or pan on high.
- Brush a thin layer of vinaigrette (see recipe, below) or olive oil on the cut side of each lettuce wedge
- Place each lettuce wedge cut side down on a preheated and oiled grill (or frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil). Grill for approximately 3 minutes on cut side, only
- Remove from grill (or pan) and plate cut side up. Sprinkle coarse salt and black pepper and additional vinaigrette to taste. Let each person cut their own wedge into bite sized pieces, discarding the cores
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Kosher (not table) salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1-2 teaspoons smooth Dijon mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Combine all ingredients and shake or whisk until fully combined**
*I buy restaurant style squeeze bottles at grocery or hardware stores. They are inexpensive and are great for mixing and storing salad dressings.
**When you store vinaigrette in your refrigerator, depending on which type of oil you’ve used, it will likely coagulate. You’ll need to bring it to room temperature and shake or whisk before using. Shake before each serving. Since this recipe has no chemical emulsifiers, the oil and acid will separate over time.