Yeah, I grilled a head of lettuce. Jealous? Well, you shouldn’t be because it’s not hard to replicate. In fact, nothing about today’s Grilled Romaine Southwest Salad is difficult to pull off. It’s a confidence booster for sure. But you may be sitting there wondering if I’d just jumped the shark in terms of food trends. Grilled romaine was the crazy food trend of 2012, not 2018. Back in 2012, we’d just gotten Pinterest and we didn’t know how to handle it. It was a crazy, crafty time! We did all sorts of unsustainable, overly time-consuming bullshit for the entire year. So, why am I unleashing this on the Internet again? Why after we’d finally sobered up from all the vodka-soaked gummy bears and found more meaningful work than turning watermelons into serving vessels? Well, I made this salad because I believe grilled romaine has a future.
Do you ever find yourself taken in by food photography? Okay, I realize this is a strange question to ask on a food blog but, seriously, have you ever tried something you thought you’d never try just because you saw a pretty picture of it? I totally have, multiple times, I may do again it later today. Sometimes this works out very well and other times not so much. There are a few Jell-O shot hangovers I wish I could take back and batches of basil-infused whipped cream that I wish I had not whipped. Can we all just admit that basil desserts are dissatisfying? Please? I don’t want to pretend I like them anymore. It’s exhausting!
I look at food photos multiple times a day. Honestly, if you looked at the homepage of my Instagram account, you’d swear there was nothing but pies, farmers’ markets, and cocktails in the world. So, the opportunity for me to see something pretty and want to make it and eat it is pretty high. I’m pretty much a fish in a barrel at this point. But the effect that food photos have on me is not always as instantaneous.
Every now and then, a pretty food thing takes a while to work its way into my cooking rotation. And by “a while” I mean 6 years. If you’re a Pinterest and/or an Instagram aficionado, you know this charred green is on the verge of being “over”. But yeah, today’s Grilled Romaine Southwest Salad was the first time my untrendy ass ever grilled a head of lettuce. It was delicious, empowering (sort of), and totally overdue.
Now, when I first laid eyes on the blackened green, I was convinced grilled romaine was one of those things that would only work in a photo shoot setting. The kind of thing that would look flippin’ magical long enough for someone to take a photo and then wilt into an indiscernible mass of mush. If you’ve read my thoughts on sweet potato fries and poutine, you know I despise mushiness. Naturally, I was apprehensive about this whole BBQ-ed lettuce situation but my fears were unfounded as the so often are.
Eventually (6 years later) I actually did the damn thing and grilled up a couple heads of romaine. And you know what? They weren’t mushy. The heads actually stood up remarkably well. I think we often imagine lettuce to be hopelessly fragile and I suppose some varieties are, but romaine? Romaine is tuff. And can we talk about the caramelization? Lettuce is usually a textural experience, it doesn’t really deliver in the flavor department and if it does it’s often praised for its subtlety. Well, grilled romaine is no shrinking violet. It has a lot more body and richness. I mean, it doesn’t taste like juicy steak or a truffle but it’s certainly more assertive.
The rest of this salad is a lot of what you would find in a burrito bowl but it leans heavily on Ancho chili powder and canned green hatch chilies in order to give credence to its moniker. Oh, and I threw some BBQ Fritos in there for crunch and a dash of lovable Americana. The Avocado Ancho Dressing makes a ton but thankfully it’s very very versatile and very very good. I, of course, ate it with this salad but I also added it to a pasta salad I made this past weekend as a companion to some beef ribs and I’m planning to add it to a bastardized caesar salad tomorrow. Really, it’s a great dressing to have in your fridge. It’s just not terribly shelf stable, so try to use within a week. If all else fails just eat with a spoon. No judgement.
So that’s the deal with this Grilled Romaine Southwest Salad. Sure, it may not be the prettiest or daintiest of salads. But if you’re looking for a flavorful fork and knife kind of salad, welcome home!
Grilled Romaine Southwest Salad with Avocado Ancho Dressing
- 2 heads romaine lettuce washed and split lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 batch Ancho Roasted Corn and Beans see below
- 1/4 batch Avocado Ancho Dressing see below
- 1/2 cup BBQ Fritos crushed
- 1/4 cup radish micro greens
- 1 jalapeño pepper thinly sliced
Ancho Roasted Corn and Beans
- 1 can black beans drained and rinsed
- 1 cup frozen corn kernals
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Avocado Ancho Dressing
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 avocado coarsely chopped
- 1 jalapeño cut into chunks
- 1 can green chiles
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Roasted Corn and Beans
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat. Pour the mixture onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Roast the beans and corn for 15 minutes or until the corn is golden and the beans have split. Let cool on the sheet for 15 minutes before transfering the beans and corn to a bowl. Set aside until ready to use.
For the Dressing
- Place all ingredients in a large food processor. Blitz until smooth. Pour the finished dressing into a bowl, jar or bottle and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the Salad
- Grease a BBQ grill or cast iron grill pan with the olive oil. Heat the BBQ grill or grill pan over high heat until smoking. Place the lettuce cut side down on the grill or grill pan. Grill the lettuce for 2 minutes. Flip the lettuce and grill for 1 minute more.
- Place half a head of lettuce on each of four plates. Drizzle each lettuce half with Avocado Ancho Dressing and top with a healthy scoop of the Roasted Corn and Beans. Sprinkle each half with jalapeño slices, Fritos, and radish micro greens.
- Serve immediately with a knife and fork.