Grilling season is not normally a particularly enjoyable time for vegetarians. Relegated to eating the side salads, politely chewing through the specially-bought, always-disappointing vegetarian burgers, and crunching through an uncomfortable amount of grilled corn, barbecue parties can be challenging for non-meat-eaters. However, this year will be a different story, as we move the burgers, ribs, and sausages aside, and make room on our smoking grill for some salad leaves.
Putting salad on the grill may sound like a bizarre and unappetizing cooking technique. Imagining how romaine lettuce will taste after it’s been charred for a few minutes is extremely challenging. But we promise it’s worth trying: Grilled salad is, rightly, going to be this year’s cookout craze. As the sun finally begins to poke its head out from behind the clouds and send some warmth down on to our backyards, it’s time to turn on the grill and start charring that salad.
When selecting what salad to grill, you need to select something sturdy enough to hold its shape, and with enough flavor to resist being completely overwhelmed by the smoky char of the barbecue. Romaine lettuce is the best place to start. Simply chop a whole head of romaine lettuce in half and place each half on the grill for a few minutes, until charred and slightly wilted. Serve simply with your favorite salad dressing — whether that be a citrus vinaigrette or a creamy Caesar — or turn it into an even more decadent meal by topping it with croutons, soft-boiled eggs, grated cheese, and maybe even some bacon crumbles and strips of chicken for the meat-eaters amongst you.
Once you’ve mastered the simple technique of a perfectly-grilled head of romaine, move on to other lettuces, such as little gems or radicchio, and then start incorporating other vegetables, like zucchini, eggplant, and maybe even some sweet fruit, like nectarines. There’ll be no end to the exotic, exciting salads that you’ll be serving hot off the grill this summer.