Fine Cooking (June/July 2010)
We originally found the recipe in Young & Hungry by Dave Lieberman, an excellent cookbook from the former Food Network host. When we were just beginning to get serious about cooking, Lieberman's books were a primary resource for us, especially when it came to entertaining. He has great ideas for party food (including some seriously delicious crostini) and little snacks. His recipes are perfect for beginner cooks: uncomplicated, crowd-pleasing dishes.
The short ribs are a "few times a year" kind of affair. The salad, however, is a reoccurring staple at our table. We've served this salad at least 20 times to guests. And though it's very simple in its execution, it consistently gets raves. Our friend Ralph once said he thought it was the best salad he'd ever had -- a high compliment.
Grilling a salad is a great dinner-party trick: It's fun to dress it in front of your guests, sprinkling it with Parmesan, lemon juice, parsley and anchovy oil. (If you make the salad, don't skip the anchovy oil, even if you're feeling squeamish about using anchovies -- it really makes the dish.)
We'd honestly never thought about grilling other salads, but after we saw this Grilled Butter Lettuce in the most recent Fine Cooking, we tried it the first chance we had.
We adored this grilled salad, which begs the question: Should all salads be grilled?
Seriously. Here at the start of summer, we can't get enough of our grill. We're grilling just about every night and we couldn't be happier about it.
For this salad, we bought beautiful heads of butter lettuce from the market. The greens were silky smooth and they even had roots still on them. While the grilled Caesar we love is brushed with oil and garlic prior to grilling, this salad is just sprinkled with salt and then laid onto the grill, cut side down, until the greens have a nice char. It's a very brief grilling, but it brings a great, summery flavor to the salad.
The Buttermilk-Chive dressing -- a tangy mixture of crème fraîche, buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice and chives -- is the perfect cool and tangy compliment to the smoky salad.
If you can't find crème fraîche at your local supermarket, or just don't want to buy it, it's easy to make your own. Just combine 2 tablespoons of buttermilk into 1 cup of heavy cream and let it sit uncovered at room temperature overnight. This is what we did, using leftover buttermilk that we had frozen.
Though we adore Dave Lieberman's recipe, we're excited to have another grilled salad in our cooking arsenal. And our friends will no doubt be thankful that we can now give the grilled Caesar a rest. A least for a little bit.
Grilled Butter Lettuce with Buttermilk-Chive Dressing
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup crème fraîche
- 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
- 2 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives
- 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- Kosher salt
- Vegetable oil for the grill
- 4 large heads butter lettuce, halved lengthwise
In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, crème fraîche, mayonnaise, chives, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt. (The dressing may be made up to 1 day ahead and kept refrigerated.) Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for direct cooking over medium-high (500°F) heat. Lightly oil the grill grates. Lightly season the lettuce with 1/4 tsp. salt. Grill cut side down until wilted, lightly charred, and the cores are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the grilled lettuce to a serving platter and drizzle with the dressing (you won’t need all the dressing; refrigerate leftovers for 2 to 3 days). Lightly sprinkle the lettuce with salt and serve.