The first time someone mentioned grilling lettuce I was completely grossed out. I did not have the mental framework to imagine anything good coming from that preparation. Grilling was for meat and some vegetables I thought. However after trying a grilled lettuce salad I was hooked! The lettuce was still crunchy and the flavor migrates to be deeper and smoky, actually giving the lettuce some flavor (which lighter varieties often do not have much of).
I love, love, love a Caesar Salad. The crunchy romaine lettuce. The tangy dressing. Crunch of croutons done well (however for we gluten-free those usually have to be forgone in restaurants at least). I love some protein on the salad too to make it a full and filling entrée.
With my current ‘thrill for the grill’ going on I decided to create a grilled Caesar Salad. It’s easy to make and a great summer option for a full meal. In this recipe the romaine lettuce and bread (or gluten-free rolls as I used) are grilled in addition to some succulent boneless chicken breasts. I’ve lightened up the dressing, still retaining the signature flavors but making it forgiving to our exposed summer waistlines.
The entire salad takes about 12 minutes to grill if grilling the components in serial fashion (I’m distractable so that worked best for me). The time can be made shorter grilling the lettuce and bread at the same time but needs to be watched closely to not char them more than desired. The dressing may be made beforehand and chilled in the refrigerator until ready to use it, or warmed at room temperature (though due to the sour cream it should not be left out for any duration especially in hot temperatures).
This salad is great on its own or as an accompaniment for a light entrée.
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
Ingredients for the Light & Creamy Caesar Dressing:
- 1/3 cup Light Sour Cream
- 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 2 teaspoons Red Wine Vinegar
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 teaspoons Anchovy Paste
- 2 medium Garlic Cloves , minced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- 1 teaspoon Black Pepper , preferably freshly ground
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher Salt
Ingredients for the salad and preparation:
- ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2-3 teaspoon mixed Fresh Herbs (I used lemon thyme, oregano, chives and a bit of rosemary; use the flavors you love best), diced
- 1 pound boneless , skinless Chicken Breasts, usually 2 breasts per pound
- 3 Romaine Lettuce Hearts (they are usually sold in packages of 3)
- For Gluten-eaters: 4-6 thick slices of French Bread (baguette)
- For Gluten-free eaters: 4 Udi’s French Dinner rolls (or equivalent gluten-free bread option)
- ½ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
- Optional: a handful of wood to add smoke to the chicken grilling (I used apple wood) and a piece of heavy duty foil approximately 8 inches by 6 inches)
- Combine the ¼ cup of olive oil and fresh herbs in a bowl. Set aside.
Preparing the dressing:
- Add all ingredients to a small mixing bowl and whisk to fully combine. Cover and set aside or refrigerate if using later.
Grilling the Chicken:
- Heat the grill to medium heat at 350 degrees (gas or charcoal). Clean and oil the grill. If adding smoke to the chicken grilling: place the piece of foil at the back of the heating grill and add the wood on top of the foil. When the grill reaches 350 degrees and the wood begins to smoke, clean and oil the grill.¬
- While the grill is heating, place the chicken breasts between two sheets of wax paper and pound them to an even thickness. They should not be ultra-thin but rather the majority of the thicker portions should be a uniform thickness (refer to the grill photo). This ensures even cooking.
- Lightly brush one side of the chicken breasts with the olive oil-herb mixture. Place the chicken breasts on the prepared grill, olive oil brushed side facing the grill, for 1 ½ minutes with the grill lid closed; rotate 90 degrees and cook for another 1 ½ minutes (the rotation makes the great grill marks).
- Lightly brush the top of the chicken breasts and flip them over on the grill. Grill 1 ½ minutes then rotate 90 degrees and cook another 1 ½ minutes. The internal temperature of the chicken breasts should register 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer and any juice will run clear. Note: if using smaller chicken breast portions modify the cooking time to not overcook.
- iPhone Grill Set Up photo below (note: use about half the amount of wood chips shown in the photo)
- Remove from the grill to rest. Carefully remove the foil and wood chips is smoking.
Grilling the Bread/Rolls:
- If using rolls slice them lengthwise. Brush the cut side lightly with the olive oil-herb mixture and place face down on the grill. Brush the top side of the bread/rolls with the olive oil mixture while on the grill. Watch carefully and flip over as soon as grill marks appear (30 seconds to 1 minute per side). Set aside.
Grilling the Romaine Lettuce:
- Remove any damaged outer leaves. Slice the lettuce lengthwise retaining the root which will hold the lettuce together during grilling.
- Lightly brush both sides of the lettuce with the olive oil-herb mixture and place on the grill. Grill until marks appear; 1-2 minutes. Flip over and repeat. Remove and allow to rest for a few minutes.
Assembling the salad:
- Chop off the root from the grilled lettuce hearts. Slice across the romaine hearts and add to a serving bowl. Cut grilled bread/rolls into bite-size pieces and add to the bowl. Slice chicken across the breast and add to the bowl. Toss with the dressing and parmesan cheese; serve.