Weeknight Cooking

Why You Should Be Grilling Your Greens

July  1, 2015

When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when, and where you want them.

Today: A solo bar meal turned bright, briny salad for the rest of the summer. 

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Full beard and strapping body aside, the bartender is young enough to be my son.

Hendrick's martini, please. Straight up with olives.

Hey. I like your style.

My entire body smiles back.

Thank you.

I want to ask what he sees. Does he know I'm a mom? 

Instead, I gather all of the candles from one end of the bar, vow to get my eyes checked soon, and tuck my head into a book.

The air is warm, the martini is cold, the music is loud. The room smells like chicken and potatoes and the late eighties: like my first years in New York City, all full of bigness and potential and the scariness of it all. 

I need food.

My eyes glide down the menu and get stuck on two of my favorite words: romaine and anchovies. 

I wave to my bartender son.

This salad looks exciting.

That salad is exciting.

Two seats down is a body dripping with tattoos, motorcycle leather, fatigue. He is old enough to be my husband.

He picks up his burger. I pick up my grilled romaine. He dips his fries in ketchup. I scoop up the creamy, smoky, fishy salad dressing with my bread. I moan yum. He sighs. He doesn't look to the right. I don't look to the left. We eat together. I feel safe.

I pay, pick up my martini, and head for the hotel elevator. I don't look back.

I climb up on the coffee table with my martini and watch the flashing lights of Manhattan through the floor-to-ceiling Brooklyn windows. I start to relive the thirteen years of pining and dreaming and never ever sleeping that I crammed into that little island. What did I do with all of that kid-free time? I didn’t even like anchovies back then.

I step down.

I lower the shades, wash the martini glass, and tuck myself into the soft and clean king-sized bed. No morning light, no buzzing phones, no barfing kids, no nothing will wake me up until I am ready.

Grilled Romaine with Corn and Creamy Anchovy Garlic Vinaigrette

Serves 2

1 egg
2 cloves garlic, peeled
4 to 6 anchovy fillets, packed in oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I like Grey Poupon)
Splash Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
2 hearts of romaine
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons butter, divided (half for the romaine and half for the corn)
1 ear of corn, shucked
Handful parsley leaves, coarsely chopped, for garnish

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Photos by Phyllis Grant

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Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.


Vladislava V. July 30, 2015
As much as I expected and more. I love your tastes and your style. When I see your name under a recipe, I wait a bit, save it for later when I really have the time to read with pleasure. Some recipes read like fast food and then you move on to the next thing. Not yours, though. They bring a deeply satisfactory "sit-down meal" feeling. Plus, anchovies :)
Concerning the "what I did with all that time" issue, I am a teacher and when I meet my young adult students, I just never stop wondering. They spend three hours just strolling and talking before they actually get to a place where I'd be in ten minutes. Three hours! Incredible. I guess we did pretty much the same.
Phyllis G. August 3, 2015
Thank you for your beautiful note. The fact that you savor my stories and recipes means so much. When I write them, that's what I hope for.

I miss strolling. Taking my time getting places. I will try to do that more like your students. xoxo
Amanda P. July 28, 2015
I love, love, love that story! Written so well, I could picture the scene! Really resonated w me!! Salads sounds delish too, love the flavors!
Phyllis G. August 3, 2015
Thank you!
Liz W. July 28, 2015
What a wonderful food essay. How to turn a mundane visit to a hotel bar into something magical! Trying this salad for sure, but I'll be missing the bartender son.
Phyllis G. July 28, 2015
thank you! and yes. the bartender son. he was lovely.
laurenlocally July 28, 2015
Oh how frequently we ponder what we did with all that kid-free time! A crazy and wonderful ride it is. Can't wait to make this salad.
Phyllis G. July 28, 2015
i really have no idea what i did in my twenties. Especially with my weekends. All of those hours! Let me know if you make the salad.
Dana D. July 27, 2015
I need this salad and a Hendricks gin martini STAT.

Gorgeous stuff :)
dede July 27, 2015
I can totally relate! Your writing, your energy and love of food (and cocktails)!
LauriL July 12, 2015
Love your writing! Oh yeah and the recipe looks good too!
Phyllis G. July 28, 2015
thank you!
SallyM July 1, 2015
I finally have a recipe for one of your salads - thank you! ...And thanks for not using a grill - a cast iron skillet is something I already have on my stove.
Phyllis G. July 28, 2015
That's so great to hear. I hope with most of my recipes that it's possible to make them with something that's already on your stove, in your fridge or your pantry.