It may seem odd to cook your lettuce, but romaine, with it’s sturdy and elegant long leaves, gently succumbs to the heat of a hot grill in the most delicious way. I paired the warm romaine with a cool (and lighter) version of ranch dressing made with kefir and bursting with springy herbs. Hearty rye croutons add some crunch.
Being a city girl, I prepared this indoors on a cast-iron grill pan. But for all you lucky folks with yards, feel free to make this on a regular grill that’s around medium hot. If you do it this way, drizzle the olive oil directly onto the lettuce, (rather than onto the pan). Keep an eye on it, as the grill will probably cook this in a little less time. Thanks to Sam Sifton’s grilled romaine recipe for the pointers on outdoor grill time and temperature. —Leslie Engel
slice sprouted rye bread, about 1 in. thick. If sprouted rye isn’t available, pumpernickel or another hearty, dark bread also works.
extra-virgin olive oil
Dressing & Romaine
Plain, unsweetened full-fat kefir
finely chopped fresh dill
finely chopped chives
sliced fresh mint
grated fresh spring garlic or regular garlic
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice bread into 1 inch cubes. Toss bread in a bowl with olive oil and a generous pinch of salt.
Place bread crumbs on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. Check on the bread halfway through, shaking the pan to move the cubes around to ensure even cooking. Croutons are done when they are a toasty golden brown and still a touch squishy. You want to avoid hard, pebble-like croutons that could potentially wreak havoc on the inside of your mouth. Allow to cool on a rack.
Dressing & Romaine
While croutons on baking, heat grill pan over medium-high heat. Whisk all dressing ingredients (except romaine) in a small bowl and set aside.
Remove large outer leave of romaine, reserving for another use. Cut romaine in half, lengthwise.
Once grill pan is hot, brush with olive oil. Place romaine, cut side down on pan and grill until slightly wilted and charred, about 2-3 minutes. Flip over and cook for another minute or two until romaine has softened a bit.
Remove romaine to plates and season with salt. Drizzle dressing and scatter croutons on top of the romaine.