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.
thick slice (about 1 in.) sprouted rye bread. If that's not available, pumpernickel or another hearty bread works too.
extra-virgin olive oil
Dressing and Romaine
plain, unsweetened, full-fat kefir
finely chopped fresh dill
finally chopped chives
finely sliced fresh mint
grated fresh spring garlic, or regular garlic
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut bread into one inch cubes. In a bowl, toss bread cubes with olive oil and a generous pinch of salt.
Place cubes on a sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes. Check bread halfway through, shaking pan to ensure even cooking. Croutons are done when they are a nice toasty golden brown and still slightly squishy. You don't want the croutons to be hard and pebble-like, which could wreak havoc on your mouth.
Allow to cool on a rack.
Dressing and Romaine
While croutons are baking, heat grill pan to medium-high.
Whisk all dressing ingredients (except romaine) in a small bowl. Season with salt to taste and set aside.
Remove large outer leaves from romaine and reserve 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 for 2-3 minutes or until lightly charred and wilted. Flip over and cook for another minute or so until romaine softens. Place romaine on two plates season with salt and then, drizzle with dressing and scatter croutons on top.