By Joe Campagna
Salads are probably one of the easiest dinners you can make and it never takes a ton of time. We’re lucky in that produce is in abundance this time of year and everything is super fresh. This salad introduces a new element: grilling the lettuce. Whenever I make this type of salad friends are always surprised you can actually grill lettuce!
You can easily adapt this salad to be your own, which is partly why I’ve not called this a Caesar salad, by adding a variety of blanched or grilled vegetables. The other nice thing about salads for dinner is they can be easily prepped ahead of time.
1/2 head of romaine—green or red leaf, the choice is yours
1 chicken breast
1/4 red onion
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
Salt and pepper
Method of Prep
- Turn your grill on high if it’s gas, or build a strong charcoal fire.
- Season your chicken breast with salt and pepper. I like to pound it out to make it a little thinner so it easier and quicker to cook.
- Remove the outer leaves of the romaine and cut the head in half length-wise
- Drizzle it with olive oil and season with salt.
- Take half of the avocado and cut in to chunks or slices depending on how you like it.
- Take the quarter of your red onion and slice length wise. You can always add more red onion to taste. Tip: if the onion is particularly strong in smell and flavor, you may rinse it in hot water and then cold water to help temper the strength while still maintaining the flavor.
Directions and Pointers
- Put the chicken on the grill and, of course, get nice grill marks!
- Put your romaine on the grill. Aim to get a nice char on both sides (you will flip it). Depending on how hot your grill gets, it may cook quickly. You’ll want to do this early to allow the romaine to cool once cooked. It will appear somewhat wilted, but the char will come through as a nice flavor.
- Once the romaine has cooled, cut it again length wise and then cut across the short side to get nice bite-sized pieces.
- Once the chicken is done grilling, allow to rest before slicing it.
- Combine the lettuce, avocado and red onion. While tossing, taste to see what seasoning it needs. Add salt and additional olive oil if necessary, and finish with a squeeze of lemon.
- Plate the seasoned salad and put the chicken on top.
The basic foundation of this salad is the grilled romaine. You may easily mix in some Swiss chard or other greens. Once you master the grilled lettuce, vary the combinations of toppings. I’ve made this salad a variety of ways with grilled vegetables, fresh herbs and other proteins.
Joe Campagna, who serves as a judge for the Kendall College Trust’s annual Chicken and Champagne Fest fundraiser, is a local food blogger who writes the Chicago Food Snob blog for ChicagoNow and contributes to Eater Chicago. His culinary career includes working for Chefs like Charlie Trotter and Graham Elliot. Joe is an avid foodie and can be found at new hip restaurant soft openings across Chicago.