Oh, the horror of late discovery! How could one have missed the delightful sensation of grilled romaine hearts until now? (Insert exclamation of appalled astonishment here!) I’ve only recently discovered this wonderfully smoky and crispy little gem when I ordered takeout from The Reservoir in Uptown, Chicago. I was in the mood for a burger (Their Uptown Burger is tasty too!) and decided to get a green salad instead of fries so I didn’t feel as guilty for indulging in a massive burger. Normally, I would opt for a cute little garden salad, but something led me to choose their grilled caesar. And what a remarkable idea it turned out to be! The dish made such an impression that I even savored it sans dressing, a testament to its sheer deliciousness. (In other words, I loved it so much I ate it without any dressing!)
Naturally, I embarked on a mission to recreate this culinary masterpiece! Ironically, it has proven to be a lot more complicated than I initially expected. A prime example of this is romaine, despite its sturdy nature, has the tendency to absorb any odors emanating from the grill. Therefore, depending on what has been cooked on the grill before or any burnt oils, your salad might end up with a slight taste of those flavors. Also, it should go without saying, but OIL THE FOOD AND NOT THE GRILL! 😉
But fear not, for I have persisted in my mission to bring you the ultimate recipe for grilled romaine hearts. Prepare yourself for a culinary adventure that combines the simplicity of grilling with the exquisite crunch of romaine hearts. Follow these instructions carefully, and you’ll be rewarded with a dish that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more. Let’s dive into the recipe and unlock the secrets of grilled romaine perfection!
- 2 Romaine hearts with their base(s) intact
- 2-3 Tablespoons of flavorless oil
- 1/2 Tablespoon of whichever herbs you would like to use. (I used a mixture of dried basil, tomato and oregano in the below images.)
- 1/2 Teaspoon of kosher salt
- In a small bowl, pour the oil and add the spices. Mix thoroughly and set aside to allow the spices to bloom for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Using a knife, slice the romaine hearts in half lengthwise from the stem to the top. Separate the halves and rinse them under running water to remove any dirt. Be sure to clean between the leaves without separating them from the core. Place the halves cut side down on a clean kitchen towel and allow them to dry completely.
- Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Ideally, use a cast iron and/or cast aluminum pan for the best results.
- Turn over each halved heart and brush each one with the seasoned oil using a silicone brush.
- Once the grill pan is heated, place the romaine hearts cut side down on it. Allow them to cook undisturbed for 4-5 minutes. While the cut side cooks, use the brush to coat the other side of the romaine hearts with the remaining oil. Keep in mind that you may not need all the oil since you are only coating the outermost leaves.
- Using a pair of tongs, lift the romaine hearts to check if the grill marks are the desired darkness. Once they reach the desired level, turn them over and grill the other side as well. Note that since the second side is usually rounded, you may need to roll them a bit, similar to roasting corn on the BBQ.
- Once the romaine hearts have achieved the desired level of grill marks and doneness, remove them from the grill and transfer to a serving dish. Enjoy!
Notes: While researching this recipe I accidentally left one batch on the grill too long while checking the mail. It didn't burn, but it did lose most of the ridged structure you expect from romaine. To my surprise and delight it made really amazing low calorie wraps like chicken salad or ham and cheese.