Grilled Caesar Salad (Insalata alla Cesare Grigliata)

Caesar salad is not a traditional Italian recipe and grilled Caesar salad is certainly a recent phenomenon. I discovered it at La Scala Ristorante in Baltimore where I was taken by the Pastore family, the local distributor, Sun of Italy, for all that is good and Italian.

Nino Germano the presiding chef owner at La Scala says he invented this recipe purely by accident. During a busy evening in the kitchen, a cut head of young Romaine lettuce fell on the grill while being passed. Nino, a frugal padrone, set it aside and when the evening was over and it was time to have his dinner, he decided to dress that grilled Romaine as he would a regular Caesars salad. And so this recipe was born.

Serves 6

  • 3 cups country bread cubes, about 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large hard cooked egg, yolk only
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
  • 3 heads (1 package) romaine hearts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus a 2 ounce piece for shaving

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Preheat a grill pan that fits over 2 burners over medium-high heat. Scatter bread cubes on a baking sheet, toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and toast until crisp throughout, about 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

2. In a mini food processor, combine egg yolks, garlic, anchovies, vinegar, lemon juice and mustard. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed. With the processor running, pour 4 tablespoons oil through the feed tube to make a smooth dressing, Season with the salt and pepper.

3. Drizzle romaine hearts with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, then brush all over to coat evenly. Lay romaine on the grill pan, cut side down. Grill just until marked and slightly wilted, about 2 minutes.

4. Arrange grilled romaine on a platter. Drizzle with most of the dressing. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and croutons. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the piece of Grana Padano or Parmigiano all over the top of the salad.

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