Yes, it may sound like a crazy combo, but grilling lettuce can actually take the flavor of otherwise bland romaine or leaf lettuce up a notch, adding lightly charred, smoky flavors to the fresh, green leaves. Add an extra layer of flavor with a runny, just barely poached egg that oozes when you cut into it, helping create a creamy, luscious dressing for the crisp greens. Layers of shaved Parmesan, creamy avocado and ripe tomato will make this an ideal main course salad, or starter to a light pasta or grilled fish dinner.
Grilled Salad with Poached Eggs
For the salad –
1 large head Romaine lettuce, washed and cut into quarters (you can cut the very end off, but you want to make sure the lettuce stays together when grilling, so don’t cut the entire end off)
2 tablespoons grapeseed or avocado oil (something with a high heat tolerance)
Salt and Pepper
2 vine-ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced into thin slices, any color but I like the Green Zebra, Yellow Valencia, the Cherokee Purple or Black Pear
1 ripe avocado, seed and skin removed, cut into thin slices
5 radishes, sliced thin
4 oz pancetta or bacon, diced and cooked until crisp (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley or basil, chopped for garnish
salt and pepper
For the eggs –
4 large, fresh eggs
2 tablespoons white vinegar
pinch of salt
For the dressing –
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to your taste
Bring a small sauce pan filled with water to a low boil. Heat either an indoor grill or outdoor grill to medium high and rub with 1 tablespoon oil. Evenly drizzle the other tablespoon of oil on the lettuce. Lay the romaine diagonally across the grill, allowing it to heat through and begin to form grill marks. Turn over a few times to make sure it cooks on all sides then remove from grill and place on a platter. Set aside and let cool slightly. When the water has come to a low boil add the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Crack one egg at a time into a small dish on its own. Using a spoon stir the water to create a small whirl pool. Carefully drop one egg into the whirl pool. This will help the egg set in one piece. Cook for 3-4 minutes until just set.
Carefully scoop out the egg with a spider or ladle and drop it into a bowl of cold water until ready to serve. Repeat with the rest of the eggs. As the eggs are cooking whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together and set aside. Assemble salad by layering the remaining vegetables at random on top of the romaine leaves. Drizzle lightly with the dressing. There is already oil on the lettuce from the grill so the high acid dressing should marry nicely with the lettuce. You can drop the eggs back into the boiling water just before serving to heat them through again, or simply serve cooled. Just make sure to pat them dry with a dish towel before layering them on top of the salad. Season with salt and pepper, top with the basil and pancetta and serve immediately.
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