Take away springs' chill with smoky salad

April 20, 2012

When temperatures were cooler, recently, I was looking out over the chilled landscape and wondering when spring finally would arrive.

The freakishly warm weather disappeared and it was a wait-and-see game, hoping that the weather would warm up to allow some backyard grilling parties.

One of my favorite economical grilled dishes is grilled salad.  I love the flavors that combine when you add fresh greens, fruits and vegetables to a hot grill.

Flavors brighten and the sweetness is intensified with many fruits, such a pineapples, peaches and bananas when grilled. The addition of heat and smoke also adds to the deliciousness of fresh greens.

Be sure to dress with some good extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil before grilling.

Scott C. Anderson is associate food service director and chef with Shepherd University dining services in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Chef Ambassador to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

Smoky grilled Caesar salad

1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed, bottom removed and leaves cleaned

Extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil

1/2 cup artisan-shaved romano cheese, shaved

4 teaspoon aged white balsamic vinegar (see cook's note)

1 firm avocado, sliced into quarters

2 rings red onion, sliced 1/4- inch thick

1 cup toasted fresh croutons

Fresh ground black pepper and coarse sea salt to taste

4 to 6 ounces Caesar salad dressing

 Heat up the grill — gas, wood or charcoal. When grill reaches medium high heat, brush the grate with oil. 

 Brush the romaine leaves lightly with oil and set aside in a bowl or plate. When the grill is up to temperature, place leaves on the grill until grill markings show. Turn only once. Remove from the grill and tear or cut into bite-sized pieces on four separate plates. Grill avocado and onion rings for approximately 2 minutes or until grill marks are set. Do not turn.

Remove onion and avocado from the grill and arrange equally on each plate. Top with shaved Romano cheese, croutons and a light drizzle of dressing.

Makes four servings.

Cook's note:  Chef Scott prefers white balsamic because it will not darken the avocado or cheese. Or substitute a traditional balsamic vinegar of your choice.

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