By Jackie Longbons-Baughman & Ryan Baughman / Garden Fresh Chef
Are you keeping up? How has January gone for you so far? Have you given in to temptation? Well, let me just say it has been a struggle for everyone I know! So, here we are ready for installment #2…What is that you say? Another salad? Well, we need to keep up on our diets and salad can be the perfect item to add to any menu that is economical and good for you.
However, we must address the fact that not all salads are created equal. Just because it says “salad” in the title doesn’t mean it is going to help your waste line. In fact, salad can be higher in calories than some fast food items. The key is knowing what your ingredients are.
Step 1: Don’t use (or use very little) of cream or egg based dressing such as ranch or mayo.
Step 2: Know your cheese. Yes, you can put some on your salad, but be mindful. Your salad should not be a “cheddar cheese salad with lettuce”.
Step 3: Protein is a good idea for your salad. Left over ham, turkey, mushrooms, or tofu are all good choices. Remember, use sparingly.
Step 4: Lots of veggies! Get creative!
Step 5: Including fruit adds texture, sweetness, and nutrition!
What is that you are saying? You want us to give you a recipe? Well, let me tell you about this great little salad Ryan cam up with. It is a Grilled Romaine Salad. Yes, you can in fact grill lettuce. It doesn’t turn out slimy or limp; it stays crisp and cool on the outside and turns a little warms and charred on the inside. The key is keeping your head of romaine intact and using a high heat on the grill or in the skillet. This particular salad comes with a little bit of bacon, mushrooms, and a warm tomato relish to make it a rounded out full meal rather than just a side salad! It has a lot of flavor and goes well with a Sauvignon Blanc. Enjoy!
1 tsp. Olive oil
1 romaine heart
2 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled
2 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and drained, bacon grease reserved (if desired)
2 oz. Enoki mushrooms, trimmed from bunch in ½ inch pieces
1 oz. parmesan cheese, grated, or 6 - 7 one-inch shavings with vegetable peeler (optional)
1 oz. capers, drained (optional)
2 Roma tomatoes
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. white sugar
1 tsp. Lemon juice
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1. Begin preparation for tomato/eggplant relish, if desired (directions below).
2. Cut a small slice off the romaine root to remove the brown parts, but leave largely intact. This will help keep the romaine together while grilling and serving. Pull off a few outer leaves that look brownish or tough. Clean romaine heart by cutting it in half lengthwise and running it under cold water. Pat dry.
3. Dice tomatoes, trim mushrooms from bunch, drain capers and set all aside.
4. If grilling, set grill to medium heat and lightly brush oil on romaine halves. If cooking on stove, heat oil (or leftover bacon grease) in12-inch skillet over medium heat until it starts to shimmer. Salt and pepper romaine on both sides to taste. Place romaine hearts cut-side down on grill or in skillet. Some sizzling or popping may occur if not totally dried. Cook just until inside is slightly browned and wilted, about 3-5 minutes, but start checking at 2 minutes and every 30 seconds after that.
5. Put vinegar, lemon juice and sugar in mixing bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Once combined, taste for flavor and add salt and pepper as needed. Dressing should be a little loose.
6. Once romaine hearts are to desired doneness, place on plate cut-side up. Top with 2-3 tbls. of the tomato/eggplant relish (if desired), cheeses, mushrooms, tomatoes, capers and bacon. Quickly whisk dressing again to recombine and drizzle lightly over salad. Serve immediately. Serves 2.
Optional – tomato/eggplant relish:
1 cup diced Roma tomatoes (½ inch pieces)
1 cup diced eggplant (½ inch pieces)
¼ cup diced onion (fine dice)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. lemon juice
1. In medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-low to medium heat. Add onion and sweat until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and sweat just until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Add tomatoes, eggplant and lemon juice and stir. The lemon juice will help the eggplant from turning too brown, though some darkening will occur during cooking.
3. Continue over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Once vegetables are reduced and the liquid is slightly thickened (about 10 minutes), salt and pepper to taste and spoon over salad while warm.
What’s that you further say? That’s too many self-imposed questions???