It’s summer and I love every chance we get to be outside, especially on our new deck. It’s the first “room” we set up in our new house. We didn’t have furniture for over a week, but we brought our patio furniture and grill. So every meal we made in our tiny unfinished kitchen or on the grill, we ate outside. This salad is a staple throughout every summer for us. I used to work at a restaurant where the chef used to throw whole heads of romaine lettuce on the grill. The lettuce would char and then get topped with varying fresh ingredients, but always blue cheese and balsamic dressing. When I brought my customers their salad, more often than not they would be completely surprised that 1) their salad was grilled, and 2) they had a half a head of romaine lettuce instead of a chopped salad. It’s unusual and deconstructed, and it’s also one of the most delicious salads you will ever eat. Ever since I’ve worked there, I’ve made my own version of this salad at home. Even if you can’t grill it, it’s just as good in a large skillet or cast iron pan on high heat.When you top the lettuce right after it gets off the grill, the heat helps to melt the parmesan and blue cheese. A warm salad might be contradictory, but it is still so crisp and refreshing with big bright tomato slices and crunchy croutons. Something about blue cheese and balsamic vinegar together is so delicious to me. If you aren’t a fan of either of those, try substituting honey mustard or Italian dressing instead of balsamic, or using another cheese instead of blue. Just make sure that is is a softer cheese, since you already have the harder parmesan and you want the heat from the grill to soften the cheese up so it melts in your mouth with each bite.
I love the idea of serving this salad as a whole or half head of the romaine lettuce, and having the toppings alongside the salad. It makes you put each bite together with what you want on your fork, and every bite is enjoyable. You could top a salad like this any way you like, or leave all the toppings out family style for each person to make their own version. It’s a fun and different way to get some more greens in your menu, without feeling like you’re eating the same boring tossed salad.