Grilled Caesar Salad with Fried Capers

At the end of a long weekend up at the cottage cooking, drinking, and entertaining, the last thing I wanted to do was go grocery shopping and make some extravagant meal. Instead, I decided I needed to make use of the romaine lettuce I’ve had lying around in the fridge for a couple of days now. I normally don’t care much for romaine in salads because I do not find it has much flavour, which is why it pairs well with such a powerful dressing like Caesar. I wanted to switch up a regular Caesar and try to impart a bit of flavour to the lettuce itself by grilling it! This method of grilling romaine is a great way to use up lettuce that is a few days old, but not rotten of course. To counteract the charred flavour from the grill, I whipped up a really light Caesar dressing, and added some fried capers for a slight crunch. My audience was definitely skeptical at first, and rightly so! Hot salad is not something I usually want to see anywhere but in the compost, but it turns out this dish was a complete hit! Not only is this salad ready in minutes, but it’s a bit of a different spin on a classic Caesar, and it’s a great way to use up lettuce that’s been kicking around for a few days!

All I did was first cut the romaine hearts into quarters, drizzle with olive oil, and season with a bit of salt and pepper. I put the romaine on a high grill to add some char and that great grill flavour. It only takes about 45 seconds per side! For the dressing, I made a really light lemon vinaigrette with a bit of garlic and chopped capers for that added salty, briny flavour. Finally, I didn’t want to make this salad any heavier by adding croutons or bacon bits, but I thought fried capers might add that obligatory crunch to my Caesar. My version of ‘frying’ capers is so simple, and will not result in crazy oil splashing up at you! In a small pot, I just add about a tablespoon or two of oil (just enough to cover the bottom in a very thin layer), put the lid on, and fry the capers up like you would stove-top popcorn. Keeping the oil shallow and the lid on means you won’t get totally splashed with hot oil. A few minutes later, remove the lid and you’ve got beautiful little garnishes for the salad! I dare you to check out this really simple but different salad and let me know what you think!

Grilled Caesar Salad with Fried Capers
Total time: 20 minutes
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Serves: 6-8 people

Ingredients
2 heads of romaine lettuce
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. chopped capers
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. grated parmigiano reggiano, and a few large shavings*
Salt to taste

*Use a vegetable peeler to create large shavings from a block of parmigiana reggiano.

For fried capers
2 tbsp. whole capers
1-2 tbsp. canola oil

Instructions
1. For dressing, combine 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (reserve 1/2 tablespoon for romaine), lemon juice, chopped capers, pepper, and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside
2. Preheat half of grill to high heat. Leave the other half off
3. Leave the ends of the romaine on, so that when quartered, the romaine will hold together. Quarter the romaine hearts and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper
4. Place romaine on grill on direct heat and keep the lid open. These will not take long to cook! Rotate the romaine quarters so that all sides are charred, leaving each side about 30-45 seconds. Once each side is charred, place the romaine on the side of the grill without direct heat. Sprinkle with grated parmigiano reggiano, and leave until ready to serve, about 5 minutes.
5. In a small pan, heat oil to high heat. Pat dry capers with paper towel, and add to oil. Place lid on pot, and shake the pot every 20 seconds or so. Leave the capers on 2-3 minutes, or until the capers are starting to brown and puff up. Remove capers and place them on paper towel to absorb the excess oil
6. Assemble the salad with the grilled romaine on the bottom. Drizzle generously with dressing, and garnish with shaved parmagiano reggiano and fried capers. Enjoy!

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