Grilled Caesar Salad

Though a unanimous favorite, our family reserved the Caesar salad experience for dining out. Somewhere in the long ago, I had heard that Caesar salad required a raw egg in the dressing.  The thought of eating raw eggs gives me a food-safety anxiety attack and home-pasteurizing eggs seems like too much effort for too little reward.  So I had lumped Caesar salad into the category of hullabaloo-cooking and never even thought about making it at home.

But recently I have revised my opinion. I owe this change of heart to my salad-loving, lunch-time bistro companion and best friend, Marcia, who ordered a grilled Caesar salad on one of our lunch-time excursions. One taste and we both agreed that the flavor of the charred leaves added an exciting new element to this already tasty classic.
She liked the grilled Caesar so much that she began making it at home…a lot.

Grilled Caesar

After a brief tutorial and poo-pooing my reservations, she convinced me to give it try.  The smoky charred flavor juxtaposed to the tart lemony dressing and sour salty capers; the elegant  presentation with a deceptively simple preparation; the ability to eat the salad with your hands like a slice of pizza (a winner with the kids), and the complete removal of eggs from the recipe—all of these reasons have me making this salad at home now too…a lot.Grilled Caesar--Ingredients

Grilled Caesar Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salads & Dressings
Cuisine: America
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4 servings
 
The dressing stores well in the fridge for a few months. If you make it in the quantity listed below, you'll have plenty leftover, making Grilled Cesar Salad a possibility even on busy week nights.
Ingredients
  • HOMEMADE CAESAR DRESSING
  • the juice of 2 lemons (about ⅓ cup)
  • 1 t anchovies in oil
  • ½ t sugar
  • 1 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 t mayonnaise
  • ½ salt
  • ¾ cup good rapeseed or olive oil
  • ½ t powdered garlic or one whole garlic clove, crushed
  • SALAD
  • 2 hearts of Romaine
  • oil
  • OPTIONAL ADDITIONS
  • 1 T capers
  • 1 cup croutons
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Salt & Pepper
Instructions
  1. TO MAKE THE DRESSING
  2. Combine the juice, anchovies, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mayo, salt, and powdered garlic (if using), and with an upright or immersion blender on high speed. Slowly drizzle in the oil while continuing to blend on high until the dressing looks creamy and completely emulsified.
  3. If you are using fresh garlic, add the crushed clove after emulsifying and allow it to infuse its flavor in the oil for 6 - 24 hours before fishing out and discarding. Don't leave the garlic in the dressing as it can be a breeding ground for botulism spores.
  4. TO MAKE THE GREENS
  5. Heat grill (I use a caste iron pan grill) over a medium flame until the grates are hot.
  6. Meanwhile, slice the clean heart of Romaine in half vertically. Brush the cut side with a bit of oil and place firmly on the hot grill,
  7. Allow to char for 30 seconds to a minute.
  8. Remove immediately, dress, garnish and season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Grilled Caesar Salad--the dressing

Grilled Caesar--Grilling Romaine and Making Croutons

Nutrition & Storage:  Remember, of all the fruits and vegetables, greens are the most nutrient dense.  You should eat greens (or “leaves” as my husband calls them) every day—cooked or raw.  Of all the salad greens, Romaine is not only among the most nutritious but also the hardiest.  It stays fresh in the fridge longer than more tender varieties. Wash them, spin them dry, and store them in a salad spinner.  I like this OXO. It’s kept my Romaine crisp and fresh for 2 weeks or more stored like this.

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Curry Grilled Okra

Here’s a fun party trick to find out who has some ties to the South.  Do a free association exercise with them—say a word and have them say the first word that pops into their head.  Try a few so as not to be so obvious, then spring “okra” on them.  If they immediately counter with “slime” well you know they came from, lived in, or have family from the South.  Pure Northerners will simply shrug and stare at you blankly.

Whatever your negative association or non-association with okra may be, I encourage you to give this artfully-shaped, fuzzy green pod a try.  Higher in protein than nearly any other veggie with a meaty texture to match, okra has a lot more to offer than slime.  In fact the slime can all but be eliminated depending on the cooking technique you use.

Even if you already love okra and embrace the slime, the possibilities of this veggie are most likely greater than what you have experienced.  Japan, India, Latin America and most of Africa regularly include okra in their meals with flavorings and preparation methods that expand beyond fried or gumbo.  This recipe is Indian inspired.  Grilling the whole pod eliminates slime altogether.  The piquant masala paired with the smoky flavor from grilling make this dish highly addictive.  On hot summer nights, we eat these spicy little treats like popcorn washing them down with a cold fruity beer.Okra--Curry Grilled

Buying, Storing & Preparing:  Okra is available in Wisconsin from August to October.  Buy them at the farmers market when you can as they can be hard to find in the off season at the grocery store. Some varieties can grow up to 7 inches and still remain tender, but unless your farmer verifies that her variety grows that long, get pods no bigger than 3 inches long.

Okra is extremely sensitive to cold and the flesh will begin to blacken if exposed to temperatures below 45 degrees F, so store in a paper bag wrapped in a canvas bag in the warmest part of the fridge. Freshly harvested okra stored like this can last up to 10 days.

Slicing into the seed pod releases the thickening agent or “slime” so trim cap by cutting just above the pod.

Okra--Cap trimmed II

Curry Grilled Okra
Author: 
Recipe type: Vegetable
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4 - 6 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound okra, 3 inches long; washed, caps trimmed
  • 1 t curry powder (or equal parts cumin, coriander, turmeric)
  • 1 t chili powder
  • ¼ t good garlic powder
  • ½ t regular salt
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 lime, sliced into wedges for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, add curry powder, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and mix.
  2. Add okra and toss. Drizzle in oil and toss further so that all the pods are uniformly coated with spice and oil.
  3. Using a wooden skewer soaked in water or a metal skewer, thread 6 or 7 okra. Threading a 2nd skewer through the okra, will prevent the okra from spinning on the skewer and make it easier to turn. Alternatively, line the grill with *non-stick aluminum foil, poke holes in it, and place the pods on the foil skipping the skewers altogether.
  4. Place okra on a heated grill.
  5. Grill for 7 – 8 minutes on each side over medium heat. Serve immediately, garnishing with lime juice.
  6. *Do not use cast iron, aluminum or exposed copper pots for cooking (especially frying or stewing) okra; it will cause the okra to turn black.

 

Okra--Grilled Ingredients

Okra--MasalaOkra--Grilled SkewersOkra--GrilledCooking with Kids:  Have the kids measure out the spices and mix them.  They can even toss and coat the okra; just have them use a spoon to do the job or find a lid to cover the bowl.  I have learned the hard way that little kids (at least mine) are not coordinated enough to toss oil, spices and veggies in an open bowl no matter how large the bowl and how few the okra.

Eating okra can be a challenge for kids and many adults. It’s a texture thing as the taste is very subtle.  Let the lime garnish help.  Kids seem to love the sour of citrus and the acid cuts the slime.   Drench their okra in lime juice for their first taste.

Pizza on the Grill (or in the Oven)

Pizza…what a wonderful concept.  It’s a complete meal on a piece of flat bread. While I love ordering out for pizza, there are limitations. A few years ago, our favorite pizza spot burned to the ground (Pizza Man) and we haven’t found the perfect replacement. Moreover, I haven’t found a pizza place in Milwaukee that makes a tasty, thin, whole wheat crust.  White crust made with refined white flour is junk food, and I prefer to save my junk food intake for sweet treats.

This pizza crust is 100% whole wheat but doesn’t taste that way, and really, isn’t that the goal?  “Pizza on the Grill” brings zero complaints at mealtime, and it couldn’t be faster or easier to make, even when the kids help.

Grilled Pizza
Author: 
Recipe type: Meals on the Grill
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 1 pizza serves 2 people
 
This no-sauce pizza is a great way to use small portions of vegetables you have left over in your refrigerator. My favorite combination is simply sliced tomatoes topped with olive oil, chopped basil, wilted spinach, and thinly sliced gorgonzola or fresh mozzarella. Don't pile on the ingredients--the crust is too thin to hold up.
Ingredients
  • 650g/5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ⅓ cup vital wheat gluten (optional)
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 t salt (or 3 ½ t kosher salt)
  • 1 ½ t quick-rise yeast
  • 3 T + 6 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 + ½ cups luke-warm water
  • 5 t chopped fresh herbs (optional)
Instructions
  1. MAKING THE DOUGH: Using a mixer, food processor, or simply by hand, mix/pulse the flour, (gluten), sugar, salt, (herb) and yeast to combine.
  2. While mixing, slowly add 3 T olive oil and 2 cups water until it forms a course ball—about 4 minutes. Slowly add the ½ cup of water if the dough ball doesn’t readily form.
  3. Allow the dough to rest 15 minutes then mix another 2 – 4 minutes until the dough is smooth, supple and tacky—not sticky.
  4. Transfer the dough to a smooth clean surface and divide into 6 equal pieces. Gently round each piece into a ball and rub each ball with olive oil.
  5. Drizzle each with 1 t olive oil and use immediately. Or store each ball inside a freezer bag and drizzle 1 t olive oil in each bag. Squeeze out excess air and seal.
  6. If freezing, store the dough in the refrigerator for a few hours before placing it in the freezer. Stores frozen for 3 months.
  7. MAKING THE PIZZA:Have all of the topping prepared and ready to go.
  8. Using a large cookie sheet or cutting board, turn the ball of dough in your oiled hands letting gravity slowly stretch the pizza crust thin. Once you reach the near approximate shape and thickness, place on the lightly oiled cutting board and finish shaping with your hands. It will not be perfectly round; it’s artfully rustic. Do not use a rolling pin.
  9. Gently transfer the dough to a heated clean grill--medium high heat. Cook about 2 minutes and then flip using a large spatula and tongs. Immediately place your toppings after flipping. Cook the other side of the crust for another 2 minutes.
  10. With tongs and a spatula, slide the finished pizza back to the cutting board, slice, and serve. You may want to tent with tin foil if you are making a few.
Notes
FAVORITE TOPPINGS: Toppings can be raw, sautéed or grilled. They can be left-over side dishes from the night before or toppings grilled just before the pizza crust was started. Use your imagination. However, it is essential to have them ready to go.

Favorite Toppings:

  • Cheese, grated, sliced or shaved—Parmesan, mozzarella, and goat

  • Fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced

  • Fresh herbs, chopped

  • Fresh red onions, thinly slices

  • Banana peppers, thinly sliced

  • Roasted red peppers

  • Spinach, wilted

  • Arugula, wilted

  • Zucchini, sautéed

  • Garlic, roasted

  • Caramelized onions

  • Cooked sausage

  • Sun dried tomatos, pesto or rehydrated

  • Pesto

Grill Tip: Heat and clean the grill grate completely before cooking.  I use a pair of metal tongs and a wadded up piece of aluminum foil.  Cheap and works like a charm.

Pizza for a Crowd/Pizza made by Kids: You can lightly cook both sides of the crust on the grill with no toppings and place on a cookie sheet.  Add toppings later and heat under a broiler in the oven.  I use this method when cooking for a large crowd or as a safe way to involve the kids in making the pizza.

Oven Alternative: When it’s absolutely too cold or raining outside, just use your oven.  A pizza stone  works nicely.  A cheap one is fine–$10 – $15 is the most you should spend.  In fact for years, I used an untreated $2.50 stone flooring tile leftover from a bathroom renovation project.  Place the pizza stone in the oven and heat for 25 minutes at 450F.  Once the stone is hot, you can cook the crust the same as you did on the grill. If you don’t have a pizza stone, a cookie sheet produces a fine pizza crust.

Preserve it:  Freezing the raw dough and the cooked ingredients can make this a near instant meal.  If you have the freezer space, grill all of the crusts at once and freeze them in freezer storage bags.

Cooking with Kids: I include them in every part of the preparation.  To make the dough, big girl does the measuring and little girl does the adding and mixing.  Once the dough is prepared, we weigh the entire dough ball in grams, divide by 6 and big girl measures them out while little girl rolls them into balls.  The girls add their own toppings only when we finish them in the oven.