Oh, hooray for summer and the joys of grilling! Hooray for being outside, coaxing heat from charcoal, giving food that’s easy to prepare that dense, smoky flavor!
I don’t really know how to work a grill. Propane, charcoal, it’s all sort of a mystery to me (as it seems to be with most people, as I’ve been on the receiving end of an uncomfortable amount of burnt burgers and pink chicken, but I digress). Besides, being outside and willfully surrounding myself with things that smell like food, when I am already a bug magnet, only makes slightly more sense to me than willfully cutting my hand and taking a swim off the Great Barrier Reef.
But I really like the flavor you get from some good grill action. Let’s hear it for indoor grill pans!
Anyway. Whether you choose to grill outdoors or in, this is a super-easy recipe that will take you maybe…maybe…ten minutes from start to finish, if you’ve got your pan heated/coals going. I’m not even going to post a formal recipe; just, you know. Do this stuff:
First, buy a head of radicchio. You know what that is, right? Also called “Italian chicory”? It’s that beautiful purple lettuce that’s got a lovely bitter bite to it, and always surprises people when one or two of its leaves end up in a “mixed lettuce” bag-o-salad. The whole heads are usually in the freakfoods section of your produce department, somewhere near the horseradish root and the jars of kimchi. Buy a head whose leaves are nice and tight. Then take it home, wash it, and hack it in quarters. Leave the core in place for this, since it will help hold the leaves together during grilling. Give the quarters a little dab of olive oil and a shot of some salt and pepper.
Next: Put it on the grill cut side down. You want your surface to be relatively hot and ready to impart some char pretty quickly (you don’t want the lettuce to entirely wilt, it should have some snap) so make sure your heat is medium-high-ish (depending on your stove or other cooking apparatus, of course). Grill one side for about two minutes, then the other.
If you really want to get crazy, grill the back as well for another minute or two. That’s what I do; I can’t be held back.
Then: take it out of the pan, top it with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, some fresh parsley and a few shaves of whatever hard cheese you have handy. I used Pecorino Romano, it was rich and salty and a perfect complement to the bitter leaves, tangy vinegar and freshness from the parsley.
Note: you get those beautiful curls of Pecorino by going at your cheese with a vegetable peeler.
And there you have it–an easy-peasy, maybe ten minutes worth of work, delicious, fresh, warm lettuce summer salad. Which, if you have a stovetop grill pan, you can enjoy all year long.