Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There Will Be Salad

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You bet there'll be salad. For as long as I can remember we have always had a green salad with dinner. My Dad is Italian, my Mom is Serbian, and both cultures eat green salads. These are not crazy composed salads, no jello, no chunks of vegetables. Lettuce, vinegar and oil. Sounds boring right? Well, on the contrary. As a kid it was iceberg lettuce (I am not sure Romaine was available then), vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, both sprinkled on top, and a little salt and pepper. We did not toss it until we were ready to eat it, so the salad came to room temperature, and was perfect every time. I hate a cold salad. Over the years the salad has morphed with only Romaine, olive oil, maybe a balsamic or rice vinegar, sometimes we toss some feta and olives or blue cheese. But believe me when I say, there will be salad.

When I got married, I still made the Petitti salad every night. Scott was not interested. He wanted lettuce, shredded cheese and French dressing...eee gads! So for about 25 years, I ask every night, do you want a salad? If he says yes, then I dig out some shredded cheese and French dressing. Not really inspiring. He has branched out and had feta and olives, maybe a little pancetta, but it is always dressed with this vibrant orange dressing. And not just any French. It has to be the orange kind, not deep California French, he describes it as Pizza Hut French. And don't even think of trying to make this yourself!

So the salad routine is fine, it has worked for 25 years, no big deal. If I am in the mood, I may make a Caesar salad, even Scott loves this, and it is my go to for a pot luck. Many nights we'll toss in shrimp or chicken and call it dinner (no French in sight!)

So, one hot summer day I am perusing the Web, and the local food editor features Salad Fridays this summer. And there one afternoon I found a grilled Romaine salad. The post is here, and I could hardly wait to make it. The original recipe is from Guy Fieri, and you know that I hate to follow a recipe. I used the same ingredients for the most part, but I didn't measure anything. Now you can see Guy's recipe if you need quantities, but I like more vinegar than most people, and after years of daily salad making, I can eyeball it pretty well. I also think this recipe, or rather this method, has some real possibilities, and I am excited to make more versions. I found these small, compact heads of Romaine in the produce section. I peeled off the outer leaves and sliced them down the middle. I drizzled them with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. In a small fry pan, I cooked up a little pancetta and diced red onion. When I buy pancetta, I have it sliced pretty thick and the layers divided with the wax deli paper. I usually buy many slices and leave it in the freezer and use a slice at a time. I find it easier to chop after it's been cooked. The pancetta renders its own fat, so if you need any additional oil, it won't be much. When the onion is soft and the pancetta crispy, remove it from the pan and add a little more oil and some balsamic vinegar. Heat it through and remove from the heat. Meanwhile grill the Romaine, indoors or out, cut side down until it is charred. Lay the lettuce in a bowl, cut side up, top with a little blue cheese, the onion pancetta mixture and the warm balsamic. This salad is amazing. So amazing in fact, that Scott begged to have it the next night. We tried it with regular bacon the next time, and ate a whole head of Romaine each....it was that good. Praise the Lord! I am never buying French dressing again!

1 comment:

  1. Ok I can't believe it has taken me this long to get back to you but I LOVE, LOVE this salad! Your picture just makes me want to jump on in and eat!