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July 6, 2021. This is delicious. Way Better than a simple salad’s supposed to be. The Romaine lettuce is slightly smoky from the grilling. Rich and pungent from the garlic aioli. Bright, sharp and refreshing from a second dressing of lemon and olive oil. A little saltiness from the grated aged parmigiano cheese. And the full, fresh flavor of just-picked lettuce holds its own.

The local lettuces of the season have been arriving in our CSA farm share. So I’m working on salad variations to keep it all interesting. And to add a few calories so I don’t lose 5 pounds without trying. Here’s one of the season’s big winners.

Grilled Caesar Salad
Five minutes to make a batch of salad dressing #1: luscious, homemade garlic mayonnaise. For Caesar authenticity, you could mix in some ground anchovy; I don’t do that. Click to see how ridiculously easy it is to make a batch of this from 1 egg yolk, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1/2-teaspoon of Dijon mustard and 1/2-cup of oil.

One minute to whisk a small batch of salad dressing #2: equal parts fresh lemon juice and olive oil, salt to taste or not. You’ll use a tablespoon of this per serving. And one more minute to grate some parmigiano or other aged cheese. You’ll use a tablespoon or less per serving.

Finally, two minutes to grill your lettuce. Works great with the classic Romaine for Caesar. Works well with any fresh, juicy, flavorful local lettuce you get at the Farmers Market. If it’s a big head of Romaine, cut it in quarters. If it’s on the small side, cut halves. You’ll eat more of this than you might imagine.

Put the lettuce sections on the grill for a minute, cut side up. Spread a tablespoon or less of garlic mayo on the cut side. When the grill side begins to brown around the edges, about one minute, flip it over. Grill until the mayo side begins to brown around the edges. Remove it from the grill and plate it, mayo side up. Drizzle a tablespoon of the lemon-olive oil dressing on top. Then scatter a tablespoon or less of grated parmigiano on top.

The top and bottom edges of the lettuce are smoky, browned and hot. The center is barely warm. The garlic mayo has begun to melt into the lettuce. And to infuse it with a mild garlic fragrance. The lemon cuts the deep richness of the mayonnaise. And the cheese adds depth and a slight saltiness. Great flavors surrounding the sweetness of just-picked lettuce that stands up to any dressing. Way more fun than a salad should be.

Add some croutons or a slice of crusty, chewy bread and call it dinner. Probably a good idea to have a Better Cheaper Lighter dish like this once a week. Slower, too. You’ll need a knife for your lettuce.

Cost-Benefit Analysis
Less than $1 per serving for a refreshing, smoky, pungent, bright salad. Could be the whole meal for $2. Less than 10 minutes of your time to prepare it.

Cost Comparison
McDonald’s 3-ounce “Side Salad”: $1.49. Wow. Ounce for ounce, McDonald’s is 300% more expensive than your own masterpiece. Better is Cheaper.

Let’s Do The Math
30 minutes of brisk walking to knock off the 150 calories in a half head of Romaine dressed with 2 teaspoons of rich aioli and 1 teaspoon of the lemon-olive oil mix.

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