There are few things better than an easy summer dinner eaten outside — the produce does all the work for you, and you can slow down and enjoy the longer evenings. If you can’t tell, I’m obsessed with the balcony off of our new apartment. It’s nothing crazy, but it fits a table, a few chairs, and overlooks a quiet courtyard and the back of a big white building. So yeah, not at all fancy, but we’re outside and it’s summer, which feels awesome.
I’ve also been really into grilled romaine lately, mostly because it’s a welcome twist on a basic ingredient that I use the same way most of the time (raw and chopped in a salad). Granted, we don’t have an actual grill at home, but a cast iron skillet works just as well! Here it’s served with a simple combination of aromatics, tomatoes, and French lentils, lightly sautéed to bring it altogether.
I say this serves two as a side, but I’ve also eaten the whole damn thing myself. So let’s specify that it serves 1 as a main, 2 as a side. It’s great with chicken, fish, steak, or topped with a little avocado, cheese, or a soft-boiled egg for something more substantial and still vegetarian.
Grilled Romaine with Warm Tomato-Lentil Salsa
You can make the warm salsa ahead of time and let the flavors mingle, but save the grilling of the romaine until right before you’re ready to eat.
- Avocado or olive oil
- 3 scallions/green onions , thinly sliced
- 8 ounces (225g) cherry tomatoes , chopped into quarters
- 2 garlic cloves , finely chopped
- 1 small jalapeno pepper , seeds and white ribs removed and finely chopped
- Salt , to taste
- 1 cups cooked French lentils
- ½ lime
- 1 medium heart of Romaine lettuce , outer leaves set aside, base trimmed, and sliced in half down the middle
- ½ cup fresh cilantro/coriander , roughly chopped
- ½ avocado , cut into chunks
In a large pan or skillet, heat enough olive or avocado oil to cover the base of the pan over a medium-high heat. Add scallions and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.
Add chopped tomatoes, garlic, jalapeno, and salt. Cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes until garlic is fragrant and tomatoes are just softened.
Stir in lentils and warm through, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in a spritz of fresh lime juice. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or lime as needed. Let stand until you’re ready to serve (this can be served warm or at room temp).
Heat a cast-iron skillet or an actual BBQ Grill. Brush the inside of the romaine heart (where it was cut down the center) with avocado or olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Once the skillet or grill is hot. Place the romaine oiled side down. If using a cast-iron skillet, use a spatula to press the romaine into the hot pan. It should sizzle. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the romaine is charred but still vibrant green in parts.
Serve romaine grilled side up, scattered with the tomato lentil salsa and any other toppings desired.