Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lean Mean Grilling Machine

When I was a kid, I couldn't wait for it to be warm enough to grill. I know my dad couldn't either, judging from the many t-bones and burgers he grilled wearing snow boots and a parka. I longed to help with the grilling process but was never very fond of the fiery inferno radiating from our massive outdoor grill. So, I did what any willing, 10 year-old grilling assistant would do and volunteered for flame control duty. While not as popular or even as involved as actual grilling, I took pride in my new position, enthusiastically clutching my squirt bottle from a comfortable and safe 4 foot distance. There I stood during every barbecue ready to tame any grease fueled flames that dared cross the borders of the metal barbecue grate (again, from a respectable 4 foot distance). Eagerly wielding my aquatic sword, I sat patiently by as my dad flipped burgers and I dreamed of one day being old enough (and tall enough) to grill for myself.

Despite my unsuccessful early grilling career, I've made it a point to grill as much as possible as an adult. Although I once had an outdoor space in which to grill smelly and smoky meat products, I now grill indoors. It's my good fortune (and possibly the death of me) that the smoke detector in my current apartment appears to be on vacation for the summer, because it hasn't gone off once since I've started grilling. And believe me, I've made some smoky dinners. Last week I was craving some delicious charred flavor but wanted something light that wouldn't stink up the apartment. I got to thinking about some radicchio I'd purchased at the farmer's market to play with later in the week.

I don't like those super chopped salads with a hundred different ingredients in them, so in a blast from the past, I decided to mimic the iceberg wedges of my youth. I took the radicchio and cut it into eight wedges and did the same thing with a wedge of iceberg that I found holding on for dear life in my crisper. I grilled both of those along with some good-looking fresh asparagus and drizzled the whole thing with a sherry vinegar vinaigrette. It was so great I didn't even consider the fact that I managed to eat two heads of lettuce and several asparagus spears. On the bright side, it was all just grilled with a bit of olive oil and tossed with dressing, so it couldn't be all that bad for me. Here's how to make this super easy dish for yourself:

Grilled Summer Lettuce and Asparagus with Sherry Vinaigrette

2 heads of lettuce (radicchio, romaine, red leaf, even iceberg will do) cut into eighths, core attached
10-12 asparagus spears
light olive oil

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp Sherry wine vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp honey

1.Combine vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a bowl. Slowly whisk in extra virgin olive oil and set aside.

2. Brush asparagus and edges of each lettuce chunk with olive oil and grill on high heat until blackened on each side. Remove to a plate and sprinkle asparagus with salt and pepper. Drizzle vinaigrette over vegetables and serve.


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