Grilled Romaine with Sweet and Smoky Dressing–and Sayonara, Dole Summit

Along with my final recap of the Dole Summit festivities, I decided to share this Grilled Romaine with Sweet and Smoky Dressing recipe today because, well, I’ve been pouting about it for days now (which can really make your lips tired after the first 7 or so hours).

Okay, so I haven’t really been pouting continuously about it–but enough that the HH tersely suggested I try to create my own grilled romaine recipe after I whined that I wasn’t able to taste the one they served at the summit.  And so, I did.  Pout be gone!

I remember first learning about grilled romaine a few years ago, when I read how it transformed Susan from a romaine-reviler into a romaine-rooter.  I thought, “Hmm, nifty idea!” and then promptly forgot about it.

Well, last Thursday evening at the final soirée of the Dole Summit (after our day in the field and at the company headquarters), one of the food stations at our dinner proffered grilled romaine with a buttermilk dressing. (There were six food stations all together, each with a different theme, but all featuring salad veggies).

[Grilling romaine on our hotel terrace in Monterey.]

Although there were plenty of options I could freely enjoy (I loved the southwestern quinoa-black bean-corn combo, the gluten-free veggie pizza, and the watermelon-tomato-basil salads most), the grilled romaine was off the menu for me.  I stared, entranced, as the chef grilled leaf after leaf of the crispy green lettuce, then slathered them in rich, creamy dressing. (He did offer to provide a leaf on its own to me, but really, what would have been the point of having it undressed?).  Once again, I tucked the idea away in a fairly uninhabited compartment of my brain (lucky I’ve still got loads of those available), with the intention of re-visitng it when I got home.  Then I went on to enjoy the rest of the party.

[Coolest centerpiece ever: butter lettuces in a basket!]

Friday morning, my last in Monterey (adieu, clear Northern California air! Bye, bye, blue skies! G’day, green, lush fields! Sayonara, summit!) the folks from Dole took those of us still around on a short tour of 17 Mile Drive and Pebble Beach.  Like virtually all the California scenery we took in during our stay, this area was breathtakingly picturesque.  A highlight was the legendary Lone Cypress tree, which we all gathered round to admire.

[Requisite touristy photo of the Lone Cypress.]

As much as I loved seeing the sights, after three days of travel, intensive discussions, learning, and chatting, I was quite weary and ready to get home (“And we were ready to have you back, Mum!  Dad just doesn’t dole out the treats the way you do.  Ha ha, ‘dole out,’ get it?“).  After a two-hour taxi trek, Amie, Kevin and I finally arrived at San Francisco airport.  While Amie boarded her flight to New York, Kevin and I headed to the checkin counter for Air Canada–where we hit our first snag in the plans.

[Kevin taking a photo at Pebble Beach]

Our flight had been delayed by an hour and a half!  No worries; that gave us time to purchase some lunch and learn a little more about each other’s blogs.  Finally, after roaming the airport (one way to get exercise), we strolled to the gate to find. . .  the flight had been delayed, again!  By this point, our departure was set for 6:15 California time, which meant we wouldn’t touch down in Toronto until 2:35 AM local.  As this fact slowly registered in my brain (one of the inhabited compartments this time), it was then that I–to put it mildly–lost it.

For that, I sincerely apologize to Kevin (who clearly had no idea whatsoever how to handle an incoherent, hysterical, middle-aged woman laughing so hard she sounded like a deranged macaw).  As any reasonable individual in a similar situation might do, Kevin stepped aside and pretended he didn’t know me.

I finally made it through my front door at 3:43 AM. (For that, I sincerely apologize to all my neighbors, who undoubtedly were awoken by the eardrum-piercing yelps, growls, snarls and barks that emanated from the startled Girls when they spied my shadowy figure hovering over the keyhole, unannouced, at that hour of the morning.)

And now that life is (relatively) back to normal, I thought I’d share this terrific salad, my version of the one I missed in Monterey. The dish seems to be at once very trendy in its preparation method, yet somehow also retro with its combination of lettuce and a creamy, smoky-sweet dressing, much like the popular iceberg wedges topped with blue cheese dressing.  In this case, the romaine attains a certain caramelized sweetness as it yields to the grill in places; but the heat also enhances its juiciness, all without removing the crunch factor.  The trio of crisp romaine, sweet and smoky dressing, and caramelized, chewy onions is entirely captivating.

I’m glad I finally gave the recipe a try. Even if it’s not the same as the one they served in Monterey, this version still evokes a special occasion (it would be great as a Mother’s day treat, for those of you celebrating tomorrow).  Oh, and memories of grilling by the Monterey Bay, under the California skies.

Many thanks to all the great folks at the Dole Summit for the inspiration!

Other Dole Summit recaps:

I’m linking this recipe to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

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Other salads or grillable recipes on DDD:

© Ricki Heller

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  1. Love that area of California!! My hubs and I used to go up to Carmel for our anniversary every year. I need to get back up there again. And this salad sounds delish. I have really got to get me some smoked paprika!!

    • Thanks, Kristy! Yes, the smoked paprika really works nicely here–but I bet that regular sweet paprika would be lovely, too. 🙂

  2. I just tried grilled romaine for the first time last night, except we cooked it in the oven instead. It was amazing, I never knew I would love warm lettuce so much! We topped it with a simple lemon juice, pepper and parmesan combination. I definitely want to try it again on the grill next time!

    • I know, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it warm, too! 😉 I hadn’t even thought of the oven, though I bet that would work well, too. 🙂

  3. There was a similar romaine salad at the event when I went, and I gazed longingly at it! Thank you SO MUCH for giving us a totally vegan-friendly option 🙂

    • Thanks, Gena! I just couldn’t let the event go by without trying to reproduce that recipe. Happy with how mine turned out! 🙂

  4. I love grilled lettuce a lot & this dressing is just stunning!

  5. I’m not quite sure exactly what romaine lettuce is (I wouldn’t have been able to pick the lettuces in your previous dole post) but anything with that sauce sounds great to me

    And I feel your pain on the delayed plane – have been there before and it is a pain – airports are not made to hang around – though the best delay I had was one where they gave us all a free book at the airport bookshop – and I took forever finding the right book that I thought I would miss the delayed plane 🙂

    • I don’t know whether romaine has another name or not. . . it’s long, slim leaves with a lot of crunch (not that far off from Napa cabbage). I wish we’d gotten something like a book to help while away the time in that airport–would *almost* have made it worth it! 😉

  6. What a great trip! And that salad sounds great – esp the dressing. Need to get some smoked paprika. Never eaten grilled romaine before!!!

  7. Such an interesting idea – grilling romaine. I’m not sure I’d like it, but I would be willing to try it! Especially with this creamy dressing recipe. Mmmmm! I’m sorry about your delays – however, your story made me laugh 🙂

  8. Ricki – another great post! Glad you’re still thinking about salad. I tried grilling romaine for the first time myself, this weekend. There is definitely an art to it – it’s the fine balance between getting good grill marks versus getting too grilled! But it tasted great.

    • Hi Chris! So nice to see your name pop up here. 🙂 I agree–and I’m pretty sure I haven’t yet mastered that art–but even without the perfect grill marks, I loved the way it tasted, too. 😀

  9. Love this post. Really like your doggies!! I also wanted to lick the screen as I’m on day 22 of my 30-40 juice cleanse. Always looking for inspiration for meals to fix my family. Thank you!!

  10. your recipes inspire me every time. . Very easy to understand and you clears my every concept. I also appreciate this article. Thank you so much for sharing your important post.


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